Accession Day tilt

Accession Day tilt

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The Accession Day tilts were a series of elaborate festivities held annually at the court of Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty...

 to celebrate her Accession Day
Accession Day
An Accession Day is the anniversary of the date on which a monarch succeeds to the throne upon the death of the previous monarch.-Monarchy:The custom of marking this day was inaugurated during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England....

, 17 November, also known as Queen's Day. The tilts combined theatrical
Theatre
Theatre is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music or dance...

 elements with jousting
Jousting
Jousting is a martial game or hastilude between two knights mounted on horses and using lances, often as part of a tournament.Jousting emerged in the High Middle Ages based on the military use of the lance by heavy cavalry. The first camels tournament was staged in 1066, but jousting itself did not...

, in which Elizabeth's courtier
Courtier
A courtier is a person who is often in attendance at the court of a king or other royal personage. Historically the court was the centre of government as well as the residence of the monarch, and social and political life were often completely mixed together...

s competed to outdo each other in allegorical
Allegory
Allegory is a demonstrative form of representation explaining meaning other than the words that are spoken. Allegory communicates its message by means of symbolic figures, actions or symbolic representation...

 armour
Armour
Armour or armor is protective covering used to prevent damage from being inflicted to an object, individual or a vehicle through use of direct contact weapons or projectiles, usually during combat, or from damage caused by a potentially dangerous environment or action...

 and costume
Costume
The term costume can refer to wardrobe and dress in general, or to the distinctive style of dress of a particular people, class, or period. Costume may also refer to the artistic arrangement of accessories in a picture, statue, poem, or play, appropriate to the time, place, or other circumstances...

, poetry
Poetry
Poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning...

, and pageantry
Pageantry
Pageantry is a colorful display, as in a pageant. It may refer to:*Beauty pageant*Drag pageantry*Medieval pageant...

 to exalt the queen and her realm of England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

.

The last Elizabethan Accession Day tilt was held in November 1602; the queen died the following spring. Tilts continued as part of festivities marking the Accession Day of James I
James I of England
James VI and I was King of Scots as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the English and Scottish crowns on 24 March 1603...

, 24 March, until 1624, the year before his death.

Origins


Sir Henry Lee of Ditchley
Henry Lee of Ditchley
Sir Henry Lee KG , of Ditchley, was Master of the Ordnance under Queen Elizabeth I of England.-Life:Lee became Queen Elizabeth I’s champion in 1570 and was appointed Master of the Royal Armouries in 1580, an office which he held until his death...

, Queen's Champion
Queen's Champion
The feudal holder of the Manor of Scrivelsby since 1066 has held that manor from the Crown by grand serjeanty of being The Honourable The King's/Queen's Champion. Such person is also Standard Bearer of England.- Origins :...

, devised the Accession Day tilts, which became the most important Elizabethan
Elizabethan era
The Elizabethan era was the epoch in English history of Queen Elizabeth I's reign . Historians often depict it as the golden age in English history...

 court festival from the 1580s. The celebrations are likely to have begun somewhat informally in the early 1570s. By 1581, the Queen's Day tilts "had been deliberately developed into a gigantic public spectacle eclipsing every other form of court festival", with thousands in attendance; the public were admitted for a small charge. Lee himself oversaw the annual festivities until he retired as Queen's Champion at the tilt of 1590, handing over the role to George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland
George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland
Sir George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland, KG was an English peer, as well as a naval commander and courtier in the court of Queen Elizabeth I.-Background:...

. Following Lee's retirement, orchestration of the tilts fell to the Earl of Worcester
Edward Somerset, 4th Earl of Worcester
Edward Somerset, 4th Earl of Worcester, KG, Earl Marshal was an English aristocrat. He was an important advisor to King James I, serving as Lord Privy Seal....

 in his capacity of Master of Horse and to the queen's favourite
Favourite
A favourite , or favorite , was the intimate companion of a ruler or other important person. In medieval and Early Modern Europe, among other times and places, the term is used of individuals delegated significant political power by a ruler...

, the Earl of Essex
Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex
Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, KG was an English nobleman and a favourite of Elizabeth I. Politically ambitious, and a committed general, he was placed under house arrest following a poor campaign in Ireland during the Nine Years' War in 1599...

, although Lee remained as a sort of Master of Ceremonies at the request of the queen.

The pageants were held at the tiltyard
Tiltyard
A tiltyard was an enclosed courtyard for jousting . Tiltyards were a common feature of late medieval castles and palaces...

 at the Palace of Whitehall
Palace of Whitehall
The Palace of Whitehall was the main residence of the English monarchs in London from 1530 until 1698 when all except Inigo Jones's 1622 Banqueting House was destroyed by fire...

