The York Pageant

Other names

  • York Historic Pageant

Pageant type

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Place: Museum Gardens (York) (York, Yorkshire, West Riding, England)

Year: 1909

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 6


26-31 July 1909

The pageant took place each day at 3pm. There was a week of dress rehearsals beginning Monday 19 July. On Wednesday 21 July, six thousand spectators attended the rehearsal held in the afternoon, including members of the press. A press luncheon took place before the performance during which the pageant master gave an address. He stated that York would be his final pageant ('The York Pageant: Next week's Great Spectacle Rehearsed', Yorkshire Evening Post, 21 July 1909, 5.)  A rehearsal was held in the evening on 22 July; the audience was stated to be 5000-strong; this show was spoiled by heavy rain ('York Pageant Performers Drenched', Yorkshire Post, 23 July 1909, 7.)

Each day of the pageant was under specific patronage as follows:

  • Monday 26th: Lord Mayor's guests (including Lord Mayor of London and mayors of Yorkshire)
  • Tuesday 27th: Royal day (Princess Louise in attendance)
  • Wednesday 28th: Society of Yorkshiremen in London
  • Thursday 29th: Members of Parliament of Yorkshire
  • Friday 30th: Archbishop of York and clergy
  • Saturday 31st: Commander-in-Chief and officers of the Northern Command.

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Parker, Louis Napoleon
  • Assistant to L.N. Parker: Major E.A. Jackson
  • Assistant to L.N. Parker: J.M. Gordon, Esq
  • Master of Heraldry: The Very Rev. the Dean of York
  • Master of Music: Mr T. Tertius Noble
  • Master of Design: Major Lindberg
  • Master of Properties: Mr George Wilson
  • Assistant Master of Properties: Mr C. Smith
  • Master of Horse: Mr J.W. Ashton
  • Master of Dances: Mr Arthur Cowper
  • Mistress of the Robes: Miss Milner
  • Mistress of the Wardrobe: Mrs Bentley
  • Mistress of Head-dresses: Mrs Armytage
  • Hon. Librarian: Mrs Jalland


Given the size of the event and the type of pageant governance that was usual in this period for large civic pageants, York employed a relatively compact team of senior organisers. (Names of officials have been retrieved from a newspaper clipping. This is contained in a book of similar news cuttings, most of which do not have their original source or date appended; see York Archives, Pageant Newscuttings Book, 1909 Ref: PAG. The source of this particular clipping may be the Yorkshire Evening Press.)

Names of executive committee or equivalent

President of the Pageant:

  • The Right Hon. Lord Wenlock, KCB, GCSI, GCIE

Executive Committee

  • Chairman: Alderman Border
  • Hon. Treasurer: Mr  W.F.H. Thomson, JP
  • Hon. Secretary: Mr Henry Craven (Town Clerk)
  • Hon. Secretary: Rev. J. Solloway, DD
  • Other members:        
  • The Lord Mayor of York, Alderman J. Birch
  • Sheriff of York, Councillor E. Walker
  • Col. Armytage
  • Alderman Agar
  • Dr Tempest Anderson
  • Mr Arthur Anderson
  • Mr J. W. Ashton
  • Col. Bewicke-Copley
  • Mr W. Bridgeman-Simpson
  • Mr G. Briggs
  • Mr A.H. Barron
  • Mrs Bentley
  • Mr A. Cowper
  • Mr J.W. Davison
  • Col. Ditmas
  • Mr C.E. Elmhirst
  • Dr W.A. Evelyn
  • Alderman Foster
  • Mrs E. Gray
  • Lady Helmsley
  • Councillor Inglis
  • Mrs Jalland
  • Miss Jebb
  • Mrs A.H. Kerr
  • Mr G. Kirby
  • Major Lindberg
  • Mr H.E. Leetham
  • Col. Mends
  • Mr T.T. Noble
  • Alderman Potter-Kirby
  • Capt. W.A. Pearson
  • Mr D.L. Pressly
  • The Hon. Algar Orde-Powlett
  • Alderman Sir J. Sykes Rynmer
  • Miss Ramsay
  • Col. Saltmarshe
  • Mr H.V. Scott
  • Mr F.W. Spurr
  • Mr J.H. Turner
  • Mr E.R. Tate
  • Mr G. Wilson
  • Mrs E. Walker
  • Sir William Worsley, Bart
  • Col. Wilkinson, DSO

Ladies' Executive Committee

  • President: Mrs Edwin Gray
  • Vice-President: Mrs A.H. Kerr
  • Hon. Secretary: Miss Ramsay
  • Hon. Secretary: Mrs E. Walker
  • Other members:        
  • Mrs J. Birch, Lady Mayoress of York
  • Mrs Armytage
  • Mrs Argles
  • Mrs Agar
  • Mrs Border
  • Mrs Barlow
  • Miss Barstow
  • Mrs A. Bethell
  • Mrs Bentley
  • Mrs Cudworth
  • Mrs H. Craven
  • Mrs Coultate
  • Miss E. Cayley
  • Mrs Eley
  • The Hon. Mrs Fairfax
  • Miss Fairfax
  • Mrs Fielden
  • Miss Fleming
  • Mrs A Forbes
  • Lady Garnock
  • Mrs Graham
  • Mrs Gutch
  • Mrs Harrison-Broadley
  • Mrs Herbert
  • Mrs A. Hudson
  • Mrs Jalland
  • The Hon. Mrs F.S. Jackson
  • Miss Jebb
  • Mrs R. Lawson
  • Mrs Sydney Leetham
  • Mrs Lindberg 
  • Mrs W. Lamb
  • Mrs Mends
  • Miss Milner
  • Mrs F.C. Mills
  • Mrs Oakley
  • Mrs Guy Palmes
  • Mrs W.A. Pearson
  • Mrs W.G. Pennyman
  • Miss Reed 
  • Mrs O. Rowntree
  • Mrs Symonds
  • Mrs E.W. Stanyforth
  • Mrs St Quintin
  • Mrs Solloway
  • Mrs Shaw
  • Mrs W.F.H. Thomson
  • Mrs T.W.L. Terry
  • Mrs Unett
  • Miss Unett
  • The Hon. Mrs Wilkinson
  • Mrs Watson
  • Miss E. Wightman
  • Miss Muriel Wilson
  • Mrs A. Whalley
  • The Hon. Mrs Willoughby
  • Mrs E. York.

