Most summers Tudor and Stuart monarchs took their court on an extended progress round the home counties staying at their own palaces and the houses of their courtiers. The cost and impact of hundreds of people, their horses and servants, was considerable; for the aristocratic hosts a royal visit was a momentous event.
This lecture draws on new research to reveal who they benefited, their impact on the economy, the landscape and on architectural ambition.
A lecture by Professor Simon Thurley CBE
The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College website:
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- Well good evening everyone, and welcome to the college's new venue. I hope you managed to find it, I did, there's a very handy Pret a Manger round the corner for a cup of tea beforehand to fortify yourself before you meet your audience. Today, I'm going to be speaking on royal progresses, courts on the move in Tudor and Stuart England. In February, 1593, Queen Elizabeth I was in her new gallery at Windsor Castle,and she couldn't decide what to do:
should she move from the castle or should she stay put? One of the Earl of Essex's men, someone called Anthony Standen, described the chaotic scene caused by this royal indecision as relayed to him by one of the carters who was loading up the wardrobe carts with the royal baggage,and this is what he said:
"Three times he had been at Windsor with his cart "to take away, "upon orders of a remove, "some part of the stuff of Her Majesty's wardrobe, "and when he had attended once, twice, and the third time, "and heard that she would not move, "clapping his hand to his thigh,"he said these words:
"'Now I see,' said the carter, "'that the Queen is a woman as well as my wife,' (audience laughs) "which words being overheard by Her Majesty, "who then stood at a window, "she said, 'What villain is this?' "and so sent him three gold coins to stop his mouth." (audience laughs) The fact is that Elizabeth I was always on the move, and so, in fact, were all the Tudor and Stuart monarchs, and today, of course, we have a faint echo of this royal restlessness in the annual round of movements that our late Queen took, oscillating between Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle during the parliamentary sessions, but moving to Sandringham at Christmas, and of course to Holyroodhouse and to Balmoral in the summer. In fact, since the early Middle Ages, the royal year had been made up of a series of stays of varying lengths at royal houses and the residences of the monarch's subjects, and I'm showing you here a map showing the royal houses that were in the possession of the Crown at the end of Henry VIII's reign. In the winter months, the court stayed in the Thames Valley, close to Westminster, and then in the summer, it traveled extensively across the country, and these summer expeditions were normally called progresses to distinguish them from the itinerant movements of the wintertime court. This pattern of existence was partially dictated by weather and the condition of the roads, which basically made it impossible to travel a long distance in the winter. But there were other powerful factors at work too, and the first of these, I think, was the need for the monarch to observe his subjects and to be seen by them, and, where necessary, quelling disturbances, disloyalty, dispensing justice, granting favors, and showing pleasure or displeasure. And then there was the question of the great religious feasts of the year, Christmas and Easter of course, but before the Reformation, there were many others, and monarchs needed to stage these great occasions in places that could cope with the full weight of liturgy and display that accompanied them. There were also administrative functions that monarchs needed to perform, and these often had to be undertaken in very specific locations. So for instance, the annual audit of the royal accounts always had to be undertaken at the Tower of London. And finally, there was pleasure. Almost all the king's country seats were located in or near royal forests, where the king could hunt deer, and hunting was, of course, the principal recreation of the monarchy and aristocracy, and in the saddle, the monarch not only enjoyed himself, but created a bond with his companions. During the winter, when the court was itinerant, it could move at short notice between the very large houses in the Thames Valley, and you can see what a large number of houses there were, especially in the central section here, you've got them, really, lying between Greenwich in the east and Windsor in the west, and up until the reign of Elizabeth I, the court would move between them, so that is Greenwich, Richmond, Hampton Court, Whitehall, by barge along the river. And these houses were normally referred to as the standing houses, and that was because, unlike all these houses in the wider Home Counties, they remained fully furnished, so the tapestries were on the wall, the furniture was in there, and they could be occupied immediately, standing just meant they were furnished the whole time. On the other hand, the summer progress was a formal event that required considerable planning. Each year, in the winter, the king's ministers would sit down and devise a route that combined excellent hunting with visits to people and places that the sovereign needed to see. It was a very skillful job, because as well as needing to be alive to the prevailing political context, the compilers of this route had to know the condition of the roads, the distances between houses, and of course, most importantly perhaps, the king's likes and dislikes. The route was known as the giests, and this is a document in the National Archives which was produced by Elizabeth I's ministers, showing the giests that were presented to her for her approval. And giests, by the way, if you are trying to write it down, is spelled G-I-E-S-T-S, which is a bit confusing. Once the