Oct 15, 2012
This week the Adult Learning programme came to Banqueting House, Whitehall, for a look at the masques of the early Stuart court. An elaborate form of court entertainment, combining dance, theatre and a fancy dress ball, they were staged regularly at the Banqueting House for both James I (1603-25) and his son Charles I (1625-49).
Our speaker for the evening, Dr Anne Daye, has an encyclopedic knowledge of the topic, and we were treated to a vivid account of the characters, costumes, music and set design of the masques. We found out more about the integral roles played by luminaries such as playwright Ben Jonson and architect Inigo Jones. She also discussed the reasons for the masque: not merely lovely parties – though they were certainly that too – they also helped consolidate the kings’ power (James in particular, with his thick Scots accent, needed a way to impress English aristocrats once the two crowns were united).