The Chelsea Historical Pageant

Pageant type

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Place: Old Ranelagh Gardens, Royal Hospital (Chelsea) (Chelsea, Middlesex, England)

Year: 1908

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 6


25, 26, 27, 29, 30 June, 1 July 1908


In addition to these six performances, there were two semi-public performances that were presumably dress rehearsals (‘Lessons of the Chelsea Pageant’, The Times, 1 July 1908, 19).

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Irvine, J. Harry
  • Designer of Costumes: Tom Heslewood
  • Musical Director: Ernest Bucalossi
  • Mistress of Dances: Miss Cowper-Coles
  • Press Representative: Sydney Glover
  • Official Photographer: Miss Kate Pragnell

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Officers of the Pageant:

  • President: The Rt. Hon. The Earl Cadogan, K.G.
  • Vice Presidents:
  • Hon. William Sidney, Mayor of Chelsea
  • Emslie J. Horniman, M.P. for Chelsea
  • Field-Marshal Sir George White, V.C, O.M.G.C.B, Governor of Chelsea Hospital
  • Ven. Archdeacon Bevan, Rector of Chelsea

Honorary Officers:

  • Secretary: Colonel E.T. Clifford, V.D.
  • Treasurer: Reginald Blunt
  • Director of Ceremonial: G. Ambrose Lee, York Herald
  • Master of Properties: W.R. Staveley
  • Mistress of the Wardrobe: Miss Whitmore
  • Librarian: J. Henry Quinn, Librarian of Chelsea


  • H.R.H. Princess Christian
  • H.R.H. Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll
  • H.R.H. Prince Christian
  • H.R.H Duchess of Albany
  • The Archbishop of Canterbury
  • The Duke of Argyll
  • The Marquess of Northampton
  • The Marquess of Ripon
  • The Marquess of Dufferin and Ava
  • Sybil, Marchioness of Queensbury
  • Julia, Marchioness of Tweedale
  • The Dowager Countess of Strathmore
  • The Bishop of London
  • The Dowager Lady Penrhyn
  • Louisa, Lady Walker of Sand Hutton
  • The Right Hon. Augustine Birrell, K.C., M.P.
  • The Right Hon. Walter Long, M.P., and Lady Doreen Long
  • The Right Ho. Justice Bargrave and Lady Deane
  • The Lord Mayor of London and the Lady Mayoress

Executive Committee:

  • Ven. Archdeadon Bevan
  • Arthur W. Bainton, Esq.
  • Miss Birch
  • Reginald Blunt, Esq.
  • Miss Cazenove
  • Mrs Clifford
  • Randall Davies, Esq.
  • Mrs Adrian Hope
  • Rev. R. Hudson
  • Miss Hutchinson
  • J.H. Irv, Esq.
  • J. Kerr-Lawson, Esq.
  • Miss Luard
  • Alan M. Mackinnon, Esq.
  • Miss Monck-Mason
  • Hon. Mr Justice Pickford
  • William Poel, Esq.
  • T.J. Robinson. Esq.
  • J.H.W. Rolland, Esq.
  • Colonel Angel Scott
  • Sir Colin Scott-Moncrieff, KCMG
  • Hon. William Sidney
  • Miss Stuart
  • Sir Ernest Tritton, Bart.
  • J.H.W. Wheeler, Esq.
  • Lady White
  • Miss Whitmore
  • Miss Mary Williams
  • H.J. Wilson, Esq.
  • Miss Julian Young
  • Hon. Secretary: Colonel Clifford

General Committee:

  • Earl Cadogan, K.G.
  • The Marquis of Ripon
  • Viscount Chelsea
  • Viscountess of Chelsea
  • Lord Monkswell
  • Lady Monkswell
  • Lord Courtney of Penwith
  • Lady Courtney
  • Dowager Lady Penrhyn
  • Lady Buxton
  • Lady Loyisa Magenis
  • Admiral the Hon. Sir Edmund Freemantle
  • Field-Marshal Sir George White, V.C., O.M., G.C.B., etc.
  • Lady White
  • Gen. Sir E. Bulwer, G.C.B.
  • Major-General Sartorious, V.C.
  • Sir C.E. Tritton, Bart.
  • Sir Hugh Bell, Bart.
  • Hon. William Sidney, Mayor of Chelsea
  • Hon. A.E. Gathorne-Hardy
  • Hon. Mr Justice Pickford
  • Hon. Mrs Sidney
  • Hon. Gertrude Douglas Pennant
  • Hon. Mrs Conrad Dillon
  • Hon. Mrs Armine Wodehouse
  • Hon. Mrs Reginald A. Smith
  • Hon. Mrs Bevan
  • Rev. H.R. Collum
  • Dr. Wm. Keen
  • Major W. Fountain Woods
  • E.J. Horniman, Esq., M.P.
  • C.A. Whitmore, Esq., J.P.
  • Mrs T.J. Robinson
  • Miss Barnard
  • Miss Curtis
  • Miss Forbes
  • Miss Hilda Haking
  • E. Keen, Esq.
  • Mrs Keen
  • John Kemp, Esq., K.C.
  • Mrs John Kemp
  • Mrs Molesworth
  • Miss Monk
  • Miss. M. Sidgwick
  • Mrs Tapling
  • Mrs H.J. Wilson
  • Sefton Strickland, Esq.
  • Mrs Sefton Strickland
  • Miss Baggallay
  • Ralph W. Flower, Esq.
  • R.C. Norman, Esq,, L.C.C.
  • T.A. Romer, Esq.
  • T.C.E. Goff, Esq., L.C.C.
  • R. Scott, Esq., F.R.S.
  • Mrs Kennedy Erskine
  • Louis C. Parkes, Esq., M.D.
  • J. Westlake, Esq., LL.D
  • Miss Maxwell
  • Alfred J. Leyton, Esq.
  • Miss Stewart
  • B.T. Hodgson, Esq.
  • Miss Hollins
  • R.M. Andrews, Esq.
  • Miss Stanton
  • Miss Meade
  • C. Head, Esq.
  • Miss Pickford
  • Mrs Horniman
  • Miss Greg
  • Thos. Holland, Esq.
  • F.J. Synge, Esq.
  • John S. Sargent, Esq.
  • Edward A. Wigan, Esq.
  • Miss Wyndham Lewis
  • Miss Rosalind Paget
  • F.N. Layman, Esq.
  • Otho Stuart, Esq.
  • W. Devereux, Esq.
  • H.V. Esmond
  • Duncan Irvine, Esq.
  • Fritz Reiss, Esq.
  • T. Ligertwood, Esq.
  • A.E. Court, Esq.
  • A.W. West, Esq.
  • W.W. Grantham, Esq.
  • G.F. Wilkins, Esq.
  • Mrs Clifford
  • Miss Mary Rorke
  • Miss Kate Rorke.
  • M.H. Spielmann, Esq.