giests were approved, and incidentally, you should be able to see on here, do you see the number of miles written between each of the houses? So you can actually see the distance between the two. So once this was agreed, the Office of Works would be informed, and the king's surveyor of works, that is to say his chief architect, would be sent out to ride the route and inspect the houses that the king intended to visit. And he would not only inspect the royal houses, where he had direct responsibility for repair and making sure that they were suitable, but he would also visit the houses of the abbots, and the bishops, and the private individuals with whom the monarch was going to stay. And after a visit by the king's surveyor of works, the owner of the house usually got a long list of things which they were required to do to make their own house suitable for this impending visit. By the Tudor period, the court on summer progress was perhaps only half the size of the court in wintertime, but it still numbered between 600 and 800 people. It's very hard to find a modern equivalent of the summer progress, but some years ago, in a slightly surreal exchange I had explaining royal progresses to the late David Bowie, he told me that the whole thing sounded like being a rock band on tour: a self-contained mass of people moving from place to place, with its own incorporated infrastructure. And in the 16th century, simply moving such a vast number of people round the countryside was a huge task. The king and his family had stables containing perhaps 300 horses, while the aristocrats, churchmen, and ministers who were following him would have had their own. Most people rode, but the very young, the very infirm, or the very grand might be transported in a horse litter, and here you see Elizabeth I being carried in a horse litter. It must have been enormously wobbly, I suspect, and of course it was incredibly slow. And if you were really important, and this is another Elizabethan picture, you would be carried in a litter by individuals, but those, of course, were the slowest possible ways of moving. There was then the vast Lord Steward's Department, this was the department of the household that looked after the domestic needs of the court, not only cooking, but firewood, and moving around all the things, like candles and pots and pans, that were needed. The Lord Steward's Department didn't own its own transport, and so the towns and villages through which the court passed were required to supply horses and carts at a special fixed rate called the king's rate, and the king's rate was, generally speaking, if you look at the accounts, tuppence a mile. And this was extremely unpopular because the commercial rate was, wait for it, twelvepence a mile. And at harvest time in particular, when the court was at its most mobile, the owners wanted the carts themselves, and if they were requisitioned for several weeks, it was pretty disastrous to their business. In the late 1520s, a document that I turned up in the National Archives showed that when the court moved through West Kent, 16 villages were required to supply 26 carts for summer progresses within the county. But this 26 was a fraction of the number that were actually needed. In 1589, 169 carts were needed to move Elizabeth I's court. The wardrobe of the beds, which was carrying furniture and textiles, required 10 carts, the jewel coffers, which carried all the huge the amount of silver coin and gold coin that accompanied the Crown, required 13 carts, and the chapel alone, for all its vestments, and everything, required 10 carts. And various other household departments had their own carts: the Yeomen of the Guard had a cart to transport their uniforms, and the masters of the royal hounds had specially fashioned carts to carry the royal hunting dogs. On progress, the richest aristocrats moved their own furniture, bedding, and tapestries in their own hired carts. And so if you add all this up, the total number of carts on a progress was somewhere between 300 and 350. The sight of the Tudor and Stuart court on the move must have been astonishing, moving through the muddy lanes and byways of England incredibly slowly. They averaged 12 miles a day, although on the routes closer to London, where the roads were a little bit better, they might make the extremely speedy speed of 18 miles a day, this is not an hour, this is a day. As well as transport, very careful provision had to be made for the supply of the royal kitchens. Feeding 700 people required careful planning. The royal clerk of the market had to ride ahead of the progress to ensure that there was actually enough bread, beer, and meat for the court when it arrived. And this activity was unpopular, just as unpopular as the cart-taking, because the royal purveyors, who were the people responsible for buying food, were entitled to buy goods at something called, you guessed it, the king's price, and inevitably, this was a lot cheaper than the price that everybody else had to pay, and so the arrival of the court didn't necessarily mean big profits for the food producers. In the 1520s, the fixed price the court paid for poultry, for instance, was five shillings for a swan, two shillings for a peacock, sevenpence for a hen, and sixpence for a dozen larks. And this discounted price didn't apply to the courtiers or to the churchmen who put the king up. So if the king was staying in his own house, he got the food very cheaply, but the honor of a royal visit was, because you had to pay the full price, accompanied by a very large bill. When the court arrived at Wolfhall to visit Sir Edward Seymour in 1539, he had to convert a large barn on his estate for his household servants. On the first night, he gave supper for 70, but this was just the prelude to dinner for 800 the following night, and 1,500 people on the subsequent two nights. Also in the advance guard of the progress was the gentleman harbinger. He had an