The Elizabethan People/Chapter 9
THE LOVE OF SPECTACLES
ON the day before her coronation Elizabeth made the customary progress through the City from the Tower to Whitehall. This pageant, which was the regular preliminary to a coronation, is one of the most interesting that could be described in this chapter; but, as it is too long in its original account for convenient insertion here, and as the reprint of Arber's English Garner has put it within the reach of all, the circumstantial contemporary account is omitted.
A synopsis of The Princely Pleasures of Kenilworth is to be found in Strutt's Sports and Pastimes of the English People; and the same elaborate revels are fully described in Scott's Kenilworth, most of the local colour of which is taken directly from a contemporary account.
The present writer need offer no apology for continuing the narrative of this chapter as far as possible in the words of contemporary writers, usually so graphic and so full of the spirit of the time in which they were written.
"(April 23, 1559.) The same day the queen in the afternoon went to Baynard's Castle, the Earl of Pembroke's Place, and supped with him, and after supper she took a boat and was rowed up and down the Thames, hundreds of boats and barges rowing about her, and thousands of people thronging at the water side to look upon her majesty, rejoicing to see her and partaking of the music and sights upon the Thames; for the trum-pets blew, drums beat, flutes played, guns were discharged, squibs hurled up into the air, as the queen moved from place to place." (Strype.)
"May 22d, the Bishop of London's Palace, and the Dean of Paul's House, with several other houses of the Canons and Prebendaries of the said church were taken up for the French Ambassadors and their retinue.
"The 23d they came and landed at Tower Wharf where many lords and nobles came to meet them, and conducted them to their said lodgings.
"The 24th they were brought from the Bishop's Palace through Fleet Street by the greatest nobles about the court to the queen's palace to supper. The hall and the great chamber of presence was hung with very rich cloth of arras and cloth of state. There was extraordinary cheer at supper, and, after that, as goodly a banquet as had been seen, with all manner of music and entertainments till midnight.
(From Strutt's "Sports and Pastimes.")
"The 25th they were brought to court with music to dinner, and after a splendid dinner, they were entertained with the baiting of bears and bulls with English dogs. The Queen's grace herself and the ambassadors stood in the gallery looking on the pastime till six at night. After that they went by water to Paul's Wharf, and landed there to go to the Bishop's palace to supper. It was observed of these ambassadors that they were most gorgeously apparelled.
"The 26th they took barge at Paul's Wharf, and so to Paris Garden, where was to be another baiting of bulls and bears, and the captain with an hundred of the guard, kept room for them against they came, that they might have place to see the sport.
"The 28th the French ambassadors went away, taking their barge towards Gravesend, and carried with them many mastiffs given them for hunting their wolves." (Strype.)
The following quotations illustrate the form and ceremony that accompanied the daily life of the Queen:
"The thirteenth day when she took her way from [the Charter-House] by Clerkenwell, over the fields to the Savoy, to Mr. Secretary Cecil, where she supped.
"The next day she departed on her progress to Essex; and the chief streets of the city being renewed with fresh gravel for her equipage, she passed from the Charter-House through Smithfield, under Newgate; and also along St. Nicholas Shambles, Cheapside, Cornhill, unto Aldgate and Whitechapel. All the houses were hung with cloth of arras, and rich carpets, and silk; but Cheapside was hung with cloth of gold and silver, and velvets of all colours, all the crafts of London standing in their liveries from St. Michael the Quern as far as to Aldgate. The cavalcade was after this manner: first, serving men riding; then the Queen's pensioners, gentlemen, knights, lords, the Aldermen in scarlet, the sergeants at arms, the heralds in their coat armour; then my Lord Mayor bearing the scepter; then the Lord Hunsden bearing the sword, and then came the Queen's grace and her footmen richly habited; the ladies and gentlemen followed; after all, the lords' and knights' men; and at Whitechapel the Lord Mayor and Aldermen took leave of her grace; and so she took her way towards Essex, and I suppose lodged that night at Wanstead House in the forest." (Strype.)
Tilting was one of the popular amusements of the day, carried on in harmless sport far different from the dangerous joustings of mediæval times. The following is a condensation of Holinshed's description of a famous tilting before the Queen on Whitsun Monday and Tuesday, 1581:
"The chief challengers in these attempts were these: The Earl of Arundel, the Lord Windsor, Master Philip Sidney, and Master Fulke Grevile, who, calling themselves the Four Foster Children of Desire, made the invention of the aforesaid triumph, in this order and form following:
"The gallery or place at the end of the tilt-yard adjoining her majesty's house at Whitehall, whereat her person should be placed, was called, and not without cause, 'The Castle or Fortress of Perfect Beauty,' forasmuch as her highness should be there included, whereto the said foster children laid title and claim as their due by descent to belong to them. And upon denial, or any repulse from that their desired patrimony, they vowed to vanquish and conquer by force who should seem to withstand it. For the accomplishing whereof they sent their challenge, or first defiance, to the Queen's majesty, which was uttered by a boy on Sunday, the sixteenth of April last, as her majesty came from the chapel, who, being apparelled in red and white, as a martial messenger of Desire's foster children, without making any precise reverence at all, uttered these speeches of defiance from his masters to her majesty, the effect whereof ensueth."