Historical Committee:

  • Russell Alexander, Esq.
  • Laurence Binyon, Esq.
  • Reginald Blunt, Esq.
  • Col. Clifford
  • Randall Davies, Esq., F.S.A.
  • Miss Hutchinson
  • J.H. Irvine, Esq.
  • G. Ambrose Lee, Esq.
  • J.H. Quinn, Esq.
  • Mrs Watkins
  • Professor Moira
  • Basil Gotto, Esq.
  • E.A. Rickards, Esq.
  • Hon Secretary: J. Henry Quinn, Esq.

Music Committee:

  • Walter Alcock, Esq., Mus. Doc.
  • Angelo Ascher, Esq.
  • Percy Buck, Esq.
  • Seymour Dicker, Esq.
  • Hon. Victoria Grosvenor.
  • Rev. R.H. Hobday
  • J.N. Ireland, Esq., F.R.C.O.
  • Alfred J. Layton, Esq.
  • A.H.D. Predergast, Esq.
  • Hon. Richard Strutt
  • Musical Director: Ernest Bucalossi, Esq.

Dress Committee:

  • Mrs Sannyer Atkin
  • Miss Baggallay
  • Hon. Mrs Bevan
  • Miss Cecil Bevan
  • Miss Birch
  • Miss Breakell
  • Miss Cannon
  • Miss V. Chichester
  • Mrs Child
  • Mrs Clifford
  • Miss Clifford
  • Mrs Daman
  • Miss Evans
  • Miss M. Forbes
  • Mrs Gamble
  • Mrs Adrian Hope
  • Mrs Hudson
  • Herbert Jarman, Esq.
  • Mrs Ambrose Lee
  • Mrs Lempriere
  • Miss Charlotte Lloyd
  • Mrs Lucas
  • Miss Marrable
  • Miss Meade
  • Miss Mure-Martin
  • Miss M. Mure-Martin
  • Herbert Norris, Esq.
  • Miss Olliffe
  • Miss Pickford
  • William Poel, Esq.
  • J. Henry Quinn, Esq.
  • S. Skinner, Esq.
  • W.R. Staveley, Esq.
  • Ernest Thesiger, Esq.
  • Mrs Viveash
  • Miss Whitmore
  • Miss Julian Young
  • Designer of Costumes: Tom Heslewood, Esq.
  • Hon. Secretary: Hon. Albertine Grosvenor,

Finance Committee:

  • Arthur Bainton, Esq.
  • Ven. Archdeacon Bevan
  • Reginald Blunt, Esq.
  • Miss Cazenove
  • Colonel Clifford
  • J.H. Irvine, Esq.
  • Hon. Mr Justice Pickford
  • T.J. Robinson, Esq. J.H.W. Rolland, Esq.
  • Sir Colin Scott-Moncrieff, K.C.M.G.
  • The Hon. W. Sidney
  • Sir Ernest Tritton, Bart.
  • J.H.W. Wheeler, Esq.
  • C.A. Whitmore, Esq.
  • H.J. Wilson, Esq.

Press Committee:

  • Reginald Blunt, Esq.
  • Colonel Clifford
  • Sydney Glover, Esq.
  • J.H. Irvine, Esq.
  • Thos Jordan, Esq.
  • J.H. Quinn, Esq.
  • Prescott Row, Esq.
  • Hon. Secretary: J. Henry Quinn, Esq.

Stewards Committee:

  • R.M. Andrews, Esq.
  • F.J. Bax, Esq.
  • T.D. Blanch, Esq.
  • J. Booker, Esq.
  • W. Cundall, Esq.
  • P.H. Clisby, Esq.
  • R. Davis, Esq.
  • S.L. Dawes, Esq.
  • H.W. Douglas, Esq.
  • H.W. Fuller, Esq.
  • C. Glassington, Esq.
  • W. Hitch, Esq.
  • E. Holland, Esq.
  • T. Knewstub, Esq.
  • W. Mead, Esq.
  • W. Norton, Esq.
  • W.F. Picken, Esq.
  • Major Bruce Smith, V.D.
  • J. Spurling, Esq.
  • H.J. Stephens, Esq. Junr.
  • J. Tidmarsh, Esq.
  • H.J. Veitch, Esq.
  • George White, Esq.
  • E. Wilkins, Esq.
  • F.C. Wilkins, Esq.
  • W. Williams, Esq.
  • Hon Secretary: J.H.W. Wheeler, Esq.

Ground Committee:

  • Reginald Blunt, Esq.
  • Geo. Pride. Esq.
  • Colonel Clifford
  • R. Salisbury Esq.
  • W. Norton, Esq.
  • J.H.W. Wheeler, Esq.
  • F.C. Wilkins, Esq.


