Tuesday, 27 December 2016

27 December, 1592 - Hampton Court Palace

Welcome back to Henslowe's Diary ... as a Blog!  For the last few months our heroes, Lord Strange's Men, have been touring the country, hoping for the ban on theatre in London to be lifted so that they can return to the Rose playhouse. It seems that things are finally looking more optimistic.

Henslowe's list of performances at the Rose does not resume until 29th December, but the records of the court show that Lord Strange's Men were already back in London on the 27th, performing a play to Queen Elizabeth I. We do not know which play they performed, but we do know it took place at Hampton Court Palace, a great house on the Thames that still stands today.

Hampton Court

This was the season known as Christmastide, and plays were a normal part of the court's festive celebrations. 27th December was the Feast of St John, the third day of Christmas. In his intriguing book Renaissance Drama and the English Church Year, R. Chris Hassell, Jr. wonders whether the plays performed at court were chosen to fit the themes of the religious festivals that they celebrated, and he cautiously concludes that sometimes they may have been. He says the theme of prescribed readings from the Bible on this particular feast-day was the vanity of human wishes and the eschewing of worldly goods. Perhaps A Looking-Glass for London might have been a suitable choice, but I'm only guessing.

Incidentally, if you happen to be in London this Christmas, Hampton Court Palace is staging a site-specific play about behind-the-scenes activities during an Elizabethan court performance! It's "a heart-warming Christmas story for all the family set at the court of Queen Elizabeth I and performed around the Palace, from the Tudor Kitchens to the Great Hall". Click here for more details.

The hall

Regardless of which play they performed, the company no doubt were impressed by the space they performed it in - the beautiful hall at Hampton Court, which you can still visit today.

Great Hall - Hampton Court

If Lord Strange's Men were back in London, they probably already knew that the Rose playhouse would be re-opening in just two days time. Performing to the Queen herself in a spectacular venue must have felt like a wonderful welcome back to their city.

What's next?

There will be no blog post tomorrow because Lord Strange's Men are not known to have performed on the 28th. Most likely they were busy with the final preparations for their return to the Rose. Henslowe's Diary ... as a Blog! will thus return on 29th December. See you then!


  • R. Chris Hassell, Jr., Renaissance Drama and the English Church Year (University of Nebraska Press, 1979), 29-37.
  • John Astington, English Court Theatre, 1558-1642 (Cambridge University Press, 1999)

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