extremely important role because few houses at progress-time could actually accommodate the whole court, and people had to be put up in subsidiary royal houses, the houses of the gentry, or even in inns and taverns, so the harbinger would allocate everybody in the household a set number of rooms and stables for their horses. They were then given a chit, or a billet, or bill-lay, to each person, and this billet, or bill-lay, would be presented at the inn, or at the person's house to demonstrate that they were authorized to stay there, which, of course, is the origin of the word of being billeted on somebody. The harbinger was in a very, very powerful position because if you had a downer on someone, you could put them in some grotty inn round the back, and people who greased your palm you'd put in some very fancy courtier's house. Cardinal Wolsey tried to crack down on the corruption that was endemic with the harbingers, but again, when I was doing the research for this, I found a document in the National Archives which showed that, on one occasion in 1520, he himself bribed the harbingers 20 shillings to put him in the best lodgings in Canterbury, Sandwich, and Dover. So that's just a very brief overview of the complex logistics that went into progress-time. What I now want to do in the second section of my lecture this evening is to take a big, sweeping look at the whole of the Tudor and Stuart period, from the accession of Henry VII to the death of Queen Anne, and ask the question, how did their annual itineraries compare, and in my third and final section, what impact did this have on the country at large. Let's start in 1485, on the accession of Henry VII. Apart from a couple of hours spent at Westminster Palace as a teenager in 1470, when Henry VII became king, he had never set foot in an English royal palace, let alone lived in one. His schooling in the ways of the English monarchy came through the hands of his wife and his mother, both of whom were veterans of royal courts and palaces. And his court, and I'm just showing you Westminster here, I'll refer to it again in a moment, his court, like that of his predecessors, was peripatetic, and in the 15 years up to 1500, and this is a calculation that I have made, Henry moved location just about 1,000 times. His most favored place to stay was here, in Westminster, Westminster Palace. Here's the abbey, here is the palace, at the moment, obviously, a big focus of everyone's interest, Westminster Hall here at the top, but this southern part of the palace was where Henry VII and his predecessors stayed. He stayed at Westminster for longer than he stayed in any other houses as well, so it was very much a favorite. Although there were lots of short stays in the winter, he could be in residence for a month before he had to move on to allow the palace to be cleaned for him. So Westminster was his most favored place, then came Richmond, where he would stay, on average, for maybe about 10 days, rarely for longer, third was Greenwich, and fourth was Windsor, and these residences formed the spine of his existence. Outside London, Henry VII owned perhaps as many as 18 other residences, the largest and most splendid of which, like Woodstock and Kenilworth, would be visited regularly, perhaps 10 times in 15 years, staying for perhaps 100 or 120 nights in each. Other houses, like Nottingham, Pontefract, might only be visited a handful of times for a couple of nights. Most of his progresses were made up of visits to the houses of courtiers, bishops, and abbots. And the pattern of royal movements that I've just described hardly changed in the early years of Henry VIII's reign, despite the fact that Henry acquired a couple of new houses, like New Hall in Essex. Like his father, Henry VIII's itinerary was highly reliant on the houses owned by bishops and abbots, but as you can imagine, after 1530, the King's itinerary was radically redrawn, first of all because of the acquisition of Cardinal Wolsey's former houses, Hampton Court and York Place, but also because of the fact of the suppression of the monasteries, and most of the houses that Henry VII and Henry VIII had visited before the Reformation as a guest were acquired by Henry VIII and converted into royal palaces. And what this meant was that, while before 1530, around 65% of the visits that Henry VIII made were to houses that he owned, after 1530, the figure was 91%. So basically, he just acquired all the houses belonging to the bishops and abbots for himself. So here's an example of one of Henry VIII's progresses, this is a pre-Reformation progress, starting at Windsor Castle, going through Sussex, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, about 300 miles in all, staying at a mixture of houses, some ecclesiastics, some courtiers. But as the reign went on, he bought and built this extraordinary number of new residences, and he rarely stayed, in the latter part of his reign, in a house that he didn't actually own. The annual round of Elizabeth I's life was not materially different from her father's. During the winter months, the court was itinerant, oscillating between the standing houses in the Thames Valley, but unlike her father and grandfather, she moved by coach. The coach had been invented in the 1560s. This is a watercolor in the British Museum which shows the first coach that Queen Elizabeth owned. You can look at the accounts for the building of the coach, it accords with this very, very closely, and she moves between the houses by road rather than river. And her most popular houses were Whitehall, number one, followed by Greenwich, number two, Richmond, number three, and Hampton Court, number four. But she was a great lover of progresses. On 23 summers, she made a progress, and these, like her father's, typically started in July and ended in September, lasting around 50 days. And her travels took her as far west as Bristol, east to Norwich, and right up north into Staffordshire. But