There follows in the original account a long Euphuistic harangue that sets forth in part a description of the sports that are to take place on the morrow.
"The said day being come, the four foster children had made preparation to beseige the Fortress of Beauty; and thereto had provided a frame of wood which was covered with canvas, and painted outwardly in such excellent order, as if it had been very natural earth or mold, and carried the name of a rowling trench which went on wheels wherever the persons within it did drive it. Upon the top whereof were placed two cannons of wood, so passing well coloured, that they seemed to be indeed two field pieces of ordinance, and by them was placed two men for gunners, clothed in crimson sarcenet, with their baskets of earth for defence of their bodies by them. And also there stood on the top of the trench an ensign bearer, in the same suit with the gunners, displaying his ensign; and within the said trench was cunningly conveyed divers kinds of most excellent music against the Castle of Beauty. These things thus all in a readiness, the challengers approached and came from the stable toward the tilt-yard, one after another, in brave and excellent order, and the manner of their several enterings was as followeth:
"First, the earl of Arundel entered the tilt-yard, all in a tylt and engraven armour, with caparisons and furniture richly and bravely embroidered, having attendent on him two gentlemen ushers, four pages riding on four spare horses, and twenty of his gentlemen. All which aforesaid were apareled in short cloaks and Venetian hose of crimson velvet, layed with gold lace, doublets of yellow satin, hats of crimson velvet with gold bands and yellow feathers, and yellow silk stocks. Then had he six trumpeters who sounded before him, and thirty-one yeomen that waited after him, appareled in cassock cloaks and Venetian hose of crimson velvet, layed on with red silk and gold lace, doublets of yellow taffeta, hats of crimson taffeta, and yellow worsted stockings."
After the entrance of Arundel, the other challengers arrived in equal splendour of dress, and accompanied by an equal number of gaudily arrayed retainers. Then the boy who had previously addressed the Queen, as she was returning from chapel the day before, approached the balcony where she sat and made known to her that there was about to be made an assault by Desire upon the Castle of Beauty. The rowling trench or artificial mound was then moved near to where the Queen sat. Music within played pleasantly and two songs were sung by pages, one bidding the Queen to surrender, the other exhorting the challengers to bravery.
"Which ended, the two cannons were shot off, the one with sweet powder, the other with sweet water, very odoriferous and pleasant, and the noise of the shooting was very excellent consent of melody within the mound. And after that was store of pretty scaling ladders, and the footmen threw flowers and such fancies against the walls, with all such devices as might seem fit shot for Desire. All which did continue till the time the defendants came in.
"Then came in the defendants in most sumptuous manner, with every one his servants, pages, and trumpeters (having some more, some less) on such order as I have hereunder placed them, with every one his sundry invention."
After the entrance of twenty-one gentlemen and their attendants, came "Sir Henry Leigh, as unknown, and when he had broken his six staves, went out in like manner again." For the rest of the day the gayly dressed courtiers rode backwards and forwards, each arriving in order before the Queen, where his page on the behalf of his master delivered himself of a speech. The speeches were all alike, long and prolix, composed of fulsome compliments to the Queen, and full of lamentation on the part of Desire. "This said, and all the triumphal shows ended, the knights, in very comely and convenient order (as they came) departed.
"The next day's show was done in this order: The Four Foster Children of Desire entered in a brave chariot (very finely and curiously decked) as men fore-wearied and half overcome. The chariot was made in such sort that on top the four knights sat with a beautiful lady representing Desire whereunto their eyes were turned, in token of what they desired. In the bulk of the chariot was conveyed room for a full consort of music, who played still very doleful music as the chariot moved. The chariot was drawn by four horses according to four knights, which horses were appareled in white and carnation silk, being the colours of Desire. And as it passed by the upper end of the tilt, a herald of arms was sent before to utter these speeches on the knights' behalf to her majesty:
"'No confidence in themselves, O most unmatched princess, before whom Envy dieth, wanting all nearness of comparison to sustain it, and Admiration is expressed, finding the scope of it void of conceivable limits, nor any slight regarding the force of your valiant knights, hath encouraged the Foster Children of Desire to make this day an inheritor of yesterday's action; but the wing of memory, alas, the sworn enemy unto the woeful man's quietness, being constantly held by the hand of perfection, and never ceasing to blow the coal of some kindred desire, hath brought their inward fire to blaze forth this flame unquenchable by any means till by death the whole shall be consumed. And, therefore, not able to master it, they are violently borne whither Desire draweth, although they must confess (alas) that yesterday's brave onset should come to such a confession, that they are not greatly companied with Hope, the common supplier to Desire's army. So as now, from summoning this castle to yield, they are fallen lowly to beseech you to vouchsafe your eyes out of that impregnable fortress to behold what will fall out betwixt them and your famous knights; wherein, though they be so overpressed with other's valour, that already they could scarcely have been able to come hither if the chariot of Desire had not carried them; yet will they make this whole assembly witness so far of their will, that sooner their souls shall leave their bodies, than Desire shall leave their souls.'"Thereupon the defenders of the day before
Tilting at the Ring.
