The Masque of Indian and China Knights

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The Masque of Indian and China Knights was performed at Hampton Court on 1 January 1604.[1] The masque was not published, and no text survives. It was described in a letter written by Dudley Carleton.[2] The historian Leeds Barroll prefers the title, Masque of the Orient Knights.[3]

Eight courtiers masqueraded as Indian and Chinese knights in Great Hall of Hampton Court on New Year's day 1604
The Masque of Knights was produced by Ludovic Stewart, 2nd Duke of Lennox
King James reminded the audience of a famous performing horse, Marocco

Background[edit]

This masque marked the return of the royal households to London after an outbreak of plague.[4] The households of Anne of Denmark and Prince Henry had travelled to Winchester, and entertained themselves in October with the masque, Prince Henry's Welcome at Winchester.[5] The French ambassador, Christophe de Harlay, comte de Beaumont, heard that Anne of Denmark was planning more superior and costly events for Christmas time, to be realised as this masque and The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses.[6]

Merry gentlemen[edit]

Arbella Stuart identifies the Masque of Knights and another masque as the invention of a group of male courtiers rather than the queen's personal production, writing on 18 December 1603 that she was their confidante, "Certain noblemen (whom I may not yet name to you because some of them have made me of their counsel) intend another. Certain gentlemen of a good sort another".[7] On 21 December Dudley Carleton wrote that the Duke of Lennox was the deviser or producer of the masques to be performed by men, "We shall have a merry Christmas at Hampton Court, for both male and female masques are all ready bespoken, whereof the Duke is rector chori of the one side, and the Lady Bedford of the other".[8]

Travellers from afar[edit]

The general theme of the masque is a visit of knights from distant lands to the new Stuart court in England.[9] Their foreigness may have been intended to put into perspective differences between Scottish and English courtiers.[10]

A precedent from the Scottish court can be found in the Navigatioun of Alexander Montgomerie, from an entertainment of Christmas 1579/80, involving the torchlit entrance at Holyrood Palace of a narrator and his companions, a "Turk, the More, and the Egyptien".[11] The court musicians were bought "mask claithis" comprising red and yellow taffeta with swords and daggers. Montgomerie's prologue alludes to the Magi and Epiphany to flatter James VI as the Northern Star. James was also characterised as Solomon. The masque was followed by dancing. The king's favourite, Esmé Stewart, 1st Duke of Lennox may have been involved in this entertainment; the narrator describes himself as "german born", meaning he is a cousin.[12]

At the masque celebrating the baptism of James VI in 1566, Indian nereids had used compasses to navigate their way to Stirling Castle following the Great Bear from the New World.[13] The Indian knights at Hampton Court may have represented Indigenous peoples of the Americas.

The performance at Hampton Court may have been influenced by French practice, the ambassador the Comte de Beaumont said Lennox's ballet was organised à la française and the Earl of Worcester described another of the January masques as a "ballet" rather a masque. Beaumont also mentions a third masque, a ballet d'Écossais, the Scottish masque.[14] There are some similarities in Carleton's description of the Masque of Knights with the Ballet des Princes de la Chine performed at the French court in 1601. One of the 1604 masquers, Lord Aubigny, younger brother of Lennox, may have attended this ballet in person.[15]

David Bergeron notes in connection with the Masque of Knights that the Duke of Lennox had previously helped to plan the reception of Anne of Denmark in Edinburgh in May 1590 and the masque at the baptism of Prince Henry at Stirling Castle in 1594, and mentions that Lord Aubigny hosted Ben Jonson from 1604 onwards.[16]

The show[edit]

According to the report of Dudley Carleton,[17] the masque was staged at night after a performance of a Robin Goodfellow play, probably A Midsummer Night's Dream.[18][19] The scene opened with Heaven, built in the hall, from where a Chinese magician made a long speech describing his country. He announced the arrival of "certain Indian and China knights", who he had magically conveyed on clouds to Hampton Court. A curtain or "traverse" was pulled back to reveal the masquers playing the knights and carrying torches and lanterns. After some songs, the masquers approached the king in turn.[20]