Ladies Working Executive Committee

  • Mrs Jalland
  • Mrs W. F. H. Thomson
  • Miss E. Wightman
  • Mrs Edwin Gray
  • Mrs A.H. Kerr
  • Miss Ramsay
  • Mrs E. Walker
  • Mrs Armytage
  • Mrs Trundle
  • Mrs Harrison-Broadley
  • Mrs Bentley
  • Mrs Lindberg
  • Mrs Evelyn
  • Miss J. Ramsay
  • Miss Milner
  • Mrs Argles
  • Mrs R. Lawson
  • Miss E. Simpson
  • Miss Swanson
  • Miss Cayley

Cutting Out Committee

No information

Heraldry Committee

  • Master of Heraldry: The Very Rev. Dean of York

Colour Committee

  • President: Mrs Lindberg

Head-dress Committee

  • Mistress of Head-dresses: Mrs Armytage

Armour Committee

  • President: Col. Mends
  • Vice-President: Col. Ditmas
  • Lady Secretary: Mrs Harrison-Broadley

Grandstand Committee

  • Chairman: Mr C.E. Elmhurst
  • Hon. Secretary: Mr A.H. Barron

Librarians Committee

  • Hon. Librarian: Mrs Jalland

Accessories Committee

President: Mrs Trundle

Advertising Committee

  • Chairman: Councillor J. B. Inglis
  • Hon. Secretary: Mr G. Kirby
  • Secretary: Mr Fred Arey

Artist Committee

No information

Housing Committee

  • Chairman: Dr Evelyn

Properties Committee

  • Master of Properties: Mr C. Smith

Ecclesiastical Committee

No information


In addition to the main executive committee, there were a number of sub-committees; each of the latter appears to have had at least one representative within the membership of the executive. It seems likely that many wives of men who sat on the executive were also involved with the pageant and were active in other sub-committees. Indeed, there were two, large women's committees: a 'Ladies' Executive Committee', which had over sixty members, and a 'Ladies' Working Executive Committee'. Many women appear to have sat on both. It appears that the Ladies’ Working Executive was responsible for most of the hands-on organisation, overseeing the work of such sub-committees as the Cutting Out, Head-dress and Colour Committees, each of which had either an exclusively female membership or one dominated by women. On the Ladies' Executive, on the other hand, were a number of well-known names associated with York's confectionary manufactories, including Mrs T.W.L. Terry and Mrs O. Rowntree, suggesting this may have been more of an honorary body. Not all names of officeholders have been recovered but each of the sub-committees was made up in the following manner:

  • Cutting Out Committee: 27 female members, no office holders stated
  • Heraldry Committee: 14 members (made up of 9 men and 5 women; of the men, 3 had military titles)
  • Colour Committee: 17 members (headed by a woman; made up of 1 man and 15 women)
  • Head-dress Committee: 22 members (made up of 1 man and 21 women)
  • Armour Committee: 23 members (made up of 18 women and 5 men)
  • Grandstand Committee: 23 members (all men)
  • Librarians Committee: 10 members (all women)
  • Accessories Committee: 18 members (made up of 17 women, including 'Lady Beaumont' and 1 man)
  • Advertising Committee: 16 members plus 4 ex-officio members (all men)
  • Artist Committee: no office holders stated, 32 members (made up of 24 women and 8 men)
  • Housing Committee: 12 members and 4 male, ex-officio (made up of 1 woman and 15 men)
  • Properties Committee: 15 members (all men including 4 with military titles)
  • Ecclesiastical Committee: no office holders stated, 11 members (made up of 4 women and 7 men, including 3 clergymen).
  • Of note in the above is the Master of Design - Major Lindberg; this individual sat on the executive committee and on no fewer than six sub-committees.

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

  • Parker, Louis Napoleon
  • Terry, J.E. Harold
  • Wilkinson, K.E.T.
  • Rhoades, James


Most of the script is attributed as being 'invented and arranged' by Parker. (See The York Pageant July 26th to 31st 1909: Book of Words, Master of the Pageant, Louis N. Parker (York, 1909), front page.) The exceptions are the first scene of episode II and the second scene of episode IV, which were written by J.E. Harold Terry though Parker abridged Terry's original scripts; in addition, Councillor K.E.T. Wilkinson wrote the third scene of episode III. Parker further attributed some parts of the script to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles. Parts of this pageant are sung and in these instances, the words of the narrative choruses are by James Rhoades. (Louis N. Parker, 'Foreword' to ibid.)

Names of composers

  • Noble, T. Tertius
  • Gray, Alan
  • Purcell, Henry
  • Tendall, G.F.

T. Tertius Noble composed most of the music, the exception being the ballad performed in the second scene of episode IV. 

Numbers of performers

2500 - 3000

The pageant was advertised as having 2500 performers.(See for example, Advertisement, Manchester Courier, 10 April 1909, 7.) However, many newspaper reports state 3000 performers were involved. A very large number of horses were used.