(From an old print.)
Tilting at the Quintain.
(From an old print.)
re-enter the lists, and there is tilting and sword-play for some hours; after which a boy carrying an olive branch approaches the Queen to acknowledge on the part of Desire their mistake in not seeing that she was quite out of their sphere, and that the attack on the Castle of Beauty had proved an utter failure. The Queen then rose and thanked them for their entertainment and gave them praise, "which they esteemed so well, and thought themselves awarded according to their wishes; and so they departed, each one in order, according to the first coming in. And thus ceased these courtly triumphs."
On October 7, 1586, the proudest, finest specimen of an Elizabethan gentleman died at the post of duty on Zutphen field. "He was the great glory of his family," says Camden, "the great hope of mankind, the most lively pattern of virtue, and the darling of the learned world."
Sir Philip Sidney was sent by her majesty to the Low Countries where he was made Lieutenant of Flushing, at which place he arrived in the latter part of 1585. He was colonel of the Dutch regiment of Flushing, and captain of 200 English foot and 100 horse. "In September," says the curious old roll described by Thorpe, "at the relieving of Zutphen he charged the enemy thrice in one skirmish, and at the last charge he was wounded by a musket shot, whereof he died at Arnham the 7th of October, from whence he was brought by water to Flushing, where he was kept eight days for his convenient passage." He was escorted to the harbour by an English garrison 1200 strong, "marching three and three, shot, halberds, pikes, and ensigns, all trailing, the burghers of the town following. His body being embarked, the small shot gave a triple volley, then the general ordnance," etc.
When Sidney's body reached London, it was landed at the Tower Wharf, whence it was transported to the church of the Minories without Aldgate. Here it lay for some time in state before it was carried with great pomp to St. Paul's Cathedral. The funeral was conducted by Robert Cook, Clarenceux King-at-Arms, an office afterwards occupied with such glory to the College of Heralds by William Camden.
Following are the details of the funeral procession: First came two conductors of the poor in short coats and buttoned close, deep-crowned hats, and large ruffs, swords by their sides and staves in their hands. They were followed by thirty-two (his age) poor men in long gowns. Then came the officers of his foot soldiers, trailing their pikes, the drums and fifes playing softly, the instruments hung with black; next the ensign, the colours wound round the staff and trailed. Then followed all the officers of the horse fully armed, the banners, the steward of his house, sixty esquires chosen from his kindred and friends, twelve knights, the chaplain, and a gentleman carrying a pennon inscribed with Sidney's arms. Then came a footman leading the masterless horse, followed by a page trailing the useless lance. The heralds carrying his spurs, gloves, helmet, etc., came next, and then the King-at-Arms. He was followed by the gentleman usher in a long gown, bare-headed, his right hand upon his breast, his hat under his left arm. The corpse which followed was covered with black velvet and was carried by fourteen of his yeomen; the corners of the pall were held by four friends, and the banrols were carried by four of his near kindred. Sir Robert Sidney, his brother, followed as chief mourner, in a gown with a close hood, and his hands clasped. Then followed other mourners: Lords Huntington, Leicester, Pembroke, Essex, Willoughby, and North, all on horseback; representatives of the States of Holland to the number seven; the Lord Mayor, the Aldermen, the Recorder, and the Sheriffs of London riding in purple; the Grocers' Company in their livery to the number of one hundred and twenty. The procession was closed by three hundred men chosen of the trained bands of the city, walking three and three.
The above details are from a roll drawn by Thomas Lant, 1587. The roll is thirty-eight feet and some inches in length, the figures executed with much grace and accuracy. The roll is fully described by the antiquary John Thorpe, from whose account this extract is borrowed. Preceding the picture of the funeral procession is a view of the interior of St. Paul's with the hearse ready to receive the corpse. It is covered with black velvet and decorated with escutcheons.
