Category Archives: London

Court London Medicine Monarchy Playwrights Shakespeare Stage Theatre

‘The trumpets sound: stand close, the queen is coming’

 
From the First Folio (1623)

 
 
Some Shakespeare scholars have dismissed suggestions that Shakespeare and Fletcher’s All Is True or Henry VIII (1) alludes in part to the royal wedding of James I’s daughter Elizabeth to the Elector Palatine in February 1613. However, during the course of my research I have noted some interesting parallels between the stage spectacle of the play, and printed accounts of the wedding, and what follows are a few of my thoughts.

At the close of All Is True, Henry announces the event of his new daughter Elizabeth’s christening as a day of holiday for all. Similarly, on 14th February 1613, the date of James I’s daughter Elizabeth’s wedding, England celebrated with a national holiday. During the Coronation of Anne Bullen in Act Four of All is True, two Gentlemen, meeting on the street, discuss the event:

First Gent: You come to take your stand here, and behold
The Lady Ann pass from her coronation?

Second Gent: ‘Tis all my business. At our last encounter
The Duke of Buckingham came from his trial.

First Gent: ‘Tis very true. But that time offer’d sorrow,
This, general joy.

Second Gent: ‘Tis well: The citizens
I am sure have shown at full their royal minds.
(4.1.3-9)

It is tempting to read in this exchange an echo of the celebrations on the streets of London on Valentine’s Day 1613. Prince Henry’s funeral in December 1612 had been a sombre and depressing event. Two thousand mourners followed his coffin from St James to Westminster; an event which caused ‘many tears and sighs’ (2). Officials recorded they had never beheld ‘so much sorrow’ (3). Yet by January, Sir Thomas Lake reported ‘The black is wearing out, and the marriage pomps preparing’ (4). In February, the very same crowds which had mourned Henry’s death were cheering for the royal wedding. The ceremony took place at the Royal Chapel, Whitehall, on a Sunday. However the celebrations began on Thursday 11th with a spectacular firework display on the river Thames, and continued into the weekend with mock sea battles, masques, and all manner of ‘triumphant sportes’ (5). The weekend culminated in the wedding itself:

The Court being placed full of people of many Estates, sortes, and Nations, first came the Bride-groom from the newe built Banquetting-house, attired in a white Satten sute, richly beset with Pearle and Golde, attended on by a number of young gallant Courtiers, both English, Scottish, and Dutch, all in rich manner, every one striving to exceede in sumptuous habilliaments, fitte for the attendants of so princely a Bride-groome. After came the Lady Elizabeth, in her Virgin-robes, clothed in a gowne of white Satten richly embroidered, led betweene her royall brother Prince Charles, and the Earle of Northampton. Upon her head a crowne of refined golde, made imperiall by the Pearles and Dyamonds thereupon placed, which were so thicke beset that they stood like shining pinnacles. Upon her amber coloured haire, hanging plaited down over her shoulders to her Waste, betweene every plaight Gold spangles, Pearles, Riche stones, and Diamonds, and many Diamonds of inestimable value embroidered upon her sleeves, which dazzled and amazed the eyes of the beholders… After them came another traine of gallant young Courtiers in sutes embroidered and Pearled… then the king of Heralds bearing upon his shoulder a Mace of Golde… After them four Seargiants of the Mace, bearing upon their shoulders foure riche Enamelled Maces.Then followed the right Honourable the Earle of Aundell carrying the kings Sword. And then in great Royaltie the Kings Majestie himself… Upon her [Elizabeth]attended a number of married Ladies, the Countesses and wives of Earles and Barrons, apparelled in most noble manner which added glory into this triumphant time and Marriage (6).

A comparison with the stage directions in Act Four of All Is True reveals some similarities with the above description:

THE ORDER OF THE CORONATION

1. A lively flourish of Trumpets.
2. Then, two Judges.
3. LORD CHANCELLOR, with the purse and mace before him.
4. Choristers, singing. Music
5. MAYOR OF LONDON, bearing the mace. Then GARTER, in his coat of arms, and on his head a gilt copper crown.
6. MARQUESS DORSET, bearing a sceptre of gold, on his head a demi-coronal of gold. With him, the EARL OF SURREY, bearing the rod of silver with the dove, crowned with an earl’s coronet. Collars of Esses.
7. DUKE OF SUFFOLK, in his robe of estate, his coronet on his head, bearing a long white wand, as high-steward. With him, the DUKE OF NORFOLK, with the rod of marshalship, a coronet on his head. Collars of Esses.
8. A canopy borne by four of the Cinque-ports; under it, the QUEEN in her robe; in her hair, richly adorned with pearl, crowned. On each side her, the BISHOPS OF LONDON and WINCHESTER.
9. The old DUCHESS OF NORFOLK, in a coronal of gold, wrought with flowers, bearing the queen’s train.
10. Certain Ladies or Countesses, with plain circlets of gold without flowers.

