Friday, January 16, 2009

Of watery tarts and enemy snails

In Court Culture and the Origins of a Royalist Tradition in Early Stuart England (1987) R. Malcolm Smuts describes the following cute little pageant laid on in honour of Elizabeth I during one of her progresses through the home counties:

When the Earl of Hertford heard [the queen] was moving toward one of his small country residences in 1591, he hired 280 workmen to erect a small village to house the court and construct the setting for a pageant. They dug a pond in the shape of a crescent moon of Diana, goddess of chastity. In it stood an island fortress and a ship, to symbolize England and her navy, and a huge snail made of trimmed hedges, to represent the queen's enemies. When Elizabeth arrived, water deities came out of this enchanted pool to pay homage in song and verse to the mistress of the seas. Then the ship and fortress attacked the snail with blazing cannon, blowing it up in a profusion of fireworks. The entertainment dragged on through three days of drizzle as both court and country folk watched. Finally Elizabeth departed, to the doleful laments of the water gods, whose deserting them, in the direction of her next host.

Unfortunately, Smuts doesn't tell us what kind of staged fracas awaited her majesty at the next stop. But I have no doubt that the owner of whatever country manor next blessed with her benign presence would have done his utmost to please his royal guest with an equally bizarre stirring tribute to national heroism.

Now, how might a modern monarch be appropriately entertained? With "The Clash of Civilizations on Ice" (performed in the shadow of the London Eye)? That sure would go down a treat with Madeleine Bunting! Or a panto-style reenactment of Prince Harry's Afghan adventures with his dusky comrades? No, that'd be a tad too inclusive.

I'd draw on another inspiration altogether: the UK's ongoing collective delusion that Albion has become a heliport for extraterrestrial tourists.

In fact, I'd get John Carpenter to direct the climactic battle between an Anglo-Saxon space Galahad and a rubber orange from beyond the stars:



Or, if the rubber orange is unavailable, maybe a blancmange from the planet Skyron will do:

1 comment:

mikeovthetwilightzone said...

Don't dis the UFOlogists. If you got into gear and bought a telly you would know that "The Truth is Out There".

Incidentally a very large proportion of british UFOlogists appear to come from Winsford, Ches. Or they did. They may have been abducted.