Financial information


  • Subscriptions: £1598 10s 6d
  • Grandstand tickets (Pageant Week): £10273 5s 6d
  • Grandstand tickets (Rehearsal Week): £1297 3s
  • Preliminary Rehearsals: £35 4s 6d
  • Camera permits: £6 19
  • Total for tickets: £11612 12s
  • Sales:  £362 4s 1d
  • Advertisements: £22 10s
  • Total for book of words: £384 14s 1d
  •  Cloak-room and Lavatory: £9 15s 9d
  • Premiums for souvenir postcard, photographic, cinematographic and bookstall rights: £145
  • Postcards: £3 5s
  • Chairs: £249
  • Costumes: £301 0s 1d
  • Properties: £107 14s 7d
  • Commission on resale of tickets: £5 17s 6d
  • Bank interest: £22 9s 3d

 Total receipts: £14439 18s 9d


  • Grand stand, dressing-rooms, cloakrooms, hire of Exhibition, alterations at Museum Gardens etc: £1161 6d
  • Yorkshire Philosophical Society -for use of Gardens-on a/c:    £200
  • Dilapidations: £100
  • Chairs (including storage): £438 7s 6d
  • Wages of Joiners, Servitors, Commissionaires, Stewards, Cloakroom Attendants and Cleaning staff: £424 8s 10d
  • Services of military: £334 13s
  • Services of police: £38 7s
  • Costumes: £1496 1s 3d
  • Properties: £642 3s 6d
  • Hire of wigs: £250
  • Badges for officials and performers:£52 19s 6d
  • Advertising, printing, stationary, billposting, and press luncheon: £1566 6s 7d
  • Printing book of words: £301 12s 9d
  • Master of the Pageant, Retaining fee, royalty and expenses:   £1744 2s 6d
  • Master of Music, assistants, instrumentalists, vocalists
  • and music publisher etc: £854 11s 10d
  • Master of the dances: £26 5s
  • Ambulance men and gratuities: £17 5s
  • Rent of pageant house and rooms at Free Library, and telephones, rates, lighting, heating, water, cleaning and furniture: £471 6s 4d
  • Secretary: £250
  • Salaries of clerical staff and caretaker's wages: £265 2s
  • Postages, telegrams, carriage and sundries: £219 9s 10d
  • Small accounts and horse and cab hire: £124 10s 9d
  • Expenses of deputations to other Pageants: £42 8s 4d
  • Agents' commission on sale of tickets: £41 0s 5d
  • Expenses of lectures and receptions: £25 0s 2d
  • Auditors' fee: £10 10s
  • Subscriptions returned: £1598 10s 6d

Total Expenses: £13677 9s 2d

Balance or Profit (in Hon. Treasurer's hands): £762 9s 7d.

(Accounts reproduced in unlabelled newscutting, Pageant newcuttings book, 1909; held at York Archives, ref: PAG.) Of note is the fact that the payment made to Parker (re fee and expenses) is equivalent to around £200000 in 2016 prices.

Object of any funds raised

Various charities.


The balance was distributed to charities as follows:

  • Military charities: £32
  • York County Hospital: £70
  • St William's College restoration Fund: £40
  • York Dispensary: £50
  • York Blue Coat School: £50
  • York Invalid Kitchen: £30
  • York Nurses' Home: £30
  • York Watermen's Institute: £10
  • Acomb Nursing Society: £10
  • York Cahrity Organisation Society: £40
  • Skeldergate Training Home: £40

('York Pageant: Allocation of Grants', Manchester Courier, 1 November 1909, 9.)

Linked occasion


Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: 5000
  • Total audience: 30000 - 30000


The exact capacity of the grandstand is unknown; however, photographic evidence shows that it was a very large structure.

Moreover, a notice seeking a buyer for the grandstand following the pageant indicates that it could seat 'more than 5000' or 12000 standing. (Notice of sale of the grandstand by auction, Manchester Courier, 12 July 1909, 1.)

It was reported that 30000 spectators attended over the week. ('York Pageant Profits', Manchester Courier, 2 August 1909, 5.)

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

21s.–3s. 6d.

All seats were reserved and under cover; the most expensive cost a guinea. Other tickets prices were: 10s. 6d., 5s. and 3s. 6d.Over the course of the week, 30000 seats were available; a week before the pageant opened, around 22500 of these had been sold.

(Sources: Advertisement, Manchester Courier 10 April 1909, 7. and Untitled note, Yorkshire Evening Post 20 July 1909, 5)

Associated events

A church service was held in the Minster on the afternoon of Sunday 25 July 1909. (York Pageant, Newscuttings Book, York Archives, ref: PAG)


Pageant outline

Narrative Chorus I. Hail, Hope, bright bringer of the Years

The setting is a glade in a forest with a primitive hut in the background. The heralds sound a summons and the narrative chorus enters. One section of the chorus sings as 'Memory' and the other as 'Hope'. Memory leads the singing and Hope responds:

Hail thou, too, mystic memory! but say
What cause or call hath summoned these again,
So silver,
From their aeonian sleep
Beneath the buried silt of centuries.

Individual 'semi-choruses' from each section then sing short pieces in the same vein until both sections come together to sing an introduction to the pageant, which ends:

Where York-towers up-stand today
By the winding Ouse
But stay!
Now upon the greensward near
The long-vanished forms appear! 

(York Pageant July 26th to 31st 1909: Book of Words, 5-6. Unless otherwise indicated, all information and quotation is derived from the book of words.)

