The Tudor River Pageant: Saturday, 20 June 2009
Thames Alive, in association with Historic Royal Palaces, staged a spectacular Tudor Pageant on the River Thames. Sixty traditional barges, royal shallops and watermen’s cutters, all decorated with flags, bunting and banners, took part as over 300 oarsmen rowed from HM Tower of London to Hampton Court Palace. The event marked the 500th anniversary of the coronation of Henry VIII and recreated the royal spectacle of the King travelling the M4 of his day. Not since 2005 and the remarkable re-enactment of Lord Nelson’s river funeral procession had the capital had the opportunity to witness such a huge and colourful river flotilla.
After processing from the Tower of London with an escort of Yeoman Warders and a sumptuously attired entourage of Tudor courtiers and musicians, the King embarked from Tower Pier at 10.00 and proceeded up stream, with more boats joining the procession at Richmond and Teddington Lock, for the final leg of the journey to Hampton Court Palace. The King arrived at the palace to a rapturous welcome and disembarked mid afternoon.
Pride of place in the flotilla was given to the royal Shallop Jubilant, which carried Henry and his royal trumpets, while every boat in the pageant wore a specially designed white and green flag defaced by a gold fleur de lys, displaying Henry’s coat of arms as ‘The French King’. Crews were issued with specially designed T-shirts and a bright red Tudor style hat, which gave a unified and distinctive feel to whole flotilla. The Lady Mayoress followed behind the Jubilant with Henry’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon.
Thousands of spectators watched the colourful spectacle from the embankment, many riverside pubs and the Thames bridges, cheering the King and Queen and the flotilla as they passed by on their impressive journey. Over ten thousand people cheered their arrival at Hampton Court Palace.
After the Pageant the crews retired to the Orchard Garden and Ditton Skiff and Punt Club for a well-earned feast of hog roast or chilli con carne and more than a few pints of beer!
Henry VIII often rowed on the river and used it to stage one of the greatest spectacles of his reign. On the sunny morning of 29 May 1533 50 barges decorated with flags and bunting, draped with gold, packed with musicians and accompanied by smaller vessels brought his second bride, Anne Boleyn, upriver for their wedding ceremony at Westminster Abbey in June 1533. The spectacle was a public celebration of his break with Rome and an assumption of his authority over the Church of England, which the sovereign retains to this day. Thus the Tudor Pageant in 2009 celebrated Henry’s Coronation and also associated the river with a watershed in the nation’s history.
On Sunday, Team Thames Alive, working with Past Pleasures, arranged three hours of river races for skiffs and punts and a display by HMS VICTORY Cutter. Shore side attractions included a ducking stool, Tudor gunfire and ‘The Battle of the Rivers’ where Old Father Thames fought three of the great European rivers: the Rhine, Seine and Danube – and won!
Thames Alive presents Boris Johnson Mayor of London with a drawing of the Tudor Pageant by Peter Kent (holding picture) with Peter Warwick (far right) and Roger Mutton (far left).
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