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Court masques of James I: their influence on Shakespeare and the public theatres online

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For the Christmas season, 1613-14, immediately
following the marriage of the Princess Elizabeth with
the Count Palatine, there were three events of minor
significance but of such like importance that it was
difficult to determine in which of the three occasions
lay greatest favour. The marriage of the Earl of
Somerset, who was Lord Chamberlain to the King
and his favourite, promised, however, the greatest
honour because of the rank of the groom and the King's
friendliness toward him. This importance was en-
hanced by the fact that James had the marriage with
its masque performed at his Court at his own expense.
The event of next importance was the marriage of the
Lady Jane Drummond, " first Lady of the Queenes Bedd
chamber at Candlemas" in Somerset House at the
expense of the Queen. 2 The Twelfthnight masque,

1 See supra, passim.

* "the king came to towne on tewfday, met by the Q. and the LL*
almost as far as tiballs, he makes no longer ftay here then till monday
next at farthest, yesterday was afolemne day at court to end Christ-
mas, this day the D of Roxborough marries M** Jane Drummond at
Somerfet houfe, whether the k is invited to lie this night and fhalbe
entertained w* fhewes and deuifes, fpecially a paftorall that shalbe
reprefented in a little fquare paned court: fo that you fee what little
time is referued for bufines. . . .

" from London this 3* of February 1613^] John Chamberlain. " In
State Papers Domestic James J, lxxvi, 18, endorsed to Carleton,
English Ambassador at Venice.

"this day feuenight the L of Roxborough maried M* Jame Drom-
mond at fomerfethoufe or Queenes court (as yt must now be called)



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Masques Less Important Diplomatically 85

The Masque of Flowers, was not this year of first im-
portance, because it was not so essentially an affair of
the King or the Queen as the other events. Sir Francis
Bacon bore the expense of The Masque of Flowers and
gave it for the King's honour in the name of the Gentle-
men of the Inns of Court.

It would seem that the wedding with its masque
given by the King at his Court, should take precedence
over the wedding given by the Queen in the Queen's
Court (Somerset Houfe) and that an invitation to the
marriage of the King's favourite should offer greater
honour than an invitation to the marriage of the first
Lady of the Queen's bedchamber. In fact, we find
that the French Ambassador felt it to be so. It would,
therefore, seem that James and his ministers had
planned to recompense Spain for some of the slights
suffered in the great marriage year just preceding,
when he arranged to invite the Spanish Ambassador to
the first marriage festivities and The Masque of the
Marriage of the Earl of Somerset prepared by Campion
for the night of the twenty-sixth of December, 1613.

Spain had changed ambassadors and the new rep-
resentative, Sarmiento, had "neuer feen any of our
[English] fhewes before. " x But the European situation

the King taxied there till faterday after dinner; the entertainment was
great and cost the Queue as fhe fayes, aboue 3<x>o£ the pastoral made by
La: Daniell was folemene and dull, but perhaps better to be read then
reprefented, the L Mayor and all the aldermen were inuited for the next
day after the manage and had rich gloues, they went thether in pompe,
and were gracioufly vfed and befides theyre great chere and many
healths had a play:

" from London this 20 th of February 1613

14 Yo» Lp* to command

"John Chamberlain."

Endorsed to Carleton at Venice in Stale Papers Domestic James I,
lxxvi, No. 20. x See Appendix 56.



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86 Court Masques of James I

made James careful to placate other powers. On the
"23 d of Dec 1 ? 1613" John Finett, assistant Master of
Ceremonies, says:

I was sent to the Ambaf sador of Venice (Sir W? Button
having been sent at the same time, & on the same errant
to the Ambaf sador of France) with this fonnall mefsage;
that according to his Majesties most Royall disposition,
& desire to give all due content to Ministers of Forrain
Princes whereof he himselfe (the Ambaf sador) had the
yeare before received a particular testimony, having been
then invited together with the French AmbJ to the mar-
riage of the Princef s Palatine) I was now sent to signify
his Majesties pleasure to this purpose. That his Majesty
was perswaded & with all desirous that his excellencie
would not pafse any Mis-construction upon his proceeding,
if the Spanish AmbI newly come into the Kingdome, &
who had not yet been present here at any entertainments of
Court) were together with the Arch-Dukes Amb£ invited
to the Marriage of the Earle of Summerset, and not he
(the AmK of Venice) that if he would be pleased to honour
with his presence the Maske of Gentlemen of the Inns of
Court to be performed on twelfenight (a time amongst us
of the Solemnest observance) he should be most welcome to
it, & in the meantime I was f urthur to let him know, that
there was an intention he should be invited to the marriage
of the Lady Jane Dromond (first Lady of the Queenes
Bedd Chamber) at Candlemas.

