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.