The Dover Pageant

Pageant type

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Place: Dover College (Dover) (Dover, Kent, England)

Year: 1908

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 13


27th July-1st August 1908

7 public dress rehearsal performances: Saturday 18 July, Wednesday 22 July, Saturday 25 at 3pm; Monday 20 July, Tuesday 21 July, Thursday 23 July, and Friday 24 July at 5pm.

6 proper performances during pageant week

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Parker, Louis Napoleon
  • Hon Assistant: Major E.A. Jackson
  • Wardens: The Right Worshipful the Mayor of Dover, W. Emden, Esq., JP and the Right Honourable George Wyndham, PC, MP
  • Lady Warden: Mrs Emden (Mayoress of Dover)
  • Deputy Warden: Sir. W.H. Crundall, JP
  • Chairman: G.F. Raggett, Esq., RM, JP
  • Hon. Secretaries: F. Finnis, Esq. and RE Knocker, Esq.
  • Hon. Treasurer: G.E. Lloyd, Esq.
  • President of the Ladies’ Committee: Mrs Raggett
  • Vice-President of the Ladies Committee: Mrs Bartram
  • Hon. Librarian: Miss Horsley
  • Mistress of the Robes: Miss Richards
  • President of the Colour Committee: Mrs Moore
  • Mistress of the Wardrobe: Miss Fitzwilliams
  • Mistress of the Head Dresses: Mrs J.L. Rubie
  • Hon. Secretary of the Accessories Department: Miss C. O’Brien
  • Master and Mistress of the Dances: Mr and Mrs C.T. Long
  • Master of the Music: H.J. Taylor, Esq., FRCO
  • Chief of the Narrative Chorus: E. Wilfred Barclay, Esq.
  • Master of the Designs: W.H. East, Esq., ARCA
  • Master of the Horse: S.W. Coxon, Esq.
  • Master of the Properties: F.G. Hayward, Esq.
  • Chairman of the Ground Committee: J.L. Bradley Esq., JP
  • Chairman of the Advertising Committee: A.C. Leney, Esq.
  • Secretary: Mr H.R. Geddes

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Executive Committee:

  • Chairman: Mr G.F. Raggett
  • Mr J.W. Bussey (Dover Corporation)
  • Mr E.M. Worsfold (Dover Institute)
  • Mr W.W. Burkett (Chamber of Commerce)
  • Mr K.L. Bradley (Dover College)
  • Mr Kingston Fox (Dover Choral Union)
  • Mr T.B. Harby (Dover Yacht Club)
  • Mr P. Hart (Dover Commercial Club)
  • Dr R.W. Ord (Dover Club)
  • Mr C. Charlwood (Dover Amalgamated Friendly Society)
  • Mayor of Folkestone (Representing Cinque Ports)
  • Mayor of Calais (Representing French towns)
  • Colonel W.E.L. Balfour (the Garrison)
  • Canon Bartram, MA (Church of England)
  • Mr R. Freeley (Roman Catholic)
  • Mr B. Coveney (Nonconformist)
  • Dr I.D.C. Howden (Medical Profession)
  • Mr L.B. Watson (Legal Profession)
  • Baron de Belabre
  • Rev. W.C. Compton
  • A.C. Leney
  • C.T. Long
  • H. Hayward
  • W.J. Barnes
  • Mr Farley
  • Mr Goudling
  • Mr Cadman
  • 27 men, 0 women = 28 total

Ground Committee:

  • Chairman: Mr J.L. Bradley
  • 9 men, 0 women = 9 total

Ladies Executive Committee:

  • President: Mrs Raggett
  • Vice-President: Mrs Bartram
  • Hon. Secretary: Mrs Martyn Mowll
  • Assistant Secretary: Mrs Best
  • Assistant Secretary: Mrs E.M. Worsfold
  • 0 men, 16 women = 16 total

Art Committee:

  • 3 men, 11 women = 14 total

Colour Committee:

  • President: Mrs Moore
  • 0 men, 11 women = 11 total

Finance Sub-Committee:

  • 8 men, 0 women = 8 total

Property Committee:

  • Master of the Properties: Mr F.G. Hayward
  • 10 men, 0 women = 10 total

Advertising Sub-Committee:

  • Chairman: Mr A.C. Leney
  • 9 men, 0 women = 9 total

Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)

  • Parker, Louis Napoleon
  • Malory, Thomas
  • Shakespeare, William
  • Tiercelin, Louis
  • Geddes, H.R.
  • Rhoades, James


  • Episode I is a paraphrase of Thomas Malory, Le Morte d’Arthur (1485).
  • Episode V is a drastically compressed version of scenes from Shakespeare’s Henry V.
  • Episode VII, illustrating the meeting of Charles I and Henrietta Maria, is by the distinguished French poet, Louis Tiercelin. The new words of the Madrigal, in the same episode, are by Councillor H.R. Geddes.
  • All the narrative choruses and the triumph song are by James Rhoades.

Names of composers

  • Taylor, H.J.
  • Tiercelin, Louis
  • Gibbons, Orlando
  • Tidnam, J. Edis

Mr H.J. Taylor served as Master of the Music.

Numbers of performers


Financial information

Deficit of £1948. 10s. 7d.

