Winchester Pageant

Other names

  • ‘The Marriage of Henry IV and Joan of Navarre’

Pageant type

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Place: Cloister Garth of Saint Swithun’s Monastery (Winchester) (Winchester, Hampshire, England)

Year: 1934

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 8


4–7 July 1934, at 3pm and 8pm

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Producer [Pageant Master]: Thursby, Charles
  • Mistress of the Robes: Mrs De La Lee Gill
  • Master of the Properties: D.T. Cowan, Esq.
  • Stage Manager: Arnold Medley
  • Dances arranged by: Vera Johnston

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Executive Committee (appointed by the Council of the friends of the Winchester Cathedral)

  • Chairman: Noel Hanbury, Esq. CBE
  • Organising Secretary: Miss C. Seymour
  • Honorary Treasurer: P.S. Wilde, Esq
  • Hon. Auditor: Stanley Warton, Esq
  • The Very Rev. Dean of Winchester
  • Sir James du Boulay
  • D.T. Cowan
  • Col. J.P.G. Crosbie, DSO
  • The Rev. Canon Goodman
  • Councillor W.J. Lansdell
  • The Rev. Canon Moor
  • Capt. G.G. Petherick

Musical Committee

  • Chairs: Mrs. A. Hoare / Lady Jeane Petherick
  • Conductor: Miss N. Fulcher

Ladies’ Committee

  • Chair: Lady Singer
  • Hon. Secretary of Ladies Committee: Mrs. B. Gotto

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

  • Thursby, Charles

Names of composers

  • Handel, George Frideric
  • Purcell, Henry
  • Lully, Jean-Baptiste
  • Corelli, A.
  • Delibes, Leo

Numbers of performers


Financial information

£500 or £600 profit [Portsmouth Evening News, 9 July 1934, 3].

Object of any funds raised

Part of a week’s festival of music and drama to raise £6000 for lighting and heating the cathedral

Linked occasion


Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: n/a

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Associated events

  • Special Sunday services by the Bishops of Durham and Portsmouth
  • 4 July a talk by the Rev. Canon Goodman
  • Madrigal Concerts on 4 and 7 July

Pageant outline

Part I

The Hostess of the White Hart Inn speaks to an archer. They exchange bawdy remarks, the Hostess offering sexual favours and lodging for the archer’s comrades, in exchange for admission to the Royal Tiring Tent. He refuses: ‘Not for ten flagons, temptress; get you gone.’ A captain appears and shoes them away. The Hostess and Neighbour move up to the next archer with the same words ‘Archer, vouchsafe a word with me, release those muffled ears’.

An aged William of Wykeham is borne through the crowd in his litter with people kneeling as he blesses them. He is set down by the Warden of the College and blesses the scholars, who then cheer as he is borne away into the cathedral. Eustace of the Vineyard remarks on his benefaction of St Mary’s College and St Swithun’s nave. The sub-sacrist needs more candles from Philip the Candleman who complains that he is being called upon to work even in a time of leisure. A citizen remarks on the Queen to be: ‘She is a summered Dame / within the lush meridian of her charms / fit consort for our Hal, I’ll stake my staff.’ Others agree with him at length. Enter dog keeper, falconer, and Queen’s Coiffeur (who only speaks French and broken English)

Music plays; the great Hampshire families arrive and salute each other before entering the cathedral. There is cheering, and the crowds surge towards the King’s procession. They are met by the Prior, the Benedictine Monks of St Swithuns, and the Mayor. The King inspects the archers; there is fanfare as the Queen arrives. There is a ceremonial reception with a choir of singers chanting a madrigal. The Queen, who only speaks French, wishes to address the townspeople and repeats after Henry: ‘Good people all—I thank you for your welcome to this ancient and royal city of Winchester.’ The Abbess and school of maidens are presented to the Royal couple, before the King and Queen are robed and pass under a canopy, forming the head of a great procession.

Part II

The Crowd watch the erection of the canopy and dais for the banquet. Everyone kneels and doffs caps as the great cathedral bells tolls. Forget-me-nots are distributed as wedding favours. The bells peal joyfully, and ‘culverins are discharged from the roof of the nave’. The procession emerges and winds round the arena till it reaches the Banquet.

The Herald proclaims: ‘Henry, by the grace of God, King of England and France and Lord of Ireland. Joan, his consort, Duchess of Bretagne and Princess of Navarre. Long live King Henry and Queen Joan. Largesse!’ There is a fanfare and procession of historic dishes (during the serving one of the servitors trips and falls headlong). A loving-cup is passed, a madrigal is sung and a fanfare played as the king rises. King speaks, granting the Isle of White, Odiham Manor, Hampton’s shores and one hundred and fifty marks in gold for the Queen’s dowry.

