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 very soul is lodged.  All the filths fit to print are sold in its shops, and the filths not fit for print are 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.

So it was that from my roof one morn I espied a great stream of folks walking down the ways that lead to the citie.

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

Southampton House (upper right). Harry seems to have crossed the road and made his way down to Covent Garden, whose wall is visible at the bottom of the picture.

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 near 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 so afeared of the pestilence that he was still seeking 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.

“Then 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 (lowest first, then officials of the court and state, and 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:  I pictured one of today’s young royals – perhaps the Duchess of Cambridge (née Kate Middleton) – dashing over to accept the poem with a delighted smile.  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

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