The gender breakdown of each of the committees is as follows:

Officers of the Pageant: 5 men, 0 women
Honorary Officers: 5 men, 1 woman
Patrons: 11 men, 9 women
Executive Committee: 19 men, 12 women
General Committee: 48 men, 41 women
Historical Committee: 12 men, 2 women
Music Committee: 10 men, 1 woman
Dress Committee: 9 men, 30 women
Finance Committee: 14 men, 1 woman
Press Committee: 8 men, 1 woman
Steward’s Committee: 27 men, 0 women
Ground Committee: 7 men, 0 women

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

  • Irvine, J. Harry
  • Lee, G. Ambrose
  • Binyon, Laurence
  • Cran, Mrs George
  • O’Neill, Mrs Edward
  • Hawtrey, Miss
  • Spenser, Edmund
  • Cochrane, Arthur
  • Cochrane, Alfred
  • Alexander, Russell
  • Blunt, Reginald


The scripts for individual episodes were written by:

  • Irvine, J. Harry (Prologue and Episode I. The Romans Cross the Thames at Chelsea, 53 BC)
  • Lee, G. Ambrose (Episode II. The Synod of Chelsea, A.D. 786; Episode VI: The Funeral Procession of Anne of Cleves)
  • Binyon, Laurence (Episode IV. Sir Thomas More at Chelsea, 1527; Sir Thomas More’s Farewell to Chelsea, 1534)
  • Cran, Mrs George (Episode V. Princess Elizabeth and Lady Jane Grey at the Manor House, Katharine Parr interceding for Seymour)
  • O’Neill, Mrs Edward (Episode VII. Queen Elizabeth at Lord Howard of Effingham’s, 1592)
  • Hawtrey, Miss (Episode VII. Children’s Masque of Spenser’s ‘Faerie Queen)
  • Spenser, Edmund (Episode VII. Processions taken from The Faerie Queen)
  • Cochrane, Arthur (Episode VIII. The Founding of Chelsea Hospital by Charles II in 1681)
  • Cochrane, Alfred (Episode IX. The Institution of ‘Doggett’s Coat and Badge’ in 1714)
  • Alexander, Russell (Episode X. ‘Royal Fete at Ranelagh Gardens in 1749)
  • Blunt, Reginald (The Epilogue)

Names of composers

  • Bucalossi, Ernest
  • Henry VIII
  • Irvine, J. Harry
  • Handel, George Frideric

Numbers of performers

1000 - 1200

‘Lessons of the Chelsea Pageant’, The Times, 1 July 1908, 19: ‘About a quarter of the performers are children, some of them of quite tender years, and that the rest are for the most part busy men and women who have been doing their ordinary day’s work’ (Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 30 June 1908, 5). Notable performers:

Mr Herbert Jarman (former stage manager of the St. Albans pageant): King Henry VIII
Mr Alfred Brydone (professional actor): chorus
Mr Bernard Partridge (famous illustrator): Earl of Essex

Financial information

Total receipts: £7478
Payments: £6802. 5s. 4d.
Showing a profit of £675. 14s. 8d.

Tickets: £5931
Subscriptions: £416
Programmes and books: £688
Sales of costumes and properties: £283

Cost of stands, marquees and accessories: £1650
Fees, salaries and wages: £1254
Advertisements and posters: £1126
Music: £563
Printing and stationary: £640
Costumes: £732
Properties: £232

Liabilities outstanding: £220

Remaining assets [consisting of costumes, properties, books]: £253 [‘They would probably find the pageants of this year their best customers].

‘On the basis of the figures given… the profits of the pageant would be about £700.’

All financial information taken from: ‘The Chelsea Pageant’, The Times, 2 July 1908, 9.

Object of any funds raised

Local charities and parish church.


‘The Chelsea Historical Pageant’, The Times, 12 Jun 1908, 20.

Linked occasion


Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: Approx. 3000
  • Total audience: n/a


No exact figures given, but ‘audiences have not been as large as the excellence of the pageant deserved’ (‘Lessons of the Chelsea Pageant’, The Times, 1 July 1908, 19). And many newspaper reports said that, while well attended, the audience figures could have been higher.

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


There was a royal box. Some newspaper commentary complained that tickets were too expensive. Some tickets cost as much as 2 guineas. It seems that the ticket prices were reduced after these complaints, although the event still did not sell out (‘Lessons of the Chelsea Pageant’, The Times, 1 July 1908, 19).

Associated events

  • Exhibition of costumes at Town Hall (‘The Chelsea Pageant’, The Times, 17 February 1908, 8).
  • Lecture on historical aspects of the Chelsea Pageant at Town Hall (‘The Chelsea Pageant’, The Times, 17 February 1908, 8).
  • Costume Ball at the Hotel Cecil (June 18) and on final night of Pageant (‘The Chelsea Historical Pageant’, The Times, 12 June 1908, 20).

Pageant outline

Episode I. The Romans Cross the Thames at Chelsea, 53 BC

The episode begins with the sounds of a raging battle offstage. A British Chief and band of warriors appear, and then run off towards the noise of the battle. As they disappear a group of druids appear singing and chanting, before being interrupted by a Roman chariot carrying the British chief Cassiveleaunus and a Roman prisoner, causing both fear and confusion. Cassiveleaunus executes the prisoner, as the Herald Bard prophesises that the Romans will conquer the British lands. Cassiveleaunus rushes back to the battle but is caught by the Romans, who enter heavily armed and chanting the name of Caesar, who also appears. Returning a slave to his mother, Caesar proclaims that ‘Justice shall flourish; and the proud oppressor still shall recoil before the might of Rome.’


Tamesis describes the leaving of the Romans and the arrival of the Saxons, and the melding of England from many regions into one. He then proclaims the entrance of Offa, King of Mercia, who had summoned the councillors and chiefs of Chelsea to a synod.

Episode II. The Synod of Chelsea, AD 786

King Offa wishes to weaken the power of the See of Canterbury, arguing that Mercia is chief of the Saxon Kingdoms and should not be the ‘subject of a Kentish Bishop’. Archbishop of Canterbury, Jaenbryct [Jænberht], states his intention to appeal to Rome for support. Offa however has already been in contact with Rome, who, under Pope Adrian, supports Offa’s claim to power in Canterbury. Two envoys from Rome then enter, greet Offa, and confirm Bishop Hibbert to power over the Metropolitical See of Lichfield, the consequence of the subdivision of the archdiocese of Canterbury. Jaenbryct now acknowledges his obedience to the ecclesiastical authority that Offa has invoked, and withdraws ‘slowly off, leaning on the arm of another bishop’. Offa then makes a donation to St Peter, to be repeated yearly, and asks Hibbert to declare Ecgfert [Egbert] as his son and heir, which then takes place.


Unda and Tamesis briefly give an outline of the next seven hundred years, through Egbert; Alfred the Great; the reign of Canute; Edward, son of Ethelred; Thurstan, Governor of Westminster, granting ‘Chelsea Manor full and free’ to the Abbey there; the Norman conquest; the Princedoms of Plantagenet; the three Lancastrian Henrys’ reigns; Crecy and Agincourt and Orleans; the House of York; Tudor Richmond—and how peace was maintained in Chelsea all this time, as the place passed to and from the Abbey and Lords, and then into the hands of the Bray family.