‘…from the small attendances, at the proper prices… the pageant could have no other result. The expenditure might probably be considered heavy in many particulars, but it must be remembered that a large portion of it was incurred under the belief that the receipts would be at least £10000.’1

Object of any funds raised

Pageant Chairman, G.F. Raggett: ‘If there had been any profit, undoubtedly the College, St Mary’s Institute, the Dover Hospital and other great works in Dover would have all benefited.’2

Linked occasion


Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: 5100
  • Total audience: 57000


‘About fifty-seven thousand people attended the spectacle during the fortnight.’3

5000 children and soldiers of the regiments attended the first dress rehearsal.4

Pageant Week:

  • Civic Day (Monday): 3000 attendees.5
  • Royal Day (Tuesday): ‘A large crowd was in the stand the attendance being much better than on the previous day, very few seats being vacant.’6
  • Lord Warden’s Day (Wednesday): ‘The general public made a very good show, but there were a large number of vacant seats, as on each of the two previous days.’7
  • Parliamentary Day (Thursday): ‘…the attendance was the best of any day during the week. Almost every seat was occupied, and many people were accommodated on chairs on the ground in the front of the stand. It is estimated that there were over five thousand present.’8

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

21s.–3s. 6d.

  • For preliminary/dress rehearsals: 5s. 6d., 2s. 6d., and 1s.
  • For Pageant Week proper: 21s., 10s. 6d., 5s. 6d., and 3s. 6d.

Associated events

Each day of the pageant was themed:
  • Monday. Civic Day. Present: Right Hon. The Lord Mayor of London and the Sheriffs, the Mayors of Calais, Boulogne, Dunkirk, etc., the Burgomasters of Ostend, Bruges, Ghent, and Antwerp, the Mayors of the Cinque Ports, and Kentish Boroughs. 
  • Tuesday. Royal Day. H.R.H. the Duchess of Albany, H.R.H. Princess Alexander of Teck, H.R.H Prince Alexander of Teck, H.H. Princess Louisa Augusta of Schlweswig-Holstein. Also, Duchess of Wellington, Duchess of Bedford, Lord and Lady Salisbury, Lady Elcho, Lord Percy, Lord and Lady Edmund Talbot.
  • Wednesday. Lord Warden’s Day. Lord and Lady Brassey with a party of friends. There was also a Grand Illuminated Fete and Promenade Concert at Connaught Park on Wednesday 29 July, 6.30pm. Admission: 6d. Children under 12: 3d.
  • Thursday. Parliamentary Day. Right Hon. George Wyndham MP and Lady Grosvenor, with a large party with members of Parliament. 
  • Friday. County Day. The Right Honourable A. Alkers Douglas MP, and friends.
  • In connection with the Pageant, special services were on Sunday held at St Mary’s Church. The preacher was the Rev. Canon Tetley, Canon of Bristol. The Canon was assisted in the service by the Vicar, the Rev. Canon Bartram, and Mr Louis N. Parker who read the lessons.

On Sunday Afternoon a special service was held in the Pageant grounds (donations for the Royal Victoria Hospital). 800 large congregation in the grand stand, Singing led by an orchestra. The Rev. L.M. Man, Chaplain to the College, took the service, assisted by Mr F.G. Hayward (King John in the pageant), who read a lesson.

Pageant outline

The Narrative Chorus

Elder Knights of King Arthur’s Round Table tell of Dover-town, ‘Key of England’s ocean-gate’, and its connection to King Arthur. They explain that they are going to show ‘mighty things’ in the history of the town—both mythical and real. They finish by announcing that they will now see King Arthur in the flesh—grieving for the dead Gawayne.

Episode I. King Arthur (Mythical)

Arthur meets with knights of his round table, morose because Guenever and Lancelot have left him for love—though, as his followers remind him, he has won Dover—the ‘key of the realm’. Prisoners are brought forward, including Sir Ferrant of Spain. Arthur rejects cries to slaughter them, and finds out from Ferrant that Mordred the traitor is gathering forces by Canterbury. Ferrant further informs Arthur that Guenever has won the Tower of London, while Lancelot is remaining neutral at his castle in Brittany. Arthur releases Ferrant, who decides to stay with Arthur’s forces. Gawayne is brought forward on a litter, after being found more than half dead adrift at sea. Arthur shows great emotion at this sight of his nephew; Gawane blames his impending death on an old wound given to him by Lancelot, who he fought ‘without just cause’ and drove away from Arthur. Gawayne asks for paper and ink, and writes to Lancelot, beseeching him to ‘return again into this realm and see my tomb, and pray some prayers… for my soul’. Gawayne claims he can see the Holy Grail, before collapsing dead. Ladies clad in mourning robes enter, who bear Gawayne away to rest within the Castle. The Priests sing the Dies Irae while women sing a song of triumph. Arthur now sits enthroned as ambassadors from Rome enter, bringing greeting from Emperor Lucius, who bids that they acknowledge him as their Lord—or face war. The angry knights argue about how to respond with violence, but Arthur remains calm. He finally tells the Ambassadors that they will not assent, much to the delight of his knights. The amazed ambassadors then call upon the history of Julius Caesar, to which Arthur reminds them ‘that when he sailed over-seas from Gaul to usurp this Kingdom, by reason of fierceness and courage of the men of Dover, he durst not land here, nor ever landed.’ The Romans exit. Arthur bids farewell, as he leaves for Canterbury to take revenge upon Mordred. He tells the Narrative chorus to unroll the scroll of history—and promises that, if in need, he will come to help. The episode ends with all crying ‘For Britain and Arthur!’

Narrative Chorus

The Narrative chorus tells of the passage of time until the arrival of the Normans, and ‘William, Our King!’