Exeunt, first passing over the stage in order and state, and then, a great flourish of trumpets (4.1)

In one of the printed descriptions of the royal wedding, the bridesmaids attending the Princess are described as a ‘skye of Celestiall starres’ (7). The Second Gentleman, commenting on Anne Bullen’s procession in All Is True, refers to the countesses carrying the train as ‘stars indeed’(4.1.53). The Third Gentleman, commenting on the vast crowd watching the Coronation, evokes the spectators cheering Elizabeth, her new husband, and the court, as it processed from Whitehall to the Banqueting house: ‘when the people / Had the full view of, such a noise arose / As the shrouds make at sea in a stiff tempest, / As loud and to as many tunes; hats, cloaks – / Doublets, I think – flew up’ (4.1.70-74).

Similarly, the printed account of the royal wedding describes silver trumpets welcoming the couple into the Banqueting House with such melodious sounds it caused ‘thousands to say at that instant time, God give them joy, God give them joy’ (8). The Third Gentleman in All is True, remarks on the crowds: ‘Such joy / I never saw before’ (4.1.75-6). Likewise, Antony Nixon describes the mood in England on 14th February as one of joy: ‘The day of ioy, the day of iollitie, / That young and old, and all doe celebrate,’ in honour of the nuptials, ‘behold, / How young and old, and high and low reioyce. / England hath put a face of gladnesse on; / And Court and Countrie caroll both their prayse’ (9).

Stage directions in any early modern play present problematic issues. We cannot assume they were always written by the playwright, and thus it is possible that the stage directions in All Is True were penned by a scribe. However, given the specific order of the Coronation procession, the stage directions here do suggest a deliberate attempt to transpose the spectacle of the royal wedding onto the stage at the Globe. So if we accept the possibility for a moment that these stage directions are original and inserted by the playwrights themselves, some interesting questions begin to emerge. Did Shakespeare and Fletcher attended the royal wedding in February 1613, as passive spectators, or even active participants? Given the role of the King’s Men at this time, it is possible they were indeed invited to attend. Perhaps they were absent from London and simply read subsequent printed accounts of the wedding. Wherever they were on 14th February 1613, what is clear is that both playwrights appear to have had specific aspects of the royal wedding in mind when they composed All Is True in the spring of 1613.
 

 
This extract is taken from my original research paper on All Is True, which was submitted to the University of Sussex in 2011.
 
Notes

1) Originally entitled All Is True, its name was changed to Henry VIII in the First Folio, ‘to bring its title in line with those of all the other English history plays, which are named after the kings whose reign they dramatize.’ See Wells, Stanley, Shakespeare & Co (Penguin, 2007), 212
2) Green, Mary Anne Everett (ed), Calendar of State Papers Domestic: James I 1611-18 (Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, & Roberts, London, 1858), 162
3) Ibid
4) Ibid, 166
5) Anon, The mariage of Prince Fredericke, and the Kings daughter, the Lady Elizabeth, vpon Shrouesunday last VVith the shovves on land and water, before, and after the wedding, as also the maskes and reuells in his Highnes court, with the running at the ring, by the Kings Maiestie, the Palsegraue, Prince Charles, and diuers others of the nobilitie (London, 1613)
6) Ibid, Bv – B2r
7) Ibid, B2v
8) Ibid, B2r
9) Nixon, Antony, Great Brittaines generall ioyes. Londons glorious triumphes Dedicated to the immortall memorie of the ioyfull mariage of the two famous and illustrious princes, Fredericke and Elizabeth. Celebrated the 14. of Februarie, being S. Valentines day. With the instalment of the sayd potent Prince Fredericke at Windsore, the 7. of Februarie aforesaid (London, 1613), B4r

 

Church Custom London Monarchy

Englands pleasant May-Flower

In May 1660, following the death of Oliver Cromwell and the restoration of the English monarchy, Charles II was welcomed back to London. He was crowned a year later on 23rd April 1661. The following is an account of his Coronation proceedings.