William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, presented James VI and I with a shield bearing an impresa or poem, which he explained. He gave the king an expensive jewel. Dudley Carleton wrote that King James was planning to buy this jewel from the financier Peter Vanlore. The jewel cost "a great sum of money", although the price mentioned by Carleton, £40,000, is far too high.[21] The jewel comprised a large table ruby and two lozenge diamonds, and James sent Vanlore a parcel of Queen Elizabeth's jewels in part-payment.[22]

The other masquers presented shields with emblems. Philip Herbert's shield depicted a horse in a green field, which he explained was descendent of Alexander's Bucephalus. The king made a joke about a showman called Bankes whose act involved a dancing and calculating horse, and then on cue, the formal dance of the masque took place. Next, Anne of Denmark and her ladies in waiting joined in the dancing, "taken out" of the audience by the masquers. Carleton mentions the Countess of Bedford, the Countess of Hertford, Susan Vere, Penelope Rich, and Lady Southwell the elder. The event ended with the return of the magician who dissolved the entertainment by revealing the identities of the eight masqued English and Scottish courtiers.[23]

Some surviving music was copied by Nicholas Le Strange from the January 1604 masques at Hampton Court.[24] William Bankes and his famous horse had visited Edinburgh in April 1596.[25]

The courtier Roger Wilbraham wrote a summary of his impressions of the entertainments at court in January 1604 and their costs;

King James was at his court at Hampton, where the French, Spanish, and Polonian ambassadors were severallie solemplie feasted, many plaies & daunces with swordes, one mask by English & Scottish lords, another by the Queen's Maiestie & eleven more ladies of her chamber presenting giftes as goddesses. These maskes, especially the laste, costes £2000 or £3000, the aparells, rare musick, fine songes, and in jewels most riche £20,000, the least to my judgment, & [jewels for] her Majestie £100,000, after Christmas was running at the ring by the King & 8 or 9 lords for the honour of those goddesses & then they all feasted together privatelie."[26]

The masquers[edit]

