This book presents a biography of the poetics and politics of London in 1613, from Whitehall to Guildhall, that is, Shakespeare's London. It examines major events at court, such as the untimely death of Prince Henry and its aftermath, and the extravagant wedding of Princess Elizabeth to Frederick of Germany and her journey to the Continent. The city flourished with scores of publications on a vast array of topics, including poetry, travel narratives, music, and, of course, plays. The book offers summaries and analyses of most of these texts, knowing that some of them may not be well-known to all readers. Many of these publications had a kind of link to the court. In order to understand the context of the year 1613, the book actually begins in October 1612 with Prince Henry's illness and death in November, which had a major impact on what happened in 1613. It proceeds more or less chronologically from this event to Princess Elizabeth's wedding and the stunning array of dramatic performances at court, and includes the journey to her new home in Germany. As part of the year's cultural nexus, the narrative reaches into the Guildhall experience to explore the riches of the books that emanated from London's printers and to examine specifically the drama performed or published in 1613. The final major focus centres on the Carr-Howard wedding at the year's end, full of cultural activities and ripe with political significance.
Prince Henry and King James served as the principal spectators, surrounded by a court of noblemen and women, including Duke of Lennox. The 'great preparation' for the two noble kinsmen included playwright Thomas Dekker's pageant, as John Chamberlain's report makes clear. Lennox remembered vividly the events of Henry's life that led up to Dekker's Lord Mayor's Show and its House of Fame with a vacant room. In the real world of London's theatres members of the Common Council sent a letter to the Lord Mayor on 8 November announcing Henry's death. Henry's death had shattered the royal family's tranquillity and certainty. Cyril Tourneur wrote a poem, 'On the Representation of the Prince at His Funeralls', to commemorate and react to the coffin, concluding, 'His aptnesse fluently appeares, / In ev'rie Souldiers griefe, and Schollars teares'.
William Shakespeare and his collaborator John Fletcher's play Henry VIII represents the serious business of the disgrace and execution of the Duke of Buckingham, Katherine of Aragon's fall and eventual divorce. The play also represents Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn, the fall of Cardinal Wolsey, and at the end the birth of Elizabeth, complete with Archbishop Cranmer's prophecy about her and her successor, the current King James I. Ludovic Stuart, Duke of Lennox, and cousin of King James learned of the Globe Theatre disaster and about the performance of Henry VIII. The King's Men, assessing the loss of the Globe Theatre to that summer fire, decided to rebuild. From the ashes of 1613, a new theatre arose, like a phoenix, in 1614. Out of tragedy, the court and London had to seek renewal. The year 1613 offers abundant evidence of a trajectory that moves away from tragedy towards life-affirming restoration.
In 1599 William Shakespeare stood at a professional crossroads, which led to his participation in the financing and construction of the Globe Theatre. In 1613, with the burning of this theatre, Shakespeare stood at the end of his active professional involvement in playwriting and the theatre. Shakespeare in Blackfriars underscores the exceptional cultural power of the City of London with its thriving theatres and productive printers and publishers who produced scores of texts in 1613. Despite sometimes sparse evidence, a clear picture emerges of a Ludovic Stuart, Duke of Lennox who played a major role in the cultural and political activities of 1613. As in the case of Shakespeare and the royal family, 1613 was a pivotal year for Lennox, this loyal friend and servant of the king, who many years earlier in Scotland had been called a 'paragon'.
The Countess of Bedford as Queen Elizabeth's personal representative attended, as did the Earl of Shrewsbury, who came to honour this woman whom he had guarded and protected and whose company he enjoyed. Queen Mary's approval of the 'Babington Plot', a plan by insistent Catholics to assassinate Elizabeth and free Mary, determined her final destiny. Three things will bring about Mary's 'translation': the actual movement of the body, the velvet pall, and the monument. The translation of Mary also underscored a translation of King James, a kind of expiation of whatever lingering guilt he felt about his mother. The 1618 edition of John Stow's Survey of London, prepared by Anthony Munday, includes the lengthy Latin inscription, written by the Earl of Northampton, on Mary Stuart's tomb in the Abbey.