Descriptions of pageants and progresses could be repeated ad infinitum; but lack of space curtails the quotations. A very different kind of pageant, one that pertained to the common people rather than to the court, was the usual Midsummer Watch in London. The following description is from the inimitable pages of Stow:
"Then had ye besides the standing watches all in bright harness, in every ward and street of the city and suburbs, a marching watch, that passed through the principal streets thereof, to wit, from the Little Conduit by Paul's Gate to West Cheap, by the Stocks through Cornhill, by Leadenhall to Aldgate, then back down Fenchurch Street, by Grass Church, about Grass Church Conduit, and up Grass Church Street into Cornhill, and through it into West Cheap again. The whole way for this marching watch extendeth to three thousand three hundred and twenty tailor's yards of assize; for the furniture whereof with lights, there were appointed seven hundred cressets, five hundred of them being found by the companies, the other two hundred by the chamber of London. Besides the which lights every constable in London, in number more than two hundred and forty, had his cresset; the charge of every cresset was in light two shillings and four pence, and every cresset had two men, one to bear or hold it, another to bear a bag with light, and to serve it, so that the poor men pertaining to the cressets, taking wages, besides that every one had a straw hat, with a badge painted, and his breakfast in the morning, amounted in number to almost two thousand. The marching watch contained in number about two thousand men, part of them being old soldiers of skill, to be captains, lieutenants, sergeants, corporals, etc., whifflers, drummers, and fifes, standard and ensign bearers, sword players, trumpeters on horseback, demi-lances on great horses, gunners with hand guns, or half hakes, archers in coats of white fustian, signed on the breast and back with the arms of the city, their bows bent in their hands, with sheaves of arrows by their sides, pikemen in bright corslets, burganets, etc., halberds, the like billmen in almaine rivets, and aprons of mail in great number; there were also divers pageants, morris dancers, constables, the one-half, which was one hundred and twenty, on St. John's, the other on St. Peter's Eve, in bright harness, some over-gilt, and every one a jornet of scarlet thereupon, and a chain of gold, his henchman following him, his minstrels before him, his cresset light passing by him, the waits of the city, the mayor's officers for his guard before him, all in a livery of worsted or say jackets parti-coloured, the mayor himself well mounted on horseback, the swordbearer before him in fair armour well mounted also, the mayor's footmen, and the like torchbearers about him, henchman twain upon great stirring horses, following him. The sheriff's watches came one after another, but not so large in numbers as the mayor's; for where the mayor had besides his giant three pageants, each of the sheriff's had besides their giants but two pageants, each their morris dance, and one henchman, their officers in jackets or worsted or say parti-coloured, differing from the mayor's, and each from other, but having harnessed men a great many."
There is not room in the present volume to insert a complete description of the parade and pomp of Elizabeth's court. The following brief description from the pen of the contemporary traveller, Paul Hentzner, must suffice to illustrate the formality that accompanied the daily life of the great Queen:
"We arrived next at the royal palace of Greenwich, reported to have been originally built by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, and to have received very magnificent additions from Henry VII. It was here Elizabeth, the present Queen, was born, and here she generally resides, particularly in summer for the delightfulness of its situation. We were admitted by an order Mr. Rogers had procured from the Lord Chamberlain into the presence chamber hung with rich tapestry, and the floor, after the English fashion, strewed with hay [rushes], through which the Queen commonly passes on her way to chapel. At the door stood a gentleman dressed in velvet, with a gold chain, whose office was to introduce to the Queen any person of distinction that came to wait on her; it was Sunday when there was usually the greatest attendance of nobility. In the same hall were the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, a great number of Councillors of State, officers of the Crown, and gentlemen, who waited on the Queen's coming out; which she did from her own apartment when it was time to go to prayers, attended in the following manner:—
"First went gentlemen, barons, earls, Knights of the Garter, all richly dressed and bareheaded; next came the Chancellor, bearing the seals in a red silk purse, between two, one of whom carried the Royal sceptre, the other the sword of state, in a red scabbard, studded with golden fleurs de lis, the point upwards: next came the Queen, in the sixty-fifth year of her age, as we were told, very majestic; her face oblong, fair, but wrinkled; her eyes small, yet black and pleasant; her nose a little hooked; her lips narrow, and her teeth black (a defect the English seem subject to, from their too great use of sugar); she had in her ears two pearls, with very rich drops; she wore false hair, and that red; upon her head she had a small crown, reported to be made of some of the gold of the celebrated Lunebourg table; her bosom was uncovered, as all the English ladies have it till they marry; and she had on a neckcloth of exceeding fine jewels; her hands were small, her fingers long, and her stature neither tall nor low; her air was stately, and her manner of speaking mild and obliging. That day she was dressed in white silk, bordered with pearls of the size of beans, and over it a mantle of black silk, shot with silver threads; her train was very long, the end of it borne by a marchioness; instead of a chain she had an oblong collar of gold and jewels. As she went along in all this state and magnificence, she spoke very graciously, first to one then to another, whether foreign Ministers, or those who attended for different reasons, in English, French, and Italian; for, besides being well skilled in Greek, Latin, and the languages I have mentioned, she is mistress of Spanish, Scotch, and Dutch. Whoever speaks to her, it is kneeling; now and then she raises some one with her hand. While we were there, W. Slawata, a Bohemian baron, had letters to present to her; and she, after pulling off her glove, gave him her right hand to kiss, sparkling with rings and jewels, a mark of particular favour. Wherever she turned her face, as she was going along, everybody fell down on their knees. The ladies of the court followed next to her, very handsome and well shaped, and for the most part dressed in white. She was guarded on each side by the gentlemen pensioners, fifty in number, with gilt battle-axes. In the ante-chapel, next the hall where we were, petitions were presented to her, and she received them most graciously which occasioned the acclamation of 'Long Live Queen Elizabeth!' She answered it with 'I thank you, my good people.' In the chapel was excellent music; as soon as it and the service were over, which scarce exceeded half an hour, the Queen returned in the same state and order, and prepared to go to dinner. But while she was still at prayers, we saw her table set out with the following solemnity:—"A gentleman entered the room bearing a rod, and along with him another who had a table-cloth which, after they had both kneeled three times with the utmost veneration, he spread upon the table, and, after kneeling again, they both retired. Then came two others, one with the rod again, the other with a salt-cellar, a plate, and bread; when they had kneeled as the others had done, and placed what was brought upon the table, they too retired with the same ceremonies performed by the first. At last came an unmarried lady (we were told she was a countess), and along with her a married one, bearing a tasting knife; the former was dressed in white silk, who, when she had prostrated herself three times in the most graceful manner, approached the table and rubbed the plates with bread and salt with as much awe as if the Queen had been present. When they had waited there a little while the yeomen of the guards entered, bareheaded, clothed in scarlet, with a golden rose upon their backs, bringing in at each turn a course of twenty-four dishes, served in plate, most of it gilt; these dishes were received by a gentleman in the same order they were brought, and placed upon the table, while the lady taster gave
A Court Dinner in the time of King James.
