Hatfield House was completed in 1611. It was built by Robert Cecil, first Earl of Salisbury and son of Lord Burghley, the chief minister of Elizabeth I. The deer park surrounding the house and the older building of the Old Palace had been owned by Elizabeth?s father, Henry VIII, who had used it as a home for his children, Edward, Elizabeth and Mary. It was while she was living in the Old Palace, in 1558, that Elizabeth learned of her accession to the throne.
The Cecils? former home was at Theobalds, also in Hertfordshire. In 1607, Elizabeth?s heir, James I offered to exchange Theobalds for the Old Palace and manor of Hatfield. A draft Parliamentary Act of exchange survives in the Cecil Papers at Hatfield, dated May 1607. Salisbury began building work immediately. The main architect of the house was Robert Lemynge but Simon Basil, the Surveyor of the King?s Works and Inigo Jones also contributed to the design.
Salisbury had been appointed Lord Treasurer in April 1607 as well as Chief Secretary, but, he became ill and died, aged only 48, in April 1612. Although he was buried in Hatfield, he didn?t live to enjoy the house that was to become the home of his descendants the Cecils, for the next 400 years.
The garden at Hatfield House dates from the early 17th century when Robert Cecil employed John Tradescant the Elder to collect plants for his new home. Tradescant was sent to Europe where he found and brought back trees, bulbs, plants and fruit trees, which had never previously been grown in England
Today, Hatfield House is the home of the 7th Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury.