192:  A Most Famous Entertainment

“Friends,” I cried, “you have heard my good sister’s account of the Dane King’s entertainment at Tibbles. 

“And mark, friends, in your hearts – not with your hinder parts – my sister’s modestie, which doth not permit her to claim kinship with me, whose master was an earl long before hers was. 

Robert  Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, who hosted King Christian IV of Denmark at Tibbles [Theobalds].
“Nor can she, lady-like, give a true account of the entertainment her master offered the Dane King.  That were to betray her master and the ladies of his akwayntance.

“But I can tell you he gave a feast, and after it a show of King Solomon’s temple and the coming of the Queen of Sheba.

“Our King and Denmark’s were sat most high beneath a canopy.  The lady enacting Sheba’s Queen approached their Majesties bearing gifts. 

“Alas, she stumbled on the steps and fell at the Dane King’s feet.  Her gifts – cakes, creams, and other toothsome delights – flew into his lap.

“He was not dismayed.  Did he think she herself was a gift, her attire being such that her bubs were set forth like jellies on a plate?   He rose up to dance with her.  Sure, the steps to his throne were ill-made, for he too fell down.”

“Slander,” screeched my sister.  Other cats wauled her into silence.

“Denmark’s Majestie was carried to a bed of state, right fine.  The Queen of Sheba’s gifts spread themselves from his princely garments to the bed cover.  Oh, how we cats could have joyed ourselves by licking that cover clean!

“The entertainment continued for our King alone.  In rich dress, Faith, Hope and Charity came forth.  Hope had a speech to make, but could scarce say a word.  She prayed our King would forgive her, and crept away.  Faith staggered after her.

“Charity approached our King.  She too carried gifts, but durst not risk those steps.  Declaring that there was no gift our King had not alreadie, she fled to join Hope and Faith, sick and spewing in a corner.

“Friends, frown not upon these ladies.  Who has not divest theirself of a fur-knot or two?”

I would have told more, but my sister came at me very fierce.  I sprang onto a chimney.  All praise to the Queen Cat of Heaven that there was no fire below, else I had been smoked. 

My sister then declared she was not safe in my presence.

(She was not safe?  I were the one tottering on a chimney pot.)

Two ugly cats with ripped ears offered her protection.  In plain words, to attack me.

Luvvie called for order, and a queen cat came forward, peaceable, to tell of their Majesties’ procession through the citie.  

“There was a horse,” sayt she, “who stepped out right well, not troubled by the multitude.  He bore the Dane King’s drums upon his neck.  A man sat on his back with a little wooden mallet in each paw, striking the drums.

Drum horses are a familiar sight in processions nowadays, but King Christian’s may have been the first Londoners saw.  They were impressed, probably by the absence of obvious reins.  The drummer controls the horse by reins attached to the stirrups.

Then Onix told how Picker and Stealer had been honoured by the Dane King’s visit to Paws [St Paul’s].

He clamb their tower to look upon the citie, the pleasant fields adjoining, and the river furnished with ships.  And he marvelled that a man had once been so bold as to take his horse and ride on their roof.

Then he had his footprint cut into the leads, and a brass device was made to mark it. 

The brass was soon stolen, but Picker and Stealer have o’er-marked his footprint.  And sworn vengeance on the thieves.

(Applauds for Picker and Stealer.)

I deemed it safe to quit my chimney.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorThere are several accounts of King Christian’s visit in John Nichol’s The Progresses, Processions, and Magnificent Festivities, of King James the First…, vol II (1828).

The most famous comes from Sir John Harington, whom Harry’s mother Tricks termed “a saucie poet”.  Harry has obviously heard about it.  No surprise there: Sir John and the Earl of Southampton had known each other for over 12 years, and served together in Ireland.  

But although his account is often used by historians as an example of the goings-on at King James’ court, is it even half true?   Sir John liked to make a tale worth the telling.  

There’s no denying King Christian was over-fond of wine and women, but masques in which the ladies of the court performed were Queen Anne’s idea of fun, not King James’.  Anne wasn’t at Theobalds, and any ladies there aren’t likely to have been carrying trays of food as part of a performance.

No matter.  It made for a good tale, and Harry succeeded in annoying his uppity sister.

Sightseeing in London hasn’t changed much over the centuries.  A day or so after the state procession, King Christian visited Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s (where the man who’d managed, in 1601, to get his horse up the steeple stairs and onto the roof had become a local hero), and the Royal Exchange.  Then he toured the Tower of London, with King James as his guide.