The king’s children (from his previous marriage) Phillippa, John and Humphrey enter and present their step-mother with golden tablets. The King calls on the minstrels to sing ‘Song to Lute’. William of Wykeham addresses the King and the crowd, remarking on the town’s history and his legacy of building. He leaves. Te Deum, Nunc Dimittis and Gloria are sung. Fanfare. A stately measure is danced to the wonderment of the people, and the court retires through lines of cheering citizens.’

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Henry IV [known as Henry Bolingbroke] (1367–1413) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • Wykeham, William (c.1324–1404) bishop of Winchester, administrator, and founder of Winchester College and New College, Oxford
  • Joan [Joan of Navarre] (1368–1437) queen of England, second consort of Henry IV
  • Philippa [Philippa of Lancaster] (1360–1415) queen of Portugal, consort of João I
  • John [John of Lancaster], duke of Bedford (1389–1435) regent of France and prince
  • Humphrey [Humfrey or Humphrey of Lancaster], duke of Gloucester [called Good Duke Humphrey] (1390–1447) prince, soldier, and literary patron

Musical production

  • Music arranged by Lady Jeanne Petherick / Mrs Arthur Hoare
  • Large string orchestra conducted by Miss Nellie Fulcher featuring wind instruments from the 1st Batallion Rifle Brigade Band

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Daily Telegraph
Hampshire Chronicle
Hampshire Observer
Church Times
Daily Mirror
Morning Post
Evening Standard
Daily Sketch
Hampshire Advertiser
Portsmouth Evening News
Southern Daily Echo

Book of words

Goodman, A.W. and Churlsby, Charles. The Marriage of Henry IV and Joan of Navarre in Cathedral Church of St. Swithun, Winchester, Wednesday 7 February 1403. Winchester: Warren and Son.

14pp. Price 6d.

Other primary published materials


References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Hampshire Local History Centre, Winchester featuring Book of Words, Photographs, Pressing Cuttings, and a black and white film of the Pageant.

Sources used in preparation of pageant



The Winchester 1934 Pageant deviated from the structure of the overwhelming majority of pageants to focus instead on a single significant historical scene, told at great length and in sumptuous detail. This gave the pageant’s organisers the ability to do something really special.

The scene that was chosen depicted the marriage of Henry IV to Joan of Navarre on 7 February 1403. Henry had been King since 1399, after deposing King Richard II. Henry was only the third son of Edward III, and his claim to the throne was weak. Throughout his reign, Henry dealt with a number of rebellions by Owain Glyndwr, Earl Percy of Northumberland, and others. Henry’s first wife, Mary de Bohun, had died in 1394 after giving Henry a number of children. Joan had already had nine children by John IV, Duke of Brittany. Joan and Henry had been married by proxy at Eltham on 2 April 1402. The marriage seems to have been entered into as a love-match rather than for further heirs or territorial aggrandisement. According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, there was ‘initially little enthusiasm in England and considerable opposition in Brittany.’1 Joan was compelled to relinquish her guardianship of her son John to Philippe, Duke of Burgundy and to leave hear sons behind (her daughters accompanied her), to ensure that England would be unable to annexe the province. The English were equally hostile to the marriage, with the cost of the Queen’s household becoming a major area of contention between the crown and parliament. In fact, in 1419, the Queen was accused of causing Henry’s death in 1414 through witchcraft. Though she was never brought to trial, she was arrested and imprisoned by her step-son Henry V.2 Though the pageant glosses over this context, and the King and Queen are natural figures of adulation, the historical basis of the pageant, which the author made such a concerted attempt to relive, was much less stately than was suggested. The Church Times was the only newspaper to hint that the choice of scene was more down to the spectacle it afforded rather than to its innate historical value, or importance in the history of the town or cathedral: ‘The choice of a more or less secular incident in the history of St Swithun’s great church…may not seem the fittest for the occasion; but there is no question that the idea has been magnificently carried out.’3

The pageant was organised as part of a week-long festival devoted to the upkeep of the cathedral, which required £6000 for light and heating. The Festival, as the Church Times noted, coincided with the Cathedral Pilgrimage in aid of the unemployed:

It is merely a happy coincidence that the festival falls within the fortnight assigned to the Cathedral Pilgrimage in aid of the unemployed. Winchester has already welcomed a considerable number of pilgrims, and those who remained to participate in the festival must have returned to their homes with at least a deeper understanding of the part which the Catholic Faith has had in moulding the history and inspiring the art of the last thirteen hundred years in Wessex.4

The staging of the pageant, for which there was a considerable build-up in the local Hampshire newspapers (who breathlessly covered the rehearsals over several weeks), was done on a lavish scale. This was despite there being only three hundred performers (among whom, playing Princess Phillippa, was Iris Drummond—daughter of Pageant Mistress Barbara Drummond and granddaughter of Pageant Master Frank Benson, who had been in charge at the 1908 Winchester National Pageant). A further veteran of the 1908 pageant was D.T. Cowan, Master of Properties, who had been Master of Arms at the earlier event. Cowan, formerly Hampshire Director of Education, had spent ‘days at the British Museum prying and searching in order to ensure that, as far as possible, every article introduced into the piece shall be historically accurate.’5 Cowan, who seems to have performed a great deal of organising roles for the pageant, was also responsible for the food during the banquet. After being jokingly criticized by one of the performers, as the Hampshire Chronicle reported, Cowan ‘could only conclude that if the Dean had privileged him to give a real banquet of 35 dishes, that there would not be a person at the table able to go home.’6

The performance of the pageant was roundly agreed to be a great success, with the Portsmouth Evening News remarking that ‘it is rare these days that one so elaborate is staged for the public delectation at all’ and that ‘For aesthetic appeal, this piece of pageantry would be hard to surpass.’7 The Hampshire Observer’s view was that ‘The Pageant has been a triumph. For its scale and size there has been nothing to surpass it in magnificence, in the accuracy of its heraldry, costumes, decoration, furniture and domestic gear.’8 The pageant’s use of comedy was also commended, the Hampshire Chronicle pointing out how the ‘welcome note of humour… befitting the occasion, has also been cleverly and unobtrusively introduced, relieving the more dignified scenes of the play with happy effect.’9 The moments of levity included the scene with the Hostess of the White Hart Inn attempting to gain access to the Royal Tiring Tent, in exchange for various ‘favours’, as well as the French Queen being unable to pronounce the name of the town.

One of the most effusive spectators was the guest of honour on 5 July, His Royal Highness, the Duke of Connaught, who had ‘enjoyed every single minute of the pageant, and congratulated [Thursby] and everybody concerned upon the success of the effort.’10 Other guests of honour included the historian H.A.L. Fisher (4 July), Sir Geoffrey Ellis, MP (6 July), and the noted actress Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies (7 July). The Duke also inspected the performers. In fact, the archers, men at arms, and yeomen were played by non-commissioned officers from the Hampshire Regiment and Rifle Depot.

Often, national newspapers visiting local pageants were dismissive or condescending of local ways, though in this case the spectacle deeply impressed the reporter for the Daily Telegraph, who extolled a ‘scene of unforgettable richness and stately splendour.’ The journalist went on to remark that ‘If any fashionable wedding is a magnet for the London crowd to-day, what shall be said of the breath-taking masterpiece of that wedding scene tonight? It surpasses any pageant episode I have ever seen.’11

In financial terms the pageant was a modest success, raising between £500 and £600 for the lighting and heating of the cathedral. This was some way short of the hoped-for £6000, however. Perhaps this was in part because despite all the praise heaped on the event, it lacked many of elements which went into other more successful pageants. The focus on a single historical event (the wedding of 1403), however spectacular, was at the loss of the narrative sweep of other pageants, and so it was that the 1934 Winchester Pageant was perhaps a triumph of spectacle over content.


1. ^ Michael Jones, ‘Joan (1368–1437)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2014 [, accessed 28 March 2017].
2. ^ Ibid.
3. ^ Church Times, 6 July 1934. The majority of these sources are from a scrap-book containing press-cuttings at the Hampshire Local History Centre, Winchester, 109A03/1 and consequently do not have available page numbers.
4. ^ Ibid.
5. ^ Hampshire Chronicle, 3 July 1934, np.
6. ^ Hampshire Chronicle, 14 July 1934, p. 7.
7. ^ Portsmouth Evening News, 4 July 1934, p. 8.
8. ^ Hampshire Observer, 8 July 1934, np.
9. ^ Hampshire Chronicle, 5 July  1934, np.
10. ^ Ibid.
11. ^ Daily Telegraph, 3 July 1934, p. 10.

How to cite this entry

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