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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: February ::
Re: The Court Historian
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0364  Thursday, 7 February 2002

[1]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 6 Feb 2002 18:54:45 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0344 Re: The Court Historian

[2]     From:   John Briggs <
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        Date:   Thursday, 7 Feb 2002 09:01:47 -0000
        Subj:   RE: SHK 13.0344 Re: The Court Historian


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Wednesday, 6 Feb 2002 18:54:45 -0000
Subject: 13.0344 Re: The Court Historian
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0344 Re: The Court Historian

John Briggs wrote that, "As a King's Man, Shakespeare ranked as a Groom
of the Chamber at the Court of James I." Bill Arnold pleaded, "As an
American, not knowing what a 'Groom of the Chamber at the Court of James
I' meant, can you explain?"

As an Englishman, I haven't the faintest idea what "a Groom of the
Chamber at the Court of James I" is/was either. Indeed, as an Englishman
who lived at the time of the Court of James I and spent some time around
it and in it, I sincerely doubt that William Shakespeare knew what "a
Groom of the Chamber at the Court of James I" was. I don't suppose the
playwright was ever required to brush the King's hair; nor that of his
horses.

The Stuart royal court basically had three "departments" - The Household
(finances and what not), The Chamber and the Bedchamber (the very inner
sanctum of Stuart politics and, well...). The Chamber was run under the
auspices of the Lord Chamberlain, and was concerned with public ceremony
and display, and regulating access to the King. This is why Shakespeare
would have been a "Groom" of this department of the royal court -
because he was involved in organising royal entertainment at the behest
of the Master of the Revels, whose office was directly answerable to the
Lord Chamberlain. It will be recalled that the King's Men were formerly
the Chamberlain's Men.  From all this it will be surmised that "Groom of
the Chamber at the Court of King James I" sounds a lot grander than the
position deserves.

I refer Bill Arnold (and anyone else interested in such arcana) to Neil
Cuddy's excellent overview, "Reinventing a Monarchy: The Changing
Structure and Political Function of the Stuart Court 1603-1688", Eveline
Cruickshanks, ed., The Stuart Courts (Stroud: Sutton Publishing 2000).
pp.59ff.

m

PS - this weekend I myself will be occupying the position of
"Bridegroom". I'm just off to get my brush...

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Briggs <
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Date:           Thursday, 7 Feb 2002 09:01:47 -0000
Subject: 13.0344 Re: The Court Historian
Comment:        RE: SHK 13.0344 Re: The Court Historian

>Bill Arnold wrote,
>
>As an American, not knowing what a "Groom of the Chamber at the Court of
>James I" meant, can you explain?

In theory, a Groom of the Chamber was a personal attendant on the King,
and would help him dress and undress.  (Don't ask about the Groom of the
Stole!)  In practice, of course, the office was largely honorific.
Attendance at court was required (at least notionally), but a salary was
paid and board and lodging provided during residence.  The most
important aspect, of course, was access to the King and access, as the
Enron scandal demonstrates, is all-important.  I assume Americans are
familiar

In the case of the King's Men the office was doubly honorific, but their
requirement of attendance and duty was discharged by their performing
plays at Court, and the office ensured that they had the status of
courtiers while they did so.

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