To this, his anf were was a quef tion, whether the King
intended the Solemnitie towardes for publicke or for
private? This I anfwered I had no commiffion to refolve
as from the mouth of his Majefty, and muft therefore
anf were him with filence; But if he asked my opinion as
his friend, and Servant, I held it for private and in no part
publique, fince I took it to be an honor his Majefty was
pleaf ed to caf t upon one of his mof t favoured Servants to
have the marriage Solemnized in his owne Houfe, and to



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Masques Less Important Diplomatically 87

invite to it whom he f hould think fit at his Princely pleaf ure.
This anf were f eemed to give him fuch fatif faction, as (he
faid) he was of the fame opinion, and added that fince his
Majefty had vouchfafed the laft yeare to do hi*n the
honour and right to preferr him before another (unjuftly
pretending) in his invitation to £0 publique a f olemnity, as
was the marriage of his onely daughter, he fhould be mof t
incivill to except againf t his pleaf ure in matter of f o private
a condition; but ought rather to returne him (as he did
now) mof t humble thankes for the mof t gratious regard he
dif covered to have of him, and f o conf equently of the f tate
whereof he was a Reprefentant.

The next morning I was f ent to the French Ambaf f adors,
who (though he might f eeme the day before to hold one
way with the Venetian, and had corresponded with him to
that purpof e, (whether another and he did/' entre entendre,
becomes me no more to judge, then to declare) appeared
now to have taken another way by himf elf e, and I deliuered
to him a f ormall invitation of the marriage, which (having
firft asked me whether the Spanifh Ambaffador were yet
invited, and I anf wered I thought no) he humbly bef eecht
his Majefty to pardon him, if he excuf ed his appearance at
the marriage, in regard that that night (he faid) had the
defluxion of a Rhume into his Teeth and a fit of an ague
whereof he doubted the returne. I was f carcely back at
Court with his anf were, when I was told that a gentleman
from the Venetian Ambaffador had been to feeke me
there, and at my houf e, where at the last having f ound me,
he faid that his Lord defired me that if ever I would do
him favour, I would take the paines to come to him pre-
fently ; I winding the caufe to be fome new buz gotten into
his Braine from fome intelligence he had from the French
of the Morning's proceeding, excuf ed my f o pref ent repaire
with the neceffity of my commanded immediate attend-
ance on my Lord Chamberlaine, which I did to gaine both
time and further inftructions from his Lordfhip, wherewith
fo foone, as I was fufliciently armed, I went to the Venetian,



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88 Court Masques of James I

and in pretence of his Secretary, Muf corns (whom he defired
might be admitted to our Conference) he intreated me to
repeate the wordes of my invitation, and* thof e of his
anf wer, which I yielded to (after some difoovery of my
infatisfaction to be f o punctually preffed, as if he had
meant to trip me) and in conclufion had his approbation,
that all f o f arr was both in mannage and report without
exception; but that which now (he added) troubled him
and made him f o to trouble me, was a later procedure of his
Majefty who (as if the State he reprefented had either in
affection or demonf tration of forwardnes to do the King
Service, been inf eriour to any) had that morning vouchf af ed
the French Ambaf f ador and not him a Solemne invitation.
To this (after I had according to my Inf tructions brought
him to confeff e that the French Ambaf fador had indeed
given him that intelligence) I replyed, that to be plain
with him I had no f ooner received the mef f age of his def ire
to f peake to me, but conceiving it was to the purpof e that
I now found, I did repaire to my Lord Chamberlaine with
my opinion, and for his Lordfhips further direction, which
I f aid was this. That if the Ambaf fador of Venice fhould
except againft any favour fhewed the French beyond
him, I fhould let him know, it was not that his Majefty
intended a difference in dif tribution of honour for their
more and leffe ceremoniall Invitation; but that if amidft
the confuf ion ufually happening at fuch Solemnities, there
were any omif f ion, he defired ft might be interpreted as
chanceable, and not of def igne, which the better to expreff e
I came (I told him) even then from my Lord Chamberlaine
and fo from his Majefty with the fame order to him, as I
had done to the French, to invite him, when not yet f atif-
fied with an errand f o ingroff e, he defired me to deliver
particularly, and in the fame wordes, the Invitation I had
carryed to the French Ambaff ador, which when I had
punctually performed, he returned this finall anfwer.
That f ince I was there pref ent a witnef f e of his Realitie,
he would not, as the French Ambaf fador had done, excuf e