(From an old print. Reproduced in Rye's "England as seen by Foreigners.")
to each of the guard a mouthful to eat of the particular dish he brought, for fear of any poison. During the time that this guard, which consists of the tallest and stoutest men that can be found in all England, being carefully selected for this service, were bringing dinner, twelve trumpets and two kettle drums made the hall ring for half an hour together. At the end of all this ceremonial, a number of unmarried ladies appeared, who, with particular solemnity, lifted the meat off the table, and conveyed it into the Queen's inner and more private chamber, where after she had chosen for herself, the rest goes to the ladies of the Court."
It is interesting to set beside this a description of the more sociable kind of state dinner enjoyed by Elizabeth's successor, King James. The description is from the pen of Juan Fernandez de Velasco, Ambassador of Philip III. to England in 1604.
"The audience chamber was elegantly furnished, having a buffet of several stages, filled with various pieces of ancient and modern gilt plate of exquisite workmanship. A railing was placed on each side of the room in order to prevent the crowd from approaching too near the table. At the right hand upon entering was another buffet, containing rich vessels of gold, agate, and other precious stones. The table might be about five yards in length, and more than one yard broad. The dishes were brought in by gentlemen and servants of the King, who was accompanied by the Lord Chamberlain, and before placing them on the table they made four or five obeisances. The Earls of Pembroke and of Southampton officiated as gentlemen-ushers. Their Majesties with the Prince Henry entered after the Constable and the others, and placed themselves at their throne, and all stood in a line to hear the grace said; the Constable being at the King's side, and the Count de Villamediana on the Queen's. Their Majesties washed their hands in the same basin, the Lord Treasurer handing the towel to the King, and the High Admiral to the Queen. The Prince washed in another basin, in which water was also taken to the Constable, who was waited upon by the same gentlemen. They took their seats in the following manner: their Majesties sat at the head of the table, at a distance from each other under a canopy of state, the Queen being upon the right hand, on chairs of brocade with cushions; and at her side, a little apart, sat the Constable, on a tabouret of brocade with a high cushion of the same, and on the side of the King the Prince was seated in like manner. On the opposite side of the table and on the right sat Count Villamediana, and next to him the Senator Rovida opposite the Constable; and on the same side with the senator, nearly fronting the Prince, were seated the President Richardot and the Audiencier; a space in front being left vacant owing to the absence of the Count d'Arembergue, who was prevented by the gout from attending. The principal noblemen of the kingdom were likewise at the table, in particular the Duke of Lenox," etc. Then follows a long list of noblemen and their titles who were present at the dinner. "There was plenty of instrumental music, and the banquet was sumptuous and profuse. The first thing the King did was to send the Constable a melon and half a dozen of oranges on a very green branch, telling him that they were the fruit of Spain transplanted into England; to which the latter, kissing his hand, replied that he valued the gift more as coming from his Majesty than as being the fruit of his own country; he then divided the melon among their Majesties, and Don Blasco de Aragon handed the plate to the Queen, who politely and graciously acknowledged the attention. Soon afterwards the King stood up, and with his head uncovered drank to the Constable the health of their Spanish Majesties, and may the peace be happy and perpetual. The Constable pledged him in like manner, and replied that he entertained the same hope and that from the peace the greatest advantages might result to both crowns and to Christendom. The toast was then drunk by the Count Villamediana and the others present, to the delight and applause of their Majesties. Immediately afterwards the Constable, seeing that another opportunity might not be offered him, rose and drank to the King the health of the Queen from the lid of a cup of agate of extraordinary beauty and richness, set with diamonds and rubies, praying his Majesty would condescend to drink the toast from the cup, which he did accordingly, and ordered it to be passed round to the Prince and others; and the Constable directed that the cup should remain in his Majesty's buffet. At this period the people shouted out: 'Peace, peace, peace! God save the King! God save the King! God save the King!' and a king at arms presented himself before the table, and after the drums, trumpets, and other instruments had sounded, with a loud voice said in English:—'that the kingdom returned many thanks to his Majesty for having concluded with the King of Spain so advantageous a peace, and he hoped to God it might endure for many ages, and his subjects hoped that his Majesty would endeavor with all his might to maintain it, so that they might enjoy from it tranquility and repose, and that security and advantage might result to all his people; and therefore they prayed him to allow the same to be published in the kingdom and the dominions of his Majesty.' The King gave permission accordingly and the peace was forthwith proclaimed in that city, the proclamation being repeated at every fifty paces.
