1920 - 1921

Merrie England

Sir Walter Raleigh loves Bessie Throckmorton, Elizabeth's lady-in-waiting.  He sends her a love letter, but Bessie loses it.  The lost letter is found by Jill-all-alone, a forest dweller, whose constant companion is a black cat.  Living in the forest with a black cat necessarily points to Jill as a witch. She ventures to the castle to restore the letter to its owner, but runs afoul of the worthy citizens of Windsor intent on their May Day revels. What could be better than a witch hunt?  When she is being hunted and harried, the Royal Forester, Long Tom, comes to her aid and is supported by the Earl of Essex, to whom Jill hands Bessie's letter.  Essex, thinking that Raleigh is his rival for royal favour, accepts the letter as his opportunity to arouse Eliizabeth's jealousy and he hands the letter to the Queen.  Elizabeth mistakens the letter as an avowal of Ralph's love for her but Raleigh is not the man to allow the Queen to be under a misapprehension and explains that the letter belongs to Bessie Throckmorton.  The Queen is furious and orders Raleigh to be banished, Bessie imprisoned, and Jill, who mocked the Queen's distress, to be burnt as a witch.

In the opening of the second act, Jill is seen to escape and to rescue Bessie from the Castle by a secret passage; they hide in Herne the Hunter's oak in the forest.  Essex now determines to make amends for the harm he has done Raleigh and is assisted in his plans by Walter Wilkins.  Essex plans to work on the Queen's superstitious fears and to stage an appearance of Herne the Hunter during a masque presented by Walter Wilkins.  According to tradition, the ghostly huntsman only appears in the forest when the monarch contemplates a crime.  The Queen is terrified at the apparition and pardons the lovers and Jill-all-alone. The populace are delighted and the joyful strains of Robin Hood's Wedding brings the story to a "happy ever after" conclusion.



Merrie England