festival climax


1 March 1522: Henry VIII and various courtiers perform in the Chateau Vert pageant.

A new chapter had opened in the interminable saga of the Italian Wars, and England, despite protestations at the Field of Cloth of Gold, had decided to back Charles V rather than Francis I. Negotiations for a joint attack on France, a visit by the emperor to England and his betrothal to the Princess Mary were nearing completion, and the English court, to honour the ambassadors of the new ally, laid on specifically magnificent pre-Lent festivities. 

The theme of the opening tournament on 1 March was the cruelty of unrequited love, and this was continued when festivities reached a climax on the evening of Shrove Tuesday with a characteristically Burgundian pageant, the assault on ‘the Chateau Vert’. There were eight court ladies involved, each cast as one of the qualities of the perfect mistress of chivalric tradition - Beauty, Honour, Perseverance, Kindness, Constancy, Bounty, Mercy and Pity - with Anne [Boleyn] playing Perseverance and her sister, Mary, Kindness (roles of historic appropriateness). The king’s sister Mary led as Beauty, with the countess of Devonshire as Honour - two women who would be among Anne’s most implacable opponents - while of the other characters, Constancy was played by Jane Parker, soon to become Anne’s sister-in-law. They wore white satin, each with her character or 'reason’ picked out twenty-four times in yellow satin, and the headdresses were cauls of Venetian gold set off by Milan bonnets. Opposite them were the eight male virtues of the ideal courtier - 'Amoress[ness]’, Nobleness, Youth, Attendance, Loyalty, Pleasure, Gentleness and Liberty - with the King playing the lead.

- E. W. Ives, Anne Boleyn

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