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Hampton Court Palace itself was built in around 1514 for Henry VIII’s one-time favourite Cardinal Wolsey. In 1529, as Wolsey fell from grace, the king claimed the palace for himself, adding the present Great Hall between 1532 and 1535. The space is often described as the last medieval great hall of the English monarchy, with its magnificent hammerbeam roof and sumptuous wall hangings. It is open to the public. (S 0844 482 7777 www.hrp.org.uk/hamptoncourtpalace/)

The Royal Mile, Edinburgh
Where Mary Queen of Scots made her extravagant royal entry

Edinburgh’s Royal Mile has long been associated with official royal entries and often saw street theatre meet royal performance in a triumphant celebration of the monarch.

On 2 September 1561, Mary Queen of Scots and her royal party set out on a royal entry into Edinburgh, travelling from Holyrood House along the Royal Mile to the sound of cannon fire. The party was met first on Castle Hill by 50 young men dressed up like fantastic blackamoors, a fairly common feature of Renaissance pageants symbolising exotic forces of disorder, which had to be tamed by the authority of a Christian ruler.

With crowds filling the streets, Mary continued her procession, borne aloft by 16 ‘honest’ men of the town and followed by a cart containing child singers and musicians. The party made several stops along the way to witness a particular pageant or staged tableau. At the first stop was a wooden archway, decorated “with fine colours”, where the queen paused to listen to the singing of “certain bairns in the maist heavenly wise”. Upon a scenery cloud, under the arch, was a young boy about six years old who, according to the Domestic Annals of Scotland, “descended down as it had been ane angel, and deliver it to her hieness the keys of the town, together with ane Bible and ane Psalm-buik coverit with fine purpour velvet”.

Royal entries across Europe were important public relations opportunities for the crown, as well as excellent examples of street theatre and other forms of lavish entertainment in which the monarch was expected to participate. Edinburgh’s Royal Mile connects Edinburgh Castle with Holyrood House and is thought to be the city’s oldest street. (www.edinburgh-royalmile.com)

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The article ‘Elizabethan drama’ was published in partnership with BBC History magazine.

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