Episode III. May Day in Chelsea Fields, Circa AD 1500

A typical May Day is enacted. This featured children dancing in honour of the May around the pole; ‘gipsies’ showing the dance of Spain; Mummers enacting the Chronicles of Robin Hood; a bear and dog fight; and minstrels doing the ‘King’s favourite Morris Dance’. In a descriptive note, the episode’s author notes how the ‘good people of the parish… formed a more or less united family, [and] clustered round the church which was here, as elsewhere, the centre of the local life and interest during those ages, —mistakenly, perhaps, characterized as “Dark”.’


Unda heralds the bringing of Sir Thomas More to Chelsea.

Episode IV Scene 1. Sir Thomas More at Chelsea, 1527

The scene opens with More walking with Erasmus, the latter declaring Chelsea to be ‘the happiest home in Europe’ and the ‘Utopia you [More] despaired of discovering in this world.’ With the arrival on the scene of Bishop Fisher and Bishop Warham, the conversation turns to Henry VIII’s divorce. Dame More then appears and discusses the artist Holbein and his plan to paint More’s father, John. Lord and Lady Sandy and Lord Shrewsbury enter, and More discusses the prospect of the Sandys exchanging their manor of Chelsea for the King’s manor of Mottisfont. More states how the King ‘loves Chelsea’. The King’s music is then heard, and Henry VIII appears to walk with More, proclaiming that the ‘air of Chelsea and your fresh garden like me well’. More confirms that the Sandys are willing to give Chelsea to Henry. Henry then tries to persuade More to replace Wolsey as Lord Chancellor, due to the former’s failure to secure an annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragorn. Henry leaves. More seeks the approval of his father, John, who assents; Holbein then arrives to paint a picture of More and his family.

Episode IV Scene 2. Sir Thomas More’s Farewell to Chelsea, 1534

More’s daughters discuss the prospect of their Father taking up the King’s offer, and of leaving Chelsea. More bids an emotional farewell to his garden and to Chelsea. Dame More, Lord Norfolk and Lord Shrewsbury discuss More’s appointment, showing concern for the King’s temperament and More’s safety. Soldiers now enter and take possession of More’s books and papers. A soldier passes a letter to More’s daughter, which confirms that he had said his final farewell. The episode ends with a pensioner seeking More, and all promising to honour Chelsea’s memory of More.


Unda and Tamesis lament the martyrdom of More, and herald the arrival of ‘Ann Boleyn’s daughter’, Elizabeth I, and Lady Jane—both as children.

Episode V. ‘Princess Elizabeth and Lady Jane Grey at the Manor House, Katharine Parr interceding for Seymour’

Elizabeth and other children sing a song, ‘Herbs of Grace’. Elizabeth precociously makes a claim to her destiny as Queen of England, though is warned of ‘prudence setteth up and folly casteth down’. Sir Thomas Seymour and the Lord of Warwick enter, discussing Elizabeth’s precociousness, and the giving of his daughter, Jane, to the King—a move opposed by Warwick, who wants her for his own son (who she does ultimately marry). Seymour embraces his daughter. Elizabeth is increasingly bold and makes statements of her strength and ability to Seymour, who teases her about her clothes and paleness, and her vanity and pride. Elizabeth turns away contemptuously. King Edward VI, Queen Katherine, Lady Warwick, Katherine, and the Lord Protector Somerset then appear. The Lord Protector, Seymour’s brother, attempts to diminish Seymour’s reputation in front of the King, though Katherine intercedes and wins him a pardon. Princess Elizabeth is ordered to leave Seymour’s guardianship, and she leaves with words of disdain, hinting at Seymour’s ultimate fate on the block.


Tamesis states that Somerset, Dudley, Seymour and Lady Jane have now ‘all knelt to the block’ and how Edward is dead, Katherine is dead, and the ‘Popish Mary reigns, While Death, her Chancellor’, stalks through all the land.’

Episode VI. The Funeral Procession of Anne of Cleves, from the Royal Manor House, Chelsea, 3 August, AD 1557

This is a brief episode featuring two old men, a cross bearer, choir boys, choir men cantors, a cross bearer, Clergy of St Paul’s Cathedral and St. Luke’s, Chelsea, a verger, canons of St Paul’s Cathedral, Thurifer and Holy Water Clerk, A Cross bearer with two acolytes, monks of Westminster Abbey, Master of the Ceremonies. Attended by The Abbot of Westminster. Attended by the Bishop of London. Two chief mourners, the executors (Sir Edward Peckham and Sir Richard Preston) Two other mourners (the Lord Admiral and Lord Darcy), Mourners, the Great Banner of Arms, Gentlemen of the Household, the Banners of the Blessed Trinity and St. George, Garter King of Arms (Sir Gilbert Dethick). The Coffin covered in black velvet and carried by pall bearers, with heralds and the chief mourner (Lady Winchester), and her servants and nuns.


Tamesis and Unda proclaim the crowning of Queen Elizabeth, ‘Our Princess of the Manor House’.

Episode VII. Queen Elizabeth at Lord Howard of Effingham’s, 1592 [Including the Faery Queen Masque]

The garden is prepared for a party. The Earl of Essex dismisses fear of Elizabeth’s retribution for his open courting of Lady Sidney. Elizabeth, now Queen, returns to the garden of her childhood, and is received by Lord Howard of Effingham with much fanfare. There are shouts of ‘God Save the Queen!’, to which Elizabeth replies ‘Nay—God save you, my people.’ Elizabeth makes several overtures to Chelsea and its loyalty and godliness. Essex flirts with Lady Mary, who mischievously comments that one person could not satisfy him. Elizabeth enters and admonishes Essex harshly for his philandering ways. Raleigh and Spenser enter, and bow to the Queen. A programme of the upcoming Masque is presented.

Faery Queen Masque [presented as a positive allegorical work about Queen Elizabeth that found favour with her]:

Procession 1: Una and the Lion (including St George, a magician, a paynim knight, a dwarf, and a lion—which looks like a costumed child in the photograph provided). Elizabeth jokes about the knight’s kidnapping of Una: ‘You paynim knows the way to court a maid.’