Episode II. William the Conqueror, 1066

A group of women with spinning wheels and embroidery enter, and sit chatting and bickering in groups. One sings ‘Saint Martin on a Winter Night’. Meanwhile, the men of Dover enter, some armed, and some bearing the tools of their craft. They announce that Lord Eustace of Boulogne is on his way—some are pleased by this news, others are not, arguing that he is a bloodthirsty nobleman. One of the men sends a boy to fetch Earl Godwin. Eustace enters with followers, and straight away causes trouble by deciding he will stay at a local woman’s house. The men of Dover defend their wives; a general fight ensues. Earl Godwin enters and draws his sword, challenging Eustace. Eustace reacts with disrespect, but withdraws—promising, however, to be back. The Dover men celebrate as Godwin leaves. Stigand, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Egelsine, Abbot of St Augustine’s, enter. Stigand announces the slaying of King Harold by William, Duke of Normandy, and the advancing of the latter’s forces on Kent. He bids them to defend the county, or face enslavement. This persuades them, as they shout ‘For Kent and Freedom’ and leave shouting. William and Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, now enter from the other side, with a retinue, battleworn and weary. Betram of Ashburnam, the constable of Dover Castle, is brought forward in chains. He is defiant in not surrendering his pride or loyalty, and is sent to death by William—who is, nonetheless, impressed. Messengers enter, frightened and confused, and tell a disbelieving William that a moving forest army is arriving. The soldiers retreat, scared of ‘the devil’. The ‘forest’ arrives, and is soon revealed to be the armed men of Kent, led by Stigand. Stigand boldly approaches the King, and explains that they will give peace if their liberties are preserved. William assents; the men of Kent cheer, and chant ‘Hail William!’ William informs them that they are the only men to not be conquered by sword; he grants them the title of ‘Invicta’ (Unconquered). He resolves to also set up a priory, in honour of God and Saint Martin of Tours, in repentance of sending Bertram to his death. He announces Odo as the new Earl of Kent, before leaving. Odo announces the forming of the Cinque Ports to defend the realm. All Mayors, Bailiffs and Barons of the Five Ports now enter, with a crowd of men, women and children. They promise their loyalty to Odo, who in turn outlines their privileges from taxes and tolls, and their freedom to defend themselves against others. Great cheering, before all head out in a procession.

Narrative Chorus

The Knights tell of the ‘crown-purloiner’ and ‘detested’ King John, a ‘royal-wrecker of a noble realm’.

Episode III. King John, 1213

People of all classes mingle together, complaining about the reign of King John and the Interdict on the country because the King will not have Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury. Peter of Pomfret passes through, telling the people to turn to God. The Abbot of Canterbury enters on a mule, accompanied by monks, and talks sympathetically with the suffering people. When he sees the King approaching, he gives his gown to a Shepherd, before escaping to Canterbury. King John enters, and cross-examines the Shepherd—believing him to be the Archbishop. Peter of Pomfret reenters, and prophesises the fall of King John—protected by the crazed crowd. Knights now enter with Hubert de Burgh—the keeper of Dover Castle. He kneels to John. The Prior of St Martin’s enters and begs the Keeper and King for assistance for newly landed pilgrims. Hubert, with the King’s begrudging assent, promises to build a God’s Rest House. King John confirms the rights of Dover and the Cinque ports; some comment that ‘There’s some good in him, after all.’

Hubert advises King John that he should reconcile with the Holy Church and Stephen Langton. The King is angry, but agrees to give Langton a hearing. Langton enters with bishops, priests and knights—including Robert Fitzwalter. The meeting goes poorly, and the angry King sends Langton away. The people gradually shrink back from the wild King, until he is stood alone. Two knights enter and announce that the Holy Father is supporting Philip, King of France, in his claim for the Kingdom of England. The King is defiant, but realises that he cannot win without submitting to the Pope. Robert Fitzwalter talks with Langton, trying to gain assurance of their liberties. Langton gives him a charter of Henry I, and tells him ‘if your liberties be in jeopardy, ride to Saint Edmundsbury. There summon the Barons, and bid them uphold this charter.’

Pandolfo the Legate enters with a retinue of Bishops. John kneels, and repents, before acknowledging Langton as Primate of all England. He is crushed, however, when forced to resign his kingdom to the Holy Church. Pandolfo, to groans from the crowd, declares that the Interdict will not be lifted until ‘every stiver stolen from the Church hath been made good’. He leaves, promising that King Philip will no longer be a threat to the Kingdom. Peter of Pomfret announces that he was right; the King may reign, but ceases to rule. John reacts angrily, and sends him to be hung.

Langton, Fitzwalter and other Barons discuss how to be rid of John; resolving to ride to St Edmundsbury. King John resolves to raise an army, and departs. Hubert de Burgh and Peter de Rupibus discuss how to defend the castle, and bid the men of Dover to begin building ships—who respond enthusiastically. A messenger enters and announces the death of King John, the narrative having now moved to wartime. Two soldiers enter, leading Thomas de Burgh and the Earl of Salisbury in chains. Hubert de Burgh maintains that Dover will not surrender, invoking ‘Invicta’ to the soldiers. Thomas, his brother, and Salisbury approach and try at first to persuade Hubert to surrender. Hubert still resists. A messenger breathlessly enters and informs Hubert that ships have been spotted sailing for London. Hubert reacts quickly and instructs his men to set out a pillar of smoke to warn the Cinque Ports, before instructing the launch of a warship—named Invicta. Hubert ends the episode, as the ship is launched, by declaring ‘And Dover ships old London town shall save!’

Narrative Chorus

The Knights announce the coming of King Edward from the Holy Land, the ‘Mightiest of Plantagenets’ and a restorer of justice to the land, with his Queen, Eleanor.

Episode IV. Edward I, 1273

Sir Stephen de Pencester enters with men-at-arms, followed by the Mayor of Dover and Jurats. The Mayor and Pencester discuss the upcoming visit of Edward and Eleanor—the Mayor nervous that the King will bear a grudge against the town, after previous disputes. Pencester assures him that will not be the case. Relieved, the Mayor orders the town to prepare. The Guilds of Dover enter with their banners, along with a choir, girls with flowers, and a large crowd. Walter Giffard (Archbishop of York), the Earl of Cornwall and Earl of Gloucester all enter, and await the King’s arrival. A group of excited boys rush in and announce the King’s arrival; a Song of Greeting is sung. The Queen speaks for the King, thanking them for their gracious reception—though not without reminding them that they had previously imprisoned the King in Dover Castle. The King hastily talks over Eleanor, and thanks Dover—‘This great white gate of England!’ They now flirt, reminiscing over their first meeting. The King calls forward Dame Mary of Carnarvon, who presents three children. Edward and Eleanor present the children to the cheering crowd—new princes and princesses and ‘England’s hope’. A variety of gifts are then given to the Royal couple from important visitors. The episode ends with Edward riding for London for his crowning.

