Page images

Notwithstanding a few untoward broils and accidents, the entertainment passed off so satisfactorily that The Triumph of Peace' was acted for a second time in the presence of the king and queen, in the Merchant Taylors' Hall. Other diversions of the same kind followed with scarcely less éclat. At Whitehall the king himself and some of the choicest nobles of the land turned actors, and performed a grand masque, on which occasion the Templars were present as spectators in seats of honor.

During the Shrovetide rejoicings of 1635, Henrietta even condescended to witness the performance of Davenant's Triumphs of the Prince d'Amour,' in the hall of the Middle Temple. Laying aside the garb of royalty, she went to the Temple, attended by a party of lords and ladies, and fine gentlemen who, like herself, assumed for the evening dresses suitable to persons of private station. The Marquis of Hamilton, the Countess of Denbigh, the Countess of Holland, and Lady Elizabeth Fielding were her companions; whilst the official attendants on her person were the Earl of Holland, Lord Goring, Mr. Percy, and Mr. Jermyn. Led to her place by “Mrs. Basse, the law-woman,” Henrietta took a seat upon a scaffold fixed along the northern side of the hall, and amidst a crush of benchers' wives and daughters saw the play and heartily enjoyed it.

Says Whitelock, at the conclusion of his account of the grand masque given by the four inns, "Thus these dreams past, and these pomps vanished.” Scarcely had the frolic terminated when death laid a chill hand on the time-serving Noy, who in the consequences of his dishonest counsels left a cruel legacy to the master and the country whom he alike betrayed. A few more years-and John Finch, having lost the Great Seal, was an exile in a foreign land, destined to die in penury, without

[ocr errors]

again setting foot on his native soil. The graceful Herbert, whose smooth cheek had flushed with joy at Henrietta's musical courtesies, became for a brief day the mock Lord Keeper of Charles II.'s mock court at Paris, and then, dishonored and disowned by his capricious master, he languished in poverty and disease, until he found an obscure grave in the French capital. More fortunate than his early rival, Edward Hyde outlived Charles Stuart’s days of adverse fortune, and rose to a grievous greatness; but like that early rival, he, too, died in exile in France. Perhaps of all the managers of the grand masque the scholarly pedant, John Selden, had the greatest share of earthly satisfaction. “Not the least fortunate of the party was the historian of “the pomp and glory, if not the vanity of the show," who having survived the Commonwealth and witnessed the Restoration, was permitted to retain his paternal estate, and in his last days could tell his numerous descendants how his old chum, Edward Hyde, had risen, fallen, and-passed to another world.

[ocr errors]




ITH the revival of gaiety which attended and fol

lowed the Restoration, revels and masques came once more into vogue at the Inns of Court, where, throughout the Commonwealth, plays had been prohibited, and festivals had been either abolished or deprived of their ancient hilarity. The caterers of amusement for the new king were not slow to suggest that he should honor the lawyers with a visit ; and in accordance with their counsel, His Majesty took water on August 15, 1661, and went in the royal barge from Whitehall to the Temple to dine at the Reader's feast.

Heneage Finch had been chosen Autumn Reader of that inn, and in accordance with ancient usage he demonstrated his ability to instruct young gentlemen in the principles of English law, by giving a series of costly banquets. From the days of the Tudors to the rise of Oliver Cromwell, the Reader's feasts had been amongst the most sumptuous and ostentatious entertainments of the town—the Sergeant's feasts scarcely surpassing them in splendor, the inaugural dinners of lord mayors often lagging behind them in expense. But Heneage Finch’s lavish hospitality outstripped the doings of all previous Readers. His revel was protracted throughout six days, and on each of these days he received at his table the representative members of some high social order or learned body. Beginning with a dinner to the nobility and Privy Councillors, he finished with a banquet to the king ; and on the intervening days he entertained the civic authorities, the College of Physicians, the civil lawyers, and the dignitaries of the Church.

The king's visit was attended with imposing ceremony, and wanted no circumstance that could have rendered the occasion more honorable to the host or to the society of which he was a member. All the highest officers of the court accompanied the monarch, and when he stepped from his barge at the Temple Stairs, he spoke with jovial urbanity to his entertainer and the Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, who received him with tokens of loyal deference and attachment. “ On each side,” says Dugdale, “as His Majesty passed, stood the Reader's servants in scarlet cloaks and white tabba doublets; there being a way made through the wall into the Temple Gardens ; and above them on each side the benchers, barristers, and other gentlemen of the society, all in their gowns and formalities, the loud music playing from the time of his landing till he entered the hall; where he was received with xx violins, which continued as long as his majesty stayed.” Fifty chosen gentlemen of the inn, wearing their academic gowns, placed dinner on the table, and waited on the feasters-no other servants being permitted to enter the ball during the progress of the banquet. On the dais at the top of the hall, under a canopy of state, the king and his brother James sat apart from men of lower degree, whilst the nobles of Whitehall occupied one long table, under the presidency of the Lord Chancellor, and the chief personages of the inn dined at a corresponding long table, having the reader for their chairman.

In the following January, Charles II. and the Duke of York honored Lincoln's Inn with a visit, whilst the mock Prince de la Grange held his court within the walls of that society. Nine years later-in the February of 1671 -King Charles and his brother James again visited Lincoln's Inn, on which occasion they were entertained by Sir Francis Goodericke, Knt., the reader of the inn, who seems almost to have gone beyond Heneage Finch in sumptuous profusion of hospitality. Of this royal visit a particular account is to be seen in the Admittance Book of the Honorable Society, from which it appears that the royal brothers were attended by the Dukes of Monmouth and Richmond ; the Earls of Manchester, Bath, and Anglesea ; Viscount Halifax, the Bishop of Ely, Lord Newport, Lord Henry Howard, and “ divers others of great qualitie.”

The entertainment in most respects was a repetition of Sir Heneage Finch's feast—the king, the Duke of York, and Prince Rupert dining on the dais at the top of the hall, whilst the persons of inferior though high quality

[ocr errors]

were regaled at two long tables, set down the hall; and the gentlemen of the inn condescending to act as menial servants. The reader himself, dropping on his knee when he performed the servile office, proffered the towel with which the king prepared himself for the repast; and barristers of ancient lineage and professional eminence contended for the honor of serving His Majesty with surloin and cheesecake upon the knee, and hastened with the alacrity of well-trained lacqueys to do the bidding of “the lords att their table." Having eaten and drunk to his lively satisfaction, Charles called for the Admittance Book of the Inn, and placed his name on the roll of members, thereby conferring on the society an honor for which no previous king of England had furnished a precedent. Following their chief's example, the Duke of York and Prince Rupert and other nobles forthwith joined the fraternity of lawyers ; and hastily donning students' gowns, they mingled with the troop of gowned servitors, and humbly waited on their liege lord.

In like manner, twenty-one years since (July 29, 1845) when Queen Victoria and her lamented consort visited Lincoln's Inn, on the opening of the new hall, they condescended to enter their names in the Admission Book of the Inn, thereby making themselves students of the society. Her Majesty has not been called to the bar ; but Prince Albert in due course became a barrister and bencher. Repeating the action of Charles II.'s courtiers, the great Duke of Wellington and the bevy of great nobles present at the celebration became fellow-students with the queen ; and on leaving the table the prince walked down the hall, wearing a student's stuff gown (by no means the most picturesque of academic robes), over his field-marshal's uniform. Her Majesty forbore to disarrange her toilet—which consisted of a blue bonnet wita

« PreviousContinue »