Procession 2: Britomart, or The Magic Mirror (featuring Britomart, a nurse, Merlin, and Artegall the Knight). Britomart proclaims the Virgin Queen (Elizabeth) and the virtue of military power. Elizabeth comments ‘Come, Spenser, knew ye any maid could fight so well?”, to which Spenser replies ‘All England knows one, madam, and in her they put their trust.’

Procession III: The House of Pride (featuring Lucifera as a maiden Queen, Duessa the false, and a gentle usher named Vanite, as well as six comic councillors [Idleness, Gluttony, Lechery, Avarice, Envy, and Wrath], Satan, St George, Six Beasts, and a Banner Bearer).

Procession IV: The House of Holiness (featuring Dame Celia and her daughters, and an old hermit, little children, Una, St George, Dwarf, and a Banner Bearer)

Procession V: Pastorella (featuring Pastorella, Sir Calidore, the lord of many isles, Clabibel, Melidoeus, Corydon, A Robber, A Sea Captain, shepherds and shepherdesses, a tiger).

Procession VI: The Quest of Sir Guyon (featuring Sir Guyon, Mammon the money god, Philotema—Mammon’s daughter, an old palmer, and care, pain, strife, revenge, spite, treason, hate, jealousy, fear, sorrow, shame, horror)

Procession VII: Cambell and Canacee (Cambina, Priamond, Diamond, Triamond, the three fates, two lions, Canacee, cambell). Queen Elizabeth comments on the similarity between fiction and real life.

Procession VIII: St George and the Dragon (featuring Durssa, Prince Arthur, Giant Orgoglio, St. George, Dragon, Una, Dwarf)

Procession IX: The Coming of Gloriana (featuring a child dressed just like the grown Queen)—the fairest, wisest and most powerful Queen that ever reigned. Elizabeth thanks Howard and Spenser for the Masque, before bidding goodbye. All sing God Bless your Majesty.


Unda and Tamesis detail, briefly, the reign of Elizabeth, James, Charles, and Chelsea’s part in the English Civil War.

Episode VIII. Charles II Founds Chelsea Hospital, 1681

Sir Stephen Fox, Samuel Pepys, and Sir Christopher Wren enter and discuss plans for a hospital. The King’s barge approaches, from which enter the Duchess of Mazarin, Thomas Wharton, the Earl of Lindsey, St. Evremond, the Earl of Carbery and others with King Charles II and the Duchess of Portsmouth. The boys and girls of Chelsea dance the Chelsey Reach for the King. Nell Gwynn reminds the King of his duty to support starving soldiers who served him in war. Nell half-tricks Charles into promising land for the building of King Charles’ Hospital, to which he half-angrily consents, which will support soldiers.


Unda and Tamesis discuss Chelsea’s pure air and how many important people gathered at the Swan or ‘quaffed the famous punch-bowl of the “Don”’ [the Don Saltero coffee house].

Episode IX. The Institution of Doggett’s Coat and Badge in 1714

This episode is set in the garden behind the Coffee-House of Mr Salter in Chelsea, who takes the Spanish title of Don Saltero. The action centres on the Coffee-House as the arena for political discussion and the enactment of civil society. It features the discussions of local doctors, Salter, Jonathan Swift (inspired ‘by the air of Chelsea’), and Hans Sloane. Sloane discusses the bequeathing of the Physick Garden to the Society of Apothecaries, and the impending death of Queen Mary. Thomas Doggett, the Irish actor and comedian, enters, and proclaims the founding of the Doggett’s Coat and Badge, a rowing race along the Thames and under Chelsea Bridge, in honour of the accession of George I to the throne. Joseph Addison then reads a poem about the death of Queen Mary.


Unda and Tamesis describe the failure of the Young Pretender, while Chelsea ‘grew in favour and in fame’.

Episode X. Royal Fete at Ranelagh Gardens in 1749

A host of dignitaries attend a royal fete, signifying the importance of the Gardens to eighteenth-century culture. Upon the arrival of the King the orchestra strikes up the national anthem. John James Heidegger, Master of Revels, is mocked by his unknown Double, who exhorts the orchestra to play the wrong music. The King reacts with mock anger, as Montagu (laughing whilst he does so) tells the officers of the guard to ‘run the traitor [Heidegger] through’. The ‘officers threaten Heidegger with their swords, one of which pricks him in a certain place behind. Heidegger jumps, and clasps his hand there.’ The King explodes with laughter as Heidegger confronts his double, ripping off his mask, before running off stage clutching his wound. The Chelsea Minuet is then danced, before the King asks Heidegger if he is forgiven for the previous joke. Heidegger asks if the minuet pleased the King, to which he replies ‘So well that we will take our leave; you can have nothing better to show us.’ At which point Heidegger replies ‘Wait, wait, I beseech your Highness. How say you to this for a show?’, upon which all the characters in the Pageant re-enter for a final flourish.


This heralds the end of the pageant. Suggesting there are many consequent characters and themes associated with Chelsea, it expresses the fear that

To tread too close on memories that live
We must cry halt, and bid you all farewell.

It then exhorts that

Is it not well that we, the ages’ heirs,
Should waken Chelsea’s pride in Chelsea, thus
To realise how ever yard of earth
About her homes is charged with memories?
To watch, as in a glass, how history
Is builded, aye, and building, hour by hour,
And we its architects?