Episode I. Caer Ebrauc, BC 800

A family enter the arena one by one. The men of the family have been hunting in the forest; the eldest son produces a dead bird and a younger son brings a fish he has caught. Grandparents enter and all regard the grandfather with great reverence when he speaks. The family go about the day’s business with the men attending to their bows, flint arrowheads and spears. The mother sets the eldest daughter of the family to housework and sends a younger girl into the forest to gather herbs. The mood is light-hearted. A hunter then enters, saying that he has come to barter for arrowheads. Slightly quarrelsome bartering takes place between the father and the hunter, but no conclusion is reached. As the hunter turns to go, he sees the eldest daughter emerge from the hut. He asks to marry her but the father declines to allow this and the two eldest sons behave threateningly towards the hunter. At length, a bargain is struck; the father permits a marriage between his eldest daughter and the hunter if his sons can marry the hunter's two sisters. All are joyous at this decision and determine that they will now be one tribe.

Narrative Chorus II. Eight Centuries Onward

The narrative chorus sings of the arrival of the Romans and is disparaging about them and about the role of Queen Cartismandua:

A British Queen for love of power or pelf
False to her country's cause, her country's son!

The chorus ends with kinder words about the Emperor Constantine.

Episode II: Altera Roma

Scene I, AD 53

The hut is removed from the pageant arena and replaced with a stone high-seat. The scene 'deals with the treachery of Queen Cartismandua [Cartimandua], the betrayal of Caradoc, and the compact between Cartismandua and the Roman—Ostorius Scapula'. It begins with Cartismandua seated on the throne; she receives homage from several princes but Venusius refuses to bow to her. The queen attempts to persuade the attendant crowds that they must throw in their lot with Rome, but Venusius calls for war and the crowds support him. Boduoc takes the queen’s side; a fight takes place between him and Venusius in which the latter triumphs, thus strengthening his cause. Caradoc then arrives exhausted from battle with the Romans; he is greeted cordially by the queen who pretends to accede to the wishes of the people and asks him to rest before returning to the fight, this time alongside Venusius. The Romans then appear led by Scapula. The queen allows Caradoc to be taken prisoner by the Romans; Caradoc wakes to find himself in shackles. A druid priest—Abaris—challenges the queen but she does not yield. Venusius threatens to overthrow her and declare himself overlord; but Cartismandua counters this by stating she will take his sisters (Aska and Ailaedia) as hostages. Abaris detains Venusius stating that he must stay his wrath meantime. All the main characters exit the stage separately.

Scene II. AD 78-89

Britons discuss the imminent arrival of Agricola and the Ninth Legion; they flee to their altar as the Romans appear. The Romans are weary from battle and decide to set camp at the village; Agricola orders his officer Amicus to barter with the natives for food. Amicus returns and states the natives are friendly. Agricola asks to speak with their representative. Bran comes forward and Agricola asks the name of their village: Bran states that it has no name. Agricola insists on knowing and the Britons as one call out the name of Caer Ebrauc. Agricola takes advice and determines the place will henceforth be called Eburacum. The natives accept this reluctantly.

Scene III. AD 117-120

Members of the Ninth Legion bemoan being stationed in Britain; they are homesick for Rome. The Sixth Legion arrives. The leaders of the Sixth are surprised by the primitive camp which has no baths. A trumpet sounds and Adrianus [Hadrian] enters accompanied by soldiers, nobles and ladies. The 'natives' stare on the scene with awe. Adrianus orders the building of forts, great walls and towers—including ‘A tower facing many ways, that whencever the barbarians come, you may hurl arrows at them'. He calls for priests and orders that altars are built to the Roman gods, but also to Egyptian and Persian deities. He enquires about local gods and is told there are many; further altars are ordered. Adrianus goes on to dictate that comforts such as baths and a theatre must be provided. Adrianus and his men depart leaving the court behind. One member of the Ninth orders the Britons to begin building and refers to them as slaves. The Britons are angry and the Roman ladies become afraid. The ladies are then persuaded to perform a Roman dance; this closes the scene.

Scene IV. AD 206

The emperor Septimius Severus arrives leaning on Papinianus; his sons Geta and Caracalla follow. Septimius states he wishes to make progress with the history of his life that he has been writing, but ill health impedes this. He comments on his sons stating, 'Geta is gentle... But Caracalla is a wolf!' Septimius begins to write as Papinianus retires. Geta then leaves to watch some games in which the soldiers are engaged, and is greeted heartily by all. Caracalla remains with his father and is resentful that the soldiers hold Geta in such affection; he is eager to be emperor. Caracalla steals up behind his father and makes to strike him with his sword, but Septimius is alert to this move and grabs his wrist. Caracalla tries to make light of his actions but his father calls for Papinianus and tells him that his son has tried to kill him. Septimius, distressed, takes out a phial of poison but is prevented from swallowing its contents by Papinianus. He then announces that he will travel on to the north and leave government in the hands of his sons. The soldiers show favouritism towards Geta and Caracalla's jealousy is given full vent when he attempts to destroy a statue of his brother. Septimius returns and it is announced that he is dying; Geta runs to be with his father who bids him perform the last rites (to close his eyes and place a coin in his mouth) before he dies. Geta does this and prepares for his father's funeral, but Caracalla and his allies leave immediately for Rome. The scene ends with the funeral procession.

