Marion Colthorpe obituary

Richard Freeman
·2-min read

My friend Marion Colthorpe, who has died aged 87, was an expert on the people and places visited by Elizabeth I, and was the author of two books on Elizabeth’s trips to Cambridge and Harlow, in Essex.

She also produced a meticulous record of her everyday court life that included accounts of relationships with courtiers, ambassadors, other monarchs and members of parliament. Entitled The Elizabethan Court Day by Day, it is now available free for scholars to examine on the Folgerpedia website.

Marion was born in Kelvedon, Essex, where her parents, John and Louise (nee Pearson), had a fruit farm. After attending Maldon grammar school and then St Felix school in Felixstowe, she graduated from St Hugh’s College, Oxford, in 1960, before qualifying as a barrister.

She decided not to take up legal practice, and instead became a secretary at the University of Cambridge Air Photography Unit. She lived and worked in Cambridge for the rest of her life, joining the Advisory Centre for Education as an adviser before leaving in 1967 to work at the John Hilton Bureau (a kind of citizens advice service for readers of the News of the World newspaper) and then doing bibliographic work for the publisher Chadwyck-Healey from 1980 to 1984.

From 1973, in her spare time, she had begun more than a decade of acting as a Blue Badge guide for tourists in Cambridge, and in 1977 she co-wrote, with Linley Bateman, Queen Elizabeth I and Harlow, followed in the same year by her own book, Royal Cambridge: Royal Visits to Cambridge from Queen Elizabeth I to Queen Elizabeth II.

Her developing interest in Elizabeth I led Marion to begin writing The Elizabethan Court Day by Day, and she pursued her court studies almost to the exclusion of anything else until the work’s completion in 2016.

Her research brought her into correspondence with many scholars around the world, who soon came to admire the quality of her work and the value of the resource she was creating. In 2018 she was elected to the Society of Antiquaries of London.

Marion had a house in Cambridge that fronted on to the River Cam. She treasured her view of Stourbridge Common and delighted in the annual Cambridge regattas that passed by. For many years she kept a dinghy, which she used on the river. Marion held an Institute of Advanced Motorists badge and also enjoyed travelling.

She is survived by her brother David.