As the King went from Westminster-Hall toward the Abbey, there went first before, the Aldermen of the City of London, Usher’d by a Herauld; next the Knights of the Bath in their Robes, each of them attended by his Esquire and Page; after them the Judges, the Serjeants at Law, the Kings Attorney Generall, and the Masters of Request; then the privy Councellors and the chief Officers of the Kings Houshold; next the Barons in their Parliament Robes with Swords by their sides and bare Headed; after the Barons came the Bishops also bare Headed, in their Scarlet Gowns and Lawn Sleeves; next the Viscounts and Earls in their Coronation Robes, and Coronetted Caps; in the last place went the Officers of State for the day, Viz. The Lord privy Seal, the Archbishop of Canterbury; the Earl of Dorset carrying the first Sword, the Earl of Essex the the second Sword, the Earl of Kent the third; the Spurs were carried by the Earl of Montgomery; the Globe with the Cross on it, by the Earl of Sussex; the Golden Cup and Plate for the Communion by the Bishops of London and Winchester: the Scepter was carried by the Earl of Rutland; the Sword of State naked by the Marquesse of Hamilton; the Crown by the Earl of Pembroke: among the Serjeants at Armes, went the Lord Mayor in a Crimson Vellet Gown, each of them carrying a short scepter; next, immediately after the King, went the Earl of Arundel, as Earl Marshall of England, and the Duke of Buckingham as Lord High-Constable for that day.

The King entred into the Abbey Church, at the West-Gate, under a rich Canopy of state, carried by the Barons of the Cinque Ports, and was himself supported on the one hand by Doctor Niel, Bishop of Durham, on the the other hand by Doctor Lake, Bishop of Bath and Wells; His Train which contained  Yards of Purple-Velvet was held up by the Lord Compton, Master of the Robes, and the Lord Viscount Doncastar, Master of the Wardrope: he was met by Bishop Laud (who supplyed the Deans place) and the Prebends of Westminster in their rich Robes; who delivered into his hand the staffe of King Edward the Confessor, with which he walked up to the Throne, which was framed from the Quire to the Alter.

There were appointed for the King three Chairs: 1. The Chair of Repose. 2. The ancient Chair of Coronation: 3. The Chair of State, which was placed upon a square Ascent of six steps. The King, after he had reposed himself a while, was by the Archbishop of Canterbury Presented bare headed to the Lords and Commons, East, West, North, South; of whom the Archbishop demanded, If they consented to the Coronation of King Charles their lawfull Soveraign? To which after they had exprest their readinesse by an Acclamation made four several times, the King be took himself again to his Chair of Repose, during the time of Sermon; which ended, the King, going to the Communion Table, and kneeling down, the Archbishop askt his Majesty, If he was willing to take the Oath usually taken by his Predecessors? To which he made answer, That he was willing, arose, and went to the Altar, where several interogations were rendred to him by the Archbishop, to each of which distinctly the King gave his Affirmative Answer.

Archbishop:
Sir, Will you grant and keep, and by your Oath confirm to the people of England, the Laws and Customs to them granted by the Kings of England, your lawful and Religious Predecessors; And namely, the Laws, Customs and Franchises granted to the Clergy, by the Glorious King St. Edward your predecessor, according to the Laws of God, the true profession of the Gospel established in this Kingdome, agreeable to the prerogative of the Kings thereof, and the ancient Customes of the Realm?

KING:
I grant and promise to keep them.

A:
Sir, Will you keep peace and Godly Agreement (according to your power) both to God, the holy Church, the Clergy, and the People?

K:
I will keep it.

A:
Sir, Will you to your power cause Law, Justice, and Discretion, Mercy and Truth to be executed to your Judgement?

K:
I will.

A:
Sir, Will you grant to hold and keep the Laws, and rightful Customes which the Commonalty of this your Kingdome have? and will you defend and uphold them to the honour of God as much as in you lyeth?

K:
I grant and promise so to do.

 

 

Then one of the Bishops with a loud Voice before the people read to the King this following Admonition: Our Lord and King, We beseech you to pardon, and to grant, and preserve unto us and to the Churches committed to your Charge, all Canonicall priviledges, and to do Law and Justice; And that you would protect and defend us, as every good King to his Kingdomes ought to be Protector, and Defender of the Bishops, and the Churches under their Government.

The King answereth with a willing and devout Heart: I Promise and grant my pardon, and that I will preserve and maintain to you, and the Churches committed to your Charge, all Canonicall priviledges, and due Law and Justice; And that I will be your Protector, and Defender to my power, by the Assurance of God, as every good King in his Kingdome in right ought to protect and defend the Bishops and Churches under their Government.

