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5.0 out of 5 stars A Tudor Wedding, 5 Nov 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Receyt of the Ladie Kateryne L (Early English Text Society Original Series) (Hardcover)
Five hundred years ago, on 14th November 1501, Prince Arthur, eldest son of King Henry VII of England married the Infanta Catalina, youngest daughter of King Ferdinand V of Aragon and Queen Isabel of Castile. "The Receyt of the Ladie Kateryne" is a glittering description of the elaborate court ceremonial and code of etiquette devised by King Henry's mother, Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond to emphasis the status of the nouveau House of Tudor among the ruling families of Europe.
Book I recounts the Infanta's journey from the Spanish fleet at Plymouth to London, her unexpected encounter with King Henry and Prince Arthur, and her rapturous welcome by the dignitaries and ordinary citizens of England. This is followed by Book II, a long richly embroidered tapestry, illustrating Catalina's entry into the heart of the City of London in a procession that passes a series of allegorical pageants. Gordon Kipling notes the astrological significance of one magnificent heavenly scene that employed the November 1501 conjunction of the stars Arcturus and Hesperus to illustrate the political alliance of Arthur of England with Catalina whose Hispanic world was increasing in wealth, might, and geographic scale. Books III and IV continue the weaving of this fabulous tapestry with a narrative of the wedding ceremony at St Paul's Cathedral, the sumptuous banquets, and lavish court entertainments, tournaments, jousting, and masked balls held at the recently completed Richmond Palace. Book IV concludes with King Henry creating his heir Prince of Wales.
From a historian's point of view, the conclusion to Book IV is wildly inaccurate. Prince Arthur had been created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester in November 1489, twelve years before his marriage to the Infanta. Indeed, the English Queen, Elizabeth of York, had referred to Catalina as Princess of Wales as early as 1498. The author of "The Receyt of the Ladie Kateryne" would almost certainly have known these facts. Gordon Kipling suggests he could have been Stephen Hawes, a poet of the school of Chaucer and Lydgate who was groom of the chamber to Henry VII. Irrespective of whether Hawes or another courtier wrote "The Receyt", it is thought to date from 1502 or 1503, composed possibly as an official memento of the first anniversary of the union. Henry VII was an adapt propagandist and this narrative is Tudor propaganda par excellence! Arthur's investiture as Prince of Wales in "The Receyt of the Ladie Kateryne" is a romantic metaphor for the Prince's emergence into adult life as a man, Arthurian knight, and the future of the Tudor Dynasty.
The ending of Book IV would have made a felicitous conclusion to "The Receyt of the Ladie Kateryne". However, Prince Arthur died at the age of fifteen on 2nd April 1502 at Ludlow Castle near the Shropshire border with Wales. The gold and vibrant colours of Books I to IV fade into muted silver in Book V, which Gordon Kipling suggests was an afterthought. This final Book relates how the news of the Prince's death was delivered to King Henry and Queen Elizabeth at Greenwich Palace. The ecstatic reception of the Infanta Catalina in Books I and II is mirrored darkly as the author describes each stage of the journey of the young Prince's coffin from Ludlow to Worcester, where it was interred in the cathedral.
Gordon Kipling has consulted the financial records of the Court and the City, several Privy Council documents, and a wealth of other primary material to produce a thoroughly researched, well-annotated, and approachable edition of "The Receyt of the Ladie Kateryne". It is an invaluable resource for academic research into this period of English and European history. Moreover, anyone with a passion for Tudor history who has read and enjoyed studies of the wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser, David Starkey, or Alison Weir, will be dazzled by this gilded and bejewelled narrative, a rich mine of primary source information on the life of Katherine of Aragon, the first of Henry's six Queens.
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The Receyt of the Ladie Kateryne                   L (Early English Text Society Original Series)
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