Sunday, 10 May 2009
The Speeches at Prince Henry's Barriers, sometimes called The Lady of the Lake, is a masque or entertainment written by Ben Jonson in honour of Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, the son and heir of King James I of England. The speeches were performed on 6 January 1610 in conjunction with the ceremony known as Prince Henry's Barriers.
"Barriers" was a stylized martial combat, conducted on foot with swords and pikes; it was something like a joust without horses. Though ceremonial in nature, the practice had some inherent risk (as jousting did), and the sixteen-year-old Prince Henry had to persuade his reluctant father to allow his participation. The ceremonial challenge that initiated the barriers occurred on 31 December 1609; Prince Henry then kept an "open table" at St. James's Palace, which cost £100 per day. The Prince was supported by a team of six nobles and gentlemen: Ludovic Stewart, 2nd Duke of Lennox; Thomas Howard, 21st Earl of Arundel; Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton; James Hay, 1st Earl of Carlisle; Sir Robert Gordon, and Sir Thomas Somerset. The seven met fifty-eight challengers during the Barriers; "each bout consisted of two pushes with the pike and twelve sword-strokes, and the young prince gave or received that night thirty-two pushes and about 360 strokes."