Royal progresses is the theme for this week’s #TudorTuesdays with Historic Houses.
One of the biggest dilemmas facing Tudor monarchs (aside of course from hostile European powers, hostile domestic powers, the plague, religious discord, and a lack of male heirs) was how to remain in the hearts and minds of a largely illiterate populace who had no mainstream media, and were spread over 500 miles?
Portraits, coinage and laws were distant measures, but for a more powerful impression, there were nothing more effective than the annual summer progress.
Each year during the so called late summer ‘grass season,’ when hay was being cut for the winter, the monarch and members of the court would travel across the country by horse, river, or both, staying at noble country residences on the way, and passing through towns with great pomp and ceremony that would have been sure to dazzle the poor, everyday subjects.
In fact, the summer progress was so eagerly anticipated that itineraries were published in advance, laying out where the monarch would be visiting, how far they would travel each day, and where they would be staying each night.
To receive the monarch as an overnight guest was seen as a huge honour. However it was one that often came at a hefty price, since, in order to be fit for a king or queen, rooms would often have to be lavishly overhauled, redesigned, redecorated and refurnished before the royal progresses.
Some took their hosting duties even further however, including courtier Nicholas Poyntz (son of Vice Admiral Sir Anthony Poyntz) who built a whole new wing to accommodate King Henry VIII and Queen Anne Boleyn in 1535.
Perhaps unsurprisingly there, royal progressions took an awful lot of planning, and replied on a veritable army of officers who rode ahead of the royal party and prepared towns, supplies and accommodation for the rest of the court, which at times could number upwards of 750. Also needing to be ferried from place to place were the monarch’s bed, clothes and tapestries, which would be carefully packed up and unpacked in each place—a task that would need to be done each day, or every few weeks depending on how long the monarch stayed in each place.
Despite the enormity of the undertaking however, and the expense involved, royal progresses were a vital way for Tudor monarchs to be physically seen by their people, and also a way to remind the common folk of the splendour, power, strength and divinity of the person sitting atop the throne.
If you enjoyed this item on Royal Progresses, why not discover more about Tudor Tuesdays.