Monday, March 04, 2013

Question from GregP - Guests at St Thomas' Day banquet

Been puzzling over the guests at the St Thomas’ Day banquet for the Emperor’s Ambassadors at Greenwich.

To the King’s left, between M. Daucye and the Knt of Toyson, is a “Lady Eliz Stafford”. Obviously a lady of note, to be seated so close, and between 2 of the guests of honour.

The Countess of Surrey is seated opposite, and would not have been called Lady Stafford. The Countess’ aunt was already Lady FitzWalter by then (not yet Countess of Sussex), but that Elizabeth Stafford, I think, was in disgrace from the court at that time.

Am guessing by how she is notated that she is either in the Queen’s or the Duchess of Suffolk’s household.

Pardons if this is a question that has been addressed.


Anonymous said...

Could you share with us the year in which this occurred?

GregP said...

So sorry, this was the banquet to honor the new Spanish/Imperial Ambassadors, on 7 July 1517.

The Chief Ambassidor was Jacques de Luamburg (called "Monsieur Doucye"), son of William de Croÿ Duke D'Aerschot (Doucye)

Young Viscount Jacques was, according to Giustinian, only about 20 and very gallant.

The "Ladye Eliz Stafford" in question was seated next to him, so where much of the much of the rest of the delegation and nobles were mature, Miss Stafford could have been seated as "arm-candy" for this young Flemish buck.

Foose said...

Looking at the diagram, the English guests appear to be seated in order of strict precedence, both males and females. (The foreign guests take precedence of the English). Therefore, it would seem odd for an unmarried girl to rank second to the Duchess of Norfolk at this banquet.

Could it be a mistake? The fact that "Lady Eliz. Stafford" on one side of the table immediately precedes the "Countess of Surrey" - the correct married title of Elizabeth Stafford, daughter of Buckingham - on the other side of the table might suggest that the writer had accidentally elided one guest with another.

So then the question might be, if Elizabeth Stafford Countess of Surrey is the correct identity of the woman sitting next to Doucye, who is the female guest sitting between the French ambassador and the bishop of Spain on the other side of the table? Perhaps the scribe made the mistake because her title began with S, like Surrey?

Perhaps - I make this suggestion cautiously - it was the Countess of Salisbury. The party seems to be very much a pro-Spanish, pro-Empire type of affair and the Queen's ladies and friends are prominent, many of them of the Howard clan. I would think the Queen (and possibly the King) was even then hoping that her 1-year-old daughter Mary might make an Imperial alliance, and including the Princess' governess in the guestlist would be a gesture of significance.

On the other hand, I would think the King's cousin would outrank the other ladies. Perhaps strict precedence might have looked at the date of the creation (Margaret Pole became Countess of Salisbury in 1513), but in that case I think some of the other ladies might have preceded her. But again, there is also the consideration that holding certain court offices (for example, as senior lady in the Queen's household or as Governess to the Princess) would up-end the normal rules of precedence.

This is just speculation on my part, mind. Someone who is an expert on Tudor rules of precedence could have better insight into the seating arrangement.

And then there's another possibility - perhaps it's a transcription error. You see that a lot with Tudor-era documents. If you can look at the original somehow, you might be able to determine if "Surrey" is definitely indicated or something else.

Foose said...

Also, I realize this discussion is confusing to those without access to the diagram, so here it is:

St. Thomas’ Day Banquet, 1517

Foose said...

Also, if you look at the chart, you can see the precedence and male-female parallel seating seem to break down a bit at the bottom of the two tables - Mary Fynes (whom I think was unmarried) is seated across from the "Lady Marques" - this may be the Marchioness of Dorset, with her husband sitting much higher up the table. I don't know the reason for this peculiar seating. Also, Mistress Mary Fynes' inclusion is somewhat puzzling - she's probably the closest thing to "eye candy" in this sedate assembly. She may be the Mary Fiennes, a possible maid-of-honor, who married Henry Norris in about 1520; Norris was already a favorite of the King's, so perhaps this accounts for it.

GregP said...

Thank you Foose for your excellent thoughts, and for including the diagram.

As I have deconstructed the protocols, what I keep seeing is that the DoN and DoS are at the centers of their respective tables. Now granted they are next in male sequence after the guests of honor, but it does tumble somewhat that which would be strict precedence. Similar to Eliz Stafford's placement is "Lady Elizabeth Boelyn", higher at the table to Norfolk's left.

I find it interesting another thing pointed out by Giustinian. He particularly noted to the Doge that the seating was alternated male-female, as though he found it a unique innovation. Though I'm sure boy-girl had been used before, he may have also been commenting on the disregard of stricter precedence.