Scene V. AD 294

Women are chatting excitedly at the riverside; they are first to see the arrival of Carausius by ship. They call out 'Woe! Woe! The Pirate!' Britons and Romans respond and rush to arms but are easily overpowered by Carausius and his men, including his associate Alectus. Carausius declares that 'Rome grows weak. She is tottering to her fall. Wherefore here and now, I seize the sovereignty'. Carausius is hailed as emperor. Alectus demands his reward and is dismissed contemptuously by Carausius. Alectus responds by stabbing Carausius and declaring himself emperor. A messenger enters stating that Constantius Chlorus is on his way. Alectus and the soldiers depart. The Britons discuss the situation; it is of no interest to them who rules from Rome. A messenger returns from the battle stating that both Alectus and Constantius Chlorus are dead. The new ruler is Constantius' son—Constantinus—whose mother was a Briton. The Britons are surprised and happy that they will now be ruled by one of their own kind. The scene ends with the arrival of Constantinus.

Scene VI. AD 306

Constantinus enters in pomp, accompanied by a large company of attendants including senators and magistrates, nobles, ladies, dancers, and also some captives in chains. The procession approaches an altar where priests wait. Constantinus calls for thanks to be given for the recent victory; a 'Hymn to Apollo' is sung. Then a 'lowly and humble' procession approaches; in this are the bishop Eborius and two attendants—they chant the 23rd Psalm. A Roman priest calls for the Christians to be slain but Constantinus denies this and asks to hear more about the 'God of Love' from Eborius. All then exit.

Narrative Chorus III: Where are the old God's altars?

A chorus is sung which rejoices in the arrival of Christianity to Britain.

Episode III. Eoferwic—Storm and Stress, AD 617-937

Scene I, AD 617

The 'folk of Eoferwic' bend 'to their daily toil'; the people are troubled and afraid. Joyous singing is then heard and a company of young men and women in Roman dress arrive. These youths are former captives sent to Rome as children; their parents recognize them with delight. The youths tell their story and that they were converted to the new religion while waiting to be sold into slavery. They speak of Paulinus and Queen Ethelburga, saying that the queen is also a Christian but her husband King Edwin has still to follow her. A small group of the 'Angles' then point into the distance where a company are seen approaching. The scene ends with the arrival of King Edwin, Queen Ethelburga and Paulinus.

Scene II. AD 627

Edwin awaits the arrival of Queen Ethelburga and Paulinus; with him is Coifi the high priest of Woden. The queen greets Edwin and bemoans that he has not yet converted to Christianity. Paulinus greets some of the Christian youths who appeared in scene I. The king asks for more advice and Paulinus reminds him of his dream in which 'Thou wast sitting alone, in sorrow, in danger of thy life; and one came to thee in the night and foretold thy crowning and said. "When all these things have come to pass and my servant comes to show thee the true way, remember the token—" Dost though remember the token?' Edwin is aghast that Paulinus knows of this dream; Paulinus touches the king's head and it is clear that this is the awaited token. Edwin is immediately converted. Coifi also agrees to convert and smashes the heathen idols. The scene ends with Edwin stating he will build a church and Paulinus saying he will perform baptisms. One of the queen's ladies steps forward to be baptized; she gives her name as Hild.

Scene III. AD 635

Aidan enters with some monks, among them Colman. Aidan proclaims they are newly arrived from Iona and on their way to Lindisfarne. They enter a church to worship. Time then moves on to AD 663. King Oswy, Hild, Aelflead [Ælfflæd] arrive alongside monks and nuns; Colman comes out of the church to meet them. Eanflead, Agilbert, and Wilfrid also arrive. Colman greets them in turn. They discuss the date for Easter, which is disputed. Colman disagrees with Wilfrid who argues for the Roman calendar. Colman says he will leave for Ireland and set up a monastery there, since he cannot agree with what is proposed. Oswy states that they will meet the following year at Whitby to 'take counsel'; Hild agrees. The scene ends with a nun singing a hymn in praise of Hild.

Scene IV. AD 737

King Eadbert enters accompanied by nobles and 'war-men'; a cheering crowd follows them. Then comes Archbishop Ecgbert together with priests and acolytes among whom is Alcuin. Ecgbert welcomes the king who states that he will build a great church in thanks for victories, but after this, he wishes to enter the monastery as monk for he tires of the burdens on kingship. A disturbance breaks out among the crowd: two men are fighting over a debt. Ecgbert is called on to settle the dispute but he uses the affray to demonstrate to the king the level of ignorance at large. The king suggests he opens a school; the archbishop agrees. The acolytes are appointed the first pupils and Alcuin is singled out as one who has particular promise. The king gives the school its motto: 'Disce ut doceas' [learn that you may teach] and Ecgbert describes the learning to be delivered in the School of St Peter as 'the seven liberal arts: Grammar, Rhetoric and Dialectic, Music and Arithmetic, Geometry and Astronomy—all to lead you to the knowledge of God'. All the main characters exit while the crowd remains.

Scene V. AD 793

Assembled citizens see a priest approaching; when he arrives, he tells them all to arm themselves for 'the sea is black with strange craft!' All begin to gather weapons when King Ethelred and an army arrive. Time moves forward to AD 867, at which point the Danes led by Ingvar [Ívarr] burst in and there is a 'sharp fight'. Ingvar announces that 'all this land is ours... But cease not from slaying until Deira be desolate, her God forgotten and our Gods throned in his place'. The scene ends with Anlaf, Udgrim, Ulfkil, Hardulf and Beowulf entering from the other side of the arena. 

Scene VI. AD 937

A character also named Ingvar announces that Athelstan must be overthrown. He calls for a combined army of Welsh, 'Scots and all men of the north' to defeat him. A messenger announces that Athelstan and a great army is approaching Brunanburgh. People arrive: all have suffered from the war. Archbishop Wulfstan announces that Athelstan has won the battle. A minstrel steps forward and speaks in verse about the victory while Athelstan accompanied by Edmund the Atheling, Eric Blodax and his court, 'warmen' and Danish prisoners enter the arena. The king presents gifts to the archbishop and states that he will found a hospital in 'honour of St Peter'. He further decrees that Blodax will be overlord in Northumbria while he goes to Wessex to carry on the fight. The people cheer and hail him as 'King of all the English'.

