Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
The King Entertained at York Place
By George Cavendish (c. 15001561)
AND when it pleased the kings majesty, for his recreation, to repair unto the cardinals house, as he did divers times in the year, at which time there wanted no preparations, or goodly furniture, with viands of the finest sort that might be provided for money or friendship. Such pleasures were then devised for the kings comfort and consolation, as might be invented, or by mans wit imagined. The banquets were set forth, with masks and mummeries, in so gorgeous a sort, and costly manner, that it was a heaven to behold. There wanted no dames, or damsels, meet or apt to dance with the maskers, or to garnish the place for a time, with other goodly disports. Then was there all kind of music and harmony set forth, with excellent voices both of men and children. I have seen the king suddenly come in thither in a mask, with a dozen of other maskers, all in garments like shepherds, made of fine cloth of gold and fine crimson satin paned, and caps of the same, with visors of good proportion of visnomy;1 their hairs, and beards, either of fine gold wire, or else of silver, and some being of black silk; having sixteen torchbearers, beside their drums, and other persons attending upon them, with visors, and clothed all in satin, of the same colours. And at his coming, and before he came into the hall, ye shall understand, that he came by water to the water gate, without any noise; where, against his coming, were laid charged many chambers, and at his landing they were all shot off, which made such a rumble in the air, that it was like thunder. It made all the noblemen, ladies, and gentlewomen, to muse what it should mean coming so suddenly, they sitting quietly at a solemn banquet; under this sort: First, ye shall perceive that the tables were set in the chamber of presence, banquet-wise covered, my Lord Cardinal sitting under the cloth of estate, and there having his service all alone; and then was there set a lady and a nobleman, or a gentleman and gentlewoman, throughout all the tables in the chamber on the one side, which were made and joined as it were but one table. All which order and devise was done and devised by the Lord Sands, Lord Chamberlain to the king; and also by Sir Henry Guilford, Comptroller to the king. Then immediately after this great shot of guns, the cardinal desired the Lord Chamberlain, and Comptroller, to look what this sudden shot should mean, as though he knew nothing of the matter. They thereupon looking out of the windows into Thames, returned again, and showed him, that it seemed to them there should be some noblemen and strangers arrived at his bridge, as ambassadors from some foreign prince. With that, quoth the Cardinal, I shall desire you, because you can speak French, to take the pains to go down into the hall to encounter and to receive them, according to their estates, and to conduct them into this chamber, where they shall see us, and all these noble personages sitting merrily at our banquet, desiring them to sit down with us, and to take part of our fare and pastime. Then they went incontinent down into the hall, where they received them with twenty new torches, and conveyed them up into the chamber, with such a number of drums and fifes as I have seldom seen together, at one time in any masque. At their arrival into the chamber, two and two together, they went directly before the cardinal where he sat, saluting him very reverently; to whom the Lord Chamberlain for them said: Sir, forasmuch as they be strangers, and can speak no English, they have desired me to declare unto your Grace thus: they, having understanding of this your triumphant banquet, where was assembled such a number of excellent fair dames, could do no less, under the supportation of your good grace, but to repair hither to view as well their incomparable beauty, as for to accompany them at mumchance, and then after to dance with them, and so to have of them acquaintance. And, sir, they furthermore require of your Grace licence to accomplish the cause of their repair. To whom the cardinal answered, that he was very well contented they should so do. Then the maskers went first and saluted all the dames as they sat, and then returned to the most worthiest, and there opened a cup full of gold, with crowns, and other pieces of coin, to whom they set divers pieces to cast at. Thus in this manner perusing all the ladies and gentlewomen, and to some they lost, and of some they won. And thus done, they returned unto the cardinal, with great reverence, pouring down all the crowns in the cup, which was about two hundred crowns. At all, quoth the cardinal, and so cast the dice, and won them all at a cast; whereat was great joy made. Then quoth the cardinal to my Lord Chamberlain, I pray you, quoth he, show them that it seemeth me that there should be among them some noble man, whom I suppose to be much more worthy of honour to sit and occupy this room and place than I; to whom I would most gladly, if I knew him, surrender my place according to my duty. Then spake my Lord Chamberlain unto them in French, declaring my Lord Cardinals mind, and they rounding him again in the ear, my Lord Chamberlain said to my Lord Cardinal, Sir, they confess, quoth he, that among them there is such a noble personage, whom, if your Grace can appoint him from the other, he is contented to disclose himself, and to accept your place most worthily. With that the cardinal, taking a good advisement among them, at the last, quoth he, Me seemeth the gentleman with the black beard should be even he. And with that he arose out of his chair, and offered the same to the gentleman in the black beard, with his cap in his hand. The person to whom he offered then his chair was Sir Edward Neville, a comely knight of a goodly personage, that much more resembled the kings person in that mask, than any other. The king, hearing and perceiving the cardinal so deceived in his estimation and choice, could not forbear laughing; but plucked down his visor, and Master Nevilles also, and dashed out with such a pleasant countenance and cheer, that all noble estates there assembled, seeing the king to be there amongst them, rejoiced very much. The cardinal eftsoons desired his highness to take the place of estate, to whom the king answered, that he would go first and shift his apparel; and so departed, and went straight into my lords bedchamber, where was a great fire made and prepared for him; and there new apparelled him with rich and princely garments. And in the time of the kings absence, the dishes of the banquet were clean taken up, and the tables spread again with new and sweet perfumed cloths; every man sitting still until the king and his maskers came in among them again, every man being newly apparelled. Then the king took his seat under the cloth of estate, commanding no man to remove, but sit still, as they did before. Then in came a new banquet before the kings majesty, and to all the rest through the tables, wherein, I suppose, were served two hundred dishes or above, of wondrous costly meats and devices, subtilly devised. Thus passed they forth the whole night with banqueting, dancing, and other triumphant devices, to the great comfort of the king, and pleasant regard of the nobility there assembled.
All this matter I have declared at large, because ye shall understand what joy and delight the cardinal had to see his prince and sovereign lord in his house so nobly entertained and pleased, which was always his only study, to devise things to his comfort, not passing of the charges or expenses. It delighted him so much, to have the kings pleasant princely presence, that no thing was to him more delectable than to cheer his sovereign lord, to whom he owed so much obedience and loyalty; as reason required no less, all things well considered.
Thus passed the cardinal his life and time, from day to day, and year to year, in such great wealth, joy, and triumph, and glory, having always on his side the kings especial favour; until Fortune, of whose favour no man is longer assured than she is disposed, began to wax something wroth with his prosperous estate, and thought she would devise a mean to abate his high port; wherefore she procured Venus, the insatiate goddess, to be her instrument. To work her purpose, she brought the king in love with a gentlewoman, that, after she perceived and felt the kings good will towards her, and how diligent he was both to please her, and to grant all her requests, she wrought the cardinal much displeasure; as hereafter shall be more at large declared. This gentlewoman, the daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn, being at that time but only a bachelor knight, the which after, for the love of his daughter, was promoted to higher dignities. He bare at divers several times for the most part all the rooms of estimation in the kings house; as Comptroller, Treasurer, Vice-Chamberlain, and Lord Chamberlain. Then was he made Viscount Rochford; and at the last created Earl of Wiltshire, and Knight of the noble Order of the Garter; and, for his more increase of gain and honour, he was made Lord Privy Seal, and most chiefest of the kings privy council. Continuing therein until his son and daughter did incur the kings indignation and displeasure. The king fantasied so much his daughter Anne, that almost all things began to grow out of frame and good order.