The original Royal Exchange, opened in 1571 by the wealthy merchant Sir Thomas Gresham. Sometimes referred to as London’s first shopping mall.

King Christian’s visit ended down river in mid-August with prodigious shipboard feasting.  Floating walkways, with railings, were constructed to join two English ships together for dining, along with a third ship fitted out with ovens to serve as the kitchen.

King James had probably spent all the money voted to him by parliament after the Gunpowder Plot: a blow-out instead of a blow-up.  That point wasn’t missed by observers at the time.


13 thoughts on “192:  A Most Famous Entertainment

  1. cadburycat October 31, 2019 / 8:08 pm

    The drum horses in the Household Cavalry are the only animals serving in HM Forces who rank as officers. They hold the rank of major and currently they are all Clydesdales though Shires have held the role. They are beautiful.

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi October 31, 2019 / 8:38 pm

      I didn’t know that they ranked as officers. Thanks for that. They are beautiful, and I get a thrill when I see one.


  2. April Munday October 31, 2019 / 10:20 pm

    Presumably, Sir Robert organised the entertainment. It seems a bit racy. I thought women weren’t allowed to perform, but perhaps that had changed by this point or had never applied to private entertainment. Perhaps having a king stay for the night meant making available everything he might want.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi November 1, 2019 / 10:26 am

      John Harington says that the entertainment was devised by Sir Robert “and others”. Ben Jonson was probably on hand; he certainly wrote some speeches for the performers who welcomed the Kings to Theobalds.
      Customarily, the court ladies wore elaborate costumes and danced in masques, with professional actors in the speaking parts, so this floor show doesn’t sound like a masque. Algernon Cecil (in his biography of Sir R) has little to add, save that King Christian’s stay at Theobalds cost 1180 pounds, so there can’t be much in the Hatfield records. Like everyone else, he relies on the Harington account.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday November 1, 2019 / 7:35 pm

      £1,180 sounds an excessive amount, even if you’ve got two kings staying in your house for a few days.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi November 1, 2019 / 10:12 pm

      It does! I just got curious and looked at the Cecil papers online to see if I could find a breakdown. Sure enough: the ‘diet’ cost 551, necessaries and other expenses 150, rewards to the King’s servants 84, the show cost 57, great horses given to the King of Denmark 264, dogs (likewise) 18, and a Mr Levynus was paid 54 for 18oz of gold. That’ll add up to a bit less than 1180, because I noted down the pounds, not the shillings and pence. But what, exactly, is meant by “the show”? The Kings received a reception, with verses and the green oak leaves Harry’s sister referred to. One account says there were 1,000 leaves made of green taffeta, with “Welcome” written on each in gold. They may have showered down, somehow or other, from a tree (real or fake?). That wouldn’t have come cheap.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday November 2, 2019 / 1:32 am

      The horses must have been either many or amazing for that amount of money. It’s interesting that the remuneration to the servants was more than the cost of the show. £57 seems quite modest amongst all those other expenses.

      18oz of gold would make quite a few ‘welcome’ leaves. If the hall at Theobalds had a gallery, servants could have thrown them out over the kings.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi November 2, 2019 / 10:08 am

      The horses must have been amazing. My guess would be about six of them, though I’m not sure why I’m plumping for that number. Maybe because 40 sounds like a reasonable price for a great horse? And I assume they were presented with splendid trappings, which could have been part of the cost.

      The shower of leaves occurred at the entrance to Theobalds. They sound like the sort of thing lesser members of the entourage would have slipped into their pockets as souvenirs of the occasion.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday November 2, 2019 / 7:27 pm

      It’s a wonder more people didn’t write about it, or perhaps they did and the texts have been lost.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi November 3, 2019 / 11:37 am

      A lot written about the visit remains, but only the respectful accounts would have been printed at the time. The Theobalds stay was private, given over to eating and drinking to entertain the Danes. That’s what the Venetian Ambassador said he was told by Sir R. Perhaps there were entertaining “ladies” on hand as well – which makes me wonder how many genuine ladies were present. A delicate task for Sir R, fobbing off ambassadors while keeping both Kings happy.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday November 3, 2019 / 7:09 pm

      I’m sure he was up to such delicate tasks, but it sounds like an expensive nightmare. It was probably worth it, though, just to keep him on the right side of James.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi November 1, 2019 / 9:04 am

      Yes! He’s up their with John Harington when it comes to telling risky tales.

      Liked by 1 person

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