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Cassivellaunus (fl. 54 BC) king in Britain
  • Caesar [Gaius Julius Caesar] (100–44 BC) politician, author, and military commander
  • Camillus (c. 446–365 BC) Roman soldier and statesman
  • Divitiacus (fl.58–57 BC) leader of pro-Roman faction in the Aedui
  • Mandubratius (fl. 1st cent.) king of the Trinovantes of south-eastern Britain
  • Offa (d. 796) king of the Mercians
  • Ecgferth (d. 796) son of Offa
  • Bray, Sir Reynold [Reginald] (c.1440–1503) administrator
  • More, Sir Thomas [St Thomas More] (1478–1535) lord chancellor, humanist, and martyr
  • Erasmus, Desiderius (c.1467–1536) humanist scholar and reformer
  • Warham, William (1450?–1532) administrator and archbishop of Canterbury
  • Fisher, John [St John Fisher] (c.1469–1535) bishop of Rochester, cardinal, and martyr
  • More [née Harpur; other married name Middleton], Alice, Lady More (b. in or after 1474, d. in or before 1551) second wife of Sir Thomas More
  • Henry VIII (1491–1547) king of England and Ireland
  • Roper [née More], Margaret (1505–1544) scholar and daughter of Sir Thomas More
  • More [née Cresacre], Anne (c.1511-1577) wife of John More, son of Sir Thomas More
  • Roper, William (1495x8–1578) biographer
  • Holbein, Hans, the younger (1497/8–1543) artist
  • More, Sir John (c.1451–1530) judge
  • Heron, Cicely (b. 1507) daughter of Sir Thomas More
  • Clement [Clements; née Giggs], Margaret (1508–1570) adopted daughter of Sir
  • Grey [married name Dudley], Lady Jane (1537–1554) noblewoman and claimant to the English throne
  • Elizabeth I (1533–1603) queen of England and Ireland
  • Seymour, Thomas, Baron Seymour of Sudeley (b. in or before 1509, d. 1549) nobleman
  • Dudley, Lord Guildford (c.1535–1554) husband of Lady Jane Grey
  • Edward VI (1537–1553) king of England and Ireland
  • Katherine [Kateryn, Catherine; née Katherine Parr] (1512–1548) queen of England and Ireland, sixth consort of Henry VIII
  • Howard, Charles, second Baron Howard of Effingham and first earl of Nottingham (1536–1624) naval commander
  • Bacon, Sir Francis (c.1587–1657) judge
  • Gorges, Sir Arthur (d. 1625) poet and translator
  • Fletcher, John (1579–1625) playwright
  • Cecil, Robert, first earl of Salisbury (1563–1612) politician and courtier Earl of Lincoln
  • Ralegh, Sir Walter (1554–1618) courtier, explorer, and author Edmund Spenser
  • George [St George] (d. c.303?) patron saint of England
  • Fox, Sir Stephen (1627–1716) financier and government official
  • Pepys, Samuel (1633–1703) naval official and diarist
  • Wren, Sir Christopher (1632–1723) architect, mathematician, and astronomer
  • Robartes, John, first earl of Radnor (1606–1685) politician and army officer
  • Cheyne, William, second Viscount Newhaven (1657–1728) politician Duchess of Mazarin
  • Wharton, Thomas, first marquess of Wharton, first marquess of Malmesbury, and first marquess of Catherlough (1648–1715) politician
  • Saint-Évremond, Charles de Marguetel de Saint-Denis de (bap. 1614, d. 1703) soldier and writer
  • Vaughan, Richard, second earl of Carbery (1600?–1686) royalist army officer
  • Charles II (1630–1685) king of England, Scotland, and Ireland
  • Kéroualle, Louise Renée de Penancoët de, suo jure duchess of Portsmouth and suo jure duchess of Aubigny in the French nobility (1649–1734) royal mistress
  • Gwyn, Eleanor [Nell] (1651?–1687) actress and royal mistress
  • Luttrell, Narcissus (1657–1732) annalist and book collector
  • Munden, Sir John (c.1645–1719) naval officer
  • King, John (1652–1732) Church of England clergyman
  • Swift, Jonathan (1667–1745) writer and dean of St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin
  • Sloane, Sir Hans, baronet (1660–1753) physician and collector
  • Trelawny, Sir Jonathan, third baronet (1650–1721) bishop of Winchester
  • Steele, Sir Richard (bap. 1672, d. 1729) writer and politician
  • Addison, Joseph (1672–1719) writer and politician
  • Doggett, Thomas (c.1670–1721) actor and theatre manager
  • Heidegger, Johann Jakob (1666–1749) impresario
  • Johnson, Samuel (1709–1784) author and lexicographer
  • Boswell, James (1740–1795) lawyer, diarist, and biographer of Samuel Johnson
  • Smollett, Tobias George (1721–1771) writer
  • Monsey, Messenger (bap. 1694, d. 1788) physician
  • Fielding, Henry (1707–1754) author and magistrate
  • Garrick, David (1717–1779) actor and playwright
  • Goldsmith, Oliver (1728?–1774) author
  • Woffington, Margaret [Peg] (1720?–1760) actress
  • George II (1683–1760) king of Great Britain and Ireland, and elector of Hanover

Musical production

Orchestra: The British Symphony Orchestra
  • ‘The Druid Hymn’ (Episode I).
  • Ernest Bucalossi. ‘Caesar’. Triumphal March (Episode I).
  • Ernest Bucalossi. ‘Dance’ (Episode III).
  • ‘Sumer is icumen in’ (Episode III).
  • ‘Galliarde’ (Episode III).
  • Ernest Bucalossi. Untitled. Words by Sir Thomas More (Episode IV).
  • Henry VIII. ‘Pastyme with goode companie’ (Episode IV).
  • ‘Ey Flatterynge Fortune’. Chorus (Episode IV).
  • Ernest Bucalossi. ‘Herb of Grace’. Words by J. Harry Irvine. Trio (Episode V).
  • ‘De Profundis’. Hymn (Episode VI).
  • ‘Dies Irae’. Hymn (Episode VI)
  • Ernest Bucalossi. ‘Pastorella’. Dance (Episode VIII).
  • ‘Chelsey Reach’ (Episode VIII)
  • Ernest Bucalossi. ‘Faithful Shepherdess’. Song to Queen Elizabeth (Episode VIII).
  • Ernest Bucalossi. ‘Tournament’. Children’s Chorus (Episode VIII).
  • Tavern Orchestra (Episode IX).
  • Handel. ‘Water Music’ [excerpts] (Episode IX).
  • Song of Ranelagh, ‘Ye Belles’ (Episode X).
  • Ernest Bucalossi. ‘Chelsea China Minuet’ (Episode X).

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Derby Daily Telegraph
The Manchester Guardian
Aberdeen Journal
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette
Manchester Courier and Lancashire General

Book of words

Chelsea Pageant Committee. The Chelsea Historical Pageant, Old Ranelagh Gardens, Royal Hospital, June 25th-July 1st, 1908—Book of Words With Illustrations and Selections from the Music (Chelsea, 1908).

