Page images

examined me of divers weighty matters concerning my lord, wishing that liever than £20,000 that he had lived."

Henceforth Hampton Court became one of the favourite palaces of Henry VIII., who, while he resided there, devoted much of his time to those sports and athletic exercises in which he was so great an adept, and to which he was always much attached. “His Majesty," writes the Venetian ambassador, three days after Wolsey's death, "is staying at Hampton Court, where he resides willingly”; and a few days after he records that he is still there, "enjoying his usual sports (sportj) and royal exercises; and the Queen remains constantly with him, nor does she at all omit to follow her lord and husband, so much reciprocal courtesy (mansuetudine) being displayed in public that anyone acquainted with the controversy cannot but consider their conduct more than human.” Six months afterwards, however, on the 14th of July, 1531, Henry took his leave of Katharine at Windsor, and rode to Hampton Court, never to see her again.

No other of the King's houses, indeed, was so well adapted for the pursuit both of outdoor and indoor amusements. The parks were extensive, and immediately after coming into possession he had caused them to be well stocked with deer and other game; and Windsor forest, and Richmond, Oatlands, and Hanworth Parks were also within easy reach. In his love for the chase he resembled his ancestor William the Conqueror; and so keen a sportsman was he that Giustinian

he never took this diversion without tiring eight or ten horses, which he caused to be stationed beforehand along the line of country he meant to take.” Shooting and hawking were sports to which he was equally addicted; and he had a large rabbit warren made in Bushey Park, and reared both partridges and pheasants.

Occasionally, also, he angled for fish in the Thames, or in the ponds in the garden, which were filled for the purpose. In his privy purse expenses we find payments to fishermen for bringing him rods to Hampton Court, and for helping him to fish there.

For jousts and tournaments, in which he frequently took part, a large piece of ground, of about nine acres in area, called “The Tilt Yard” (now degraded into a kitchen garden), was chosen. Here the lists, superbly decorated,

assures us



were set out, and surrounded by the pavilions of the champions, ornamented with their arms and banners; and all around were the stands and stages, hung with tapestries and embroideries of gold and silver, for the spectators, who were themselves “ decked in sumptuous array, the field presenting to the eye a rich display of magnificence.” In various parts of the ground, also, were five towers, one of which still remains, whence an admirable survey of the scene could be obtained ; while another point of vantage was the gallery, still existing, in the north-west angle of the palace, from which there is an admirable view of the whole field. “We may also add the splendid appearance of the knights engaged in the sports; themselves and their horses were most gorgeously arrayed, and their esquires and pages, together with minstrels and heralds, who superintended the ceremonies, were all of them clothed in costly and glittering apparel. Such a show of pomp, where wealth, beauty, and grandeur were concentrated, as it were, in one focus, must altogether have formed a wonderful spectacle, and made a strong impression on the mind, which was not a little heightened by the cries of the heralds, the clangour of the trumpets, the clashing of the arms, the rushing together of the combatants, and the shouts of the beholders.”

When the King himself took part in the tournament, a grand procession was formed, headed by the marshal of the jousts on horseback, dressed in cloth of gold, and surrounded by thirty footmen in liveries of yellow and blue. Then followed the drummers and trumpeters, all dressed in white damask; next forty knights and lords in pairs, all in superb attire, and many in cloth of gold; then “some twenty young knights on very fine horses, all dressed in white, with doublets of cloth of silver and white velvet, and chains of unusual size, and their horses barded with silver chainwork, and a number of pendent bells.” Next came their pages, on horseback, their trappings, half of gold embroidery, and half of purple velvet, embroidered with stars; and then the jousters, armed, with their squires and footmen. Last of all came his Majesty, "armed cap-d-pie, with a surcoat of silver bawdakin, surrounded by some thirty gentlemen on foot, dressed in velvet and white satin, and in this order they went twice round the lists."

The jousts usually lasted several hours; and Henry, being an admirable horseman and of great dexterity and quickness, often made his opponents measure their length on the sod, when from the galleries, stands, and towers there went up a shout of applause from the assembled spectators that made the walls of the palace ring again.

During the courses the jousters performed feats of horsemanship, the King especially distinguishing himself “in supernatural feats, changing his horses, and making them fly rather than leap, to the delight and ecstasy of everybody.”

Another of Henry's pastimes was shooting at the butt, in which he also excelled, drawing, according to several authorities, the best bow in England. In this amusement he was engaged, as we have seen, when Cavendish came to announce Wolsey's death; and he was often joined in it by Anne Boleyn. Her brother, Lord Rochford, was his constant companion in these and similar pastimes, and frequently won large sums from him.