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Masques Less Important Diplomatically 89

his abfence with his fickleneffe, but was defirous his
Majefty might know (after his humblef t and Thankfullef t
acknowledgment for his favour in his Invitation) that he
took the publick honour he had received the laf t yeare for
f o f ubf tantiall a Tef timony of his Royall mind towards him
(as in thef e private Solemnities for him to except againf t
inviting this perfon or that whom he f aw his Majefty was
inclyned to make his guefts at the Feaf t without over-
thronghing it with the pref enoe of others) was to prefume
to take from him that liberty and pleaf ure, which he (the
Ambaf f ador) would f trive, and had ever f trived to obf erve
with his bef t diligence, and obedience. With this anf wer
I was parting, when he f uddenly f tayed me with the reading
of another f cruple (& hinc illae lachiime) and asked me
whether the Arch-Dukes Ambaffador were alfo invited
whereof, when I had f aid (to keepe myfelfe clean from
categoricall af f ervations) when I knew not fully the King
my Matters pleaf ure) that I could not directly ref olve him,
he would needs perf wade me that I dif f embled, and that no
doubt, what f oever I should fay, I had in charge to performe
that fervice of Invitation, firft to him, and after in my
returne to Court to the other; a perfswafion, which as f oone
as I found it aimed at (what he was moft jealous of) pre-
cedence, I did not gainf ay it, holding it ill manners to marr
a belief e of an Ambaf fadors making.*

In this masque,

only persons of title took part; it was very rich & showy.
The Queen danced in it to please the King and honor the
bride & bridegroom. . . . The King and Queen were
placed on a dais under a canopy at the top of the room; the
Prince by the side of the King, and Sarmiento [Spanish
Ambassador] side by side with the Queen the only difference

1 Public Record Office, John Finett's PhUoxenis in Lord Chamberlain's
Office, Class 5, Miscellaneous, 5, No. 1, p. 13 f.



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90 Court Masques of James I

being that the King and Queen were seated on high chairs;
and the Prince and Sarmiento on Stools. x

The Agents of Savoy and of Florence were invited to
the supper and masque of the Earl of Somerset. When
they bsgan to make conditions they were answered
y that the Court was under no obligation to
mere agents or those less than Ambassadors, and
night come or not as they chose, whoever got
first, getting first place. In this the Savoyard
to have won. a The Ambassador of the Arch-
was invited to both marriages but was too sick to
sent at the latter. It is interesting to note here
tie assistant Master of Ceremonies, in recording
ness of the Arch-Duke's Ambassador, finds it
ary to insert that he was sick "in earnest," 3
imon had the excuse of illness become when
sadors were restrained from presenting them-
at court functions in which the countries they
snted would be compromised by their presence.
1 the exception of the Royal wedding in 1613, this
Lg of the Earl of Somerset was one of the richest
redding festivities given at the Court.

if e Win wood was there likewif e and had a very
►ayre of gloues of three pound price; w** he well
d for he made a fuit of apparell against the wedding
doublet hofe and cloke, all blacke and w tb out
de of gold filver or embroderie that cost him about
re pound 4 [between $2000 and $4000].

t from Sarmiento to Marquis de la Hinojosa, London, 10
[O. S. 1), 1614. Translated by Guyangas and found in Public
>mce, London, in Spanish Transcripts, Series II, xxxv.
Lppendix 57. * See Appendix 58.

Chamberlain to M* Carleton, 30 Dec., 1613, in State Papers

James /, lxxv, No. 53.



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Masques Less Important Diplomatically 91

The celebration of so important an event, as the
marriage of the Lord Chamberlain, required more than
one masquing evening. Ben Jonson was commissioned
by "Gentlemen, the King's Servants" to prepare The
Irish Masque which was presented on Wednesday,
December twenty-ninth, at the Court. The Irish
dialect, the praises of James, or perhaps the happy
allusions, in The Irish Masque, to the married pair and
their relatives, so pleased the audience that it was
repeated on the following Monday, January third.
There is no means of knowing whether or not foreign
ambassadors heard the Irish dialect on December
twenty-ninth, though there is an interesting allusion to
ambassadors in The Irish Masque. 1

Spain, always awake to her own advantage, fre-
quently used Ireland as a means through which she
kept England in fear. This fact brought to the author,
and to those who were responsible for The Irish Masque,
severe censure that in the present condition of European
affairs, the risk of offending Ireland should have been
incurred, "the loftie mafkers were fo well liked at
court the last week that they were appointed to per-

See also ibid., "I heare little or no commendation of the mafke
made by the Lords that night, either for detiife or dancing, only yt was
rich and costly."