Narrative Chorus IV. Whom have we here?

The choir sings a song about the coming of the Normans.

Episode IV. Iorwic—An End and a Beginning

Scene I. AD 1041

Siward [earl of Northumbria] enters, accompanied by his son Waltheof and a crowd of retainers. Siward tells his son he is grievously ill and comments on the irony of this, since he has survived many battles. He calls for a monastery to be built at Galmanho. Siward mentions with pride that he killed Macbeth in revenge for Duncan's death. He calls on his nobles to dress him in his armour and weaponry, and to place him in a high chair. A procession of women enters and he tells them to sing the 'Lyke-Wake Dirge'. Siward dies and is carried off by his nobles still seated in the chair.

Scene II. AD 1050-1066

Tostig, earl of Northumbria, enters with his nobles. Gamul (son of Orm) and Ulf (son of Dolfin) are brought before him in chains. Gamul remains silent but Ulf is defiant and calls Tostig a 'Black-hearted Earl'. The two are dragged off to their execution. A messenger arrives and tells Tostig that the thegns of Northumbria demand the release of Gamul and Ulf, but Tostig holds fast to his decision to have them killed. Gamul's wife Githa enters and curses Tostig; infuriated, he demands her death. His men-at-arms are reluctant but under his continuing rage, they give in.

As the soldiers take Githa away, they are distracted by a bugle call heralding the arrival of Morcar who demands that Tostig give up the earldom. Morcar states that he will be earl and he has the support of Tostig's brother—King Harold—for his sister is Harold's wife. Tostig disavows his brother and states his support for 'another Harold' (Harold Hadrada of Norway). The two rivals then rally support from the assembly of nobles and go off to prepare for battle. Citizens of York rush into the arena to greet the arrival of Harold and his wife Aldwyth, who appear in the company of Aldred, Archbishop of York. The people are ecstatic. Harold learns of his brother's treachery and that 'Malcolm of Scotland, and the earls of Orkney, Iceland and Ireland' have given support to Tostig but that Morcar has remained loyal. Aldwyth and Aldred depart and Harold prepares to leave for Stamford Bridge. Before he exits, Tostig enters accompanied by Harold Hadrada, who does not recognise King Harold. The king tries to make peace with his brother Tostig but is rebuffed. Harold leaves to prepare for battle. Hadrada and Tostig converse briefly before also taking leave. 

Aldwyth and Aldred re-enter accompanied by the queen's ladies. Shouting is heard and as this draws nearer, cries of 'Harold' become clear. Citizens rush back into the arena having learned of Harold's victory. Harold and Morcar return in triumph and the people hail him 'saviour of England!' Aldwyth orders a banquet. A minstrel sings a song in praise of Harold and in defiance of William of Normandy; the entire company join with the last verse:

So shall we welcome thee,
William of Normandy,
Finger on bow-string, and jav'lin in hand!
For thee shall war-horn sing,
Falchion on falchion ring,
So shall we hail thee king
Over our land!

Mocking toasts are made to William, but these are interrupted when a thegn from Pevensey rushes in with the news that William has landed and has set up camp in Sussex. Preparations are made at once and Aldwyth begs her husband to take her with him, but he asks her to remain in York with his friend Vebba. Following the king's departure, Aldwyth determines she will follow him; her ladies try to dissuade her, but she is determined. She leaves on horseback accompanied by Vebba.

Scene III. AD 1069

A group of citizens are gathered; they complain about their Norman overlords. The Normans—Robert Fitz-Richard, Gilbert of Ghent, William Malet (Sheriff of York) and soldiers—arrive on the scene. The citizens continue complaining loudly and calling out that Edgar is their king; Fitz-Richard orders 'silence the dogs!', but Malet restrains him. The wrangling becomes more heated. Waermund arrives with the news that a Norman earl has been slain in Durham and Edgar is on the march. The citizens fall upon the Normans and Fitz-Herbert is killed. Disquiet follows this as the York citizens realise that revenge will be forthcoming; Gilbert declaims 'know ye not William's anger?' The citizens fall back at this, and William Fitzosbern then arrives with more soldiers. William has heard of the uprising and is on his way to York, but so too is Edgar. To discourage Edgar's troops from finding shelter in York, Malet orders the Norman soldiers to set fire to houses on the edge of the city, but the wind blows the flames into the centre and the Minster catches fire. The archbishop (Ealdred) dies from shock. Edgar arrives at York in the company of Waltheof, Gospatric, Archil and a company of Danish and Scottish soldiers. The city attempts to defend itself against the Normans but in vain; William enters York in the company of Malet, Fitzosbern, Gilbert, Thomas of Bayeux and Eudo Dapifer. William addresses his men, beginning his speech with the oath often associated with him:

By the splendour of God! I will not leave one of my enemies alive! This nest of rebellion shall be utterly wiped off the face of the earth... You men! Wreak your will on the city. Burn, harry, slay! Let loose your vengeance. Cry havoc!

