Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Questions from Colleen - Court life in Mary's reign and "The Strand"

I have a few random questions. First of all, does anyone know anything about what court life was like under Mary I, particularly in the last months of her reign? I know she was a sick, unhappy woman - does the atmosphere (for lack of a better word) in her court reflect this? Also, completely unrelated, but I am a little confused about the street that's referred to as "the Strand". Did it run alongside the Thames? Did the houses face the river or have their backs turned to it? I've read things about some houses having gates that opened directly onto the river, and some had gardens that extended down to the riverbank. I'm just trying to get a clearer picture. Thanks!

3 comments:

PhD Historian said...

Regarding The Strand, yes, it once ran along the bank of the River Thames. In the 1860s, however, the sewage removal issue in London peaked and a huge sytem of drainage pipes was built beneath what is now The Embankment. That moved the north shore of the Thames toward the south by several hundred feet. And yes, prior to the construction of The Embankment many of the houses of the wealthy had gates and boat-landings at the river's edge, since The Thames was then a major transportation route. Most wealthy people owned private barges that they used for getting from place to place more quickly by traveling up and down the river. Many of the larger houses did indeed have gardens between them and the river, as well. But the river was dirty and known even then to be unsanitary, so think of the gardens as barriers intended to provide a measure of protection from the less healthy air coming off the river.

kb said...

It is very difficult to guess at the atmosphere at court 450 years ago. Mary took to her chamber about 2 months before she died. The flu was going around court and it seems she may have caught it on top of everything else. Without her participation it would have been unlikely that very many entertainments occurred.

Although she has often been portrayed as dull and miserable from the beginning of her reign, I think this very unlikely. She threw herself into her work which included public observance of Catholicism. This included all the religious festivities as well as masses. My impression is that the Office of the Revels, in charge of costumes and props for court entertainments, was very active during her reign.

George said...

In Chhronicles of the Tudor Queens David Loades points out that Mary was the only Tudor not to stage a coronation tournament. In the first year of her reigh expenditure on revels was less that 10% of that in 1552-3. Philip injected life into the court and expenditure rose. When he departed in Aug 1555 Mary made an effort to keep up a show at court but expenditure never approached the levels seen under her father or brother.