Tuesday, 2 November 2021

2 November, 1597 - Bourbon

Here's what the Admiral's Men and Pembroke's Men performed at the Rose playhouse on this day, 424 years ago...

Henslowe writes: novembȝ 1597 | 2 |  burbon | 00 | 16

In modern English: 2nd November, 1597 ... total at Bourbon ... 16 shillings

Today, the players performed a play that has not previously appeared in the Diary! Bourbon is yet another lost play, but its title indicates that it told a story from French history. Henslowe does not mark it as new, so it is probably an old play from the archives, or one brought to the Rose by the new arrivals, Pembroke's Men.

Charles III, Duke of Bourbon
In his catalogue of British drama, Martin Wiggins proposes that the likeliest subject was Charles III, Duke of Bourbon (1490-1527). Bourbon was a powerful feudal lord and a war hero, but Francis, the King of France, was wary of him and took steps to minimize his political power. Bourbon was infuriated when Francis prevented him from inheriting the estate of his own deceased wife and awarded it to the Queen Mother instead, who then rubbed salt in the wound by proposing that Bourbon marry her to get it back. 

Bourbon schemed with the Holy Roman Emperor and King Henry VIII of England to overthrow Francis, but the plot was discovered and he was forced to flee to Italy. He became a military leader for the Emperor, who was challenging the power of the Pope, and he led an international force against the Papal States in Italy. 

Bourbon's army ended up besieging Rome, and it was outside its walls that he died, allegedly shot by the sculptor Cellini. In the aftermath, Bourbon's army invaded the city. This resulted in the 1527 Sack of Rome, which caused a shift of European power away from the Pope and toward the Holy Roman Emperor.

Bourbon's story certainly has the makings of a typical Rose play. Being an enemy of both France and the Pope, it would be easy to portray Bourbon as a tragic hero whom an Protestant Englishman could admire, and sieges were always popular at the Rose. Perhaps Edward Alleyn took on the role of Bourbon and made it one of his classic bombastic heroes. 

All of this sounds exciting, but the theatreogers of London don't seem to agree; the audience today is unexceptional. 


Bourbon information

Henslowe links


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