"The Constable rose a second time, and drank to the Queen the health of the King from a very beautiful dragon-shaped cup of crystal garnished with gold, drinking from the cover, and the Queen standing up gave the pledge from the cup itself, Don Blasco de Aragon performing on this occasion the office of cup-bearer as also interpreter to what was spoken by the Constable and the Queen, on whose [i.e. the Queen's] buffet he ordered that the cup should remain." In like manner the banquet proceeded, health after health being proposed in succession till the whole company adjourned to the neighbouring hall to spend the further time in dancing.
A form of dramatic entertainment has been reserved for description here because essentially a part of the pomp and circumstance of court life and of the life of the nobleman rather than a part of those kinds of dramatic amusement that have been described in Chapter XIV. of the author's Shakespeare's London.The masque, which reached its greatest glory during the reign of King James, had a very meagre beginning long before in England. In the beginning it was nothing more than a form of disguising indulged in by some of the regular guests who took part in a festive occasion where dancing was a part of the ceremony. These details must be constantly borne in mind. The masquers were of the regular and expected guests, there was always a dance to give rise to the masque, and there was a disguise. Bacon, in his essay Of Masques and Triumphs, says, "Let the suits of the masquers be graceful and such as become the person when the vizers are off; not after examples of known attires—Turks, soldiers, mariners, and the like." This allusion is to what constituted the next step in the development of the masque, namely the assumption of some costume that was so unusual as to require a word of explanation. It was customary to have this explanation of what the masquers represented spoken by a page, and it is such a speech that is referred to in Romeo and Juliet under the name "without-book prologue." When the page had spoken his piece he withdrew and left the masquers to choose their
Old House in Grub Street, London, illustrating timber construction.
(From a print in Smith's collection.)
Out of this prologue grew the habit of prefacing the dancing by more or less elaborate conversation, written for the masquers beforehand and committed by them to memory. As soon as it was done with, they, as usual, chose their partners, and the dance which gave occasion for the masque began. This dramatic dialogue in turn developed to such an extent that it became more than an easy task for amateurs, and professional actors, often of the comic and vaudeville type, were called in to assist. They and their parts constituted the anti-mask. As was the case with the prologue, as soon as the anti-masque was over, or the whole dramatic entertainment which contained the anti-masque, was over, the professional actors withdrew, leaving the masquers proper to go on with their dancing. "Let the anti-masques not be long," says Bacon; "they have been commonly of fools, satyrs, baboons, wild men, antiques, beasts, spirits, witches, Ethiopes, pigmies, turquets [Turkish dwarfs], nymphs, rustics, Cupids, statuas moving, and the like."
This is the stage to which the masque attained during the height of its popularity in the reign of James. It was, however, a far more elaborate affair than has been hinted at above. The preparation of a masque occupied many days. The poet, the musician, the professional actor, and the stage carpenter were all called in to contribute, each his part, to the production of the entertainment. And of all these, the words of the poet were considered as the least important. It was not a drama but a spectacle in which the dramatic dialogue bore a very subordinate part. Jonson was the most skilful of Elizabethan masque writers and has born testimony to his chagrin at the fact that the poet's part of the labour was so slightly esteemed. The most skilled musicians were employed to compose music for the occasion; and such a famous architect as Inigo Jones did not consider it beneath his dignity to design and build the stage effects. The expense of a masque was so great as to completely rule such attempts at stage setting from the public stage, a fact that should be taken into consideration when the subject of scenery on the Elizabethan public stage is discussed. The magnificence of these masques is well illustrated by the following comments in the nature of stage directions that accompany the text of Beaumont's Mask of the Inner Temple and Gray's Inn:
"This Masque was appointed to have been presented the Shrove-Tuesday before, at which time the masquers, with their attendants, and divers others, gallant young gentlemen of both houses, as their convoy, set forth from Winchester-house (which was the rendezvous) towards the court, about seven of the clock at night.
"This voyage by water was performed in great triumph: the gentlemen-masquers being placed by themselves in the King's royal barge, with the rich furniture of state, and adorned with a great number of lights, placed in such order as might make the best show.