Narrative Chorus

The Knights describe a brewing scheme to ‘shift the French crown to King Henry’s brow’.

Episode V. Henry V, 1415

Scene I. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Bishop of Ely, and Earl of Westmoreland discuss with the King his claim to the throne in France, encouraging him that he is the rightful King. Ambassadors from France enter, bringing treasure from the young prince Dauphin to persuade Henry to not claim Dukedoms in France. The King rejects his offer, and maintains that he will invade France.

Narrative Chorus

The Knights tell how they will spare the audience the ‘scenes of blood and strife’ and instead portray ‘the royal wooing of a wife’.

Scene II. King Henry meets with King Charles VI of France and they happily talk, confirming an alliance. All leave except for Henry, Katharine and her attending lady. Henry romances Katherine, who reacts coyly, confused whether she should love the enemy of her France. He declares his love, and even woos her in French to try and convince. She finally assents. Her father, King Charles VI, re-enters with his Queen and other lords. Charles assents to the marriage, as Queen Isabel declares it will combine in their hearts the two realms in one. All sing amen.

Narrative Chorus

The Knights declare that the audience should be thankful for the splendour and strength of Kings, but also for the labours of lowly men—from tillers of the earth to harbour builders.

Episode VI. Henry VIII, 1520

Local women talk, gossip, and eventually bicker to humorous effect. The town crier blows his horn and the townsfolk enter merrily. The Mayor, John Toke, addresses the crowd. Interrupted frequently to comic effect, he eventually manages to declare the putting up of a stone cross to designate the marketplace. The cross is put up to celebrations. Sir George Neville tells the Mayor that King Harry [Henry VIII] was on his way to meet the French King Francis, but the new Emperor Charles V, King of Spain, learned of this meeting and has come to Dover to intercept. The Market is declared open. Other incidents, like an unscrupulous French trader, are shown for humour. Finally King Henry VIII enters with Queen Katherine, Princess Mary, and Emperor Charles V. Henry and Charles complement the local crowds, and converse in a friendly manner. A local girl approaches nervously, and tells the King that he means to take her sweetheart, William, in a pressgang to sea. Henry at first bids her to leave, but Katherine persuades him to not take William. The King relents but, after insulting William by saying he needs ‘men of stout heart and willing courage’ anyway, William decides to go to sea after all. Minstrels sing ‘Pastime with Good Company’, one of Henry’s own songs. A stately dance is then performed, followed by a Morris dance.

The Duke of Buckingham introduces a French ambassador to King Henry, who is amazed to see the King has broken an oath to not shave his face until he has met with King Francis of France again. Katherine takes the blame, declaring English ‘ladies love not a bristling chin.’ Emperor Charles and Henry embrace, before the former leaves to cheering crowds. A drum is then heard and the crowd disappears. The Mayor explains to Henry that the people of Dover, with spades, will beat back the rising seas that threaten the town. The King is surprised that ‘the gate of England can be locked by a mere puff of wind’. The Mayor introduces John Thompson, an architect who, supported by sailors and fishermen, wishes to build a harbour. The King bestows £500 for the purpose, before knighting the Mayor ‘who loveth his town and seeketh the weal of his citizens’. The Minstrels sing as all exit.

Narrative Chorus

The Knights tell of the arrival and impending marriage of Sweet Henriette Marie to Charles I.

Episode VII. Charles I. 1625

The Mayor and Townsfolk excitedly prepare for the arrival of the King and his bride to be, who is coming by ship. Orlando Gibbins, Organist of the Chapel Royal and of the Abbey of Westminster, has written a madrigal to greet the Princess—he has, however, lost his Dover choir. Eventually, with the help of the town crier, he finds them. The Duke of Buckingham enters to loud cheers, followed by Lord Kensington, and then French nobles and ladies—welcomed loudly. After a conversation in French between the English and French nobles, about the lateness of the King and the rough crossing of the ship, the Queen approaches. Gibbons conducts his madrigal, ‘the Silver Swan’. The Queen then gives an audience to the Mayor and Burgesses of Dover. As the Queen sits, a procession of the Princesses of France who have worn the English Crown passes through. The Queen declares it a beautiful pageant, and bids her French nobles to perform a traditional gavotte dance. Eventually the King arrives amid great cheering. He kneels and kisses the Queen’s hand, who is overcome with emotion—forgetting her prepared speech. The King motions away his nobles and court, so they are alone. They speak in French together, as the King assures her that England will be home. A table is then laid, and a feast commences. Toasts are raised to the King and Queen and their families, as the Royal couple continue to romance. Frivolity and humour is provided as a local man struggles to pronounce the Queen’s name—replacing Henriette with Hun-gry-hetter. The Queen graciously accepts the name Marie instead, and declares ‘At Dover… I find I’ve all to learn, and beg your Majesty to make a thorough Englishwoman of me.’

