Hatfield House, built between 1607 and 1611 by Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, is one of England's finest Jacobean houses. It is still the home of the Cecil family.
The House was designed by Robert Lyminge and the interior decoration was the work of English, French and Flemish craftsmen. The magnificent State Rooms display many famous paintings including The Rainbow Portrait of Elizabeth I painted by Issac Oliver in around 1600.
There are also works by Hilliard, Mytens and Sir Joshua Reynolds amongst many others. The State Rooms contain fine furniture from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries and some important tapestries.
King James' drawing room has lavish 18th century decorations with a life-size statue of the king over the fire place.
The two-storeyed Marble Hall has oak panelling and a minstrels' gallery. The armoury displays historic armour including some taken from the men of the Spanish Armada. The grand staircase is exquisitely carved.
However, its chief historical interest lies in the surviving wing of the original Royal Palace of Hatfield where Henry VIII's children were raised.
Elizabeth I spent most of her childhood at Hatfield and it was there that she learned of her accession to the throne. The Queen held her first Council of State at Hatfield after being crowned in 1558. The Tudor palace which was partly demolished in 1607 to make from for the new house contains some of Elizabeth's possessions.
Hatfield House is set in its own park.
In 1611 John Tradescant the Elder was employed by Robert Cecil to lay out the gardens. However, in the 18th century landscape gardening became fashionable and much of his work was swept away or neglected. In the 19th century work began to restore the original garden and the present Marquess has continued this task.
There are now 42 acres of Jacobean gardens including the scented, formal and knot gardens and a wilderness area.