Wouldn't the notation of "Lady Howard" imply a wife? Mrs Norfolk and Mrs Surrey are both accounted for. Is it more likely Norfolk would have been seated next to a daughter or a daughter-in-law? Is is possible that this might be Joyce Culpepper?

GregP said...

One other thought as to faction. I am seeing as much of the French Queen's household represented as I am Queen Katherine's.

GregP said...

Oh wow, new discovery:

You asked about an original, and I knew I had seen an hand-written print supposedly from Archives.

Now I am sitting here looking at two definitely different hand-written versions.

The schematic you have linked to is published in Letters and Papers. It is identical to a hand-written version that I have in Simon Thurley's "Royal Palaces of Tudor England" I will try to scan it.

But in looking for an online version, I came across one published in The Story of Greenwich by Clive Aslet, which is notably different. Link to my screenshot here (hopefully):

It's tough to read, but it is definitely in the same script as the one in Turley, matching the version published in Letters and Papers. The sequence on Norfolk's side is identical, but one notable difference is that "The Lady Marquis" has been moved to the bottom of left, to the TOP of Right, Highest precedence.

By precedence this would definitely be correct, with Duchess of Norfolk at the top left, "Duchess of Suffolk" at the head, next female precedence would be the Marchioness.

As these are both is the same script, it would suggest to me that they are originals on file, Showing revisions.
In strict “boygirl” starting with the King at center-head, each of the side tables would have ended up with females at the top, as Wolsey and deMesa were at the ends of the head table. However, I think they came to see that as a snub to the guest of Honor, Monsieur “Darcen”. It was deemed that he needed to head that table.

But the logical response would be to just move all the gals down by one, placing the Marchioness to Monsieur’s left. Meg Wooten must have been a bad girl at the jousts that day, to have been sent to the card-table.

I think the bumping of the Marchioness is further indication that they wanted Monsieur placed next to this mystery Lady Elizabeth Stafford. Do you think Justin Bieber would rather sit next to Hillary Clinton, or Kate Upton?

And the onion- skin continues: in the possibly-revised scripted version, the one that ended up in Letters and Papers, there is a wide space between Countess of Oxford and Giustinian. I think that when the others above were moved higher so that Monsieur would be at the top, that would have moved Suffolk to a closer place than Norfolk. The consequence was that they needed now to fill in two more, to keep the Dukes equitable.
Sorry to have gotten so arcane here. For my next question I will try something more akin to “Why did Henry like green so much?”

Foose said...

Interesting! Thanks for providing the new chart.

Some points that occurred to me:

-There are 14 women and 12 men at the lower table(s), which seems an odd number; if you add in the guests on the dais (king, queen, etc.), you have 16 women and 15 men, which seems odder. Possibly I have read too many Edwardian novels in which society hostesses freak out if they do not have an exactly equal number of men and women at their dinner parties - this may not apply to Tudor banquets. On the other hand, could St. Thomas, ghostly sponsor of the feast, rank as the 16th man?

-The men appear to be seated according to rank, in a zigzag pattern across the lower table(s). Foreigners first: Dauncye, French ambassador, knight of the Toyson (Toison d'Or, I assume), Bishop of Spain, Venetian ambassador, provost of Cassel. Then the English: Duke of Norfolk, Duke of Suffolk, Lord Marques, Bishop of Durham (I don't know how ecclesiastical titles rank), Earl of Surrey, Earl of Kent.

-The women show more variation in their seating, and as I mentioned above, perhaps this is due to the offices they hold or their husbands hold. The Lady Marques should be in Lady Eliz. Howard's position, as you note. Eliz. Boleyn, wife of a mere knight, is relatively high up when she should be near the foot of the table - but I think Sir Thomas Boleyn was ambassador to France at the time, and her seating may be a result of this, or a sop to the French ambassador, who can hardly have enjoyed the Imperialist beanfest. Possibly she has a high rank within the Queen's household (although a book I read recently claimed she was never a member of the Queen's household, contrary to generally held theory).

-Lady Howard I do not know and cannot account for easily. Possibly she is, as you say, Sir Edmund Howard's wife Joyce Culpeper. Perhaps she is Alice Lovel, Lady de Morley, the widow of Sir Edward Howard, killed off Brest in 1513. He was a favorite of Henry's and Lord Admiral at the time of his death - perhaps her superior ranking is a consequence of this, or again perhaps she has an important post within the Queen's household.