Besides these, Hampton Court was not wanting in indoor recreations, which might be pursued in wet and wintry weather. The tennis court, or close

tennys play,” which is the oldest one in England, and has since been the model of all other courts in the kingdom, had just been finished; and Henry was a frequent and skilful player in it. Numerous entries relating to the games he played are to be found in his privy purse expenses; for instance, on the 16th of December, 1531, five shillings were paid “to one that served on the King's side at tennes at Hampton Court”; and at other times payments of money are noted for bets which he lost to the other players and the spectators—for on all occasions his passion for gambling asserted itself. When he played, the gallery underneath the pent-house was usually crowded, and Giustinian, who had watched him, says: "He is extremely fond of tennis, at which game it is the prettiest thing in the world to see him play, his fair skin glowing through a shirt of the finest texture.” He had tennis slippers or shoes and drawers made especially for wearing when he played, and “tenys cotes” of blue velvet and of black velvet, for putting on when he rested.

Among other diversions of the same sort afforded in this palace were: an open tennis play”-evidently a sort of



lawn tennis—and an open and two close bowling alleys. One of these alleys, which existed till about a hundred years ago, is shown in the old print. It was about 270 feet long, and lit by numerous windows on both sides.

There was another similar one near the river.

The long winter evenings, when not enlivened with the masquerades and revels, in which Henry took particular delight, were usually passed in playing games of chance, such as backgammon, dice, and shovel-board, at which he betted deeply, so that his losses in the course of one year amounted to as much as £3,500.

Wherever the Court moved it was attended by a large number of minstrels of all kinds, for Henry was exceedingly fond of music, and was a very fair musician himself. He played with taste and execution on the organ, harpsichord, and lute; and several songs of his own composition, which are extant, give us a high idea of his attainments in that sphere. Of his skill in singing all witnesses speak in high praise, and many a time, of an evening, Henry's powerful voice was heard re-echoing in the courts and cloisters of Hampton Court.

The words of his songs, some of which are in French, were also of his own composition, and mostly very effective; and several of them became extremely popular, especially that called “Pastime with Good Company.” In this, his favourite one, Henry declares that his heart is set on hunting and singing, and dancing and love, and warmly pleads for youth that it "must have some dalliance.” In others of his love songs he justifies his amours, on various pretexts, characteristically resolving to give up pleasure at last, when he is too old to enjoy it. At the same time, however, he lays claim to the virtue of constancy in love, declaring:

"As the holly groweth green, and never changeth hue,

So I am-ever have been-unto my lady true. and,

“For whoso loveth, should love but one

Change whoso will, I will be none. His taste for literature is well known; he spoke French, Spanish, Italian, and Latin thoroughly, and he furnished a large library in the palace with books from York Place, and had a catalogue made of them. Besides his book which earned him the title of Defender of the Faith, he at one time intended to publish a work in which he had long been engaged, on his divorce, a subject he had so deeply studied that Campeggio declared that he knew more about the canon law bearing on the point than any man living.

But while Henry never stinted himself in his pleasures and the lighter studies, he did not suffer them to interfere with the more serious duties of his position. After Wolsey's death every despatch was submitted to him, and carefully read and docketed, and the whole business of the State was carried on with the greatest regularity and without delay.

Varied and attractive, however, as were the pleasures of his country seat, still the pressure of urgent State affairs often obliged him to forego them, and compelled his presence in London. Consequently, we find repeated references to his going from Hampton Court to Westminster, Whitehall, St. James's, and the Tower, his journeys to and from these places being usually made by way of the Thames, in the State barges. But besides his London palaces, he was frequently visiting those of Greenwich, Richmond, Windsor, Nonsuch, Hatfield, Beaulieu, Hunsdon, Grafton, the More, Hanworth, and Oatlands; and the migrations of the Court, backwards and forwards, between all these places, were incessant and perpetual. Chapuys, the Imperial ambassador, was quite perplexed by this insular restlessness : “I sent one of my men to Hampton Court,” he writes, in a despatch to Vienna, “to ask for an audience from the King; but he was already gone to Windsor and other places to amuse himself, and pass away the time, accompanied only by the Lady (Anne Boleyn, who in these excursions rode behind him on his pillion), the grand equerry, and two more.” A little further on the ambassador adds: “For the last fortnight he has done little else but go from place to place, except on two occasions, when John Joachim went to visit him at Hampton Court.”

One of the principal points in which the Court and household of Henry VIII. differed from those of a modern English sovereign was in the vast number of persons who habitually resided, and were provided for, at the King's expense, within

« PreviousContinue »