Recently a copy of the script for the Pageant held at Eltham as part of the 1951 Festival of Britain celebrations has come into my hands, and having seen so many pageant cards, I feel this gives an added insight into what went on at the pageants held up and down the country.
Episode 1. 1075 The Manor Fields of Eltham
Odo Bishop of Bayeux Invests Haimo Shire-Reeve of Kent with the Manor of Eltham
Stalls are set up and people pass to and fro, some with items for sale, others engaged in purchasing.
1st Man (To man at stall with pots arranged)
"Come man, there are five goodly skins well cleaned and dressed, 'tis a bargain for yonder pot, the size is smaller than I require, but twill do."
Stallholder "Nay make it a bundle of six skins and the pot is yours. I could get more I warrant if I waited till noon and more were afoot."
1st man "I cannot put six for I only have five with me, so it's five for the pot or I go elsewhere."
Stallholder "Take it then, but 'tis a sorry exchange for me the pot is worth more."
A withered man in rags and ringing a tin bell passes by calling "Unclean! Unclean!" Women draw their children to them, a woman places a load of bread in his path and hurriedly withdraws. He takes the loaf and passes on calling "Unclean! Unclean!"
The children play.
The above conversation goes on during the general bustle of the market, and is not intended as important dialogue.
Enter Peter hurriedly
Edgar "Hey Peter, whats afoot? It must indeed be urgent news for you to hurry so."
Peter "Friend Edgar, it is indeed, methinks the goodly folk hereabouts will find it not to their liking either, and I fear it means much distress amongst us all."
Edgar "Come now, to the news, what is it."
Peter "Well within the hour there is to be much business here."
Edgar "Stay I'll call the others, then you can tell us all (He calls) Hey Bewam! Uffa! Ella! all of you, our Peter here has news of great portent, and you Owulf go keep watch."
The peasants gather round murmuring, and one goes off to the side to keep watch.
Peter "Pray listen all of you, within the hour there is to be a great ceremony, Norman William having given all of Kent to his nearest relation Bishop Odo."
1st peasant "Aye he be the kings half-brother they do say."
Peter "Yes the very same, he comes here this very morning together with others and one named Haimo the Shire-reeve whom 'tis said bears relation to the King."
2nd peasant "Yea so 'tis said."
Peter "The Haimo, friends, will be our Overlord, and to him will we have to pay our tribute."
1st peasant "How comes all this, you speak in riddles."
Peter "This very day they all come here, Bishop Odo to give unto Haimo the manor of this place."
2nd peasant "So we are to be ruled here by men who speak a strange sounding tongue."
Owulf runs on and points off
Owulf "Look to yourselves and your behaviour, the lords approach ere now."
(The peasants fall back into line muttering. Mothers snatch their children to their sides.)
Enter the Procession of Haimo
First go men at arms to clear the way, then Haimo attended by three or four lords and their ladies and attendants. They take their places standing in a semi-circle around Haimo.
Enter the Procession of Odo
Odo although a Bishop is also a soldier. He is attended by his chaplin, two monks, two scribes and attendants.
Odo "Our kinsman Haimo you are here upon the hour, to receive from us that which we have in mind to give."
(They clasp fore-arms, Haimo kneels)
Odo "So as from this day, the manor of this place, Altehame you hold in fief for us, and see its people conform unto our rule as sober subjects."
Haimo "All this to do, I this day swear."
Odo (To the scribes who have been busily writing)
"Bring you here the writ."
The scribes offer their boards. Odo signs one and Haimo the other.Odo seals them both, and hands one to Haimo, the other to one of the monks. Odo places his hand on Haimo's head whilst the Chaplain forms the sign of the cross.
Odo "So look you well to the business and see that the Hundred Courts be held hereabouts in accordance to the rule of our brother William."
Haimo (Raising his right hand)
"All this I swear to do."
Haimo rises and goes off with Odo in procession.
Edgar "Aye so the business is well done in their own fashion and tongue, and may it portend nothing dire for us. Come Peter."
The peasants and villagers go off in groups chattering about what they have seen.
Episode 2. 1347.
The Establishment of the Most Noble Order of the Garter at Eltham
Knights and Ladies enter from various points, stop and converse or curtsey and bow and pass on their way to various appointed positions.
Fanfare of Trumpets.
Enter in procession,
The King and Queen
The Prince of Wales (The Black Prince)
Followed by A Company of Knights
All take their places, the Royal party in one place, the Knights at a little distance away.
Fanfare of Trumpets
Herald (reading proclamation)
"My Lords, My Ladies, Sirs, Esquires and all company here assembled, be it known that our Sovereign, Edward, by the Grace of God, King of England, does this day proclaim that he has caused to be established a most goodly company of valiant Knights and from this day forth to be known throughout Christendom as the Most Noble Order of the Garter and that the company thereof to show this signal mark of the King's favour to wear about their left leg a garter of blue enscribed thereon in letters of gold "Honi Soit qui Mal y Pence" the motto so approved by our sovereign King, and to bear it valiantly throughout the Realm and beyond the seas to the glory of God, the honour of the King, and the championship of all in distress."
"LONG LIVE THE KING!"
King "Bring to us the twelve garters of blue which we have caused to be made and delivered to this our wardrobe at Eltham that we may name and bestow to those whom we are pleased to appoint firstley to this noble order."
The Keeper of the Wardrobe advances with a cushion on which are laid in a row twelve Garters. He stands by the King.
Fanfare of Trumpets
Herald "Stand forth in this order that ye may receive from our sovereign King, that badge of the goodly company to which you are appointed.
His Royal Highness Edward Prince of Wales
His Grace the Earl of Lancaster and Derby
Sir Thomas Beauchamp
Sir John L'Isle
Sir John Grey
Sir Hugh Courtenay
Sir Miles Stapleton
Sir John Beauchamp
Sir John Chandos
Sir William Montacute
Sir John de Grey
Sir Hugh Wrottesley
These most valiant Knights we have been pleased to appoint to the Most Noble Order of the Garter, having fought courageously and victoriously with us on the fields of Calais and Cressy."
LONG LIVE THE KING
The Knights stand in line before the King.
Twelve pages bring footstalls and place one before each Knight. The Knights simultaneously place their left feet upon the stools and kneel on their right knees.
King "To the honour of God Omnipotent and in memory of the blessed Martyr Saint George, tie about thy leg for thy renown this Most Noble Garter, wear it as the symbol of the most illustrious order, never to be forgotten or laid aside, that thereby thou mayest be admonished to be courageous and having undertaken a just war, stand firm, valiantly fight, courageously and successfully conquor."
(The king then passes from one to the other fastening with the aid of an esquire a Garter about the left knee of each Knight) "And we do decree that thy ladies, you as having such, may place about their left arma like garter of blue to proclaim to all your valour and courage."
Prince "Sire, we are grateful for the favour conferred and having no pretensions to so distinguished a mark of favour, knowing that we owe it solely to your grace and goodness." (He kisses the King's hand).
The King's standard bearer, Sir John Beauchamp stands forward
Sir John "For England and Saint George."
The whole company repeat the phrase.
King "We do now repair to our tilt yard here adjacent with a goodly company till set of sun."
Fanfare of Trumpets
King's procession departs. The Knights follow then the assembled company.
Notes on Episode 2.
In 1347 the ages of the principal characters were as follows
King Edward III 35 years of age
Queen Philippa 35
Prince of Wales 17
Sir Thomas Beauchamp 30
Sir John L'Isle 29
Sir John Grey 50
Sir Hugh Courtnay 21
Sir Miles Stapleton 30
Sir John Beauchamp 32
Sir John Chandos 25
Sir William Montacute 19
Sir John de Grey 50
Sir Hugh Wrottesley 35
Other instalments to be published in future Newsletters.
Episode 3. 1515 The Investiture of Cardinal Wolsey as Lord Chancellor of England in the Chapel of Eltham Palace.
Episode 4. 1535 The Lady of Well Hall.
Episode 5. Elizabeth of England.
Episode 6. 1785 Highwaymen on Shooters Hill, the Old Dover Road, an incidence based on facts.
Episode 7. 1833 Golden Jubilee of the Rev J. K. Shaw-Brooke.
© Exhibition Study Group 1994