Fit for a Queen

Provisions were sent to King’s in advance of the royal visit but the College still incurred substantial expenses in entertaining the Queen and Court. Fourteen pounds of candles were laid in, dozens of day-labourers were hired at 8 pence (8d) per day, chimneys and plasterwork were repaired, keys made, cellars cleaned and the churchyard mowed, all in advance of the royal visit.

The Queen, upon her arrival in Cambridge, walked along the lane from Queens’ to King's College which was strewn with rushes, hung with flags, boughs and coverlets, and lined with University students and fellows. Rushes were also used as flooring at the west end of the ante-chapel which was not paved at the time.

The pages reproduced below are from the College accounts for the summer of 1564, from the special section devoted to necessary expenses made for the visit of the Queen.

Payments to local tradesmen include 3s 5d paid to Oliver Green for nails for the stage – that’s just over 5 days of wages for a labourer! This would have been the stage originally built in the Hall - the Queen paid for the stage built in the Chapel. Christopher Wallis was paid 25s 10d for the casement on top of the screen (the rood loft) where the ladies stood. (The organ which is there now is a later installation.) Male courtiers watched the play from beneath the screen.

A King’s Fellow Tom Brown was reimbursed for his expenses in connection with the actors (6l 16s 4d), and 4s was paid for the drummers and flutes.

Further details of the pomp and preparations necessary for the Queen’s stay can be inferred from the expenses of 3l 6s 9d paid to the Queen’s footmen for use of their canopy which was carried over the Queen (though in this case it was carried by four Cambridge men with Doctorates), 8s 7d paid to a carpenter David Truman for joinery work in the Lodge including removing beds and wardrobes and putting them back after the Queen had left, and 5s for a velvet-bound communion book, a gift for the Queen.

Each College prepared verses celebrating the Queen, and they were bound and presented to her - that volume is now held in the University Library (MS Add.8915). One of the final expenses at King’s College for this visit was 12d for binding its own book of verses in crimson velvet.


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