SOLSTITIUM


[Read the whole of the 'Solstitium' scene here.]

My candidate for Solstitium is Sir Christopher Hatton.

Hatton first became one of the Queen's favourites around 1562, allegedly attracting her attention by his tall, graceful figure and skill at dancing. The Queen's early affection was strong enough to encourage rumours of a sexual relationship, but he was never entirely without rivals (Leicester, Oxford, Dyer) and by 1581 had become terminally overshadowed by Ralegh. Hatton remained however one of Elizabeth's most steady supporters. Probably at first a Catholic, he loyally conformed to high church protestantism, though he was never a friend to puritans. He did good service in the trial of Mary Queen of Scots and became particularly useful to Elizabeth in parliament, where his social skills and long experience made him a shrewd manipulator.

He and Whitgift were political allies and close friends: Hatton owed his appointment as Lord Chancellor to the influence of Whitgift, to whom Elizabeth had offered the post. Whitgift refused it for himself but persuaded her to pass it to his friend, though Hatton's scant legal knowledge meant he was not an obvious choice. He died in November 1591, at which time he was 42,000 in Elizabeth's debt. His biographer Brooks is unconvinced that it was the Queen's insistence on repayments that contributed to his death, though Camden, perhaps reflecting contemporary belief, says so.

Richard Bancroft, later Archbishop of Canterbury, had been Hatton's chaplain for twelve years before he became Whitgift's.

Solstitium is placid, balanced, modest. Uniquely among the servants he is treated with respect and honour throughout his examination and departs with Summer's unqualified affection.
The stage direction says he enters:
'like an aged Hermit'







'like an aged Hermit'






'attended by a train of shepherds'
Hatton died aged fifty-one: by the standards of his own day he was approaching old age. According to Robert Cecil after his appointment to the Privy Council Hatton adopted the flat cap, the sign of an elderly man. Brooks says a portrait belonging to the Tyrwhitt-Drake family shows Hatton 'seated; he wears a large ruff, has a white beard and looks rather old.'

Like his friend Whitgift Hatton never married and his epitaph describes him as 'coelebs'. There were rumours he had an illegitimate daughter, but certainly in comparison with more sexually-active rivals like Leicester and Ralegh Hatton must always have appeared strikingly continent.

'Shepherds' are poets: Hatton, very much in contrast to Burghley, was a recognised patron of poets.

He bears the colours black and white. Elizabeth's colours, which Hatton adopted. Before he was able to link himself with the armigerous Cheshire family of Hatton, he adopted arms in black and white. His portraits, and even his jousting armour, tend to show him in these colours.
Solstitium is treated with respect throughout his scene. Compare the way Vertumnus calls him with the flippant summoning of the others:
  • 'Ver, lusty Ver, by the name of lusty Ver, come into the court! lose a mark in issues'
  • 'Sol, Sol, ut,re,me,fa,sol /Come to church while the bell toll'
  • 'Orion, Urion, Arion / My lord thou must look upon...'
  • 'Harvest, by west and by north, by south and southeast / Show thyself like a beast'
  • 'Bacchus, Baccha, Bacchum / god Bacchus, god fatback...'
  • (Backwinter) 'Stand forth, stand forth/ Hold up your head, speak out.' But -
  • 'Peace there below! make room for Master Solstitium'

He is then spoken of by Summer only with warm approval ('I like thy moderation wondrous well;') and keen regret ('Nought but day's eyes and fair looks gave I thee?').

Sir Christopher Hatton had died the previous November. He had been Whitgift's dearest friend as well as his political ally.
"In Hatton he found a friend through life at court..."(Strype)

Whitgift's chaplain, right-hand man and eventual successor, Richard Bancroft, had formerly been chaplain to Sir Christopher Hatton. Their shared affection for the late Lord Chancellor must have formed a common bond between the Archbishop and his closest aide. Any depiction of Hatton before Whitgift and Bancroft would therefore have to present the recently-deceased courtier in a tender and generous light.










Contemporary opinion seems to have held that the Queen provoked Hatton's collapse by pressing him for repayment of a debt, although she attended him sympathetically in his last illness. Any outright criticism of 'Summer' being unacceptable, the alternative was to show was the monarch's deep affection and belated regard.

Solstitium carries balances, and states
'I love to dwell betwixt the hills and dales;
Neither to be so great to be envied,
Nor yet so poor the world should pity me.'


The keynote of Solstitium's character is his placidity.
Hatton was a moderate - politically, religiously and by natural temperament. His rewards at Elizabeth's hands were substantial, but he was less demanding than many of her favourites. In comparison with the ambitious Ralegh he probably seemed modest, at least to the eyes of a friend.

There are many references to Hatton's serene temper, but here's one from a letter of 1578 by Aylmer, who'd inadvertently upset him:
'most hearty thanks for that mild and calm manner of expostulation which you used with me...I will not forget to commend...that rare conquest that by great wisdom you have had over your affections, which by the motions of flesh and blood must needs have been set on fire marvellously against me...'(Add. MS 15891, f.38)
The same impression of habitual calm is supported more inelegantly by three of the Queen's nicknames for him, 'Sheep', 'Mutton' and 'Bellwether'.

Evidently a longtime servant he has been elbowed out lately by greedier, younger men, and his merits overlooked:
'Such use these times have got, that none must beg
But those that have young limbs to lavish fast.'
Hatton first came to Elizabeth's favour in 1564, and kept it in the face of challenges from his contemporaries Oxford and Leicester. But it was Ralegh, twelve years younger, who effectively eclipsed him. After the greedy, flamboyant Sir Walter arrived on the scene Hatton fell into neglect rather than disgrace. His surprise appointment to the office of Lord Chancellor was evidently due to his friend Whitgift's influence.
Surprisingly, although Summer has power to punish and condemn bad servants, it seems it is too late to do anything to reward the faithful Solstitium:
'A little sooner hadst thou spoke to me
Thou hadst been heard: but now the time is past.'

Death waiteth at the door for thee and me...'

Will Summer:'Let us have no more of these grave matters'





Why is the time for doing good to Solstitium past? Because Hatton had died eleven months previously.



..He's dead...



...dead.