Wednesday 31th May. 11 AM – The Lady Chapel, Ely Cathedral. Back in the chapel for three days filming a banquet held in honour of the Archduke Charles of Austria.
The arrival of Elizabeth’s suitor provides the occasion for a lavish banquet in which we hope to create some of the exotic flavour of court life as a background for action centring on Elizabeth, Walsingham, Bess Throckmorton and Raleigh. The sixteenth century was, for those with the money and family to access court life, an age of wonder. This was an era when classical knowledge, largely forgotten or overlooked in the mediaeval period, was being revived and finding its way into poetry and plays. This was also a world still barely half-explored by Europeans and beyond the horizon lay the tempting promise of strange lands and fabulous riches.
We have attempted to give some of this flavour to what might otherwise be a rather traditional banqueting scene just peopled with the usual mix of musicians, dancers and jesters. So along with the guests we have a wonderful selection of period dishes prepared from original recipes and illustrations, including heron pies, crystalised fruits, stuffed peacocks, marchpanes and sugar elephants. For the entertainment the queen has ordered some of the animals from the Royal menagerie to parade through – parrots from the New World, a python from India, a monkey and even a zebra. Such animals were often presented to the crown as gifts from other rulers, and there was considerable competition to acquire particularly rare examples. For the gathered company these animals would have seemed to have walked straight from the pages of a bestiary – strange and colourful creatures from lands that still lay beyond Elizabethan horizons.
There is also, of course, some human entertainment, but more on that later.