Price: half a crown. Available online at, as well as at Chelsea and Kensington Local Studies Library and British Library.

Other primary published materials

  • Programme of Chelsea Historical Pageant [At Kensington and Chelsea Local Studies Library]
  • Chelsea Pageant 1908: List of persons who might take part [At Kensington and Chelsea Local Studies Library]

References in secondary literature

  • Willsdon, Clare A.P. Mural Painting in Britain 1840-1940: Image and Meaning (Oxford, 2000), 191-2.
  • Chesterton, G.K. The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton: The Illustrated London News, 1908-1910 (San Francisco, 1987), 157.
  • Blunt, Reginald. By Chelsea Reach: Some Riverside Records (London, 1921).

Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Unlisted photographic holdings of Pageant held at the Kensington and Chelsea Local Studies Library.

Sources used in preparation of pageant

  • Spenser, Edmund. Faerie Queene.
  • Burleigh. Papers. Referenced in episode V.
  • Playford, The Dancing Master. 1652. Used for old English Dances found in episode VIII.

Pageant is clearly based on wide and extensive and detailed reading, but sources are not usually cited.


Performed in 1908, the Chelsea Pageant was part of the initial wave of ‘pageantitis’, and notably the first pageant to be staged within the capital. ‘Little Chelsea’, declared The Times, was ‘going to show greater London how the thing ought to be done.’1 It was an ambitious affair, taking the best part of a year to plan, and was spread across six ‘proper’ performances and two dress rehearsals at the end of a fortuitously warm June.2 The extent of originality and attention to detail was impressive: different scriptwriters wrote each episode, based on extensive research and a desire to maintain ‘the distinction between things non-historical and unhistorical’; most of the musical pieces were original compositions of Ernest Bucalossi; and the British Symphony Orchestra, along with local instrumentalists and a concealed choir, performed the pieces live.3 The extent of effort and desire to provide a narrative encompassing a wide spread of Chelsea’s history inevitably led to the pageant’s long running time of around three hours—a feature of the show that was commented on negatively in the press.4

In many ways the pageant was typical of what we know of local pageants in this period, both in its organization and the themes that ran through its episodes. Structured around episodes with at least a probable connection to Chelsea, beginning with the Roman invasion and Caesar’s crossing of the Thames in 53 BC, the action finished well before the present day, with the final episode being a Royal Fete in 1749 at Ranelagh Gardens—the same location the pageant was taking place. The foreword to the book of words, written by the important local dignitary Lord Courtney of Penwith, made sure, however, to highlight the continued importance of Chelsea in the twentieth century, noting that although the pageant had finished in the eighteenth century, the life of the ‘growing village’ had ‘not been barren’; contemporary events were merely too close to the present to be dramatized.5 Yet there was still a slightly conservative current running through the event. The epilogue, written by the pageant master J. Harry Irvine, acknowledged that there were enough ‘themes to crowd another hour’, but as the pageant song had it ‘Motors have marred her King’s old Road, [and] Time has effaced her relics old’.6 Irvine, though, was not above using more modern means to stage the pageant; he conducted the episodes from the roof of the 3000-person capacity grandstand, connected with the ‘wings’ by a ‘network of telephone wires and electric bells’.7

It was the embellished past, as represented in several episodes and the epilogue as well as explanatory notes, which provided constructive lessons for contemporary civic feeling. In Episode III, centring on a ‘traditional’ medieval May Day celebration, the author noted how ‘good people of the parish… formed a more or less united family, [and] clustered round the church which was here, as elsewhere, the centre of the local life and interest’.8 This was particularly apparent in the whole host of Royal and ecclesiastical visitors to Chelsea who were explicit in their admiration for the place, supporting the justification for civic pride in Chelsea’s history and its role in national life. In Episode IV, the Dutch Roman Catholic Priest and renaissance humanist Desiderius Erasmus, in conversation with Thomas More, described Chelsea as ‘the happiest home in Europe’ and the ‘Utopia you [More] despaired of discovering in this world.’9 Later in the same episode Henry VIII also declared that the ‘air of Chelsea and your [More’s] fresh garden like me well’, as part of his persuasion tactics in his successful bid to exchange his manor of Mottisfont with Lord Sandy’s manor of Chelsea.10 Elizabeth I, who featured in two episodes, made several overtures to the loyalty and goodliness of the people of Chelsea.11 In almost all the episodes Chelsea was seen to have a direct link to events of national importance—whether the Roman invasion, the consolidation of Mercia, the fate of Thomas More, the growing boldness of Elizabeth I, or political civil society as expressed in the coffee-house culture of Episode IX.12 Throughout there were local songs and dances, and the accompanying notes described or explained the relevance of historical figures and locations in Chelsea, supplemented with a map of historical locations at the back of the book of words. The epilogue to the pageant drew these themes together and rhetorically asked whether

‘Is it not well that we, the ages’ heirs,
Should waken Chelsea’s pride in Chelsea, thus
To realise how ever yard of earth
About her homes is charged with memories?
To watch, as in a glass, how history
Is builded, aye, and building, hour by hour,
And we its architects?...’

While the pageant was a serious treatment of Chelsea’s history and a call to civic responsibility, there were still moments of comedy. In Episode VII the Earl of Essex mischievously flirted with Lady Mary, telling her ‘I might live for you alone’, a sally that provoked Mary to respond, ‘Methinks, sir, one were scarce enough to occupy your time… are there not many for whom Lord Essex lives. I would not claim one little hour in so strenuous a life.’13 Queen Elizabeth, while mostly portrayed as a serious and powerful woman, also made several quips during the Faerie Masque of Episode VII.14 Probably most appealing to the audience, however, were the shenanigans of the final episode of the Royal Fete. John James Heidegger, Master of Revels, was mocked by his unknown Double, who exhorted the orchestra to play the wrong music. The King reacted with mock anger, as Montagu (laughing whilst he does so) told the officers of the guard to ‘run the traitor [Heidegger] through’. The ‘officers threaten Heidegger with their swords, one of which pricks him in a certain place behind. Heidegger jumps, and clasps his hand there.’ The King exploded with laughter as Heidegger confronted his double, ripping off his mask, before running off stage clutching the wound on his backside.