"They were attended with a multitude of barges and gallies, with all variety of loud music, and several peals of ordnance; and led by two admirals.
"Of this show his majesty was graciously pleased to take view, with the prince, the Count Palatine and the Lady Elizabeth their highnesses, at the windows of his privy gallery, upon the water, till their landing, which was at the privy stairs; where they were most honourably received by the lord-chamberlain, and so conducted to the vestry.
"The hall was by that time filled with company of very good fashion, but yet so as a very great number of principal ladies and other noble persons were not yet come in, whereby it was foreseen that the room would be so scanted as might have been inconvenient; and thereupon his majesty was most graciously pleased, with the consent of the gentlemen-masquers, to put off the night until Saturday following, with the special favour and privilege, that there should be no let as to the outward ceremony of magnificence until that time.
"At the day that it was presented, there was a choice room reserved for the gentlemen of both their houses, who, coming in troup about seven of the clock, received that special honour and noble favour, as to be brought to their places by the Right Honourable the Earl of Northampton, Lord-Privy Seal.
"The Device or Argument of the Masque.
Jupiter and Juno, willing to do honour to the marriage of the two famous rivers Thamesis and Rhine, employ their messengers severally, Mercury and Iris, for that purpose. They meet and contend: then Mercury, for his part, brings forth an anti-masque all of spirits or divine natures; but yet not of one kind or livery (because that had been so much in use heretofore), but, as it were, in consort, like to broken music; and, preserving the propriety of the device,—for that rivers in nature are maintained either by springs from beneath or showers from above,—he raiseth four of the Naiades out of the fountains, and bringeth down five of the Hyades out of the clouds to dance. Hereupon Iris scoffs at Mercury, for that he had devised a dance but of one sex, which could have no life; but Mercury, who was provided for that exception, and in token that the match should be blessed both with love and riches, calleth forth out of the groves four Cupids, and brings down from Jupiter's altar four Statuas of gold and silver, to dance with the Nymphs and Stars; in which dance, the Cupids being blind, and the Statuas having but half life put into them, and retaining still somewhat of their old nature, giveth fit occasion to new and strange varieties both in the music and paces. This was the first anti-masque.
"Then Iris, for her part, in scorn of this high-flying device, and in token that the match shall likewise be blessed with the love of the common people, calls to Flora, her confederate,—for that the months of flowers are likewise the months of sweet showers and rainbows,—to bring in a Maydance, or rural dance, consisting likewise not of any suited persons, but of a confusion or commixture of all such persons as are natural and proper for country sports. This is the second anti-masque.
"Then Mercury and Iris, after this vying one upon the other, seem to leave their contention; and Mercury, by the consent of Iris, brings down the Olympian Knights, intimating that Jupiter having, after a long discontinuance, revived the Olympian games, and summoned thereunto from all parts the liveliest and activest persons that were, had enjoined them, before they fell to their games, to do honour to these nuptials. The Olympian games portend to the match celebrity, victory, and felicity. This was the main masque.
"The fabric was a mountain with two descents, and served with two traverses [curtains].
"At the entrance of the King,
The first traverse was drawn, and the lower descent of the mountain discovered, which was the pendant of a hill to life, with divers boscages and grovets upon the steep or hanging grounds thereof; and at the foot of the hill four delicate fountains, running with water and bordered with sedges and water-flowers.
"Iris first appeared; and, presently after. Mercury, striving to overtake her. Iris apparelled in a robe of discoloured [of various colours] taffeta, figured in variable colours, like the rainbow, a cloudy wreath on her head, and tresses. Mercury in doublet and hose of white taffeta, a white hat, wings on his shoulders and feet, his caduceus in his hand, speaking to Iris as followeth:—
Immediately upon which speech, four Naiades arise gentle out of their several fountains, and present themselves upon the stage, attired in long habits of sea-green taffeta, with bubbles of crystal, intermixt with powdering of silver, resembling drops of water, bluish tresses, on their heads garlands of water-lilies. They fall into a measure, dance a little, then make a stand.
Five Hyades descend softly in a cloud from the firmament to the middle part of the hill, apparelled in sky-coloured taffeta robes, spangled like the heavens, golden tresses, and each a fair star on their head; from thence descend to the stage; at whose sight the Naiades, seeming to rejoice, meet and join in a dance.
Enter four Cupids from each side of the boscage, attired in flame-coloured taffeta close to their body, like naked boys, with bows, arrows, and wings of gold, chaplets of flowers on their heads, hood-winged with tiffiny scarfs; who join with the Nymphs and the Hyades in another dance. That ended, Mercury speaks.
The Statuas enter, supposed to be before descended from Jove's Altar, and to have been prepared in the covert with the Cupids, attending their call.