1 "Den. And pleash ty graish I vill tell tee, tere vash a great
newesh in Ireland of a great brideal of one o' ty lords
here ant be.
Pal. Ty man Robyne tey Shay.
Don. Mary ty man Toumaish, h'ish daughter tey shay.
Dor. Ay, ty good man Tomaish o' Shuffolke."

"Don. He Knoke ush o' te pay there, ash we come by, by a good

token.
Dor. V fayt, tere ish very mush phoyt stick here sitting to-

njght. He takes ush for no shquires I tinke.
Pal. No, he tinksh not ve be imbasheters."



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92 Court Masques of James I

forme yt again on monday yet theyre deuif e (w** was a
enimicall imitation of t[he] Irish) was not fo pleafing
1 MH% * tomany, w 4 * thincke [this] no time (as the cafe f tands)

to exasperat that nat[ion] by making it ridiculous. " «
James, not yet satisfied that his favourite had received
sufficient honour,

"the L. Mayor was fent to by the K. to entertain this new
maried couple w* theyre frends and followers, but he
making an excufe that his houfe was too little to receue
them yt was not accepted, but word fent back that he
might command the biggest hall in the towne: whereupon
calling a counf aile yt was refolued to do yt at the charge
of the citie in the Marchant-taylers hall vpon foure dayes
warning, and the[n] there they went yesternight about fixe
a clocke, thorough cheapfide all by torch-light, accom-
panied by the father and mother of the bride, and all the
Lords and Ladies about the Court — the men were well
mounted and richly arrayed making a gudly fhew, the
women all in coaches. I do not heare yet how all things
pafsed there for I haue not ben abrode, only I onderstand
that after f upper they had a play and a mafke [The Masque
of Cupid, by Middleton 2 ] and after that a banket."*

On Twelfthnight, two nights after the City's forced
entertainment of the Earl of Somerset, " & Fra: Bacon"
presented, for the Gentlemen of the Inns of Court,
The Masque of Flowers, "A mafke to honor this mariage
w** will ftand him in aboue 200o£ " ($50,000 to $80,000
of our money to-day). To Lord Bacon's Masque of
Flowers, as we have seen, the French and Venetian
Ambassadors were invited in part exchange for the

' Chamberlain to Carleton, 5 January, 1613 [4], in State Papers
Domestic James I, lxxvi, No. 2. Cf. also Calendar of State Papers
Venetian, ziii, No. 166.

■ See A. H. Bullen, Works of Middleton, 1, Introduction.

* See Appendix 56.



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Masques Less Important Diplomatically 93

favours of the Earl of Somerset festivities which they
were forced to forego because of the presence of the Am-
bassador from Spain. To receive a fair equivalent of
what Spain had received they also attended the mar-
riage of the Lady Jane Drummond, at whose wedding
they used every most laughable device to reach or
outstrip the Spanish advancement. First, the French
Ambassador requested that he might be present at the
bridal supper with the entertainment after it, and that
he might be excused from attending the bridal dinner.
When he was asked for a reason, he said, that since it
was his Lenten season, he could not eat two flesh meals
in one day. He was answered that the great feasts
were always provided with fish. Pressed further, he
admitted that since neither King nor Queen were to be
present at the dinner, he would be subordinated to the
Spaniard by attending. Before his request could reach
the Queen, however, he changed his mind and decided
to attend both the bridal dinner and supper upon
condition that he be permitted to sit on a chair instead
of a stool. x All these little exactions were endured by
England at this time, because negotiations for a mar-
riage with France were in a most promising state of
progress.* So the Ambassadors of France and of Ven-
ice sat at Lady Drummond's bridal dinner on chairs.
In the evening they were entertained "w th fhewes and
deuifes, fpecially a paftorall . . . reprefented in a
little fquare paned court." 3 Though "the entertain-

1 See Appendix 59.

* "At the beginning of 1614 it seemed as if nothing further were
needed [for the English-French marriage] but the formality of signing
the necessary documents." Calendar of State Papers Venetian, xiii
Preface, xv.

s Chamberlain to Carleton, 3 Feb., 1613-14, in State Papers Domestic
James I, lxxvi, No. 18.



