Historical Facts: Elizabethan

During the Elizabethan era the lower classes shifted their drinking habits from beer to ale. Posted 10/01/2010

For much of history a bed was, for most homeowners, the most valuable thing they owned.  During Shakespeare’s day, a decent canopied bed cost £5, half the annual salary of a typical schoolmaster. Posted 4/01/2014

In Elizabethan theaters they rolled cannonballs around the gallery roof to make stage thunder. Posted 7/01/2015

During the Elizabethan era, those clocks that do have faces normally have only one hand, which pointed to the hour; if one needed to count minutes, one would use an hourglass, not a clock. Posted 3/01/2016

In 1588, sailors in England's Royal Navy got one pound of biscuits and one gallon of beer per day as their rations. Posted 5/15/2018


During the Renaissance a man’s doublet could include as much as four to six pounds of bombast, made from rags, cotton, horsehair, or bran. Posted 5/15/2020

In 1587, the first treatise on swimming, by Edward Digby, a fellow at Saint John's College, Cambridge, was published. It provided simple instructions for swimming safely, cheaply, and healthily. In 1595, it was translated into English by Christopher Middleton. Posted 8/15/2020

In England, tennis, played in indoor courts, was so popular that £1,699 pounds worth of tennis balls were imported in the year 1559 to 1560. Posted 2/01/2021

Malaria, which the Elizabethan referred to as ague or fever, killed thousands in the marshy areas in 16th century England. No one suspected that it had anything to do with mosquitoes; rather people believed it was the corruption of air rising from the low-lying dank marshes, hence the term mal (bad)-aria (air). Posted 4/15/2021

In 1588, after taking 25 years to complete, William Morgan (1545-1604), a native of Penmachno, Conwy and a graduate of St. John's College, Cambridge, translated and oversaw the first publication of the Bible into Welsh. It was instrumental in preserving the language. Posted 12/15/2022

In England the Elizabethan nobility drank over forty million gallons of wine per year. Posted 4/01/2011

In Elizabethan England eating meat during Lent carried a three-month prison sentence. Posted 2/01/2015

Turkeys were first introduced to England in the 1520s and were rare specimens until the reign of Elizabeth I, when their value as a roasting bird was widely recognized and their popularity suddenly increased. Poste 11/15/2015

In Elizabethan England they did not burn people for witchcraft; that sort of thing went on only in Scotland and continental Europe. In England witchcraft was not regarded as a religion or a heresy: in theory you could be a good Christian and a witch. Witches at this time did not congregate as a body, nor did they celebrate the Sabbath together. That all came later, in the next century. Nor were witches yet presumed to make a contract with the devil; that, too, was a later development. There was even a time in Elizabeth's reign when, technically speaking, witchcraft was not against the law. In 1542, Henry VIII made witchcraft a hanging offense, but that was repealed on the King’s death in 1547; thereafter there was no anti-witchcraft law until the Witchcraft Act of 1563. This was far more lenient than Henry VIII’s legislation. It did not sanction the execution of all practitioners of the dark arts, nor did it condemn witches to death for the lesser magical arts of finding lost things, destroying cattle and goods, or causing a man to fall in love. The 1563 act made it a felony only to invoke evil spirits for any purpose whatsoever; and to cause the death of someone by witchcraft. Posted 10/15/2016

In England in 1558, the chimney is the primary status symbol to show off to the neighbors; by 1598, it's glass in the windows. Posted 7/2022

People during the Elizabethan era began to eat breakfast in the morning between 6 and 7 a.m. This is something that people in the Middle Ages almost never did. Breakfast was a small, simple meal, generally consisting of cold foods, such as leftovers, eggs, fruit, butter, bread, and small beer.

Posted 4/01/2023