Sir Christopher Hatton
The Queen’s Favourite
A few years later, Sir Christopher Hatton, the Queen’s favourite, took an interest in the lands surrounding the Chapel of St Etheldreda. He wanted to build for himself a new palace and spacious gardens, but Bishop Cox refused. Queen Elizabeth, hearing that Bishop Cox was not very forthcoming, wrote him a letter:
Proud Prelate, I understand that you are backward in complying but I would have you understand that I who made you what you are can unmake you. And if you do not faithfully fulfil your engagement, by God, I will immediately unfrock you
It’s not surprising the Bishop complied. In 1576, the Bishop granted a lease to Sir Christopher for just £10, a few loads of hay and one red rose a year. Sir Christopher built Hatton House, a magnificent building, and took over most of the Ely lands and gardens. In the Mitre’s bar parlour, there still stands a dried trunk of a cherry tree, said to have marked the boundary between the Bishop’s garden and Sir Christopher Hatton’s. On it, the inscription reads :
The Mitre Tavern built by Bishop Goodrich in 1546. The Cherry Tree marks the boundary between the Bishop’s Garden and the part leased to Sir Christopher Hatton
During Sir Christopher’s tenancy, part of the undercroft (Crypt) was used as a tavern, so that choruses and drunken brawls would often interrupt the services in the upstairs chapel. The Queen’s favourite often entertained his mistress in his new home and borrowed great sums of money. As Sir Christopher lay dying at Ely, Elizabeth came to feed him with her own hand, but she pestered him for the money he owed her, what today would be the equivalent of six and a half million pounds.