175:  Another Procession and a New Akwayntance

After the sisters that kept Paws [St Paul’s] brought me newes of their attack on Snakes-Purr I was fire-hot to visit them.

I could see Paws from my house. 

A view of old St Paul's Cathedral.
A view of St Paul’s.

’Tis the church where the citie’s soul is lodged.  The newes and lies fit to print are sold in its shops, and what’s not fit for print is whispered along its walks.

How best to go there?

Sure, I’d been into the citie before.  I’d passed through the Lud-Gate in a coach.  Twice.  Going to the Tower, and coming from it.  But to enter alone?

My hopes rose when I heard tell of the Procession.  Yes, another one.  There’d been no procession from the Tower when the King and Queen were crowned, because the citie was smitten by pestilence.

Now came the time for cits [citizens] to joy theirselves and plague the King by looking at him.  From my roof one morn I espied a stream of folks walking down the ways that lead to the town.

I followed them, but not by road.  I slipped secret through the fields and into the Garden.

Harry may have made his way across to Covent Garden, whose wall is visible at the bottom of the picture, or further east to the Middle Temple Gardens.

In truth, I cared nowt for the Procession, but when ’twas done I hoped to find a citie gate left open.  Meantime, I sought a quiet and private seat. 

Quiet?  Hah.  First, fire-works sprang me from my skin.  I later learnt they were nowt but a great show upon the river.  Then came the sound of trumpets, and the screechings of the unrulie multitude.

Prince Henry/Harry Frederick (1594 – 1612) the eldest of James’ and Anne’s children.

Oh, that Procession was slow in coming.  There were songs, orations, music, gifts, and all manner of foolery along the way. 

King James did not always stay to hear all, but Queen Anne and young Prince Harry (a fine kit, with a fine name) were most gracious, smiling and bending this way and that.

All the con-wits [conduits] betwixt the Tower and Westminster were spurting wine in place of water.  Any who wished to drink could. 

Small wonder, then, that so many had fell flat before the Procession passed. 

Soon I myself thirsted.  The scent of the river was a torment to me.  I durst not go in search of water.  And even after all had passed I durst not seek a gate to the citie.  The staggerings and shoutings, the fallings and foulings, had not ceased.

As I waited for the dark, a cat came creeping low-bellied through the Garden.

He came within my nosing space!  That were close enough.  He seemed peaceable, but I never nosed a cat so odorous.

At first I took him for a Scot.  Then I thought he were still so afeared of the pestilence that he’d sought to save hisself from noisome and infeckted airs by rolling in herbs and spices.

He arrkst me how well I’d liked the Procession.  I sayt I’d heard it but not seen it, being loathe to go among so manie drinkards.

He swore ’twas super-excellent.  He sayt, “Doubtless I’ll learn more tonight when my master, mistress and all come from Cheap-Sight [Cheapside] where they went to sit at a high window.”

“My master – I mean my lord – was of it,” sayt I.  “So I shall hear more too.”

Then he arrkst me if I were son to the Titchfield Queen!  I knew he meant my mother. 

I sayt I was.

“Perchance you’ve heard of me,” sayt he.  “My name is Onix.”

I hadn’t, but I sayt, “My lady mother always spake most kind of you.”

That pleased him.  He sayt, “For her sake – and yours, I believe – I hoped to glimpse Villain Snakes-Purr today.”

Head of a startled-looking black and white cat“Snakes-Purr?” I cried.  “Why?  What has he to do with King James?”

“Had you not heard?” arrkst Onix.  “He and many of his low kind are royal servants now.”

You could have flatted me with a feather.

Toutparmoi - Note from the Editor

Alas, all is true.  About Shakespeare, I mean, though his situation as a “royal servant” – nominally a groom of the chamberdidn’t mean much.

King James doesn’t seem to have been particularly keen on the arts.  However, Queen Anne and the children loved theatrical entertainments so one of James’ early actions was to bring the three leading theatre companies under royal patronage.  The Lord Chamberlain’s Men (of which Shakespeare was a member) became The King’s Men, The Earl of Worcester’s Men became The Queen’s Men, and The Lord Admiral’s Men became The Prince’s Men.  See Alan H. Nelson’s account of Shakespeare’s name in the official record.  (Though it was only the London procession that was postponed, not the coronation ceremony, as Nelson claims.)

Procession Day was 15 March 1604. The royal family left the Tower about 11.00 a.m[1]  The front of the long procession, consisting of the royal household in order of rank, officials of the state, then the nobility, must have been well ahead of them.

The King, Queen and Prince were treated to numerous entertainments along the way, some prepared by literary heavyweights like Thomas Dekker and Ben Jonson.

Gilbert Dugdale left a vivid account of the procession in “Time Triumphant”.  His anecdote about a 79 year old man with a poem for the King waiting in vain on a crowded corner is touching and evocative:  Then I read one editor’s note[2] which suggested that the old man may have been Dugdale himself, which was why he included the poem in his memoir least it be lost to posterity.

Ah, well.  As the late Gib used to say: Poets are liars.

[1] G.P.V. Akrigg, Jacobean Pageant, Atheneum N.Y. (1967) p31

[2] John Nichols, The Progresses, Processions, and Magnificent Festivities of King James the First…, London (1828) vol 1 p419


11 thoughts on “175:  Another Procession and a New Akwayntance

  1. April Munday May 10, 2019 / 4:10 am

    Whenever I read about wine flowing like water through the streets of London (and it seemed to happen fairly often), I wonder not just about how it was done (and the quantities of wine involved) but also about what happened next. Did the water taste a bit of wine for days afterwards, or was there a way of cleaning out the water courses? Did anyone care?

    I’m starting to like Queen Anne. She seems like a sensible woman.

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi May 10, 2019 / 11:08 am

      I wonder about the water/wine thing, too. I read somewhere that the conduits drew water from underground springs, which meant Londoners had access to clean water for their households. However, I don’t know if that’s accurate. I wonder if the wine was somehow fed in from barrels above ground?

      Queen Anne seems to have liked the Earl of Southampton. One of the many appointments he was given was that of Master of the Queen’s Game, with oversight of her parks etc. A few weeks after the Procession Queen Anne stood godmother to his and Bess Vernon’s second surviving child.

      Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi May 10, 2019 / 7:46 pm

      A little too well, it was whispered. I think that was mere scandal-mongering.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday May 10, 2019 / 7:49 pm

      Hmm. That would have been a little too reckless on both their parts. I’ve read that James’ court was rather lax with regard to sexual morals, but probably not that lax.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi May 10, 2019 / 8:01 pm

      Anne was a sitting target for criticism because she was young (29-ish), not under James’ thumb, and fond of performing in extravagant court masques. Rumours about her and other men would have been inevitable.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. kidsofthe50sand60s May 13, 2019 / 8:09 pm

    I had no idea that when you read about ‘wine flowing in the streets’
    in history books that it was literal! People didn’t rely much on drinking water back then anyway did they as most of it was hazardous so they would be happy with copious free wine!

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi May 14, 2019 / 7:26 am

      The main drink was ale, even for children. It was often pretty weak. I assume the water from the conduits was used mainly for cooking and washing, though I did come across a reference to the Earl of Essex drinking water that would have come from a conduit. The free wine on special days would have been a real treat for most of the citizens.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Rachel McAlpine May 16, 2019 / 2:05 pm

    Well Harry is a timorous creature but I’m glad he wasn’t trampled. He still gets his share of excitement.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi May 16, 2019 / 11:00 pm

      Harry is still learning about the great outdoors. He’s wise to be cautious.

      Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.