Narrative Chorus sings the Triumph Song

The Dramatic Chorus are in position and with the Narrative Chorus sing the Triumph Song, which tells of ‘dauntless Dover’ across the ages, brave against invasion, and a symbol of the close relationship between France and England (‘Go envious isolation, where that which begat thee goes, For the cloud ‘twixt nation and nation is lifting, no more to close!’). The final section of the Song declares:

O fair and majestic haven, couched under the sea-cliffs white,
That title upon thee graven, INVICTA, was thine of right,
For one with the waves thy glory, and one with the winds thy might,
And the web of thine endless story is woven, by day and night,
Of ocean’s infinite yearning, criss-crossed with the to-and-fro
Of a thousand keels returning, a thousand that outward go!
From the frowning towers above thee to the fringing foam below
To think of thee is to love thee, as all that have known thee know.

National Anthem and March Past

The performers and the audience then unite in singing the National Anthem, before the march past of all the performers takes place.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Arthur (supp. fl. in or before 6th cent.) legendary warrior and supposed king of Britain
  • Eustace (II) [Eustace aux Gernons], count of Boulogne (d. c.1087) magnate
  • Stigand (d. 1072) archbishop of Canterbury
  • William I [known as William the Conqueror] (1027/8–1087) king of England and duke of Normandy
  • Odo, earl of Kent (d. 1097) bishop of Bayeux and magnate
  • John (1167–1216) king of England, and lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and of Aquitaine, and count of Anjou
  • Burgh, Hubert de, earl of Kent (c.1170–1243) justiciar
  • Langton, Stephen (c.1150–1228) archbishop of Canterbury
  • Fitzwalter, Robert (d. 1235) magnate and rebel
  • Roches, Peter des [Peter de Rupibus] (d. 1238) administrator and bishop of Winchester
  • Pencester [Penchester, Penshurst], Sir Stephen of (d. 1298) administrator
  • Giffard, Walter (c.1225–1279) archbishop of York
  • Edmund of Almain, second earl of Cornwall (1249–1300) magnate
  • Clare, Gilbert de [called Gilbert the Red], seventh earl of Gloucester and sixth earl of Hertford (1243–1295) magnate
  • Edward I (1239–1307) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • Eleanor [Eleanor of Castile] (1241–1290) queen of England, consort of Edward I
  • Joan [Joan of Acre], countess of Hertford and Gloucester (1272–1307) princess
  • Henry V (1386–1422) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • Chichele, Henry (c.1362–1443) administrator and archbishop of Canterbury
  • Fordham, John (c.1340–1425) administrator and bishop of Ely
  • Neville, Ralph, first earl of Westmorland (c.1364–1425) magnate
  • Charles VI (1368–1422) king of France
  • Catherine [Catherine of Valois] (1401–1437) queen of England, consort of Henry V
  • Henry VIII (1491–1547) king of England and Ireland
  • Charles V (1500-1558) Holy Roman Emperor
  • Katherine [Catalina, Catherine, Katherine of Aragon] (1485–1536) queen of England, first consort of Henry VIII
  • Mary I (1516–1558), queen of England and Ireland
  • Stafford, Edward, third duke of Buckingham (1478–1521), magnate
  • Rich, Henry, first earl of Holland (bap. 1590, d. 1649) courtier
  • Henrietta Maria [Princess Henrietta Maria of France] (1609–1669) queen of England, Scotland, and Ireland, consort of Charles I
  • Charles I (1600–1649) king of England, Scotland, and Ireland

Musical production

Narrative Chorus: 100 male performers.
Madrigal Chorus: 150–200 mixed performers.
Monsieur Louis Tiercelin contributed his own music to the Gavotte and the Procession of Queens in Episode VII. The Madrigal, in the same Episode, was by Orlando Gibbons. The Part Song in Episode VI was by King Henry VIII. The Music of the Carmen was by J. Edis Tidnam, Esq., FRCO, MusBac, Oxon. All the other music was by the Master of the Music, Mr H.J. Taylor, FRCO.

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Dover Express
Whitstable and Herne Bay Herald
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Sussex Agricultural Express
Cheltenham Looker-On
Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser
Western Gazette
Hastings and St Leonards Observer
Daily Express
Daily Mail
Manchester Guardian

Book of words

Parker, Louis N. The Dover Pageant: Book of the Words. Dover, 1908.

Price: 6d.

Other primary published materials

  • The Dover Times Book of Pageant Pictures. Dover, 1908.
  • Taylor, Harry James. The Dover Pageant: Book of the Music. London, 1908.

Price: 2d.

References in secondary literature

  • Dobson, Michael. Shakespeare and Amateur Performance: A Cultural History. Cambridge, 2011.
  • Esty, Jed. A Shrinking Island: Modernism and National Culture in England. Princeton, 2004.
  • Esty, Joshua. D. ‘Amnesia in the Fields: Late Modernism, Late Imperialism, and the English Pageant-Play’. English Literary History 69, no. 1 (2002), 245-276.
  • O’Neill, Morna and Hatt, Michael. The Edwardian Sense: Art, Design, and Performance in Britain, 1901–1910. New Haven, CT, 2010.
  • Readman, Paul. ‘The Place of the Past in English Culture c. 1890–1914’. Past and Present 186 (2005), 147-199.
  • Simpson, Roger. ‘Arthurian Pageants in Twentieth-Century Britain’. Arthuriana 18, no. 1 (2008), 63-87.

Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • British Library:
  • Parker, Louis N. The Dover Pageant: Book of the Words. Dover, 1908.
  • Taylor, Harry James. The Dover Pageant: Book of the Music. London, 1908.
  • The Dover Times Book of Pageant Pictures. Dover, 1908.

