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

 

Dining Family Household

Rich hangings in a homely house

Following a recent return visit to the Weald and Downland museum in West Sussex, I thought it might be worth sharing some photos. As ever, they were snapped with my iPhone since I didn’t have the foresight to take a camera, so the quality isn’t great. The Weald and Downland museum is an open-air museum dedicated to historic buildings which have been saved from destruction, dismantled, and rebuilt in acres of beautifully untouched landscape in West Sussex. The museum’s website is here. If you love historic buildings then Weald and Downland is most definitely worth a visit. The highlights for me were, of course, the early modern properties. But there is also a working forge, a watermill, and many other delights. As far as I understand it, every property has been furnished with appropriate period fixtures and fittings, and the gardens are as authentic as possible.
 

15th Century shop


 
 
 

Mid 17th Century house


 
 
 

16th Century Bed


 
 
 

Mid 17th Century garden


 
 
 

Mid 17th Century garden


 
 
 

View of the market hall (1620)


 
 
 

Mid 17th Century house


 
 
 

Mid 17th Century tableware


 
 
 

Mid 17th Century garden


 
 
 

Granary (1731)


 
 
 

15th Century hall


 
 
 

15th Century hall


 
 
 

15th Century bed


 
 
 

15th Century upstairs privy


 
 
 

15th Century(?) tableware


 
 
 

Vegetables and herbs drying in the Tudor Kitchen


 
 
 

House (1609)


 
 
 

House (1609)


 
 
 

Victorian kitchen (1860)


 
 
 

Weald and Downland


 
 
 

17th Century pigsty (21st Century pig)


 
 
 

View from the 14th Century hall


 
 
 

15th Century pantry


 
 
 

17th Century garden

 

Childbirth Dining Family Household Love Marriage

Then trudgeth he into the Kitchin


From The Brideling, Sadling, and Ryding of a rich Churle (1594)

 
 
The following is an extract from The Bachelor’s Banquet by Thomas Dekker. Published in 1603, Dekker’s entertaining pamphlet explores the numerous ways in which a typical wife makes her husband’s existence a living hell, but hen-picked spouses aside, the real joy is in the illuminating detail of daily life in the early seventeenth century, and in the contemporaneous dialogue. What follows here is an account of the wearying role of a husband during a wife’s pregnancy.

When her husband sees her belly to grow big, this breedes him new cares and troubles, for then must he trot up and downe day and night, farre and neare, to get with great cost that [which] his wife longs for: if she let fall but a pin, he is diligent to take it up, least she by stouping should hurt her selfe. She on the other side is so hard to please. And oft times through ease and plentie she growes so queasie stomackt, that she can brooke no common meates, but longs for strange and rare things, which whether they be to be had or no, yet she must have them there is no remedie. She must have Cherries, though for a pound he pay ten shillings, or greene Peascods at foure Nobles a pecke: he must take a horse, and ride into the Countrey, to get her greene Codlings (apples), when they are scarcely so big as a scotch button. In this trouble and vexation of mind and body, lives the silly man for five or seven moneths, all which time his wife doth nothing but complaine, and hee poore soule takes all the care, rising earely, going late to bed, and to be short, is faine to play both the husband and huswife. But when the time drawes neere of her lying downe, then must he trudge to get Gossips, such as she will appoint, or else all the fatte is in the fire.

Consider then what cost and trouble it will be to him, to have all things fine against the Christning day, what store of Sugar, Biskets, Comphets (comfits, a sweetmeat made with fruit and sugar) and Carawapes (confection), Marmalet (quince jelly) and marchpane, with all kind of sweete suckets, and superstitious banqueting stuffe, with a hundred other odde and needlesse trifles, which at that time must fill the pockets of daintie dames. Besides the charge of the midwife, she must have her nurse to attend and keepe her, who must make for her warme broaths, and costly cawdels (a type of gruel mixed with wine or beer given to the sick), enough both for her selfe and her mistresse, being of the minde to fare no worse then she. If her mistresse be fedde with partridge, plover, woodcocks, quailes, or any such like, the nurse must be partner with her in all these dainties. Neither yet will that suffice, but during the whole moneth she privily pilfers away the sugar and ginger, with all other spices that comes under her keeping, putting the poore man to such expence, that in a whole yeare he can scarcely recover that one moneths charges.

Then every day after her lying downe will sundry dames visit her, which are her neighbours, her kinswomen, and other her speciall acquaintance, whom the good man must welcome with all cheerefulnesse, and be sure there be some dainties in store to set before them: where they about some three or foure houres (or possible halfe a day) will sit chatting with the Child-wife, and by that time the cups of wine have merily trold about, and halfe a dozen times moystned their lips with the sweet juyce of the purple grape.

