Friday, November 14, 2008

Question from Angie - Number of people at and traveling with the Court

How many members of a general Tudor court actually lived in the palace? I read King Henry VIII's court numbered from 600-800, but does that mean they all took up residence at Hampton? Those must've been some interesting family dinners! If an entire household went on the move, which was often, how many court members would come along with the monarchs?


Anonymous said...

I can't answer as far as numbers. No doubt my source is the same as yours.

However, it is my understanding that when either Henry or Elizabeth went 'on tour', many members of their household/court took this as an opportunity to visit their country homes.

The really important people (Leicester, Burghley, folks of that ilk) would have put-up with the travel and the lousy accomodations they sometimes had to suffer.

Along the same lines...if you felt your loyalty was at all in question, you would have stayed within the sovereign's easy reach. That way you'd be able to respond to rumors of you rebelling, or causing any sort of trouble, and the talk could be nipped in the bud.

Anonymous said...

It's really difficult to say with any precision how many people were at court at any time during Henry's reign.

They moved from palace to palace as the need came to thoroughly clean out the palace they had been using and foodstocks became low.

Everybody stayed in the palace that had room. The number of servants each person was allowed to have and the number of rooms being allotted for them depended on their rank.

Those who did not have sufficient rank to stay in the palace rented rooms nearby as available. I suppose that might have resulted in a commute if nothing was available close in.

Tracey, Henry and Elizabeth both went on a progress most summers. In Henry's case, it was a fairly simple "meet and greet" to various nobility in whatever locality he was going to visit as well as a chance to try hunting the local game.

Accomodations were iffy -- the King getting the best and so on down the line.

As the government couldn't shut down entirely for the progress, he generally took some members of his council and various other officials with him. Others, however, were free to leave. They usually went back to their own manors to take care of their own business.

During Elizabeth's time, these progresses were considerably more elaborate as she expected to be royally entertained. I suspect that everybody who could, went with her, just to enjoy that standard of hospitality if nothing else.

Foose said...

In his book, Henry VIII: Court, Church and Conflict, David Loades puts the number at 200-300, but remarks, "...after several weeks of residence ... even the most commodious palace became insalubrious."

He notes that wherever the court went there was a "chronic shortage of women" from a rather utilitarian and masculine point of view:

"Even in the chamber the queen's ladies and their female servants constituted only a small minority; in the household it was much worse. Apart from the laundresses ... there were none in legitimate service. As a result, whichever palace the court was in was besieged by local prostitutes."

In France, where they do these things stylishly, the king had appointed an official "dame" in charge of the "filles de joie." The English preferred to keep it unofficial. I don't know if this changed when Mary and Elizabeth each became queen; their presence might have raised the number of women in the court, probably, but there may have been stricter supervision of their morals with a female monarch, so the prostitutes would still have arrived in droves.

kb said...

It appears during Elizabeth's reign that more wives traveled with their husbands on progress. And of course, some husbands were specifically uninvited from traveling with their lady-in-waiting wives in a nice gender reversal. The 'girls' could ditch their spouses to 'hang' with the queen.

I'm with Foose in that the French were more stylish and practical about these things.