actually, when you analyze them, most of her time is spent in the Home Counties, within a 50-mile radius of Whitehall Palace. Much of this, I suppose, could also have been said for Henry VIII, but the key difference was that Henry VIII, on progress, stayed in his own houses most of the time, but in contrast, Elizabeth liked to stay with her courtiers. Around 80% of the nights spent on progress, she was somebody's guest. So for example, in 1561, on the royal progress to Essex, Suffolk, and Hertfordshire, which lasted 68 days, she visited 18 private houses, 2 towns, but only stayed in four royal palaces. Although there was a hard core of privy councilors with whom she stayed very regularly, in all, across her reign, over 420 of her subjects had her to stay for the night. So when you go to a National Trust house, or a private house, and visit it, and they say, oh, Queen Elizabeth stayed here, quite often, you think, oh well that's just a myth; it could well be true, 420 different houses she visited in her life. Here is one of Queen Elizabeth's progresses, one of her more ambitious summer trips, 1575, 139 days with 44 overnight stays, actually staying only in two royal palaces, at Grafton and at Woodstock. The Queen was a notoriously fussy guest. Visiting Lord Burghley at Theobalds, which you see there on the map, spelled Theobalds but pronounced tibbles, the Queen complained that a room prepared for her was not large enough, and he had to enlarge it and have repainted the elaborate mural of oak trees and coats of arms that he had just finished. On a visit to Sir Thomas Gresham, our own Sir Thomas Gresham, at his house in Osterley during 1576, Elizabeth commented that the courtyard they were passing through, "would appear more handsome "if divided by a wall in the middle." The super-rich Gresham, founder, of course, of our college, ordered that a wall should be erected overnight, and so when the Queen rose the next morning, her suggestion had become a reality, one wit observing that, "Any house is easier divided than united." (audience laughs) In 1603, when James VI of Scotland came to the throne, Sir Robert Cecil and the cabal of courtiers who were in charge hoped they could just simply substitute one monarch for another and everything would just carry on exactly as before, but of course James I was 37 years old and had been a king all his life, and it was far too late to change the way he was. He was a profoundly different sort of monarch to his predecessor. The magisterial dignity of Elizabeth, built on an obsessively cultivated mystique and expressed in magnificent surroundings and pervasive panegyric, had no attraction for this new Scottish king. His style was homely, informal, anti-urban, and private, a way of life that he had developed in Scotland. And this had a huge impact on the King's itinerary, and last year, I gave a lecture about James I's preferences in my lecture about Inigo Jones and the architecture of necessity, but essentially, what I explained in that lecture was that the King drew a distinction between palaces of necessity, where he was only accompanied by a very small number of people, and palaces of state, where he had to undertake state activities, and the full court would attend. And this distinction between state and necessity, although it had existed informally under Henry VIII, came to be the dominant theme of James I's reign. He built new houses at Royston, Newmarket, and Thetford, these were houses of necessity, private houses for his enjoyment, while Whitehall, Hampton Court, and Theobalds, which he bought from the Cecil family, were houses of state for pomp and gravity. Here is an example of one of James' progresses. They were enormously energetic, and this is 1612, July to September, and you can see how he goes right up there into Nottinghamshire, and almost every single house here is the house of a courtier, very, very rare to stay in one of his own houses. James I essentially hated London, he hated towns, he wanted to be in the countryside, but his son, Charles I, found London magnetic. Whitehall was, by far and away, his most favored and frequently visited residence, and in contrast to his father, who did everything he possibly could to get out of Whitehall, Charles would move to Whitehall whenever he had the opportunity. And the winter court season, when the court was based in Westminster, was extended by Charles I to become a four, or even, in the 1530s, a five-month continuous residence. Like his father, during the summer months, he was only there on business, but then most of the aristocracy and the whole of fashionable society weren't in London either. Charles made a summer progress every year of his reign up to 1640, but since 1603, of course, the pattern of Stuart itinerants was Britain, and not just England. Despite the fact that, as it were, the map was larger, Charles I's itinerary was actually more restricted and more conservative than James', and James actually did go up to Scotland, Charles I didn't until he was absolutely forced to towards the end of his reign. Charles I visited a relatively small number of places on multiple occasions, and most of them were close to London, and all of them were, really, designed to facilitate his hunting. But the logistics of Charles I's progress was no less formidable than that of Henry VIII's: he traveled with 400 carts, he was guarded by 100 Yeomen of the Guard, and he was accompanied by around 1,000 household officers, everyone from kitchen scullions to the noblest aristocrats. On an average two-month progress, he'd move 10 to 15 times, and when, eventually, he did go to Scotland in 1633 and 1639, he moved 30-odd times and stayed in about 30 places. After the King's execution, the whole notion of the progress really began to enter a decline. Protector Cromwell was entirely London focused, and all the provincial royal palaces and hunting grounds were sold off after 1649. Outside London, Cromwell only