Here Dekker pauses to reveal the sort of gossip the women in the bedchamber exchange:

They begin thus one with another to discourse; Good Lord neighbour, I marvaile how our gossip Frees doth, I have not seene the good soule this many a dayAh God helpe her, quoth another, for she hath her hands full of worke, and her heart full of heavinesse. While she drudges all the weeke at home, her husband, like an unthrift, never leaves running abroad to the Tennis court, and Dicing houses, spending all that ever he hath in such lewd sort. And if that were the worst it is well. But heare you, Gossip, there is another matter spoyles all, he cares no more for his wife then for a dog, but keepes queanes (prostitutes) even under her nose. Jesu! saith another, who would thinke he were such a man, he behaves himselfe so orderly and civilly, to all mens sights? Then the third fetching a great sigh says, I pray you tell me one thing, when saw you our friend mistresse O? Now in good she is a kind creature, and a very gentle. I promise you I saw her not since you and I dranke a pinte of wine with her in the fish market. O, saith the other, There is a great change since that time, for they have bene faine to pawne all that ever they have, and yet God knowes her husband lies still in prison.

The gossips having left the house, the saintly husband finally returns home:

Hee having bene forth to provide such meates as shee would have, he commeth home (perhappes at midnight,) and before hee sitteth downe to rest himselfe, hath a very earnest desire to knowe how his Wife doth. He asketh the Chamber-maide, or else the Nurse, how his Wife doeth: they answere, shee is very ill at ease, and that since his departure shee tasted not one bit of meate, but that towards the Evening she beganne to be a little better, all which be meere Lies. But the Poore-man hearing these wordes, grieves not a little, though he be weary and wet, having gone a long journey through a filthie way. Yet will he neither eate or drinke, nor (so much as once sit downe) till he have seene his Wife. Then the prattling Idle Nurse beginnes to looke verie heavily, and to sigh inwardly as though her Mistresse had bene that day at the point of Death, which he seeing, he was more earnest to visit his wife: whom at the entrance of the Chamber, he heares lye groaning to her selfe. Comming to the Beds side, [he] kindly sits downe by her, saying How now my sweet heart, how doest thou?Ah Husband (saith she) I am very ill, nor was I ever so sicke in my life as I have bene this day. Alas good soule (saith he) I am the more sorrie to heare it. I pray thee tell mee where lies thy paine? Ah Husband (quoth she) you know I have been weake a long time, and not able to eate any thing. But Wife (quoth he) why did you not cause the Nurse to boyle you a Capon, and make a messe of good Broath for you? So shee did (saith his wife) as well as she could, but it did not like me, and by that meanes I have eaten nothing since the broath which your selfe made me: Oh me thought that was excellent good.

Marry, Wife (saith he) I will presently make you some more of the same, and you shall eate it for my sake. With all my hart good Husband (saith shee) and I shall thinke my selfe highly beholding unto you. Then trudgeth hee into the Kitchin; there playes hee the Cook, burning and broyling himselfe over the fire, having his eyes ready to be put out with smoake. While hee is busie making the Broath, hee chides with his Maides, calling them beasts and baggages, that knowes not how to doe any thing, not so much as make a little broath for a sicke body but he must be faine to doe it him selfe. Then comes downe Mistris Nurse as fine as a farthing Fiddle, in her petticoate and Kirtle, having on a white wast-coate, with a Flaunting cambricke ruffe about her necke, who like a Doctris in Facultie, comes thus upon him: Good Lord Sir, what paines you take, here is no bodie can please our Mistresse but your selfe: I will assure you (on my credite) that I doe what I can, yet for my life, I cannot in any way content her. Moreover, here came in Mistresse Cot. and Mistresse Con. who did both of them what they could to have your Wife eate something. Nevertheless, all that they did could not make her taste one spoonefull of any thing all this live-long day. I know not what she ailes, I have kept manie Women in my time, but I never knewe any so weake as shee is; I (quoth he) you are a companie of cunning Cookes, that cannot make a little Broath as it should be.

And by this time the broath being ready, hee brings it straight to his Wife, comforting her with many kind words, praying her to eate for his sake, or to taste a spoonefull or twaine, which she doth, commending it to the Heavens, affirming also that the Broath which the others made had no good taste in the world, and was nothing worth. The good man hereof beeing not a little proude, biddes them make goode in his Wife’s chamber, charging them to tend her well. And having given this direction, hee gettes himselfe to Supper, with some colde meate set before him, such as the Gossips left, or his Nurse could spare, and having this short pittance hee goes to Bedde full of care.
 


From The Merry Cuckhold (1629)

If you enjoyed this, you may like another extract from The Bachelor’s Banquet, an argument between husband and wife over clothes and money, which you can find here

Curiosities Family Food Women Woodcut

Every day she nourisht him, with her most tender brest

Two intriguing early modern woodcuts which depict the breastfeeding scene from the story of Roman Charity recorded by Valerius Maximus. Pero secretly breastfeeds her father Cimon who is imprisoned and otherwise liable to starve to death. Her selfless act leads to her father’s pardon and release. The story appears to have been popular in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and even Rubens depicted the scene. Below are both woodcuts, the first dates from 1635, and the second from 1750. It’s interesting to note the same image inverted and changed in the second woodcut. These are the only examples of breastfeeding images in woodcuts I’ve seen to date.
 
 

From A worthy example of a vertuous wife who fed her father with her own milk, being condemned to be famished to death and after was pardoned by the Emperor. To the tune of Flying fame (1635)

 
 
 

From Roman charity: A worthy example of a virtuous wife, who fed her father with her own milk. He being commanded by the emperor to be starved to death, but afterwards pardoned (1750)


 
 
 

Roman Charity by Rubens (c.1612)


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