Sources used in preparation of pageant

  • Miss Horsley
  • J. Bavington Jones
  • Lambarde
  • Burrows
  • Statham
  • Edward Knocker
  • John Lyon

These are cited as historical sources.14


Dover’s staging of a historical folk-play in 1908 was a nationally important and spectacular example of an Edwardian town gripped by ‘pageantitis’. Directed by the original master himself, Louis Napoleon Parker, it was the final of several large events that year (including Chelsea, Pevensey, and Winchester). While it was a colossal financial failure, press opinion was highly positive, and it seemed to galvanise the townsfolk into cooperative action. Mostly a true rendering of his own original vision, Parker also developed a couple of highly novel attributes—particularly a concentration on the legendary figure of King Arthur and an ideological support of the contemporarily blossoming Anglo-French alliance. While the substantial financial losses likely put off the town from staging another pageant earlier in the twentieth century, pageant enthusiasts revived and modernised the format in the 1980s (see entry for 1983), and it has been performed regularly over the last thirty years—the last taking place in 2005.

Gripped by pageant fever after experiencing the Sherborne Pageant in 1905, local man Canon Bartram first suggested that Dover should have its own publically in the pages of the Dover Express in January 1907. Stating that he had already been in correspondence with Louis Napoleon Parker, he described how

our ancient town and port is so rich in historic associations of the first order as to be pre-eminently the place for a pageant; and I have no doubt that, should the idea be taken up warmly by all classes of the inhabitants of Dover and the neighbourhood, a spectacle might be produced which would prove to be of national interest, and would attract thousands of visitors to our town.15

Bartram subsequently, naturally, took up a position on the executive committee.16 The pageant took place in the grounds of Dover College, complete with a specially built (and very expensive) 5100-seater grandstand. As usual, Parker came to the town when the pageant was suggested in order to galvanise local inhabitants into action, delivering a rousing lecture to a crowded audience at the Town Hall. In the November before the pageant, he then read portions of the book of words to a large and enthusiastic audience at the Connaught Hall of the Maison Dien. While he was, of course, the father and a devotee of pageantry, he was still paid an impressive £800 for his services, out of a total pageant cost of £9679. An attempt was made to keep the town’s various professional, religious, and civic associations onside, with organisations as varied as the Choral Union, Chamber of Commerce, and clergy and ministers of all dominations given places on the Executive Committee.17 The organisers also succeeded in making the event attractive to civic elites; the opening day was in honour of the Lord Mayor of London, with the Duchess of Albany and Princess Alexandra of Teck the focus of the second, and over fifty MPs in attendance at the fourth.18

In many ways, it was a classic pageant in terms of its organisation. All the 2000-strong cast were from Dover or nearby; costumes and props were made locally, where possible; and the pageant served as a site of civic ritual, from processions to special church services. Despite his usual calls for historical accuracy, at Dover Parker was a bit looser with the facts. Indeed, he told a laughing audience of pageant enthusiasts in the town that he would only describe events that ‘actually took place at Dover, or ought to have done.’19 The prominent featuring of King Arthur obviously fits into this murkier area of history. As the historian Roger Simpson has pointed out, the amount of stage and advertising time given to Arthur at Dover was particularly novel—and arguably not surpassed until the Taunton Pageant of 1928. Using the classic 1485 collection of Thomas Malory, Parker emphasised the character of Sir Gawayne—deemed a local hero’ because of the traditional siting of his grave in Dover Castle.20 By concentrating almost wholly on monarchs for the meat of the rest of the episodes, Simpson has argued, Parker made Arthur a ‘a structurally unifying role’ that served ‘as a symbolic precursor of Britain's present king, Edward VII’.21

More generally, however, the themes were fairly standard to the period. Considering the town’s reputation as the gateway to England, the narrative was certainly strong in a ‘local as national’ story. The Dover Express, for example, quoted Ford Madox Ford’s observation that ‘To write a history of the Port of Dover is difficult; with the least tendency to digression one would find oneself writing a history of England.’22 Kings and Queens featured heavily, indeed in every episode; stories of local loyalty and chivalry, such as gallantry even in the face of defeat from William the Conqueror, were given centre stage; portrayals of civic independence, such as the rights of Dover and the Cinque ports, were confirmed by important figures such as King John; and locally important events, such as the foundation of the harbour, reflected contemporary economic concerns, Dover having grown rapidly as a site of mass transport and also growing industry. At the end of the pageant, 44 figures, representing different Dovers from around the world, participated in a March Past. As Jed Esty has pointed out, the imperial and patriotic angle of pageantry was usually portrayed in these final moments, where the singing of national anthems and the processions of symbolic figures of overseas towns ‘projected a lucid and legible—if corny—family relation that managed to link the English center to the Asian, African, Australian, and American peripheries.’23

Perhaps the most novel aspect of the pageant, however, was its final episode, which was mostly performed in French, when King Charles I met Henriette Marie on the steps of Dover Castle. The French speaking parts were taken predominately by French schoolmasters and schoolmistresses from Douai, acting out a script written by the French poet M. Louis Tiercelin.24 George Wyndham, MP for Dover and one of the primary ‘wardens’ of the pageant, maintained that the people of Dover and France ‘understood each other’s language’ after many years of relations between the Mayors of Calais and Dover, and the correspondence of the Society of France and the British Association.25 One presumes, however, that much of the audience would have been glad that the book of words included an English translation. As the Dover Express stated, the episodes selected were ‘designed to illustrate Dover’s relations through the sea with those who have come to this country from foreign lands, and very largely from France.’26 Of course, the Entente Cordiale had been signed only four years previously. As the press noticed, references to Anglo-French wars, probably unavoidable in a pageant of Dover’s history, were overcome through the final romantic episode of Anglo-French peace represented by King Charles I and Henriette Marie: a symbolic reminder of ‘the note of peace which the “entente cordiale” has happily sounded’.27 The emphasis on the Anglo-French relationship, which the gateway town of Dover signified so strongly, illuminated much of the pageant celebration more widely. Cementing this aspect was the inclusion of the Mayors of Calais and other French towns, complete in full ‘state’ and attended by their mace-bearers, in the civic procession to the pageant grounds for the opening performance.28 As the Times pointed out, complimentarily, ‘it falls to Dover to represent the other subject which has been prominently in our minds of late—the relations of England and France.’29