The men rush off and William calls for a feast since it is 'Christmastide'. Prisoners are brought in while the nobles dine: among them is Waltheof. All are aghast as Waltheof switches sides and offers his allegiance to William. The king agrees to this and states that he will marry his niece Judith. As William continues to speak of vengeance an officer rushes in. William enquires of him if Beverley has been destroyed as he ordered, to which the officer replies that when they entered the town their captain's horse stumbled and this prevented them from continuing. William is nonplussed by this explanation until it is revealed that that Captain broke his neck and was found with his face turned 'quite backward'. This is judged to be a sign that the patron saint of Beverley (St John) had intervened to save the town. The scene ends with William sparing Beverley and declaring that St Peter in York had also been 'badly used'. Referring to the destruction of the Minster, William appoints Thomas as archbishop and takes leave to examine the damage done to the church.


Narrative Chorus V. For law and justice

The choir sings an introduction to episode V mentioning the laxity that developed in religious observance as the church grew richer under royal patronage.

Episode V. York in Civic Power and Splendour

Scene I. AD 1132

This scene covers 'an event that stands unique in the annals of Monasticism, the dissatisfaction of some of the brethren at St Mary's Abbey and their ultimate revolt, and their founding of the famous Cistercian Abbey of Fountains'. The scene opens with monks at sport. Prior Richard takes exception to their behaviour and asks them to stop. The monks respond by calling him a 'spoil-sport'. Richard appeals to the Lord Abbot—Savaricus—but he is dismissive of Richard's complaints. Richard then reveals that he has approached the Archbishop with his worries about the worldliness at large in the abbey. Archbishop Thurstan arrives with supporters and initially he is refused entrance. The scene ends with the archbishop, in anger, declaring St Mary's closed.

Scene II. AD 1138

A large gathering of nobles takes place in advance of the Battle of the Standard; this includes William le Gros, Robert de Bruce and Roger de Mowbray. Archbishop Thurstan arrives on a litter with his retinue. The archbishop addresses those assembled saying:

Scene III. AD 1142

Six girls enter; they discuss a tournament that is to take place involving the earls of Albermarle and Richmond. They discuss the event excitedly. The earls' esquires and the Mayor of York enter; the girls crowd round hoping to hear more of the coming dual but are chased off. A messenger runs in announcing that King Stephen is on his way. The king arrives in a litter and is in an irritable mood. The earls come before the king and he demands that they make peace. The king calls for the archbishop to come forward and Murdac appears. Stephen denies that this disputed candidate is archbishop and states his preference for William Fitzherbert. The king dismisses Murdac then leaves, reminding the earls that he wishes to hear 'no more of your wranglings'.

Time moves forward to 1154 and a crowd wait for the arrival of Archbishop William of York [William Fitzherbert] who has been away on a journey. A woman tells of a miracle she has just witnessed where a bridge over the Ouse collapsed throwing hundreds of well-wishers who were waiting to greet the Archbishop, into the river. In the account, William prayed for their deliverance and all were saved. The crowd declare this a miracle. William and an entourage of priests and acolytes arrive; children strew flowers before him. William is grateful but asks for the prayers of all, since he sees that soon he must 'cross that river where no man crosses twice'. William beckons the children into the church to 'give thanks' and they crowd around him. Some men lay down a strip of fine cloth for the archbishop to walk on. He is reluctant but finally agrees saying that afterwards it should be sold and the money used to feed the poor. All exit the arena.

Scene IV. AD 1190

The mayor and his wife are in conversation: the wife is anxious for the safety of the Jews and states that there is no archbishop to intercede, but the mayor states that the sheriff, John de Marshall, has the matter in hand. They go out and some Jews enter. They are carrying 'bundles of treasure and are in mortal fear'. They find shelter and try to hide their hoards. An injured man named Levi rushes in, reporting that a mob cries 'death to the Jews!' All look to a rabbi for counsel and decide to take their own lives, but first they set fire to their possessions. The leaders of the mob come on the scene; the chief of these is Sir Richard de Malabey; the mayor and the sheriff are with them trying to calm the violence but to no avail. A 'great song' is heard and the mob stops to listen; as the song dies away, the mob leaders go into the tower and the sheriff calls out 'O horror!' The scene ends with the mayor being led away by his wife and dreading what will happen when the king hears of this.

Scene V. AD 1319

A throne is set up and Nicholas Fleming, the Mayor of York enters with two bailiffs. A cart then trundles onto the arena, guarded by soldiers. The mayor reveals that it carries the state papers of England, and a bailiff remarks that this must mean York is a safe city. Edward II enters leaning on his favourite, Hugh le Despenser. With them are Thomas Plantagenet (earl of Lancaster), Lord Segrave, Lord Badlesmere, the earl of Pembroke, earl of Richmond, earl of Hereford and Sir Edward Darel. The king fawns over Despenser. Queen Isabella arrives with her ladies and a number of clergymen including the Archbishop of York, the Bishop of Ely, the abbot of St Mary's and the abbot of Selby. The king tries to avoid the queen but she interrupts him and complains of his friends. Sir Simon Warde (Sheriff) rushes in: he brings news that the Scots have outflanked the English army and are marching on York. The nobles urge Edward to confront the Scots, but Despenser tries to dissuade the king from leaving the safety of York. Eventually the lords win through and Edward begins to leave, saying farewell to Despenser. Isabella asks him if he has no words for her and he replies 'why truly ay! I go to Berwick that I may have less of your company.' Her ladies try to comfort her. A messenger tells the archbishop that the Scots are drawing near. The queen is urged to leave; reluctant at first, she is eventually persuaded. A Scottish party, including Sir Robert Keith and Sir Alexander Seton arrives: they demand to know the whereabouts of the queen. All refuse to tell and the Scots rush out in pursuit of her. The scene ends with the archbishop rallying citizens and clergy in support of the queen. They leave crying, 'To Myton! To Myton!'