, where the royal party viewed the festivities from the Tiltyard Gallery. The Office of Works
Office of Works
The Office of Works was established in the English Royal household in 1378 to oversee the building of the royal castles and residences. In 1832 it became the Works Department within the Office of Woods, Forests, Land Revenues, Works and Buildings...

 constructed a platform with staircases below the gallery to facilitate presentations to the queen.

Participants



Knights


Tilt lists for the Accession Day pageants have survived; these establish that the majority of the participating jousters came from the ranks of the Queen's Gentlemen Pensioners. Entrants included such powerful members of the court as the Earl of Bedford
Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford
Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford, KG was an English nobleman, soldier and politician and godfather to Sir. Francis Drake.-Early life:...

, the Earl of Southampton
Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton
Henry Wriothesley , 3rd Earl of Southampton , was the second son of Henry Wriothesley, 2nd Earl of Southampton, and his wife Mary Browne, Countess of Southampton, daughter of the 1st Viscount Montagu...

, Lord Howard of Effingham
Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Nottingham
Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Nottingham , known as Howard of Effingham, was an English statesman and Lord High Admiral under Elizabeth I and James I...

, and the Earl of Essex. Many of those participating had seen active service in Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 or on the Continent
Continent
A continent is one of several very large landmasses on Earth. They are generally identified by convention rather than any strict criteria, with seven regions commonly regarded as continents—they are : Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia.Plate tectonics is...

, but the atmosphere of romance and entertainment seems to have predominated over the serious military exercises that were medieval tournaments. Sir James Scudamore
Sir James Scudamore
Sir James Scudamore was a gentleman usher at the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Born at Holme Lacy, Herefordshire, he was the eldest son of Sir John Scudamore, Custos Rotulorum of Herefordshire and his first wife Eleanor Croft, daughter of former Lord Deputy of Ireland James Croft...

, a knight who tilted in the 1595 tournament, was immortalized as "Sir Scudamour" in Book Four of The Faerie Queen by Edmund Spenser
Edmund Spenser
Edmund Spenser was an English poet best known for The Faerie Queene, an epic poem and fantastical allegory celebrating the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth I. He is recognised as one of the premier craftsmen of Modern English verse in its infancy, and one of the greatest poets in the English...

.

Knights participating in the spectacle entered in pageant cars or on horseback, disguised as some heroic, romantic, or metaphor
Metaphor
A metaphor is a literary figure of speech that uses an image, story or tangible thing to represent a less tangible thing or some intangible quality or idea; e.g., "Her eyes were glistening jewels." Metaphor may also be used for any rhetorical figures of speech that achieve their effects via...

ical figure, with their servants in fancy dress according to the theme of the entry. A squire presented a pasteboard pageant shield decorated with the character's device or impresa to the Queen and explained the significance of his disguise in prose or poetry. Entrants went to considerable expense to devise themes, order armour and costumes for their followers, and in some cases to hire poets or dramatists and even professional actor
Actor
An actor is a person who acts in a dramatic production and who works in film, television, theatre, or radio in that capacity...

s to carry out their programmes. Classical, pastoral
Pastoral
The adjective pastoral refers to the lifestyle of pastoralists, such as shepherds herding livestock around open areas of land according to seasons and the changing availability of water and pasturage. It also refers to a genre in literature, art or music that depicts such shepherd life in an...

, and Arthurian
King Arthur
King Arthur is a legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries, who, according to Medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the early 6th century. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of folklore and literary invention, and...

 settings were typically combined with story lines flattering to the queen, but serious subtexts were common, especially among those who used these occasions to express public contrition or desolation for having aroused the queen's displeasure, or to plead for royal favour. In the painting on the left, Essex wears black (sable) armour, which he wore as part of his 1590 entrance to the tilts. At this particular tilt, Essex entered as the head of a funeral procession, carried on a bier by his attendants. This was meant to atone for his failure to subdue Ireland, but Elizabeth was not impressed and did not forgive him readily.

Poets


Poets associated with court circles who wrote allegorical verses to accompany the knights' presentations include John Davies
John Davies (poet)
Sir John Davies was an English poet and lawyer, who became attorney general in Ireland and formulated many of the legal principles that underpinned the British Empire.-Early life:...

, Philip Sidney
Philip Sidney
Sir Philip Sidney was an English poet, courtier and soldier, and is remembered as one of the most prominent figures of the Elizabethan Age...

 and the young Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Albans, KC was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer, jurist, author and pioneer of the scientific method. He served both as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England...