Of course, there was also an economic motive to the pageant—a hangover, perhaps, of the nineteenth-century attempts to develop the town as a spa tourist destination. Many souvenirs, then, were readily available. As well as the Book of Words penned by Parker, there were a series of postcards drawn by the well-known Pageant artist J.N. Bolton; a ‘handsome little nickel trinket emblazoned with the arms of Dover’; a book of pageant photos from the Dover Times; and even a ‘Dover Pageant Spoon’.30 At the opening day civic lunch, however, the Lord Mayor also highlighted the ‘great educational quality’ of pageants that meant ‘it was almost impossible to overestimate their worth.’31 In encouraging the locals of the town, the chairman of the Pageant Committee, Councillor Raggett, made a statement typical of Edwardian pageants; all must ‘do their part’ to ‘bring thousands of people to the town’, while also ‘learning something of the history’ of the place themselves.32 Given the pageant’s supposed educational value, it is unsurprising that one of the free performances was provided for 5000 school children.33 As the Rev. Tetley, Canon of Bristol, summarised at the special pageant service at St Mary’s, the pageant was ‘not a mere social function’ but a ‘witness and forecast’ of ‘Divine blessing, a sound prosperity, and a future of genuine advance’—a combination of educating the citizenry and guiding the town to more prosperity.34

If economic gain was the main motive, the pageant was a bit of a backfire. Even before the financial loss was announced, rumours had begun to circulate in the town and, consequently, the press.35 Following the announcement that there was a deficit of £1948. 10s. 7d. (in reality, more like £2741, since the finance committee cheekily included the pageant subscriptions of £793 as income), a significant public investigation into what had gone wrong was held. On a Tuesday afternoon the subscribers and guarantors were thus called to a meeting in the Council Chamber; so many turned up, some three or four hundred, that it had to be moved to the larger Connaught Hall. Chairing what turned out to be a tense inquisition was G.F. Raggett, the Pageant Chairman. His opening gambit of blaming the deficit on those ‘who have done their very best to belittle the Dover Pageant, and to make it a failure’ was perhaps not a wise move. After broaching the subject of whether the expenses for performer refreshments were ‘enormous’ or not, shouts from the audience led him to have a bit of a meltdown. One can imagine the frustration as he ranted: ‘Tell me how many—any of you—[a pause]. You have got no idea. You may as well you own [sic] you never looked into it.’ He then tried to deal with the other rumours circulating, such as the allegation that the Secretary had been paid (incorrect); the luxury of the pageant meeting dinners at the Shakespeare Hotel (frugal and paid for by committee members, anyway); whether cigars and whisky were supplied to the military actors (he maintained they were not); and the cost of an excursion to visit the Bury St Edmunds pageant (guilty). One particularly irate questioner pointed out that ‘everybody is applauding and seems highly pleased that they have got to pay’ but everyone he had met ‘grumbles’, reflecting the ‘seething discontent amongst the subscribers and guarantors’. Even though there were allegations of corrupt officials giving out free tickets, the meeting ended fairly amicably, with applause and promises to stump up for the losses.36

As the finance committee stated, there could have been ‘no other result’ with the number that had paid to see the pageant—though the huge amounts given to Parker and a London press agent probably did not help. Until the final two performances the attendance had been poor, at just over half full. The massive rise on the Thursday, to ‘over five thousand’, was attributed to the (advertised) decision to reduce a number of seats to much cheaper prices.37 In the end, however, the organisers had counted on making £10000 on the tickets; they reached, instead, only £6848. Seemingly the dress rehearsals, which were much cheaper or even free, were much better attended than the pageant week ‘proper’.38 All in all, an impressive 57000 people still attended the pageant during the fortnight.39 Press opinion, nonetheless, was mostly positive—the Dover Express and Dover Times, of course, leading the way. Most of the nationals, such as the Times, Daily Express, and the Daily Mail were, on balance, also encouraging in their critique.40 Other regional papers were also affirmative, such as the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, which commended Parker for ‘reproducing with great fidelity the spirit of the periods represented.’41 A report in the Cheltenham Looker-On, however, was not quite as glowing. While admitting it was a ‘marvellous’ pageant, it criticised the actor chosen to play William the Conqueror as ‘slightly built… with quite a mild manner’; the irrelevance of the Shakespeare episode, since Dover had no claim to such events; the lack of ‘crisp, ‘snappy’ dialogue’; and the ‘utterly inadequate’ site of Dover College for ‘so great a spectacle’.42 The South Eastern Gazette also criticised Dover both for including the mythical Arthur and, even more egregiously, allowing ‘its story to be travestied by a scene wherein William the Conqueror condemns to death the English hero, Bertram de Asburnham’—Bertram apparently being ‘neither history nor local legend, but a lying tale invented by the pedigree monger who fitted out the Lords Ashburnham with an Anglo-Saxon descent.’43 At the end of the final performance, at least, the pageant was received well, as the usual congratulatory celebrations occurred. Parker was presented with a silver replica of the old Dover boat carried by Lady Dover in the final March Past procession, before being carried on the shoulders of performers to the Grand Hotel, amid cheers and the singing of Auld Lang Syne.44

