Long-Distance Royal Journeys: Anne of Denmark's Journey from Stirling to Windsor in 1603

Article excerpt

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, travel by persons of high status, especially a prince or a monarch, meant much more than the provision of a suitable means of transport. Long-distance royal journeys were undertaken in order to achieve key political objectives. In addition to the need merely to reach a particular destination in an efficient, comfortable and secure manner, a ruler would want to be seen as frequently as possible by ordinary people, for whom the spectacle and pageant of monarchy were otherwise rarely witnessed.1 By passing through the realm in person a prince could lay claim, both physically and symbolically, to the terrain through which their personal writ was supposed to run. Moreover, conferring royal favour by lodging in the houses of noble families en route meant that a prince might secure the loyalty of powerful provincial elites and gauge the support of the local gentry. Finally, the scale, splendour and theatricality of a royal entourage could convey messages about the power and prestige of the prince and the court. Thus royal journeys involved transport that was both symbolic and practical. By the early modern period a sovereign's travel was an essential tool of governance and a key element in the art of statecraft in England.2

Royal journeys necessarily required meticulous planning and the deployment of vast resources. While much is known about the purposes, itineraries and entertainment of Tudor and Stuart monarchs who embarked upon lengthy 'royal progresses' in the summer months, rather less work has been carried out to reconstruct the operational mechanics involved.3 Lists of the gifts bestowed by members of the regional aristocracy or local corporations and details of receptions and the entertainment provided in the localities have survived, but little is known, for example, about the precise sums spent by the Exchequer on transport for particular royal journeys. The scale and precise role of the retinue of officers and servants who travelled with a prince has not been established. Still less is known about the numbers and types of horses and vehicles that were employed, how the animals were fed, and who serviced the carriages and carts during a long journey. Moreover, no precise information has been presented about the accommodation and subsistence of ordinary servants obliged to accompany their master or mistress. A key reason for this dearth of knowledge about the 'nuts and bolts' of the arrangements for the journeys of the high-born and their trains is a lack of quantitative documentary evidence. However, in the case of the journey southwards in 1603 from Scotland to Windsor Castle of Anne of Denmark, queen consort of James I, a remarkably detailed set of accounts has survived.4 Queen Anne travelled two months after the king left Scotland on his accession to the throne of England. Her status meant that her journey through the realm newly acquired by the Stuarts occasioned considerable pomp and ceremony. Opportunities were taken not only to establish bonds of loyalty with leading families whose country properties lay along the royal route, but also for the queen to be seen by as many of the ordinary people of England as possible. Thus, as well as being an exercise in the practicalities of transporting a noble lady and her large retinue, Queen Anne's progress through the length of England was also a journey of high political importance and active statecraft.

The focus of this article, however, is on the organisation and management of the queen's journey, rather than its political significance or its dynastic symbolism. Drawing principally on the Exchequer's audited financial statements, a reconstruction is presented here of the elaborate planning of the royal progress, the travel and transport arrangements, the size and make-up of the escorts, the character of the baggage trains and the requirement for horses, vehicles and attendants.

The journey of Anne of Denmark in June 1603

Following the death of Elizabeth I in March 1603, James VI of Scotland, anxious to secure his succession, as James I, to the English throne, set out from Edinburgh to travel to London. …