Thursday, May 14, 2020

Siobhan Keenan's "The Progresses, Processions, and Royal Entries of King Charles I, 1625-1642"

Siobhan Keenan is Professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature at De Montfort University, Leicester, where she is also Associate Dean Research and Innovation for the Faculty of Arts, Design and Humanities. Her research focuses on early modern theatre history, regional performance culture, and royal progress entertainments. She is the author of several books, including Travelling Players in Shakespeare's England (2002) and Acting Companies and Their Plays in Shakespeare's London (2014), as well as the editor of two politically topical seventeenth-century manuscript plays, The Emperor's Favourite (2011) and The Twice Chang'd Friar (2017).

Keenan applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Progresses, Processions, and Royal Entries of King Charles I, 1625-1642, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Progresses, Processions, and Royal Entries of King Charles I, 1625-1642 introduces a case study of a royal progress visit Charles I and his queen, Henrietta Maria, paid to Welbeck Abbey, the home of William Cavendish, Earl of Newcastle during the 1634 royal summer progress into the North Midlands of England.

Dipping into the book at page 99 gives you a taste of the political and cultural significance of the royal progress visits that Charles paid to members of his nobility during his annual summer travels, including how the unique access these visits offered to the monarch, gave hosts the chance not only to impress and flatter the king, but an opportunity to petition and counsel Charles. William Cavendish, for example, was thought to be keen to secure a court appointment in 1634, but was also known to believe in the role of the nobility as advisers to the monarch. His keenness to impress Charles and to win royal favour is reflected in the fact that he reportedly spent between fourteen and fifteen thousand pounds on the visit – more than any other Caroline host spent on such a visit – the hospitality including a lavish feast to which Cavendish invited the local nobles and gentry, and a specially commissioned show by renowned playwright and poet, Ben Jonson, Love’s Welcome at Bolsover. In sparing no expense, Cavendish was clearly hoping to impress the king. But he also appears to have used the visit to offer coded advice to Charles, modelling the kind of reciprocal generosity and local engagement that he believed the king should practice more visibly.

What page 99 does not fully reveal is the scale and variety of the Caroline royal progresses explored in the book, which ranged from small-scale ‘hunting’ progresses to wider-ranging public progresses, such as Charles’s 1633 ‘great’ journey to Scotland for his belated coronation as king which involved stops at multiple towns, cities, and country houses. Similarly, page 99 only gestures towards one of the key questions explored in Progresses which is the extent to which Charles was accessible to his subjects and receptive to their petitions and counsel. It has often been claimed that Charles was a remote and inaccessible monarch and that this this contributed to the eventual outbreak of the English Civil Wars (1642) and Charles’s overthrow and execution. Although not stated explicitly on page 99, Progresses tests these assertions about Charles’s rule by offering the first extended study of his interactions with his subjects outside London during his summer travels.

Hopefully, the glimpse page 99 offers into one of these encounters between monarch and subject would have encouraged Ford to read on and to learn more about Charles’s travels and his relationship with his people!
Learn more about The Progresses, Processions, and Royal Entries of King Charles I, 1625-1642 at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue