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Archive for May, 2012

In the summer of 1564 Elizabeth I made her one and only visit to Cambridge. Marion Colthorpe tells us in her book “Royal Cambridge: royal visitors to Cambridge, Queen Elizabeth I – Queen Elizabeth II” that in honour of the occasion, despite the fact that it was the summer vacation, all the members of the University were recalled to Cambridge. They lined the streets and cheered “Vivat Regina!” as she and her retinue rode into town.  The Queen stayed at the Provost’s Lodge of King’s College from 5-10 August, but many of her retinue were put up at other colleges. Charles Crawley tells us in his history of Trinity Hall that the Lord Chamberlain and Lord Clinton were lodged at Trinity Hall and that the Queen was welcomed to College with a speech by John Hammond (fellow 1557-74).

The University and town organised a full programme of events, including orations, debates, services and, best of all, plays which were put on most evenings for her entertainment. On Sunday 6 August, after Evensong, Elizabeth saw Plautus’s “Aulularia” which was performed in Latin on a ‘great stage’ built in King’s ante-chapel. The players were drawn from all the Cambridge colleges, with the exception of King’s. The reason for this was that men from King’s were busy preparing for performances due to take place on the two following evenings. On Monday evening they formed the cast of “Dido” written in Latin by Edward Halliwell and on the subsequent evening, Tuesday 8 August, they performed Mr Udall’s “Ezechias”.

A certain King’s fellow (who subsequently became Master of Trinity Hall) caught the eye of the Sovereign in the play of “Dido”. She was very favourably impressed by Thomas Preston (for that was his name), “putting forth her hand for him to kiss, her Highness … dubbed him ‘her scholar’ … and therewithal she gave him eight angels”. An angel was a gold coin worth 10 shillings and in addition the Queen promised Preston a handsome pension of £20 a year! It was Thomas Preston who made the final oration, again in Latin, on the occasion of the Queen’s departure on 10 August.  All in all the visit has been a resounding success and his meeting with the Queen was an episode that Preston was never to forget. His brass in the ante-chapel of Trinity Hall bears a Latin inscription recalling the day when Elizabeth I called him “her scholar”.

Preston’s brass in the ante-chapel (usually covered by a Persian carpet) – and a view of Preston’s feet!

The meeting was also to have repercussions for College. Twenty one years later, just before the death of Henry Harvey (Master 1559-1585) a royal mandate was sent to Trinity Hall staying the election of a new Master. This was followed by another royal mandate directing the fellows to elect Thomas Preston. Elizabeth I and Burghley had chosen “her scholar” for the job! Preston was Master of Trinity Hall from 1585 until his death in 1598, and he also served as Vice Chancellor of the University from 1589-90. According to Crawley, Preston wrote to Burghley that Trinity Hall was labouring under a “store of abuses” and that its debts were “desperate to be remedied”. Nonetheless, it was during his tenure that College undertook the expense of building a new library, the “Old Library” as we know it today.

The Charter of 1559

It is fitting that the Old Library houses two precious documents from Queen Elizabeth I. The first document is the charter reconfirming the original foundation of Trinity Hall in 1350 which was granted to College in 1559, the first year of Elizabeth’s reign.  It represents the return of academic life to something approaching normality after the upheavals of the Reformation and the reign of Queen Mary, when Colleges had been closed and amalgamated and new Colleges founded. Queen Elizabeth can be seen enthroned in the large capital “E”.

The impressive signature of the most powerful woman in the land!

The second document is a letter to the College, dated 2nd September 1587, requesting the leasing of two manors to one of Elizabeth’s courtiers, Ralph Bowes, Master of the Queen’s Games. The letter bears the impressive signature of Queen Elizabeth I. On the reverse, it is addressed to the Queen’s “trustie and welbeloved the MS [Master] and fellowes of Trinitie Hall in Cambridge”. Of course, the Master at that time was the Queen’s “scholar” Thomas Preston.

Reverse of letter with the address to the Master (Thomas Preston) and fellows

Thomas Preston was well-known to contemporaries as the author of the play “Cambyses King of Persia”, which was registered by the Stationer’s Company in September/October 1569. Shakespeare poked fun at the play’s bombast through the mouth of Falstaff, who says “Give me a cup of sack to make mine eyes look red, that it may be thought I have wept; for I must speak in passion, and I will do it in King Cambyse’s vein.” (Henry IV Part I, Act II, Scene 4). Today his name lives on in Trinity Hall’s drama society, the Preston Society, which puts on College musicals, pantos and plays.

But undoubtedly Thomas Preston’s outstanding legacy is that his Mastership presided over the building of the “jewel in the crown” of Trinity Hall – a wonderful Elizabethan library, still virtually unchanged today.

Inscription on Preston’s brass (from Warren’s Book)

References:

Most of the information about Elizabeth I’s visit to Cambridge in 1564 is taken from Marion Colthorpe’s “Royal Cambridge: royal visitors to Cambridge, Queen Elizabeth I – Queen Elizabeth II”, Cambridge, 1977.

For more detail about the 1564 royal visit see Marion Colthorpe’s “Elizabethan court day by day” on Folgerpedia.

Trinity Hall: the history of a Cambridge college, 1350-1975 / Charles Crawley. Cambridge, 1976.

Warren’s book / edited by A.W.W. Dale. Cambridge, 1911.

Wikipedia: article on Thomas Preston

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Some thirty nine years after his first candidacy, Sir William Wynne (1729-1815), was finally elected unanimously as Master of Trinity Hall in 1803. At the age of thirty-five Wynne had contested the election of 1764 with Sir James Marriott, also a fellow of the College and civil lawyer. Crawley tells us that the outcome was close and Marriott was elected by a slim margin (5 votes versus 3), with both men voting for themselves!

Trinity Hall’s “Back Court” showing the Master’s Lodge on the right and the Old Library on the left.

After a patient wait, Sir William Wynne, now aged seventy-three, finally succeeded Marriott in 1803. The Mastership of Trinity Hall was a prize worth waiting for and once he was installed as Master the floodgates of his generosity opened. He spent £1,500 on improvements to the Master’s Lodge and also turned his attention to improving the College Library.

Wynne’s catalogue housed in the Archives

His donations are recorded in the “Catalogue of books presented to the Library by the Right Hon: Sir Wm. Wynne, Master” (THAR/7/1/2/1). The new Master gave us an amazing 252 volumes in the space of just nine years, starting in 1804 (with the gift of 101 volumes) and ending in 1813, just two years before his death. Surprisingly there are very few dusty volumes on the law! Instead Wynne broadened the Library’s scope from that of an academic library specialising in the law to a gentleman’s ‘country house’ library.

Chaucer

There are books on English literature (Chaucer, Dryden and Milton), history, travel (Barrow’s Travels in Africa, Coxe’s Travels in Russia), the classics (Virgil, Thucydides), European literature (Racine in French and Boccaccio in Italian), oriental languages (Carlyle’s Specimens of Arabian poetry and Parkhurst’s Hebrew Lexicon), and above all the sciences: a magnificent 18 volume set of the Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London was donated to the Library over several years.

Boccaccio

So what of the man who gave so generously to the Library? William Wynne came from a well-to-do Welsh family. His father, John Wynne (1677-1743) was a clergyman and Principal of Jesus College Oxford from 1812 until his marriage in 1820. In 1715 he was appointed Bishop of St. Asaph where he spent money freely on repairs to the cathedral and palace. As we have seen above, William was to follow his father’s example in becoming a Head of House (Cambridge instead of Oxford) and in spending on improvements (but this time to his College).

Bishop John Wynne was subsequently translated to Bath and Wells in 1727 and William was born a couple of years later. William did not go into the church, instead he followed his elder brother John (1724-1801) into the law and the Middle Temple. He came up to Trinity Hall in 1746, graduated in law in 1751 (LL.D. 1757) and was a Fellow of the College from 1755 onwards.

Poem in translation from ‘Specimens of Arabian Poetry’ given to the Library by Wynne

He practiced in the field of ecclesiastical law as a pleader in the Court of Arches (1757-1788) dealing chiefly with cases relating to marriage and probate. His career prospered steadily until it took off dramatically in 1788! In that year he was knighted, he became Dean of the Court of Arches (1788-1809) and a judge in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Prerogative Court (1788-1809).  He continued to move upwards becoming a member of the Privy Council in 1789 and one of the Lords of the Treasury in 1790.

Captain Cook’s last voyage: the map of Hawaii from Cook’s posthumous “A voyage to the Pacific Ocean” (London, 1784)

As Dean of the Court of Arches his name turns up constantly in the wills of the time. Perhaps the most interesting is that of a former member of Captain Cook’s crew, Alexander Mouat, which was proved before Sir William Wynne in London in 1794. Mouat was on Cooks’ last voyage, entering the crew of the Discovery as a midshipman at the age of 15. However, his will (in which he left everything to his wife Jane) was not written until 1790, by which time he had reached the rank of Lieutenant. The occasion of his will was probably his imminent departure on HMS Marlborough. Unfortunately, Mouat died just three years later on 11 October 1793.

Trinity Hall (in 1799) as it would have looked in 1803 when Wynne became Master.

Wynne was a gentleman, a wealthy lawyer and a pillar of society. His successful public career indicates a man with excellent social skills who was not afraid of hard work. An interesting glimpse is offered by the silhouette of Wynne in the National Portrait Gallery which depicts a portly gentleman of rather modest and solid demeanour. The inscription below the silhouette reveals: “There is no Portrait taken of him, he always resisting all application to sit to an Artist. Mr. Bockton the Proctor took this resemblance of him as he sat giving Judgement.” This is a man who lacked vanity, preferring instead to devote his precious time to his work!

Snapshot of Trinity Hall in 1812 during Wynne’s time as Master. College was not populous!

Sir William Wynne became Master of Trinity Hall in the autumn of his life. He passed away in 1815 at the age of eighty-six and is buried at Northop (Flints.) where his father, Bishop John, had purchased the Soughton estate (now a luxury hotel!) in 1732. Wynne’s was a life in which his devotion to his College remained constant. As Master, his generosity enriched the holdings of College Library with a lasting legacy of fine publications from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

It could be argued that Wynne had the patience and Trinity Hall reaped the rewards!

References

Trinity Hall : the history of a Cambridge college, 1350-1975 / by Charles Crawley.

Captain Cook Society

National Portrait Gallery

Welsh Biography Online

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