105. Gasparo Spinelli, Venetian Secretary in London, to his brother Lodovico Spinelli, in Venice. On the 4th instant all the ambassadors, with the exception of the Emperor's, were summoned to Greenwich, where, in the presence of the King and the chief personages of the Court, the French ambassador, the Bishop of Tarbes, delivered an oration, which was answered by the Bishop of London, who, on the morrow, Cardinal Wolsey being unable to officiate from indisposition, sang mass with the usual ceremonies; after which at the high altar, where the missal was opened by the Cardinal, the French ambassadors swore in his hands (“in mano dil R~mo Cardinal”) to observe the perpetual peace now concluded with the King of England, he on his part swearing in like manner. Two of the ambassadors, namely the prelate and the soldier, dined with the King, the others dining together apart. On rising from table they went to the Queen's apartment, where the Princess danced with the French ambassador, the Viscount of Turenne, who considered her very handsome (“molto bella”), and admirable by reason of her great and uncommon mental endowments; but so thin, spare, and small (“cosi magreta et scarma et picola”) as to render it impossible for her to be married for the next three years. Then yesterday there was a joust, the challengers at the tilt (“al campo”) being four, the competitors (“concorrenti”) sixteen, each of whom ran six courses; a very delectable sight, by reason of the prowess of the knights. The joust ended with the day, not without rain, which rather impeded the jousting. The King and the Queens, with some 200 damsels (“damigelle”), then went to the apartments which I informed you in a former letter were being prepared [on one side of the list-yard at Greenwich] for the reception of the French ambassadors, the rest of the company following them. The site adjoined the other chambers from whence the King and the nobility view the jousts. They were but two halls, about thirty paces in length, and of proportional height and breadth. The centre of the ceiling of the first hall was entirely covered with brocatel of no great value, but producing a good effect; the walls were hung with the most costly tapestry in England, representing the history of David; and there was a row of torches closely set, illuminating the place very brilliantly, being ranged below the windows, which were at no great distance from the roof. The royal table was prepared in front of the hall, with a large canopy of tissue (“soprarizo”), beneath which was the King, with the Queens, his wife and sister, at the sides. Then came two long tables, at one of which, on the right-hand side, were seated the French ambassadors and the Princes, each pairing with some great lady. At the other table, to the left, the Venetian ambassador and the one from Milan placed themselves, with the rest of the lords and ladies. At no great distance from the two tables were two cupboards, reaching from the floor to the roof, forming a semicircle, on which was a large and varied assortment of vases, all of massive gold, the value of which it would be difficult to estimate, nor were any of them touched; silver gilt dishes of another sort being used for the viands of meat and fish, which were in such variety and abundance that the banquet lasted a long while. The door of this hall was in the form of a very lofty triumphal arch, fashioned after the antique, beneath which were three vaulted entrances; through one passed the dishes for the table, through the other they were removed, and on each side of the centre one, which was the largest, stood two enormous cupboards bearing the wine to be served at table. Over the triumphal arch was a spacious balcony for the musicians, bearing the arms of the King and Queen, with sundry busts of Emperors, and the King's motto, “Dieu et mon droit” and other Greek (sic) words. Could never conceive anything so costly and well designed (“ben ordinata”) as what was witnessed on that night at Greenwich. On rising from table all were marshalled, according to their rank, along a corridor of no great length to the other hall, which was of rather less size than the first. The floor was covered with cloth of silk embroidered with gold lilies. The ceiling, which was well nigh flat, was all painted, representing a map of the world (“mapamondo in Alpa forma”), the names of the principal provinces being legible; there were also the signs of the zodiac and their properties (“le loro proprietà”), these paintings being supported by giants. Along the sides of the hall were three tiers of seats, each of which had a beam placed lengthwise, for the spectators to lean on, nor did one tier interfere with the other. Above these tiers were in like manner three rows of torches, so well disposed and contrived as not to impede the view. Within the space for the spectators, on the right-hand side, in the first tier, the ambassadors were placed, in the second the Princes, in the third those to whom admission was granted, they being few. On the opposite side, in the same order, were the ladies, whose various styles of beauty and apparel, enhanced by the brilliancy of the lights, caused me to think I was contemplating the choirs of angels; they, in like manner, being placed one above the other. Two-thirds of the distance down the hall, an arch of a single span had been erected, its depth being five feet and a half [English measure], all gilt with fine gold, the inside of the arch being decorated with a number of beautiful figures in low relief. The magnificence of this arch was such that it was difficult to comprehend how so grand a structure could have been raised in so short a space of time. In the centre, to the front (“nel fronte nel mezo”), stood the royal throne (“soglio”), on which the King sat, the two Queens being seated below at his feet. All the spectators being thus methodically placed, without the least noise or confusion, and precisely as pre-arranged, the entertainment commenced. One thing above all others surprised me most, never having witnessed the like any where, it being impossible to represent or credit with how much order, regularity, and silence such public entertainments proceed and are conducted in England. First of all, there entered the hall eight singers, forming two wings, and