Jacobean Pageant: Or, the Court of King James I

Jacobean Pageant: Or, the Court of King James I

Jacobean Pageant: Or, the Court of King James I

Jacobean Pageant: Or, the Court of King James I

Excerpt

SIR ROBERT CAREY'S ride from London to Edinburgh had its parallel in another though less arduous ride thirty-seven years earlier. The day had been June 19, 1566. Between nine and ten o'clock that morning a prince had been born in Edinburgh Castle. Within two hours a messenger, Sir James Melville, was galloping southward to London and the English court. He arrived there on Sunday, June 23rd, in four and one-half days as against Carey's three. Melville's tidings came when Queen Elizabeth was dancing in great merriment after supper:

...bot sa schone as the secretary Cicill roundit the newes in hir ear of the prince birth, all merines was layed asyd for that nycht; every ane that wer present marveling what mycht move sa sodane a chengement; for the Queen sat down with hir hand upon hir haffet [the side of her head]; and boursting out to some of hir ladies, how that the Queen of Scotlandis was leichter of a faire sonne, and that sche was bot a barren stok.

This was the prince who stood now before Sir Robert Carey. He was a thickset man, of little more than medium height, in the robust health of maturity. His complexion was high and sanguine, his skin remarkably white and soft. His eyes were large, their look of vacant intensity giving way readily to worried gleams of apprehension, or the half-twinkle of a canny wit. Light brown hair framed a broad forehead. The King's face was full, set off by a sparse square-cut beard. It was unfortunate that his tongue was large for his mouth for it added a thickness of speech to his broad Scots accent, and made his act of drinking singularly ungraceful, 'as if eating his drinke'. His muscular co-ordination was poor, so that his walk was a species of jerky shamble -- 'that weaknesse made him ever leaning on other mens shoulders, his walke was ever circular, his fingers ever in that walke fidling about his codpiece'. Despite these minor disabilities, the King could show dignity and command of presence. One of his enemies was prepared to concede that, despite his physical handicaps, 'in the whole man he was not uncomely'.

Strangers seeing James sometimes got an impression of corpulence, but this impression was faulty -- they did not know that the stocky' sovereign habitually wore a heavily quilted doublet for protection from the stilettoes of assassins. This was a king who lived in constant fear of murder. He had . . .

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