-Lady Eliz. Grey is, I think, a baroness in her own right and consequently leads the barons' wives (except for Lady Howard). I believe she is also the former fiancee/wife (depending on your interpretaton of canon law) of Charles Brandon, which makes her seating next to him, under the eye of his wife the French Queen on the dais, rather piquant.

-Per the French Queen's attendants, I can only identify Lady Guilford the Elder (Mother Guilford?) - you probably have more knowledge of her satellites. Barbara Harris, describing this event in her English Aristocratic Women notes only that much of the Queen's household was present, with no mention of the French Queen's ladies.

-No Buckinghams were invited, apparently, except the Countess of Surrey. The Buckinghams were friends of the Queen, although Henry didn't much like them; this appears to be a largely Howard affair.

Very intriguing - your question offers lots of angles for analysis, whether faction, foreign policy, dinner-party social history (male-female seating), Wolsey's role, genealogy, etc.

GregP said...

Last one for a while, sorry for spamming.

Hoping my HTML makes these into links.

This one is that which I think is the modified original, moving Daucye to the top of the table. Notice how they seem to have made space for 2 more above Giustinian, possibly to keep Duke of Suffolk even with (or below) Duke of Norfolk.

Revised Seating from Thurley

By shifting the Marchioness, what was originally 13 per side has now become 14/12. Space has been allowed to add 2 more to the Suffolk side.


This is a cut-paste of the two different drafts. Sorry for the resolution difference, but you can see side-by-side where the names are the same or different,

Comparison of Drafts 1 & 2

GregP said...

Currently order of precedence is
1. Royals
2. Royal Dukes
3. Archbishops
4. Officers of State
5. Dukes
6. Marquesses
7. Earls
8. Viscounts
9. Bishops
10. Barons

So if the same then, Bishop of Durham should have been below the Earls, but I think Ruthall might have been Keeper of the Privy Seal, and might have gotten preferment from that.

GregP said...

Lady Boleyn was received as a Lady to the Queen in 1517, and as a Howard, there is her faction.

In addition to Mary Fiennes, I believe Lady Elizabeth Grey, Lady Guildford, and even the Marchioness had attended Mary Tudor as Queen of France.

GregP said...

Yes, Knight of Toyson would be Toison d'Or. I suspect that this is Hoyer IV,(1484-1540), Count of Mansfeld-Vorderortische. He had been admitted to Golden Fleece in 1515 on Frances I's accession. Forget the source, but I saw something archival that referred to the Count of Mansfeld being in England at that time.

Foose said...

I've looked at the Stafford genealogies, including the collaterals, and I can't find an Elizabeth Stafford who fits the parameters.

Possible alternatives is that maybe one of the Countess of Surrey's younger sisters may be the lady. (On the other hand, depending on the date of her marriage, one of them may be the Lady Abergavenny at the table.)

Elizabeth Boleyn had a younger half-sister also named Elizabeth, whose birthdate I can't positively identify, but may have been of an appropriate age to attend. If it was a largely Howard affair, perhaps she might be the lady. But it's difficult to understand how the scribe made the error, not just in one chart, but two.

I was a little dubious that a young unmarried woman was put next to an important foreign guest at a state banquet, but I read up on this and apparently this young man was, as you say, fabulously handsome and well-connected, "a descendant of three Emperors" and the king's cousin through Jacquetta of Luxembourg. So there may have been incentive for the organizers and invitees to allow for some courtly pastime at table.

Also, Wolsey had a big party for the ambassadors in 1527 after concluding a marriage agreement with France, at which Spinelli, the current Venetian envoy, noted "I considered myself out of place beside a very beautiful damsel, each of the guests having one to his share" - evidence that this was not an unusual practice among the English, although perhaps the foreigners were a bit startled.

I am interested by your discussion of the spacing, I had not come across this before. I had assumed, on looking at the chart(s), that the spacing (bunching up some but not others) was just an error by the scribe or secretary, but you think there was intent in grouping the guests. There have been a couple of books published in the last year of so about the concept of space at Tudor entertainments and the court, and those might be helpful in understanding how the spacing was set up. The Language of Space in Court Performance, by Janette Dillon, might have some insights.

GregP said...

Thanks for those references. I love arcane social aspects like that.

Wiki has Baron Bergavenny marrying Mary Stafford in 1519, so I had this Lady slated as Margaret Brent.

I get the feeling that protocols were followed for the males, but the females role at this table was to show the Glory of Great Harry's Court. The grand-dames are represented, but precedence was set aside for aesthetics (and maybe a grope, "sous-la-table")

The rules of Royal decorum were being rewritten daily by a vital young sovereign and favorites.

I find it amusing that Duchess Suffolk's water might have broken at any moment. She delivered Francis I think less than a week later.