Then the King arising was led to the Communion Table, where laying his hand upon the Bible, He, in the sight of all people made a solemn Oath (to observe the premisses) which was as followeth: The Things which I have promised, I shall perform and keep; So help Me God, and the Contents of this Book.

Afterwards his Robes being taken off, and offered at the Alter, the King stood for a while stripped of his Dublet and Hose of Sattin: then led by the Archbishop, and the Bishop of St. Davids, he was placed in the chair of Coronation, having a close Canopy spread over him, and while the Archbishop Anointed his Head, Shoulders, Armes, and Hands with a costly Oyntment, the Quire sung an Anthem of these words; Zadock the Priest Anointed King Solomon.

Thence in his Doublet and Hose, with a white Coif on his Head, he was led back again to the Communion-table, where Doctor Laud the Bishop of St. Davids, who supplyed the Dean of Westminsters place, Vested him with the ancient Habiliments of King Edward the Confessor, and conducting him back to the Chair of Coronation, presented him with King Edwards Crown, which the Archbishop put upon his Head, and in the mean time the Quire sung this Anthem, Thou shalt put a crown of pure Gold upon his Head.

After which, the Earls and Viscounts put on their Coronetted Caps of Crimson Velvet; then every Bishop came severally to the King, and gave him their Benediction and he rising from his Chair bowed to each of them apart. Next King Edwards Sword was girt about him, which he took off himself, and offer’d at the Communion-table, with two swords more, in relation to Ireland and Scotland: His spurs were put on by the Duke of Buckingham, as Master of the Horse; which done he offer’d first gold and silver, then bread and wine, to be used at the Communion.

Thus compleatly Crown’d, the King was conducted by the Nobility to his Throne, where he receav’d the Oath of Homage, (the Quire in the mean time singing Te Deum) The Duke of Buckingham, as Lord high Constable for that Day, who also swore the rest of the Nobility at the Kings Knee, to be Homagers to his Majesty; then the Earls and Barons laid their hands upon the Crown, as it was upon the Kings Head, making a solemn protestation to spend their blood to maintain it to him, and his posterity: the Bishops took no Oath, but kneeling down the King kissed each of them; then the King taking out of his bosome a scrowl of parchment, the effect of which was a promise of pardon under his broad Seal to all that accept it; gave the scrowl to the Lord Keeper, who read it four times, East, West, North, and South.

From the Throne the King went to the Communion-table, and after prayers had been read by the Archbishop, the Nicene Creed sung by the Quire; and the Epistle and Gospel read by the Bishops of Landaff, and Norwich; his Majesty recev’d the Communion, the bread from the Archbishop, the Wine from the Bishop of St. Davids: and at the same time, Gloria Patri was sung; which being ended, the Archbishop reading certain prayers, concluded the Ceremony. After which, the King disrobed himself in King Edwards Chappel, and came forth in a short Robe girt of red Velvet; lin’d with Ermins and a lesser Crown upon his head set with previous Stones, and taking barge with all his Train of Nobles at Westminster stairs, He returned to Whitehall.

 

Account taken from Anon, The manner of the solemnity of the coronation of His most Sacred Majesty King Charles (1660,OS)

Images from The manner of the solemnity, Anon, England’s pleasant May-Flower (1660), and J.P, The Loyal Subject’s hearty wishes to King Charles the Second (1660)

Church Custom Household London Woodcut

Where you may hear news

 

Today’s post is taken from the above woodcut, dated 1640 and entitled The severall places where you may hear news. Before the advent of printed newspapers, people in England relied on hearing the latest news via other people. In London, daily life consisted of at least one trip to the precincts of St Paul’s to catch the latest gossip and rumour from both home and abroad. This lovely woodcut reveals the other sources of news available to inhabitants of big cities, and depicts aspects of domesticity in seventeenth century life. Below are some close-up details.

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 

Curiosities London

My privie shall be round

 

This woodcut comes from a 1596 text outlining one man’s vision of the dream public loo.

My Priuie shalbe a Round, (one of the fiue regular bodies in Geometrie) built like the tower of Babel, & vppon vaults to, wel tarras’t after the finest fashion: now for the tunnel I mean to raise it in the midst, prouided that diuers doores and windowes shall bee made on euery side, that if neuer so little winde blowe (if a man bee wetherwise) hee shall bee able to emptie his belly without diseasing his nose.

For more on Elizabethan loos, see here

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