singing certain English songs; in their centre was a very handsome youth alone, clad in skyblue tatfety, a number of eyes being scattered over his gown; and having presented themselves before the King, the singers then withdrew in the same order, there remaining by himself the youth, who, in the guise of Mercury, sent to the King by Jupiter, delivered a learned Latin oration in praise of his Majesty; which panegyric being ended, he announced that Jupiter, having frequently listened to disputes between Love and Riches concerning their relative authority, and that being unable to decide the controversy, he appointed his Majesty as judge, and requested him to pronounce and pass sentence on both of them. Thereupon Mercury departed, and next came eight young choristers of the chapel, four on each side; those to the right were all clad in cloth of gold, much ornamented, and the first of them was Cupid (“Amor”); the others to the left were variously arrayed, and their chief was Plutus (“la Richesa”); in the centre walked one alone, in the guise of Justice, who sang. In this order they presented themselves to the King, before whom Justice commenced narrating the dispute between the parties, in English, and desired Cupid (“Amor”) to begin with his defence, to which Plutus (“la Richeza”) replied, each of the choristers on either side defending their leaders, by reciting a number of verses. The altercation being ended, Cupid and Plutus determined that judgment should go by battle, and thus, having departed, three men-at-arms in white armour, with three naked swords in their hands, entered from the end of the hall, and having drawn up under the triumphal arch, an opening was made in its centre by some unseen means, and out of the arch fell down a bar, in front of which there appeared three well-armed knights. The combat then commenced valiantly, man to man, some of them dealing such blows that their swords broke. After they had fought some while, a second bar was let down, which separated them, the first three having vanquished the others, fighting with great courage; and the duel (“duello”) being thus ended, the combatants quitted the hall in like manner as they had entered it. Thereupon there fell to the ground at the extremity of the hall a painted canvas [curtain], from an aperture in which was seen a most verdant cave (“antro”) approachable by four steps, each side being guarded by four of the chief gentlemen of the Court, clad in tissue doublets and tall plumes, each of whom carried a torch. Well grouped within the cave were eight damsels of such rare beauty as to be supposed goddesses rather than human beings. They were arrayed in cloth of gold, their hair gathered into a net, with a very richly jewelled garland, surmounted by a velvet cap, the hanging sleeves of their surcoats (“camisa”) being so long that they well nigh touched the ground, and so well and richly wrought as to be no slight ornament to their beauty. They descended gracefully from their seats to the sound of trumpets, the first of them being the Princess, hand in hand with the Marchioness of Exeter. Her beauty in this array produced such effect on everybody that all the other marvellous sights previously witnessed were forgotten, and they gave themselves up solely to contemplation of so fair an angel. On her person were so many precious stones that their splendour and radiance dazzled the sight, in such wise as to make one believe that she was decked with all the gems of the eighth sphere. Dancing thus they presented themselves to the King, their dance being very delightful by reason of its variety, as they formed certain groups and figures most pleasing to the sight. Their dance being finished, they ranged themselves on one side, and in like order the eight youths, leaving their torches, came down from the cave, and after performing their dance, each of them took by the hand one of those beautiful nymphs, and having led a courant together (“menata una chorea”) for a while, returned to their places. Six masks then entered. To detail their costume would be but to repeat the words “cloth of gold,” cloth of silver,” &c. They chose such ladies as they pleased for their partners, and commenced various dances, which being ended, the King appeared. The French ambassador, the Marquis of Turrene, was at his side, and behind him four couple of noblemen (“signori”), all masked, and all wearing black velvet slippers on their feet, this being done, lest the King should be distinguished from the others, as from the hurt which he received lately on his left foot when playing at tennis (“allo palla”) he wears a black velvet slipper. They were all clad in tissue doublets, over which was a very long and ample gown of black satin, with hoods of the same material, and on their heads caps of tawney velvet. They then took by the hand an equal number of ladies, dancing with great glee, and at the end of the dance unmasked; whereupon the Princess with her companions again descended, and came to the King, who in the presence of the French ambassadors took off her cap, and the net being displaced, a profusion of silver tresses as beautiful as ever seen on human head fell over her shoulders, forming a most agreeable sight. The aforesaid ambassadors then took leave of her; and all departing from that beautiful place returned to the supper hall, where the tables were spread with every sort of confection and choice wines for all who chose to cheer themselves with them. The sun, I believe, greatly hastened his course, having perhaps had a hint from Mercury of so rare a sight; so showing himself already on the horizon, warning being thus given of his presence, everybody thought it time to quit the royal chambers, returning to their own with such sleepy eyes that the daylight could not keep them open. As the Bishop of Tarbes is departing tomorrow morning in haste, I will not be more diffuse. He will be accompanied by Master Poyntz [Sir Francis Poyntz] and Clarencieux, king-of-arms, to do what I wrote in a former letter. On their departure each of the ambassadors received a gold cup from his Majesty. London, 7th May 1527. Registered by Sanuto, 3rd June. [Italian.]
'Venice: May 1527', Calendar of State Papers Relating to English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 4: 1527-1533 (1871), pp. 56-66.