kept Hampton Court, and used it as a weekend retreat, he kept Windsor as a garrison headquarters, and these were really the only palaces which were in a vaguely usable state in 1660. And here is Charles II returning to Whitehall in 1660, Whitehall, which had been used by Cromwell, but was not in good condition. But this didn't matter to Charles II, he was desperate to be in London, in fact he barely left Whitehall for almost five years, it was the longest continuous stay of a monarch in one place probably in history up until that date. So what eventually got him out of London? Well, 1665, it was of course the year of the plague, and the King was forced to move out from Whitehall to Hampton Court, and from June, 1665 'til February, 1666, the court was on the hoof, strategically relocating to avoid infection. And these seven months that Charles II spent on the road highlighted a really important fact, and that was that, other than Hampton Court and Windsor, the Crown now no longer had any habitable domestic residences outside London. And so the following spring, determined to rectify this, the King went shopping, on an eastward trip to Saffron Walden, and he bought Audley End House, a house that had actually been designed, in James I's reign, from the first, to host royalty, and it had matching king's and queen's sides around an inner court. But like many spur of the moment purchases, Audley End didn't live up to reality, and the court only ever visited it a couple of times. In the end, like his grandfather, he bought a site in nearby Newmarket, in which he built a new house. Unlike its predecessor in Newmarket that had been deliberately a house of necessity, Charles' new house had much greater architectural presence and some modest grandeur. But in the late 1660s, Charles II began to recreate the historic pattern of residence enjoyed before the civil war. But in the 1670s, there was a radical rethink, and this was triggered by the Exclusion Crisis. If you remember, in 1673, after the passing of the Test Act, and the acknowledgement that the Duke of York was a Catholic, there was a huge amount of violence, and disruption, and rioting in London, and Charles decided to move the court of London, and go to Windsor. And here, he rebuilt the royal lodgings in the castle, and I love this picture here, you can see the sun shining on Charles II's new lodging, called the Star Building, which he built and moved into, designed by Hugh May, completed in 1678. But although the wonderfully thick, medieval curtain walls of Windsor kept the court secure from the disorder of London, rocked first of all by the Exclusion Crisis, and then subsequently by the Popish Plot, it couldn't really replace Whitehall. The political turmoil of the Exclusion Parliaments, where Parliament tried to stop James II, as he was to become, becoming king, culminated in a meeting in Oxford, and this really convinced Charles to move the court even further from the capital, and it settled, in 1682, in Winchester. And some of you will have heard me before talk about this extraordinary house that was begun in Winchester, this is my reconstruction of it, drawn by Stephen Conlin, where Christopher Wren was ordered to build this very large new royal palace, fully equipped, this wasn't a hunting lodge, this was a full-blown residence which was capable to replacing Whitehall, containing a council chamber, containing suites of rooms for the King, for the Queen, for the Duke, for the Duchess, and of course, a large suite of rooms for his mistress, Louise de Keroualle. Charles II died the very, very month that lead was being put on the roof of this new palace, which you see here at the top of the slide, and James II's, first of all, disinclination to finish it, but of course, eventually, his abdication, has robbed us of the opportunity to understand how this new Palace of Winchester would have completely changed the way the monarch moved around the country, and it could well have remapped the political geography of England, because this building in Winchester was potentially an alternative capital city, with the new palace invested with all the infrastructure necessary for rule, but also it being the ancient capital of England, it also had the history behind it too. James II's accession to the throne, for his very short reign, was entirely focused on Whitehall. His great desire was this crusade for the reconversion of England to Roman Catholicism, and the only way that could be done, in his mind, was by staying in London, building a huge Roman Catholic church at Whitehall, and trying to convert the ghastly Protestants who were his subjects. But when his Protestant daughter Mary and her Dutch husband William came to the throne, they, like James I, came with a very firmly developed personal set of tastes and preferences. Arriving in London, William almost immediately announced that he didn't like Whitehall, he wanted to get out into the countryside, just like James I, as quickly as possible, and orders were given for the court to remove from Whitehall to Hampton Court.This order was met with absolute horror:
