Next week I am lecturing on the music performed during the grand entertainments put on for Elizabeth I (1558-1603) when she travelled around the county on progress. Progresses included both royal entries into cities and visits to the estates of noblemen. Both made use of pageants, plays, dancing and copious amounts of song and instrumental music. Below I’ve listed some of the the accounts of Elizabethan progress entertainments that are now freely available to read online.
To give you a quick flavour of these entertainments, here’s an image of a particularly elaborate pageant being performed for Elizabeth at Elvetham (an estate of the Earl of Hertford) in 1591. Hertford had the crescent shaped lake specially-built for Elizabeth’s visit, its moon-like shape a testamaent to her chastity and Virgin Queen image. The pageant saw Sylvanus (God of the Woods) declare his love for the sea nymph, Neaera, and get firmly put in his place by the Sea-God, Nereus. In the picture you can spot Elizabeth sat on the left hand side, as Tritons playing shells perform for her. We also know from the text that the boats depicted contained lutenists and singers, who performed an echo song, and cornet-players who played Scottish Gigs in canon (‘made three parts in one’).
We know about these elaborate entertainments largely because accounts of the events were printed (though a few are preserved in manuscripts). None of these printed accounts contains any notated music, but they do describe the music that was provided and often include song lyrics. Yet a few extant songs from manuscripts and music publications have been connected to the progresses, including several from Elizabeth’s entertainment at Elvetham in 1591 by the Earl of Hertford which have been described by Ernest Brennecke in ‘The Entertainment at Elvetham, 1591,’ in Music in English Renaissance Drama, ed. John H. Long (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1968). A couple of these songs – Edward’s Johnson’s ‘Eliza is the Fairest Queen’ and ‘Come Again Fair Nature’s Treaure’ – can be heard here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ry970NpHm1c. Nicholas Stroger’s ‘Mistrust not Truth’ also appears to have been written for Elizabeth’s visit to Bristol in 1574.
Early English Books Online provides facsimile images and transcriptions for most of these printed accounts but is available only with a subscription. What follows is a list of those account whose images and editions are freely available online. The digital images provided by the British Library in particular are far clearer (and more satisfying) to read than the EEBO facsimiles.
- The Queenes Maiesties Entertainement at Woodstock (London, 1585) – though the entertainment took place in 1575
- B[ernard] G[arter], The Ioyfull Receyuing of the Queenes Most Excellent Maiestie into Hir Highnesse Citie of Norwich the Things Done in the Time of Hir Abode There: And the Dolor of the Citie at Hir Departure (London, 1578).
- The Honorable Entertainement Gieuen to the Queenes Maiestie in Progresse, at Eluetham in Hampshire, by the Right Honorable the Earle of Hertford. 1591 (London, 1591)
- Speeches Delivered to her Maiestie this last Progresse, at the Right Honorable the Lady Russels, at Bissam, the Right Honorable the Lorde Chandos at Sudley, at the Right Honorable the Lord Norris, at Ricorte. (Oxford, 1592)
- Expicedium. A Funeral Oration, vpon the death of the late deceased Princesse of famous memorye, Elizabeth, by the grace of God, Queen of England, France and Ireland. Written: by Infelice Academico Ignoto. Whereunto is added, the true orderof her Highnes Imperiall Funerall. (London, 1603)
- The Royall Passage of her Maiesty from the Tower of London, to her Palace of White-hall, with al the Speaches and Deuices, both of the Pageants and otherwise, together with her Maiesties seuerall Answers, and most pleasing Speaches to them all. (London, 1604) – An account of the procession proceeding Elizabeth’s coronation, but an edition printed in the reign of James I
- Holinshed, Raphael, Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland (1577 and 1587) – contains descriptions of numerous entertainments, often copied from published accounts
- Sidney, Sir Philip, ‘The Lady of May’ (Wanstead, 1578)
- The Victorian edition of Elizabeth’s progresses is available to read on Google-Books:
John Nichols, The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth: Among Which are Interspersed Other Solemnities, Public Expenditures, and Remarkable Events, During the Reign of that Illustrious Princess (1823) 3 volumes (though a new edition is also in progress). Volume 1; Volume 2; Volume 3