We’re back at the Chelsea Pageant this week moving out of the medieval era into more familiar historical times. The Pageant devoted four of its ten episodes to Tudor subjects. This is not surprising. Chelsea begins with the big riverside houses of the Tudor aristocracy. It was in Chelsea that Henry VIII had a manor house and a hunting lodge conveniently accessible by boat. And of course his sometime friend Thomas More lived in Chelsea. The Tudor monarchs haunt Chelsea in fact and legend and they continued to loom large in the Edwardian imagination.
Mr Herbert Jarman, an amateur Henry VIII, looking a little like Charles Laughton in the later film. Mr Cavendish Morton portrays Thomas More but we have a less definite idea of how More should look. In the background two of his daughters look on anxiously. Here’s one of them, Margaret Roper with her mother, sharing another moment with a distinctly non-Tudor fence in the background.
Episode 4 has two parts: a friendly visit to More’s house by Henry for the purpose of offering the post of Chancellor to him, and later, More’s last day in the same house as he obeys the summons to his trial and execution. Episode 5 covers an attempt to seduce the young Princess Elizabeth, episode 6 the funeral procession of Anne of Cleves which began at the Manor House.
Catherine Howard intercedes with the young King Edward on behalf of Thomas Seymour. The woman with her hair down on the left is the young Princess Elizabeth.
The ladies and gentlemen of Chelsea seemed happy to take on the roles of their Tudor forbears. Kate Pragnell was also patrolling the entrance of the Royal Hospital like an early paparazzo.
An older version of Elizabeth arrives with an anachronistic escort.
Interested parties and spectators with no tickets await the arrival of another important personage.
Episode 7 was about Elizabeth’s return to Chelsea to relive childhood memories and watch a children’s masque of Spenser’s Faerie Queen, a sprawling allegorical poem in which Elizabeth features under several different guises.
Here are two other versions of Elizabeth an adult and the child Gloriana along with the poet Spenser stepping inside his creation. Elizabeth also appears as Lucifera, Queen of Pride:
The Faerie Queen is full of unsuitable wonders.
Including a version of George and the Dragon.
This must be a rehearsal, assuming the man in the straw boater in the group on the left doesn’t represent a time traveler.
Are those horses or mice (or something worse) pulling the coach? Is that Mr Punch driving it?
He’s not in the cast list but is this Dr John Dee facing the queen?
There is still something magical about these scenes. Amateur actors act out fact and fantasy living out dreams of another English dreamtime. Here’s another group with an infiltrator from modern life. She is us, spying on the past.
Two more primal scenes from the Masque:
Our friend, the giant Orgoglio.
And best of all, a woman St George, the maiden Una and a friendly lion. That’s what I call entertainment.
Other posts about the Chelsea Historical Pageant: