John Dee at Queen Elizabeth’s Court

John Dee met with Queen Elizabeth numerous times during her long reign. It’s not known if he performed this type of fiery experiment, imagined by the noted English painter Henry Glindoni, painted in 1913 (which hangs in the Wellcome Gallery in London.) But it does give you a good feel for Dee, Elizabeth an her court.


John Dee was asked by Elizabeth to select the most propitious day for her Coronation. (He chose January 15,1559 for mathematical reasons.)

Elizabeth even stopped by to visit Dee in his house in Mortlake, as it’s along the route from Hampton Court Palace and Greenwich Palace. On one such visit, Dee show the Queen a giant convex mirror and her courtiers had merry fun fencing against an upside-down image of themselves which returned each thrust instantly.

In 1577, John Dee spent four days at Hampden Court, Palace explaining (as per the eight books that he had written) why Queen Elizabeth had a legal right to North America (except for Florida where the Spanish had settled). Dee claimed that earlier Englishmen, like King Arthur, Prince Madoc, Saint Brendan, John Cabot, had claimed the continent for England, long before the Spanish presence.

Dee selected what is now Narragansett Bay to be the finest bay for the first settlement, and he named it after himself, the Dee River. The deed to the Dee River was discovered in the Elizabethan State Papers in 1934, but since then, no RI history book has ever written about it, so its not well known. However the two most noted authorities on Elizabethan exploration, David beers Quinn and Samuel Eliot Morrison, both assert the Dee River is ”modern Narragansett Bay.”

In 1582, John Dee presented his 60-page British Calendar Reform Proposal to the Queen (at her request). Dee had used the most accurate “horologium” (timekeeper) known at the time, a camera-obscura solar-disk calendar-room, and recommended that Britain institute its own calendar reform, similar to the Pope’s Gregorian calendar of 1582. Dee claimed the Queen would forever be famous as “The Reformer of the Year for the Next Christian Epoch.”

Numerous clues (in the Tower and in Dee’s texts) suggest this is what the Tower is: Dee’s horologium on the Dee River. It was intended was to celebrate the two beginnings: the New Time and the New World.

Unfortunately the head of the Anglican Church vetoed Dee’s calendar proposal, and though the Tower got built, the colonization effort ultimately failed, and the Tower was abandoned.


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