keeping the court out of London was extremely bad for the city's economy and it was dreadful for the sanity of his ministers, all of whom, of course, lived in or near Westminster. And so, after intense lobbying, William and Mary were persuaded to look for somewhere closer to Whitehall, and they quickly settled on the 2nd Earl of Nottingham's house in Kensington. So just one month after their coronation, the Office of Works was busy rebuilding two houses for the joint monarchs, Hampton Court and Kensington, and here you see this remarkable drawing of Kensington Palace, seen over a wall, and you can see the four pavilions, which were originally part of the palace, and the great gallery here attached to it, much of which, actually, still survives, and some of which is occupied by the Prince and Princess of Wales now. So it was in this way that King William, in a matter of months of his accession, again completely redrew the pattern of royal habitation. Whitehall was now the center of the national bureaucracy, Kensington was William and Mary's normal town residence, and Hampton Court was the palace of state. And this arrangement, actually, replicated the arrangement that William and Mary had developed in the Dutch Republic, and it was an arrangement, I think, much more like that that James I enjoyed rather than one that Elizabeth I or Charles II would have done. And this new pattern of living, like James I's, might have been a very personal and actually quite temporary recasting of royal movements if it hadn't been for the fact that, in 1698, a massive fire destroyed the state apartments at Whitehall, leaving the central offices of state camping in its surviving remains in St. James's Park. I find this one of the most extraordinary moments in royal architectural history, because the rooms that are currently occupied by the Cabinet Office, which are part of Whitehall Palace, were the rooms that were temporarily colonized by William III's Government after the burning of Whitehall Palace, and are still occupied to this very day. So the loss of Whitehall as the architectural and geographical nexus between the monarch, the court, and ministers must have been felt by Queen Anne, who had seen firsthand how Charles II had bound the sinews of state together in the chambers and galleries of Whitehall. But there was no way that she could afford to rebuild Whitehall Palace, and so Anne used Hampton Court and Windsor as her country retreats, and in London, she preferred the newer and more private metropolitan palace at Kensington. In short, there was now a position where Hampton Court, and Windsor, and Kensington were for pleasure, and St. James's Palace and Whitehall, what remained of it, were for business. So just over a century of court life, between 1485 and 1714, saw a really wide variety of personal preferences, a range of pragmatic solutions to practical and political problems, each one of which affected the royal itinerary. Although Charles II went on few formal progresses, and actually, William III only went on one progress, the late Stuart monarchs were still highly mobile, rarely remaining in one location for longer than a few weeks. In telling you this story, I have actually indulged in one massive simplification, and I'm just going to own up to this now, because what I've described was actually quite a lot more complicated than I have given the impression, because, of course, the king had his itinerary and his progresses, but the queen consort also had hers. And so as Charles II moved round the country, so did Catherine of Braganza on a completely different trajectory, a different set of giests, sitting in a different lot of houses, with a different household. In periods when there was quite a large royal family, you'd also find that other members of the royal family, like the Duke of York, would be on his progresses, and so at the height of Charles II's reign, it wasn't just a single progress, as I have described, you have Charles II on his, you have Catherine of Braganza on hers, you have the Duke of York on his. Occasionally, they might stay in one place, but very, very, very few places could accommodate all three together. So what we have to remember is that although I've been talking about the sovereign's itinerary, there were always at least two, if not three other itineraries going on at exactly the same time. And now I want to move, in my last 10 minutes, to the third section,which is to ask my main question:
what can we learn from all this? It's a very descriptive thing, I've described how it all worked, what are some of the issues that need to be confronted in understanding what all this meant? And the first of these must be the economic impact. Contemporaries were keen to complain about the royal presence in their vicinity. Elizabeth, who spent more than 40% of the nights of her reign in Surrey, received a complaint from its residents that, and I quote now, "that although the county "was the least and most barren of counties, "it is charged with continual removes and carriage "of coals, woods, and other provisions to the court, "also by my lord treasurer "for the repair of Her Majesty's houses." In the following reign, the residents of Royston, and here, I've shown you this before if you've listened to any of my other lectures, is my reconstruction of Royston, there's the royal palace in the middle that he built, slap in the middle of the equivalent to the A1, inconsiderately, the residents of Royston captured one of James I's hunting dogs and tied a note to its neck, saying, "Please, His Majesty, "go back to London, (audience laughs) "or else the country will be undone. "All our provision is spent already, "and we are not able to entertain him any longer." James I got the message, but he had very little sympathy with the population of Royston, who later complained, when he built this massive house in the middle of their high street, that the roads were being ruined by all his carts so that they couldn't bring the harvest into the town at harvest-time. It's certainly true that the royal prerogatives of cart-taking, purveyance, and the activities of the harbingers that I explained earlier could be vexatious and costly, yet I think the scorecard was not so one-sided, after all, the Corporation of Winchester bribed Charles II to come to their city and build his palace with lavish gifts of land, materials, and gold and silver plate, much to the dismay of the people of Newmarket, who lost all the economic benefits of the court staying there. In the 1640s, there was despair amongst the luxury trades in Westminster as the court left London, and conversely, there was great joy at the Restoration, when Charles II's court returned there, and the luxury goods sellers starting doing a cracking trade clothing the courtiers of the