‘If music be the food of love, play on; give me excess of it….’ thus speaks Duke Orsino in the opening lines of Twelfth Night. Music is one of the themes in the West Horsley Place Trust’s programme of art, culture and heritage, which will feature in the perfect setting of the house and gardens. 

FEASTING, MUSIC AND LAUGHTER

Music and entertainment are woven into the history of West Horsley Place. In a Medieval Hall House – still the core of the present manor – there would have been a Minstrel’s Gallery before great hall was split into two storeys. This was in existence when Henry and Gertrude Courtenay, Marquess and Marchioness of Exeter lived in the house (they feature in Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall trilogy). Courtenay was given the house by his cousin, Henry VIII in 1533. This was at a time when Thomas Cromwell’s power and influence at Court was increasing. Cromwell – now Lord Privy Seal – was deeply suspicious of Courtenay’s continued commitment to the Catholic faith, and his Plantagenet lineage. Courtenay disliked Cromwell intensely, but was no match for him in the world of Court politics. The Courtenays retreated from the Court to Horsley House, as it was then called, which became their favourite residence. There are Crown records which give a sense of life in the house at this time. Henry Courtenay loved music: he possessed a double virginal, three pairs of regals (a small organ) and nine viols. There was a troupe of players, and Courtenay employed a singer, William Boothe, and his own jester, William Tremayle. Courtenay did actually entertain Thomas Cromwell at Horsley House, and gifted him ‘a summer coat and a knife.’ He loved to sing himself, writing his own songs. There is a delicious tale – sadly difficult to verify – that Cromwell came upon him in Gertrude’s Tudor garden, singing risqué songs about the king’s love life.

The house must have been filled with colour, music, dancing and laughter. The musicians – with William Boothe – would have been aloft, in the Minstrel’s Gallery, and those below would have been regaled with the antics of William Tremayle. On the estate, when visitors ventured out of doors, there would have been hawking to enjoy.

The Courtenays kept a staff of 103 – mainly Cornish – yeoman: there were grooms of the chamber, waiters and menial servants. They would have been kept very occupied when Henry VIII visited his cousin at Horsley House. The feast served was actually quite modest by Whitehall Palace standards:

FIRST COURSE:

Salad of damsons, artichokes, cabbage, lettuces, purslane, cucumbers – all served with dishes of stewed sparrows, larded pheasants, carp, capons in lemon, gulls, duck, stuffed rabbit, pasty of venison and pear.

SECOND COURSE

Stork, gannet, heron, pullets, quail, partridge, fresh sturgeon, pasty of red deer venison, chickens baked in caudle and fritters.

THIRD COURSE

Jelly, blancmange, apples with pistachios, pears with carraway, filberts, scraped cheese with sugar,

clotted cream with sugar, quince pie, marchipan and wafers.

The feasting, music and laughter came to an end, when Horsley House was the centre of events leading to arrest of the Courtenays, Sir Edward Neville, Henry Pole and Lord Montague – the so called ‘White Rose ‘ group – who would meet there to eat, drink, be merry and lament the Old Faith. There was no proven treason, but they all hated Thomas Cromwell, who convinced the king that they were plotting a Catholic uprising. On the 4th November, 1538 they were all arrested and sent to the Tower, followed by their wives and families. A show trial followed, but all were found guilty. On the 9th December, a bleak, windy day, Courtenay was executed on Tower Hill.

A ROYAL PROGRESS AND ‘GREAT CHEER’

Horsley House, and all the contents including the collection of musical instruments passed once again into the possession of Henry VIII. In 1547 he gave it to another favourite, Anthony Browne, whose second wife was Lady Elizabeth FitzGerald; the ‘Fair Geraldine’ of Henry Howard’s famous sonnet. Browne died in 1548. His wealth and estates passed to his eldest son by his first marriage, but Lady Elizabeth was given the lifelong right to live in Horsley House. She married again in 1552, the Lord High Admiral and Earl of Lincoln, Edward Fiennes Clinton. Lord High Admiral was a great office of state, and Clinton was a wealthy man, with large estates in Lincolnshire. ‘Fair Geraldine’ was related to Elizabeth I, she had been educated at Court with the queen, and had renewed their close friendship, when she returned to Court after the death of Anthony Browne.

Horsley House became a favourite of Clinton and Lady Elizabeth, which led to another period of lively entertainment. In August 1559, the year following Elizabeth Tudor’s accession to the throne, the Clintons invited Queen and Court to Horsley House. The visit was part of an early ‘Progress’ of the Queen. Royal Progresses became an extravagant - and expensive to the host – part of Elizabeth’s reign. She chose to stay close to London for the first year after her coronation, but afterwards they became a more national feature. There were various reasons for a monarch to go on a Progress. On a practical level, the Court palaces could be cleaned and expenses reduced. Outbreaks of the Plague sometimes struck London during summer months, so time away from the Court seemed safer. The queen’s annual Progresses through the country became affairs of pageantry and spectacle. This was an opportunity to be seen by as many of her subjects as possible, and Elizabeth’s charm, and her handsome retinue of courtiers enhanced the appeal. High Ranking Officials would accompany the Court’s Progress, and state meetings might be held: all this added to the expense for the host.

The queen visited Horsley House between the 17th and 23rd August, in 1559. The favourite Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester was among the courtiers who stayed at the house. In The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth I, (written between 1788-1823) John Nichols describes the lavish banqueting house built especially for the occasion by Clinton:

The 17th, the Queen removed from Hampton Court to the Lord High Admiral’s Place,and there she had great cheer. The said Lord built a goodly banqueting house for Her Grace; it was richly guided and painted; the Lord having payed for that and kept a great many painters for a good while there in the country. (1).