"These Statuas were attired in cases of gold and silver close to their body, faces, hands, and feet; nothing seen but gold and silver, as if they had been solid images of the metal; tresses of hair, as if they had been of metal embossed, girdles and small aprons of oaken leaves, as if they likewise had been carved or moulded out of the metal; at their coming, the music changed from violins to hautboys, cornets, etc., and the air of the music was utterly turned into a soft time, with drawing notes, excellently expressing their natures, and the measure likewise was fitted unto the same, and the Statuas placed in such several postures, sometimes altogether in the centre of the dance, and sometimes in the four utmost angles, as was very graceful, besides the novelty. And so concluded the first Anti-masque.
Carved exterior of Sir Paul Pindar's House, London, illustrating ornamental exterior woodwork.
(From a print in Wilkinson's collection.)
She-Baboon; a He-Fool, She-Fool, ushering them in.
"All these persons apparelled to the life, the men issuing out of one side of the boscage, and the women from the other. The music was extremely well fitted, having such a spirit of country jollity as can hardly be imagined; but the perpetual laughter and applause was above the music.
"The dance likewise was of the same strain; and the dancers, or rather actors, expressed every one their part so naturally and aptly, as when a man's eye was caught with one, and then passed on to the other, he could not satisfy himself which did best. It pleased his Majesty to call for it again at the end, as he did likewise for the first Anti-Masque; but one of the Statuas by that time was undressed.
The Main Masque.—The second traverse is drawn, and the higher ascent of the mountain is discovered; wherein, upon a level, after a great rise of the hill, were placed two pavilions, open in the front of them: the pavilions were to sight as of cloth of gold, and they were trimmed on the inside with rich armour and military furniture hanged up as upon walls; and behind the tents there were represented in prospective the tops of divers other tents, as if it had been a camp. In these pavilions were placed fifteen Olympian Knights, upon seats a little embowed near the form of a croisant; and the Knights appeared first, as consecrated persons, all in veils, like to copes, of silver tiffiny, gathered, and falling, a large compass about them, and over their heads high mitres, with long pendants behind falling from them; the mitres were so high that they received their hats and feathers, that nothing was seen but veil. In the midst between both the tents, upon the very top of the hill, being a higher level that than that of the tents, was placed Jupiter's altar, gilt, with three great tapers upon golden candle-sticks burning upon it; and the four Statuas, two of gold, two of silver, as supporters, and Jupiter's priests in white robes about it. Upon the sight of the King, the veils of the Knights did fall easily from them, and they appeared in their own habit.
"The Knights' Attire.—Arming doublets of carnation satin, embroidered with blazing stars of silver plate, with powderings of smaller stars betwixt; gorgets of silver mail; long hose of the same, with the doublets laid with silver lace spangled, and enriched with embroidery between the lace; carnation silk stockings embroidered all over; garters and roses suitable; pumps of carnation satin embroidered as the doublets; hats of the same stuff and embroidery, cut like a helmet before, the hinder part cut into scollops answering the skirts of their doublets; the bands of their hats were wreaths of silver in form of garlands of wild olives; white feathers, with one fall of carnation; belts of the same stuff, and embroidered with the doublet; silver swords; little Italian bands and cuffs embroidered with silver; fair long tresses of hair.
"The Priests' Habits.—Long robes of white taffeta; long white heads of hair; the High-Priest a cap of white silk shag close to his head, with two labels at the ears, the midst rising in form of a pyramis, in the top thereof a branch of silver; every Priest playing upon a lute; twelve in number.
"The Priests descend, and sing this song following; after whom the Knights likewise descend, first laying aside their veils, belts and swords.
The Knights by this time are all descended and fallen into their place, and then dance their first measure.
The Knights dance their second measure.
The Knights take their ladies to dance with them galliards, durets, corantos, etc., and then lead them to their places; then loud music sounds, supposed to call them to their Olympian games.
The Knights dance their parting measure, and ascend, put on their swords and belts; during which time the Priests sing
"The Fifth and Last Song"
This running commentary to Beaumont's masque illustrates all of the parts of a masque as described above. It also serves to illustrate the magnificence of dress, music, and scenery necessary to the successful presentation of a masque at the height of the popularity of this kind of amusement. The fact that all the text proper, that is, the lines written by the poet, has been omitted, and yet so much remains, points out the relative importance of the poet's work to that of the other contributors to the entertainment. In this respect it may be well to notice that the splendid poetry of Milton's Comus, is a priceless heritage to us; but the very splendour and amount of the poetic verses are in reality somewhat against it as a masque. Who amid such splendour of accompaniment, the merriment of a great festive occasion cares to abstract his mind enough to appreciate the verse of Comus. Few will deny that the productions of Shakespeare lose much in the great spectacular presentations that are now sometimes given during the London season. Conversely, a poet who designs and writes his verse to fit such a presentation need take no less care. The power expended upon Comus was unnecessary and not likely to be of value in its place.
- On such an occasion the dogs and animals to be baited were taken to Whitehall, where the exhibition was given. There is no evidence that Elizabeth ever attended in person the bear-ring in Southwark or the public theatres. The details of the sport of baiting are given elsewhere.
- The account is published by Rye, p. 118, and is preceded by an engraving illustrative of a similar banquet given by the king.