Caroline court with their luxurious textiles. It's actually been estimated, not a calculation I have done, but by another historian, that the expenditure of the court increased by 1,000 pounds during progress-time. Benefits to craftsmen and shopkeepers, I think, are worth more detailed interrogation. Innkeepers, blacksmiths, and brewers must have been major beneficiaries, as were the suppliers of luxury goods, firewood, and fodder. We don't currently have the detailed data, but I did do a little bit of work looking in the town records of Kingston upon Thames, and unquestionably, that town's economy benefited enormously from the presence of the court at Hampton Court. I think a bit more attention has been given by historians to the political implications of itinerancy. The court didn't travel alone, the huge entourage frequently contained many of the Privy Council, various administrators, and the occasional ambassador. The overlapping itineraries of royal ministers has been studied for Henry VIII's reign but not for latter reigns, but it's crucial to understanding the anatomy of power and the aristocratic geography of England, because, of course, privy councilors and ministers wanted houses that were near to where the king or queen was staying. So for instance, the Earl of Arlington built his country house at Euston to be close to Charles II at Newmarket, and a few years later, there was a stampede of aristocrats who all wanted to build and buy country houses close to Winchester when it was clear that the court was going to move there. Government continued with the court on the move, and instructions had to be issued to London, leading to the development of the post system between the king and Whitehall, and between Whitehall and the South Coast, and Scotland, so for Charles I's progress in 1636, 150 horses were requisitioned for the royal messengers alone. And this is just one example of how considering the development of the departments of state administration, the peripatetic nature of the executive is an important force. And then there was the landscape legacy of royal movements, which I think was enormous. The infrastructure for hunting was immense, embarkment still defines much of the countryside today, hare warrens at Royston and Newmarket kept royal coursing supplied, and rabbit warrens supplied the royal tables, restrictions on local people were fiercely policed, and those living around Royston were told to flatten their plow furrows to make it easier for the royal horses to gallop over them. And during Elizabeth's reign, there was a revolution in royal transport, here you see Charles II leaving Hampton Court, because the widespread introduction of carriages led to a drastic improvement in the road network around London and further afield. Charles II could only contemplate moving his court to Winchester because of the excellent roads that existed between London and Winchester, and the good stabling in the city. And these regular royal roads created arteries of rapid travel for other people, giving corridors of access and economic opportunity. So a town like Guildford, a royal center, a major royal staging post to Portsmouth, benefited enormously from the really well-maintained roads which were a result of the frequent passage of the court. The hundreds of carts required by the court on the move were initially pulled by oxen, but when they were replaced by horses, there was a huge strain replaced on the national equine infrastructure, on studs and agriculture. On Edward VI's first and only progress, half his entourage had to be sent home after the first week because there wasn't enough fodder to sustain the thousand horses that he'd brought with them. Obviously, construction projects also had a huge impact, especially during the periods of new build. We know quite a lot about the development of the brick and tile industry in Surrey, stimulated by royal building, certain towns flourished due to the building trades, the growth of Reigate, for instance, owed a huge amount to the stone quarries which were essential to the construction of royal houses. Neither progress-time nor itinerancy was exclusively rural, and the mobile court also had a big impact on towns. The progress of 1634 included a visit to Leicester. The town gates were repainted, householders were required to paint the outside of their houses and pave the streets in front of them, the roads were laid with sand and gravel, and the streets were strewn with rushes, new liveries were made for the mayor and the aldermen, and golden bowls with pictures of the King and Queen were fashioned as gifts. The Earl of Huntingdon, the Lord Lieutenant was sent ahead to make sure that St. Martin's Church was properly arranged for the Sunday, when the King would attend service. So these impacts, both short-lived and more sustained, were stimulated by royal visits. So all of this is to say that the consequences of the monarch and the court moving round the country were important and had deep-seated and long-lasting implications. If we were to create a huge pair of scales and place on one side the benefits of the peripatetic court and the other side, the dis-benefits, I think we would find, on the whole, that the presence of the court stimulated trade, encouraged economic activity, and brought money into the provinces. The summer progress was a sort of early leveling-up process, (audience laughs) bringing the money that normally stuck to the court in London out into the countryside and spreading it around the Home Counties. Yes, there were vexations and irritations, but in aggregate, I think, the court on the move was a positive force, and one that you can actually still detect in the countryside today. And so, next time, ladies and gentlemen, you are in Chelsea, and walk down the King's Road, remember that you are enjoying a private road so that kings and queens could get to their houses in the west quickly, a concrete and surviving legacy