The eight courtiers wore robes of crimson satin embroidered with gold and dressed with silver lace over silver doublets, with swords and hats with an Indian bird feather. These costumes, according to Dudley Carleton, were too cumbersome for dancing.[27]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Martin Butler, The Stuart Court Masque and Political Culture (Cambridge, 2008), p. 63.
  2. ^ Maurice Lee, Dudley Carleton to John Chamberlain, 1603-1624 (Rutgers UP, 1972), pp. 53-4.
  3. ^ Leeds Barroll, Anna of Denmark, Queen of England: A Cultural Biography (Philadelphia, 2001), p. 83.
  4. ^ Leeds Barroll, Anna of Denmark, Queen of England: A Cultural Biography (Philadelphia, 2001), p. 80: Alvin Kernan, Shakespeare, the King's Playwright: Theater in the Stuart Court, 1603-1613 (Yale, 1995), pp. 25-8.
  5. ^ Martin Wiggins & Catherine Teresa Richardson, British Drama, 1533-1642: 1603-1608, vol. 5 (Oxford, 2015), pp. 51-2.
  6. ^ Pierre Laffleur de Kermaingant, L'ambassade de France en Angleterre sous Henri IV: Mission de Christophe de Harlay, comte de Beaumont (Paris, 1886), p. 131: Letter to M de Villeroy from M de Beaumont, British Library Add MS 30639, f.283v: Another copy, BnF Français 3503, f.116v
  7. ^ Sara Jayne Steen, Letters of Arbella Stuart (Oxford, 1994), p. 197.
  8. ^ Ernest Law, History of Hampton Court, vol. 2 (London, 1888), p. 6: Leeds Barroll, Anna of Denmark, Queen of England: A Cultural Biography (Philadelphia, 2001), p. 81: Barbara Kiefer Lewalski, 'Lucy, Countess of Bedford: Images of a Jacobean Courtier and Patroness', Kevin Sharpe & Steven N. Zwicker, Politics of Discourse: The Literature and History of Seventeenth-Century England (London, 1987), pp. 59, 307 fn. 19: Barbara Lewalski, Writing Women in Jacobean England (Harvard UP, 1993), p. 361 fn. 19 citing TNA SP14/5/20 (f.45r).
  9. ^ Bernadette Andrea, The Lives of Girls and Women from the Islamic World in Early Modern British Literature and Culture (Toronto, 2017), pp. 75-6: Sujata Iyengar, 'Moorish Dancing', Susan P. Cerasano, Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England, 20 (2007), p. 87: Ladan Niayesh, 'Impersonating the Alien in Jacobean Court Masques', Pauline Blanc, Selfhood on the Early Modern English Stage (Newcastle, 2008), p. 88.
  10. ^ Martin Wiggins, Drama and the Transfer of Power in Renaissance England (Oxford, 2012), pp. 58-9.
  11. ^ David J. Parkinson, Alexander Montgomerie Poems, vol. 1 (Scottish Text Society Edinburgh, 2000), pp. 90, 97.
  12. ^ David J. Parkinson, Alexander Montgomerie Poems, vol. 2 (Scottish Text Society Edinburgh, 2000), pp. 72-4, 78: Charles Thorpe McInnes, Accounts of the Treasurer, 1574-1580, vol. 13 (Edinburgh, 1978), p. 301.
  13. ^ Lesley Mickel, 'Our Hielandmen: Scots in Court Entertainments at home and abroad 1507 –1616', Renaissance Studies, 33:2 (April, 2019), pp. 200-1.
  14. ^ John Nichols, Progresses of James the First, vol. 1 (London, 1828), p. 317: Pierre Paul Laffleur de Kermaingant, L'ambassade de France en Angleterre sous Henri IV.: Mission de Christophe de Harlay Comte de Beaumont (Paris, 1895), pp. 175-178.
  15. ^ Anne Daye, 'Dancing at Court', Sophie Chiari & John Mucciolo, Performances at Court in the Age of Shakespeare (Cambridge, 2019), p. 147: The French verses for the Ballet des Princes in 1601 were written by Jean Bertaut.
  16. ^ David Bergeron, 'The Stuart Brothers in and English Theater', Jim Pearce & Ward J. Risvold, Renaissance Papers (2015), pp. 3-4, 8.
  17. ^ Maurice Lee, Dudley Carleton to John Chamberlain, 1603-1624; Jacobean Letters (Rutgers University Press, 1972), pp. 53-4, 9, TNA SP 14/6/21.
  18. ^ Leeds Barroll, Anna of Denmark, Queen of England: A Cultural Biography (Philadelphia, 2001), p. 83.
  19. ^ Martin Wiggins & Catherine Teresa Richardson, British Drama, 1533-1642: 1603-1608, vol. 5 (Oxford, 2015), pp. 35-6.
  20. ^ Martin Butler, The Stuart Court Masque and Political Culture (Cambridge, 2008), p. 63.
  21. ^ Maurice Lee, Dudley Carleton to John Chamberlain, 1603-1624 (Rutgers UP, 1972), pp. 53-4.
  22. ^ Thomas Rymer, Foedera, vol. 16 (London, 1715), pp. 564-5
  23. ^ Martin Butler, The Stuart Court Masque and Political Culture (Cambridge, 2008), pp. 63, 66: Leeds Barroll, Anna of Denmark, Queen of England: A Cultural Biography (Philadelphia, 2001), p. 86.
  24. ^ Martin Wiggins & Catherine Teresa Richardson, British Drama, 1533-1642: 1603-1608, vol. 5 (Oxford, 2015), pp. 65-6.
  25. ^ Robert Chambers, Domestic Annals of Scotland, vol. 1 (Edinburgh, 1858), p. 271.
  26. ^ Harold Spencer Scott, 'Journal of Roger Wilbraham', Camden Miscellany (London, 1902), p. 66
  27. ^ Maurice Lee, Dudley Carleton to John Chamberlain, 1603-1624; Jacobean Letters (Rutgers University Press, 1972) pp. 53-9: Leeds Barroll, Anna of Denmark, Queen of England: A Cultural Biography (Philadelphia, 2001), p. 83.
  28. ^ Lesley Lawson, Out of the Shadows: The Life of Lucy, Countess of Bedford (London, 2007), p. 70.
  29. ^ Maurice Lee, Dudley Carleton to John Chamberlain, 1603-1624 (Rutgers UP, 1972), p. 307.

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