Drama at the Jacobean court stood between Prince Henry's funeral and Princess Elizabeth's impending wedding; it constructed a bridge, a translation, a confrontation with raw feelings. Clearly solace must have been one of the primary effects of the drama presented at court in 1612-1613. As another avenue to the court's transition and transformation from funeral to wedding, William Shakespeare offered the court several plays, performed by his company. These plays, of various genres, intersect and illustrate the words of the Prologue in Merry Devil: 'Sit with a pleased eye, until you know / The comic end of our sad tragic show.' Closer to the site of the court performances, Ben Jonson's The Alchemist takes place in the Blackfriars section of the City of London, well known to Duke of Lennox, Shakespeare, and Jonson. They moved away from the countryside setting of Hertfordshire of The Merry Devil.
The mid-seventeenth century provided a dubious spate of books that lambasted the early Stuarts, among them Arthur Wilson's The History of Great Britain. In a rare dispassionate moment Wilson rightly observes: 'The City of London, and the Court at White-hall, like two great Stars in Conjunction, had one and the same influence and operation.' These two great stars each had its own sphere of cultural, political, and economic influence; but they reflected the light of the other. A simple example: the King's Men performed William Shakespeare's 1 Henry IV during the extraordinary outpouring of drama at court in early 1613. Sylvester Jourdain's Discovery of the Bermudas, and the Council of Virginia's True Declaration of the state of the Colonie in Virginia, generated great excitement and probably influenced Shakespeare in writing The Tempest, performed recently at court in early 1613.
Poets reflected on the royal wedding, as some of the same ones, such as Thomas Heywood, Peacham, John Donne, and George Wither, had responded to Prince Henry's death and funeral. London 1613 included the most renowned playwright and the most prominent actor, in the immediate aftermath of the wedding. Donne begins by hailing 'Bishop Valentine', whose day the wedding commemorates. He then turns to work several changes on the idea of the phoenix, a concept and image linked to Duke of Lennox, King James, and in Webster's poem on the death of Henry to the prince himself. As Lennox well knew, some of the residue of resentment or uncertainty grew out of the court's wrestling still with the overwhelming reality of Henry's death. But in the final outburst of wedding festivities Queen Anne participated fully.
The production of William Shakespeare and John Fletcher's Henry VIII in late June 1613 intersects the narrative in unanticipated ways. This play's performance stands almost precisely between the February and December weddings, offering both retrospective and prospective views. The first movement of the narrative involves knights who had attempted to make their journey to London for this wedding. The play's ending celebrates the birth of Henry's daughter Elizabeth and looks forward to the eventual arrival of the Scottish king. The debate about divorce delineates the king's struggle with his moral conscience; indeed, the word 'conscience' becomes a prominent term in the play. But the poet conveniently overlooks the messy divorce and intrigue that eventually led to the royal wedding. In retrospect, the darkness of Thomas Overbury's death (later revealed to be murder) hangs over the celebration.
Publication of plays and theatre performances in 1613 underscore the growing cultural power of London's theatrical landscape, from which William Shakespeare was beginning to exit, but leaving behind an exceptionally rich heritage. London's industrious printers produced an avalanche of books in 1613, containing a stunning range of materials, from sermons to books on husbandry, music, poetry, and drama. These books link the public and private spheres of England's culture, as they bridge the distance between Whitehall and the City of London. Courtier and worker could jostle side by side at London's book stalls whose wares complement and sometimes complete the cultural process. The cultural excitement of a royal wedding and an aristocratic one, the cultural investment in a royal funeral, the resonance and solace of unparalleled drama performances and publication, the unstinting productivity of writers and printers all combined to make 1613 an exceptionally important year.