The Dover Express was strangely prophetic when it predicted: ‘The ending of the Pageant with the reign of Charles I seems to indicate that someday there will be another Dover Pageant to finish Dover history.’45 In 1983 the Dover Pageant was staged again, this time organised by Mike McFarnell—a local man. While nowhere near on the scale of the original, with only one performance and far fewer performers and actual ‘historical’ acting, an estimated crowd of 5000 nonetheless crammed in to watch a grand parade, chariot races, and some historical re-enactment. Again the Mayor of Dover and Mayor of Calais were both present and, in a nice touch, were presented the key to Connaught Park by Mariaane Sargeant—a performer in the original 1908 pageant.46 Since 1983 twelve more pageants have been staged, and the Dover Pageant Society and supporters have maintained an online repository of news and memories of both the 1908 and more recent events.47 As Roger Simpson criticised in 2005, however, Parker’s model of pageantry in this rebirth has been ‘overwhelmed by horseless “chariot” races, drum majorette competitions, and performances by pop singers: overall narrative sequence has thus been replaced by a very mixed bag of separate turns.’48 In 2005, for example, Halley’s Comet was portrayed through a performer engulfed in a (thankfully cloth) ball of flame, while, in 2008, Vera Lynn arrived in a jeep to perform for Second World War troops. In many ways, however, the ethos of the pageant remains the same. As the website states, the pageant ‘is an important way for the next generation to learn about the area’s roots’ that ‘gives everybody the opportunity to see how Dover became its present self.’ Sponsored by local businesses, who presumably benefit from the advertising, many local charities also benefit from its profits.49 Whatever one’s own personal opinions of the changes the format has undergone, pageantry has clearly survived in Dover.


  1. ^ ‘Dover Pageant Balance Sheet’, Dover Express, 27 November 1908, 5.
  2. ^ ‘Dover Pageant Deficit’, Dover Express, 11 December 1908, 2.
  3. ^ ‘End of the Dover Pageant’, Whitstable and Herne Bay Herald, 8 August 1908, 2.
  4. ^ ‘The Dover Pageant’, Dover Express, 24 July 1908, 3.
  5. ^ ‘The Dover Pageant’, Dover Express, 31 July 1908, 6.
  6. ^ Ibid.
  7. ^ Ibid.
  8. ^ Ibid.
  9. ^ ‘Pageant Notes’, Dover Express, 17 July 1908, 8.
  10. ^ ‘St Mary’s Pageant Service’, Dover Express, 31 July 1908, 6.
  11. ^ Ibid.
  12. ^ ‘The Dover Pageant’, Dover Express, 5 July 1907, 8.
  13. ^ Louis N. Parker, The Dover Pageant: Book of the Words (Dover, 1908), foreword.
  14. ^ Ibid.
  15. ^ ‘The Dover Pageant’, Dover Express, 17 July 1908, 8.
  16. ^ ‘Public Meeting Called’, Dover Express, 1 February 1907, 5; ‘The Dover Pageant’, Dover Express, 17 July 1908, 8.
  17. ^ ‘The Dover Pageant’, Dover Express, 8 March 1907, 2.
  18. ^ ‘Dover Pageant’, Whitstable and Herne Bay Herald, 18 July 1908, 2.
  19. ^ ‘Mr Louis Parker Gives a Foretaste’, Dover Express, 22 November 1907, 3.
  20. ^ Roger Simpson, ‘Arthurian Pageants in Twentieth-Century Britain’, Arthuriana, 18 (2008), 65.
  21. ^ Ibid., 66.
  22. ^ ‘What Dover Pageant Looks Like’, Dover Express, 24 July 1908, 4.
  23. ^ Jed Esty, A Shrinking Island: Modernism and National Culture in England (Princeton, 2004), 60.
  24. ^ ‘The Dover Pageant’, Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald, 25 July 1908, 7.
  25. ^ ‘Mr Louis Parker Gives a Forestaste’, 3.
  26. ^ ‘The Dover Pageant’, Dover Express, 17 July 1908, 8.
  27. ^ ‘The Dover Pageant’, Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 28 July 1908, 9.
  28. ^ Ibid., 9.
  29. ^ ‘The Coming Dover Pageant’, The Times, 9 July 1908, 13.
  30. ^ ‘Pageant Souvenirs’, Dover Express, 17 July 1908, 8.
  31. ^ ‘The Dover Pageant’, Dover Express, 31 July 1908, 6.
  32. ^ ‘Mr Louis Parker Gives a Forestaste’, 3.
  33. ^ ‘The Dover Pageant’, Whitstable and Herne Bay Herald, 6 June 1908, 2.
  34. ^ ‘St Mary’s Pageant Service’, Dover Express, 31 July 1908, 6.
  35. ^ ‘Dover Pageant’, Dover Express, 18 September 1908, 5.
  36. ^ ‘Dover Pageant Deficit’, Dover Express, 11 December 1908, 2.
  37. ^ ‘The Dover Pageant’, Dover Express, 31 July 1908, 6.
  38. ^ ‘The Dover Pageant’, Dover Express, 24 July 1908, 3.
  39. ^ ‘End of the Dover Pageant’, Whitstable and Herne Bay Herald, 8 August 1908, 2.
  40. ^ ‘What the Press Says of Dover Pageant’, Dover Express, 24 July 1908, 9.
  41. ^ ‘The Dover Pageant’, Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 28 July 1908, 9.
  42. ^ ‘Dover Pageant’, Cheltenham Looker-On, 8 August 1908, 15.
  43. ^ ‘The Pageant and History’, Dover Express, 14 August 1908, 7.
  44. ^ ‘Dover Pageant Closes’, Western Gazette, 7 August 1908, 8.
  45. ^ ‘What Dover Pageant Looks Like’, 4.
  46. ^ Dover Express and East Kent News, 6 May, 1983, quoted at the Dover Pageant website, accessed 25 September 2014,
  47. ^ The Dover Pageant, accessed 25 September, 2014, See also the various YouTube videos of recent pageants, such as ‘2005 Dover Pageant’, Accessed 10 September 2015.
  48. ^ Simpson, ‘Arthurian Pageants’, 83.
  49. ^ ‘About the Dover Pageant in 2014’, the Dover Pageant, accessed 25 September 2014,

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘The Dover Pageant’, The Redress of the Past,