THE COURT AT OXFORD
IN the beginning of the year 1644, King Charles was holding his court where he had established his headquarters, in the university city that dominates the upper Thames basin as inevitably as London does the lower. It was here that, until the day dawned of which all good cavaliers were dreaming when the King should enjoy his own again at Whitehall, he had fixed his temporary capital. To one of his sensitive and artistic nature there must have seemed something dreamlike about all the events of these last few years--one of those evil dreams in which nothing that seems to be right ever goes right.
For there was something about this court at Oxford more reminiscent of fairyland than of a workaday seat of monarchy. Nothing was lacking of the appertaining pomp and ceremony, nothing of gaiety and fashion. The lovely old buildings formed a setting as appropriate as any palace in Europe. The town and colleges were packed to the last square inch of accommodation with lovelocked courtiers and ringletted ladies, tricked out in all the exuberance of that most colourful time in the annals of costume--all the more so because splendour of plumage in itself flaunted defiance to the drab livery of the rebellion. The monastic atmosphere of the Quads was changed to one more appropriate to Gargantua's foundation of Thelema, though the resultant application of Fay ce que vouldras led to occasional friction with donhood of the perennially old school to which all good dons belong.
Let us revive for one moment the vision of the enchanting Lady Isabella Thynne, walking in Christchurch Meadows, attended by the bevy of her gallants and playing her theorbo:
"Such moving sounds from such a careless touch!
So unconcerned herself, and we so much!"
as one of them, the poet Edmund Waller, was moved to sing. And let us picture her, sailing in all her bravery, accompanied by her