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94 Court Masques of James I

ment was great and cost the Queen aboue 3000JE;" «
Chamberlain says "the pastoral made by La: Danell was
folemne and dull but perhaps better to be read then
reprefented. " »

The Spanish Ambassador reported to Philip the
Third that he attended the marriage of Lady Drum-
mond, but he must have gone incognito. He mini-
mised the importance of the favours to Prance by
announcing that "the whole entertainment consisted
of a comedy which was acted there, "*

The assistant Master of Ceremonies notes

that the scope and end of this question [asking privileges]
mooveing from the French Ambaf fador was, that by fome
addition of honour, he might get the ftart he feemed to
have lost of proceeding the Spaniard and which himfelfe
bragged he had now recovered (and was indeed judged f o to
have done by the three Lords mentioned) when dineing with
the Bride, he had the honour of the Princeffe company
and supping, of both their Majefties, neither of thefe
having fallne to the Spanifh Ambaffador at the Marriage
of the Earle of Sommerfet. 3

The year, 161 3-14, that saw the culmination of honour
to one favourite of James I, saw also his decline. The
Court had, for some time, been growing impatient of
the self-assertiveness and impertinence of Somerset
whose marriage festivities, including the masques in his
honour, occupied the chief place in the holiday events
of 1613-14. During the latter part of the year George
Villiers [later Duke of Buckingham] was introduced to
the King. His advances in favour were so rapid as to

1 Chamberlain to Caxieton, 20 Feb., 1613-14, in State Papers Domestic
James /, lxsvi, No. 20.

2 See Spanish Transcripts, Series II, xxxv, Feb. 13, 1614.
sFinett: FinetH PkUoxcnis.



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Masques Less Important Diplomatically 95

be the talk of all the Court. By the time of the Christ-
mas season, 1614-15, he had so captivated James and
displaced Somerset, that Ben Jonson was employed on
Mercury Vindicated which was appointed for Twelfth-
night for the purpose of introducing the new f avourite, «
whose unusual qualities of appearance, grace and
manner found the masque a fit instrument to give these
qualities full play. a

There were plenty of plays given during this season,
the Court giving one "euery night both holy-dayes and
working-dayes. " * But as usual interest centred in the
coming masque. To this masque in honour of the
young Villiers, there seems to have been no thought of
inviting the French Ambassador. Things were not
going so well in France and James began to cool toward
the proposed French alliance. 4

The Spaniard accepted an invitation to Mercury
Vindicated for the evening of Twelfthnight, 1615, in the
English Court. With him was honoured the Am-

' "And yet for all this penurious world we fpeake of a mafke this
Christmas toward w ch the K. geues 1500 £ the principall motiue wherof
is thought to be the gracing of younge Villers and to bring him on the
stage." Chamberlain to Carleton, 1 December, 1614, in State Papers
Domestic James I, lxxviii, No. 65.

Cf. also "a maske of gentlemen set forth at the charge of his Majes-
ty," John Finett, Philoxenis, in Lord Chamberlain's Office, Class
Miscellaneous, 5, No. 1, p. 21. * Cf. infra, 116.

J See Chamberlain to Carleton, 5 Jan., 1614-15, in State Papers Domes-
tic James I, lxxz, No. 1.

* "when everythng seemed to be in good train [for the French-
English marriage] news reached England of the withdrawal from [the
French] Court of the Prince of Condi and other princes of the blood
and of their manifesto against the Queen Regent and her favourites.
James was keenly interested in what was taking place across the Channel
and kept his finger upon the pulse of French sentiment by means of
frequent couriers. He remained eager for the match for a while, but in
such unfavourable conditions the project drooped though it did not
actually die." See Calendar of State Papers Venetian, xiii, Preface, zv.



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96 Court Masques of James I

bassador of Venice, who for some years had been
invited only with the Representative of France, but a
matter which had been a growing cause of dispute
between England and Spain, thrust itself forth for
settlement at this masque much to the embarrassment
of all the Court. Big international intrigues concerned
themselves with the disposition of the Netherlands
before the marriage of the Princess Elizabeth in 1613.
Spain, opposed by Prance and England, had been
forced to make a treaty with the States, upon which the
latter founded claims to independence. The recogni-
tion of this independence entitled the States to an
Ambassador in the Courts so recognising them; and in
1610, Spain had admitted the States' Ambassador to
invitation to an English masque with her own, and had
taken what consolation she could from the fact that the
Dutch representative was forced during the evening to
accept a position greatly subordinating his country to
Spain. «

On the night of January 6, 1615, representatives of
both Spain and Holland found themselves in the



Online LibraryMary SullivanCourt masques of James I: their influence on Shakespeare and the public theatres → online text (page 8 of 24)