, who composed speeches and helped stage presentations for his patron
Patrón
Patrón is a luxury brand of tequila produced in Mexico and sold in hand-blown, individually numbered bottles.Made entirely from Blue Agave "piñas" , Patrón comes in five varieties: Silver, Añejo, Reposado, Gran Patrón Platinum and Gran Patrón Burdeos. Patrón also sells a tequila-coffee blend known...

, the Earl of Essex. Sidney, in particular, as both poet and knight, embodied the chivalric
Chivalry
Chivalry is a term related to the medieval institution of knighthood which has an aristocratic military origin of individual training and service to others. Chivalry was also the term used to refer to a group of mounted men-at-arms as well as to martial valour...

 themes of the tilts; a remembrance of Sidney was part of the tilt programme of 1586, the year after his death. Sidney's friend and protege Sir James Scudamore
Sir James Scudamore
Sir James Scudamore was a gentleman usher at the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Born at Holme Lacy, Herefordshire, he was the eldest son of Sir John Scudamore, Custos Rotulorum of Herefordshire and his first wife Eleanor Croft, daughter of former Lord Deputy of Ireland James Croft...

, who would go on to be one of the primary competitors in the Accession Day tilt in 1595, carried the pennant of Sidney's arms at the age of eighteen. Edmund Spenser
Edmund Spenser
Edmund Spenser was an English poet best known for The Faerie Queene, an epic poem and fantastical allegory celebrating the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth I. He is recognised as one of the premier craftsmen of Modern English verse in its infancy, and one of the greatest poets in the English...

 wrote of The Faerie Queen, which turns upon the Accession Day festivities as its fundamental structural device: "I devise that the Faery Queen kept her Annuall feast xii. days, upon which xii. severall days, the occasions of the xii. severall adventures hapned, which being undertaken by xii. severall knights, are in these xii. books severally handled and discoursed";

A visitor's account


The fullest straightforward account of a Tilt is by Lupold von Wedel, a German traveller who saw the 1584 celebrations:
Now approached the day, when on November 17 the tournament was to be held... About twelve o’clock the queen and her ladies placed themselves at the windows in a long room at Weithol [Whitehall] palace, near Westminster, opposite the barrier where the tournament was to be held. From this room a broad staircase led downwards, and round the barrier stands were arranged by boards above the ground, so that everybody by paying 12d. would get a stand and see the play... Many thousand spectators, men, women and girls, got places, not to speak of those who were within the barrier and paid nothing.


During the whole time of the tournament all those who wished to fight entered the list by pairs, the trumpets being blown at the time and other musical instruments. The combatants had their servants clad in different colours, they, however, did not enter the barrier, but arranged themselves on both sides. Some of the servants were disguised like savages, or like Irishmen, with the hair hanging down to the girdle like women, others had horses equipped like elephants, some carriages were drawn by men, others appeared to move by themselves; altogether the carriages were very odd in appearance. Some gentlemen had their horses with them and mounted in full armour directly from the carriage. There were some who showed very good horsemanship and were also in fine attire. The manner of the combat each had settled before entering the lists. The costs amounted to several thousand pounds each.


When a gentleman with his servants approached the barrier, on horseback or in a carriage, he stopped at the foot of the staircase leading to the queen’s room, while one of his servants in pompous attire of a special pattern mounted the steps and addressed the queen in well-composed verses or with a ludicrous speech, making her and her ladies laugh. When the speech was ended he in the name of his lord offered to the queen a costly present.. .Now always two by two rode against each other, breaking lances across the beam.. . The fête lasted until five o’clock in the afternoon...

See also

  • Artists of the Tudor court
    Artists of the Tudor court
    The artists of the Tudor court are the painters and limners engaged by the monarchs of England's Tudor dynasty and their courtiers between 1485 and 1603, from the reign of Henry VII to the death of Elizabeth I....

  • Elizabethan era
    Elizabethan era
    The Elizabethan era was the epoch in English history of Queen Elizabeth I's reign . Historians often depict it as the golden age in English history...

  • English Renaissance theatre
    English Renaissance theatre
    English Renaissance theatre, also known as early modern English theatre, refers to the theatre of England, largely based in London, which occurred between the Reformation and the closure of the theatres in 1642...

  • The Speeches at Prince Henry's Barriers
    The Speeches at Prince Henry's Barriers
    The Speeches at Prince Henry's Barriers, sometimes called The Lady of the Lake, is a masque or entertainment written by Ben Jonson in honour of Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, the son and heir of King James I of England...

  • Jousting
    Jousting
    Jousting is a martial game or hastilude between two knights mounted on horses and using lances, often as part of a tournament.Jousting emerged in the High Middle Ages based on the military use of the lance by heavy cavalry. The first camels tournament was staged in 1066, but jousting itself did not...


External links