In the organisation of the pageant, there was a committed attempt to make it an exercise in civic unity and inclusion. Most of the 1000–1200 performers were local, though some lead roles were performed by professional actors.15 The Times stated that Chelsea’s inhabitants, ‘without any distinction of classes, have worked hand in hand, and shoulder to shoulder’.16 Another report argued that the pageant was ‘a home-grown product, with its episodes organized and performed as far as possible without the aid of outsiders.’17 The pageant was particularly well supported by the nobility, both as patrons and as members of the most important committees, and there were plenty of local MPs and important ecclesiastical figures on committees as well. This patronage extended to the visitors of the pageant; the first night was opened by HRH the Duchess of Albany, who, after being presented with some Chelsea Buns by a local pensioner, then sat in the Royal Box with other Lords and Ladies.18 Other performances were opened by the Bishop of London, the Governor of London, and, on the final night, Mayor of Chelsea William Sidney, ‘wearing his robes of office and supported by the town clerk and the members of the borough council.’19 As we might expect, the primary committee of Officers of the Pageant was dominated by men (by 10 to 1)—the only woman taking the role of Mistress of the Wardrobe. The Executive Committee and General Committee however were much more balanced, with 19 men to 12 women for the former and 48 to 41 for the latter. Furthermore, photographic evidence suggests that St. George, who was part of the Faerie Queen Masque in Episode VII, was played by a young woman and, even more surprising, the official photographer was Kate Pragnell—the second professional female photographer in London, and unusual in her success at gaining contracts from men.20 These facts, as well as the inclusion of strong female roles like Elizabeth I, may suggest that the contemporary themes of female suffrage Clare Willsdon has argued were expressed in the Chelsea Murals, were also evident in the Pageant.21

Judgements on the pageant were mixed. One article in The Times declared that organising the pageant had indeed had the effect of ‘enabling’ people ‘drawn from all ranks of society’ to ‘know each other in a way that could not have been realized by any other means.’22 Of course we must treat the veracity of this statement with caution. Certainly one visitor to the pageant, the homeless Charles Fairplay, must have missed the message of civic unity; he was ejected from the pageant for unknown reasons, in the process dislocating the hand of one constable and striking another ‘heavily on the jaw.’23 Others chose not to attend at all, and none of the performances sold out—the audiences not being ‘as large as the excellence of the pageant deserved.’24 Some observers offered reasons for this; a reporter for the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, for example, ‘regretted that the promoters of the Chelsea Pageant have been so ambitious’ and ‘attempted too much.’ For this newspaper, first among the pageant’s defects was its inclusion of the initial scenes of ‘Druids and Ancient Britons and Julius Caesar’, which seemed ‘out of place’. The location, too, while pretty, did not have ‘sufficient room for a stirring pageant… or large crowds.’25 G.K. Chesterton, himself a pageant performer, described the Chelsea Pageant as ‘excellent’, but wondered ‘How many people actually living in Chelsea… ever even knew that Lord Chesterfield or Richard Steele had set foot in the place?’ In his opinion it would ‘probably have been a better piece of pure localism if they had relied on more recent memories’.26

In terms of profit, which was to go to local charities and the parish church, the pageant was by no means a great success, returning only £700. The Times’s view was that the event was not ‘quite so successful as it ought to have been’, and suggested that the reasons for this included a lack of advertising, the high price of tickets, and the pull of concurrent events in London like the Horse Show, Pan-Anglican Congress, and the Franco-British and Hungarian exhibitions.27 Still, as the same newspaper summarised, ‘The audiences have been large, even if they have not quite filled the huge stand’.28 Overall, while the reception was mixed, the Chelsea Pageant of 1908 was archetypal of Edwardian pageants and, if only for its role as the first London pageant, still a ‘pioneer’ in the movement.29


  1. ^ ‘The Chelsea Historical Pageant’, The Times, 1 June 1908, 20.
  2. ^ ‘Lessons of the Chelsea Pageant’, The Times, 1 July 1908, 19.
  3. ^ Chelsea Pageant Committee, The Chelsea Historical Pageant, Old Ranelagh Gardens, Royal Hospital, June 25th-July 1st, 1908—Book of Words With Illustrations and Selections from the Music (Chelsea, 1908), viii, xxi; Bucalossi ‘Notes on the Music’, in ibid.
  4. ^ ‘Lessons of the Chelsea Pageant’, The Times, 1 July 1908, 19.
  5. ^ Book of Words, xviii.
  6. ^ Book of Words, 144.
  7. ^ ‘The Chelsea Historical Pageant’, 20.
  8. ^ Book of Words, 30.
  9. ^ Book of Words, 39.
  10. ^ Book of Words, 42.
  11. ^ Book of Words, 80.
  12. ^ Book of Words, 113.
  13. ^ Book of Words, 81.
  14. ^ For example, see Book of Words, 83.
  15. ^ ‘Our London Correspondence’, Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 24 June 1908, 6.
  16. ^ ‘Lessons of the Chelsea Pageant’, 19.
  17. ^ ‘The Chelsea Historical Pageant’, The Times 12 June 1908, 20.
  18. ^ ‘Notes of the Day’, Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 30 June 1908, 5.
  19. ^ ‘The Chelsea Pageant’, The Times, 2 July 1908, 9.
  20. ^ ‘Kate Pragnell’ in Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Journalism in Great Britain and Ireland, ed. L. Brake and M. Demoor (London, 2009), 503.
  21. ^ Clare A.P. Willsdon, Mural Painting in Britain 1840-1940: Image and Meaning (Oxford, 2001), 191-192.
  22. ^ ‘The Chelsea Pageant’, The Times, 2 July 1908, 9.
  23. ^ Western Times, 3 July 1908, 3.
  24. ^ ‘Lessons of the Chelsea Pageant’, 19.
  25. ^ ‘Our London Correspondence’, Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 24 June 1908, 6.
  26. ^ G.K. Chesterton, The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton: The Illustrated London News, 1908-1910 (San Francisco, 1987), 157.
  27. ^ ‘Lessons of the Chelsea Pageant’, 19.
  28. ^ ‘The Chelsea Pageant’, The Times, 2 July 1908, 9.
  29. ^ Book of Words, 9.

How to cite this entry

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