of the British court on the move. Thank you. (audience applauds) - We have a couple of questions, one of which, I think, is really interesting, were these progresses a purely British thing, or were the monarchs of the Continent running about with equal enthusiasm? - It was an international phenomenon, the French court was doing exactly the same, the French court went to the Loire Valley very frequently, the Spanish court did the same thing, so this was a necessity. I think one of the things that was very important for all of them was actually just seeing their realms, and seeing their people, before television, radio, print, photographs, a tiny number of paintings, actually getting out there and getting about was a very important feature of rule, so yeah, it happened all over Europe. - These are fairly important people, en masse, moving around from place to place, how did they keep themselves secure? - It was a security nightmare, basically, particularly for Queen Elizabeth I, because you've got to remember, in 1570, the Pope had excommunicated Elizabeth, and basically, any Roman Catholic who killer her would go straight to Heaven, so it was a great opportunity if you could get your hands on her. And so she traveled, obviously, with the Yeomen of the Guard, but one of the absolutely crucial and most important things that the surveyor of works did, which is the royal architect, is, when he ever moved into a courtier's house, every single lock in the building was changed. So they would travel with the royal locks, the owner's locks would be taken off, the royal locks would be put on, and of course, the royal locks had keys which were controlled by a very, very, very small number of people. So the issue of security was a very big deal, and it was a very big deal for all of them, it was a big deal for Charles II, there were various assassination attempts, so they tried to keep the routes of the giests secret. Cromwell also had to vary his route between Whitehall and Hampton Court because there were various assassination attempts on him too. - Thank you. Those questions, by the way, came online from Pat Duncan and someone called Charlotte. Aidan is asking, "You mentioned Henry VIII's activities in progresses "being similar to that of his father." He knows that the Lovell Rebellion occurred while Henry VII was in progress. Did Henry VII use progresses to assert legitimacy or to increase stability? - That's a really good question. It's really easy with hindsight to think that the Wars of the Roses ended in 1485, but they sure didn't, Henry VII's reign, really, was a story of horrific rebellions, uprisings, treachery, betrayal, and the security question is a very good one, but I think that, unquestionably, both Henry VII's and Henry VIII's progresses after the Reformation, when he was trying to calm nerves, the Pilgrimage of Grace, and such and so forth, they were also trying to assert royal authority where there had been difficulties, so there was, absolutely, a very pointed political purpose behind them. - [Questioner] Thank you. I do actually have a couple of George II passes to the King's Road, which are all copper discs, but so far I've never been asked to show them, but something which, I think, is quite puzzling, and I wonder if you'd thought about, is this business, you were saying, of carriages being invented in 1566, and before that, it was litters. After all, you had 300 carts, and you've only got to put a seat in a cart and you've got a carriage. Was there some sort of status or class thing in this? The plebs used the carts, so we're sticking with our litters? - I think that's called an Uber, isn't it? - [Questioner] Something quite strange. - Of course, I'm sure that the kitchen scullions jumped on the back of a cart when no one was looking, and hitched a lift, but I think it would but pretty undignified for Elizabeth I to be in a cart. The great thing about the carriage was that, as you rightly say, it was the invention of a dignified means of locomotion that wasn't a horse. The very first carriages, which came from Pomerania, came to England, were fantastically elaborate. We've got the accounts for them all, we know exactly what they were like, they were dripping with velvet and gold, they were magnificent things, but were only any good if the roads were up to it. And so, in the first instance, they are used for these short journeys on the metropolitan fringe, and it took quite some time to get the carts out. And initially, of course, they didn't have any springs, there were leather straps, and so it was a box that was swinging like this between two uprights. - [Questioner] In the 1700s, I think the lord mayors always get seasick because they're not properly sprung. - You can see there there's not many springs on that, and that's in the 1670s, I think. - [Questioner] Thank you very much, I really enjoyed that. I was just wondering, could you explain why you think that Elizabeth I never went to Yorkshire or Devon, do you think it's because it was too far, or because it wasn't safe, or any other reason, perhaps? Thank you. - It is a good question. She did have a plan to go north to meet Mary, Queen of Scots, and the giests were drawn up, the plan was made, various houses were refurbished, there was a lot of money spent in York on the royal house in York in preparation for the trip, but the politics of it meant that, eventually, it didn't happen. She got as far as Norwich, and I live in Norfolk, and I can tell you it's quite hard getting there in the 21st century, getting to Norwich in the 1560s is quite an effort. I think it was just a long way. There were definitely people up there who were hoping that she would come and stay, but she didn't. And certainly, down to the Southwest, before the civil war, there are no kings, really, going down there, no monarchs going to the Southwest at all. - Thank you very much. Ladies and gentleman, Simon Thurley. - Thank you. (audience applauds)