The banqueting hall was the venue for a masque to entertain the company. A masque was primarily a lavish, dramatic spectacle, which had come to England from Italy. The first mention of a masque was in the reign of Henry VII. It was often in verse, and, as one might expect was performed by disguised masked players, often representing allegorical or mythical characters. Themes were mainly classical or pastoral: those performed for the queen might contain lavish compliments, and might allude to concord between Elizabeth and her kingdom. Masques were often performed by small troupes of professional or semi-professional players, possibly in the service of a prominent courtier. These players would perform the drama, with music and dancing, and the finale might involve the audience in a lively dance.

Sadly, few texts of the masques and such performances survive, but the masque performed at Horsley House in August, 1559 was Shypmenn and Maydes of the Countrie and a text of this remains. (2). It was one of ten masques performed at the coronation celebrations of Elizabeth.

The Lord High Admiral paid for the pleasure of entertaining Queen and Court from his own pocket. He was able to use local craftsmen for work on the banqueting pavilion, but for stage management of the masque, he called on the services of the Master of Tents, Revels and Masques, Sir Thomas Cawarden. The Office of Revels, along with the Office of Works had the responsibility for all aspects of such performances such as staging, costumes, wages and other sundry expenditure involved. Cawarden was first appointed by Henry VIII and operated from Blackfriars in buildings which had originally been part of a Dominican Priory. Stage scenery, props, backcloths and costumes were stored there, and craftsmen and costumiers had their workshops on the site.

All the staging properties and accoutrements for Shypmenn and Maydes of the Countrie were transported by river from Blackfriars to Hampton Court, and on to Horsley House overland, where Cawarden and his workmen wrought their magic on the banqueting pavilion. There can be little doubt that monarch, courtiers and residents ‘had great cheer’ during this lively colourful week in the house’s history. Sadly, during the course of events, Cawarden broke his leg and died.

Queen Elizabeth paid a more sombre visit to the house in October, 1592, to pay her respects to Anthony Browne II , Viscount Montague. He was the son of Anthony Browne and his first wife Alys Gage. He had been made a viscount by Mary Tudor, and was a devout Catholic who opposed Elizabeth’s religious reforms, but nevertheless served her loyally, and retained her favour and friendship. He too was fond of masques, entertaining the queen right royally at his Cowdray Park mansion.

‘ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE…’

In 2014, Bamber Gascoigne inherited West Horsley Place from his aunt, Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe. A charitable trust was established with the vision to bring the manor house and estate back into good repair and create a venue focusing on the creative arts, heritage and nature, for the benefit of the public. Music would naturally form part of the picture: Euterpe, Muse of Music had West Horsley in her sights once more, when, in 2015, Grange Park Opera approached the Gascoignes with the proposal for an Opera House – a Theatre in the Woods – at West Horsley Place. On 8th June 2017 the curtain rose on the first festival of summer opera, with Joseph Calleja singing the role of Cavaradossi in Puccini’s Tosca. House and gardens were once again alive with picnics in the gardens and dining in the house.

This year, 2021, the programme at the Theatre in the Woods offers a curious link with 1559. Grange Park Opera will perform Ivan the Terrible, by Rimsky Korsakov. Tsar Ivan corresponded with Elizabeth I, and actually proposed marriage. The two countries were already in a trading relationship. In 1553, the navigator Richard Chancellor had strayed from the sea passage between India and China, arriving in Russia. Ivan heard of the Englishman’s arrival, and invited him to Moscow. The meeting led to the establishment of the Muscovy Company, and a trading post and embassy for English merchants in Moscow. Ivan, like other Tsars had troubles with his boyars, (members of the old Russian aristocracy) and was always exploring possibilities of political – even military - support from a friendly country. Elizabeth rejected his proposal of marriage, she was only interested in a lucrative commercial relationship, but promised him asylum, provided he paid all his own costs. Ivan remained in Russia.

2021 will also see West Horsley Place Trust using both the manor house and Place Farm Barn for concerts in partnership with renowned partners such as the Investec International Music Festival and Maiastra (a charity dedicated to offering talented young musicians training and opportunities). Paula Chateauneuf- one of the most respected musicians in the early music world- will give a lute and theorbo concert in the Stone Hall this autumn; echoing the type of music that Henry Courtenay would have known. 

Music, thou queen of heaven, care-charming spell,

Thou strik’st a stillness into hell;

Thou that tame’st tigets, and fierce storms that rise,

With thy soul-melting lullabies;

Fall down, down, down, from those thy chiming spheres

To charm our souls, as thou enchan’st our ears. (3.)

References

1. Nichols, John, Pageantry and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth I, London: 1788-1823 https://oxfordscholarlyeditions.com/view/10.1093

2. Ibid

3. Robert Herrick, (1591-1674) A Song

Bibliography

The Progresses, Pageants & Entertainments of Queen Elizabeth 1

ed. by J. E Archer, E Goldring & S Knight: Oxford. OUP. 2007

Davey,June, Henry Courtenay, 1st Marquess of Exeter, https://www.westhorsleyplace.org/listing/category/history/articles

Shypmenn and Maydes of the Countrie, https://www.oxfordscholarlyeditions.com>actrade>ac

Reynolds, K.K. ‘All the world’s a stage:’ Pageantry and Propoganda at the Court of

Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1569), LSO. Master’s Thesis 2958 (2006) https://www.digital commons.issue.ed/cgi