Sunday, December 16, 2007

Question from Kim - Canes or walking sticks at court

What was the custom regarding the use of canes or walking sticks within Queen Elizabeth's court? In particular, would Francis Walsingham be permitted to use such an aparatus?

1 comment:

PhD Historian said...

Many officers of state at the Tudor courts were entitled to carry symbolic staffs of office. Most of these staff-symbols have since become obsolete and are no longer in use. (The notable exception being the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, secretary to the Lord Chamberlain and Serjeant-at-Arms for the House of Lords, known for walking backwards and carrying a long black staff before the Queen as she proceeds into the Lords' Chamber at each State Opening of Parliament.) Elizabeth Tudor's principal secretary, William Cecil, is commonly seen holding a long white staff in his period portraits. Cecil was Lord High Treasurer from 1572 to 1598 and Lord Privy Seal at the beginning and end of Elizabeth's reign. Walsingham, on the other hand, held the office of Lord Privy Seal between 1576 and 1590 and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster between 1587 and 1590. Both of those offices entitled him to carry a staff of office. The staffs were not, however, "canes" in the modern since. Staffs of office were generally shoulder height, completely straight, and purely symbolic, while a modern cane is usually hip high, has a curved handle, and is used primarily as an aid in walking. I have never seen a sixteenth-century depiction or mention of a modern-style cane in use in the late sixteenth century, though I'm inclined to imagine that walking aids did exist and were used by the elderly or infirm. Whether or not they were "permitted" at court is an issue in need of further research.