Scene VI. AD 1328

John D'Arcy (Sheriff of York), Nicholas Langton (Mayor), Archbishop William Melton and others enter; the sheriff, mayor and archbishop are discussing the events at the Battle of Myton seven years previously when the mayor—Nicholas Fleming—lost his life. A large crowd of townsfolk enter; among them are young girls with baskets of flowers, Morris dancers and sword dancers. All await Edward III who has come to meet his new bride, Philippa, for the first time. A herald announces the arrival of a great many nobles who each arrive on horseback accompanied by retinues; then the king appeares. In advance of the arrival of Philippa, he is asked to greet the Scottish lords who have come to York. He does so reluctantly. Edward is heard to greet Sir James Douglas who has broken his journey to Jerusalem (where he was taking the heart of the Bruce) in order to be there. Philippa then arrives on horseback. The king greets her. Both are then seated on thrones; the mayor presents the queen with the gift of a golden cup from the city of York. Performers dressed as 'Robin Hood, Maid Marion and their merry company' present Morris and sword dancing.

Scene VII. AD 1389

Thomas Arundell (Archbishop of York) and clergy, Mayor William Selby, Robert South, John de Askam and their wives all enter (the crowd from scene VI remained on the arena). Among the clergy is prebendary Richard Maudelyn. Following these are Queen Anne of Bohemia and her retinue, which contains a number of continental nobles. The queen and her ladies are riding side-saddle and the crowd are full of eager curiosity to see this. The English ladies are dismissive of the queen's new-fangled ways. Richard II then arrives on horseback; accompanying him are John of Gaunt, Richard Fitz-Alan, Thomas Beauchamp, Lord Devereux, the sheriff of York and others. The king summons the archbishop and mayor. Anne then draws the attention of the king to Richard Maudelyn: this is because of his strong physical resemblance to King Richard, which is remarked upon with wonder. The king then declares that York will no longer be solely a city, but a county as well. He knights the mayor of York and declares that the mayor's wife shall have the title of 'my lady' as a lifetime appellation. He gifts the sword used for the investiture to York—for future use as a 'Sword of State'. All then exit the arena in procession.

Scene VIII. AD 1405

Citizens discuss Archbishop Richard Scrope's challenge to Henry IV's rule. There is support for the archbishop, but also some voices of dissent who wish no further strife. Some people believe Richard II is still alive, but this is countered by the view that reports of sightings mistaking Richard Maudelyn for the king. The conversation ends with the view being expressed that they are both dead. The earl of Northumberland, Lord Bardolph and John Harrington enter. Harrington reports to the others that all is lost: King Henry's forces have captured the archbishop and their other allies. Henry is on his way to York. Bardolph decides to flee to Wales and Northumberland to Scotland. The king arrives; with him are Prince John, the earl of Westmorland, the marquis of Dorset, the earl of Arundel, Sir Thomas Beaufort, Sir John Stanley and the sheriff of York. The king is determined to put the rebels to death, including the archbishop, though others argue against this. The archbishop of Canterbury (Thomas Arundel) rides in; he is in a dishevelled state and throws himself at Henry's feet. Despite Canterbury's pleas for mercy for York's archbishop, the king remains adamant. Scrope is brought to execution and requests that the executioner behead him with five strokes: 'in token of my Saviour's wounds'. The people of York are shocked and call out that he is a saint.

Scene IX. AD 1461

It is Palm Sunday and Margaret of Anjou, her son Edward and ladies of the court await news from the Battle of Towton; all are assured that the city of York is behind the Lancastrian cause. Henry VI then enters—he is leaning on a body-servant; with the king are baron de Ros, Lord Beauchamp and Thomas D'Arcy. News is delivered that the Lancastrians are defeated. Margaret is furious and Henry is ready to concede that Edward is king in his stead. Henry, Margaret, Edward and all of their retinue ride off to Scotland and exile. Edward IV arrives with the earl of Warwick, Lord Scrope, Lord Stanley, Sir John Wenlock (played by the pageant's president), Lord Berners and Lord Montagu. William Booth (archbishop of York), John Cottingham (abbot of St Mary's), John Stockton (mayor of York) and two sheriffs meet this party. The earls of Devon and Wiltshire are both brought in as prisoners and then led off to execution at Edward's command. The mayor asks for mercy for the city and is dismissed. Edward appoints Wenlock a baron in recognition of his service, and then states that they must go to the Minster and give thanks for victory.

Scene X. AD 1483

Several clergymen enter, including Sir John Hudson, rector of All Saints, and George Lovell, a monk at St Mary's. The townsfolk are in high spirits; men-at-arms try to keep order. A town crier announces 'that no man go armed in this City with swords nor none other defences... And that men that bring forth the Pageant that they be good players well arrayed and openly speaking upon pain of losing one hundred shillings.' The pageant is duly dragged on, and chandlers prepare to present 'The Angels and the Shepherds'. The guilds enter carrying their banners, followed by the clergy, including the archbishop (Thomas Rotherham), then members of the corporation. With all assembled, King Richard III, Queen Anne and their son Edward enter, accompanied by courtiers and nobles. Some Spanish nobles are also in the party. The mayor greets the king and queen and they are presented with golden cups. The king declares that tomorrow he and the queen will be crowned in the Minster, and that he considers himself 'a genuine Yorkshireman'. Trumpets, drums and cheering follow, and then the pageant begins. At the end of the play, Richard congratulates the players; the entertainment continues with a children's dance. The king then orders that 'largesse is scattered' and the royal party leaves amid more cheering.

Narrative Chorus VI. Hark! A note of strife and ire!

The choir sings about the coming episode concerning the dissolution of the monasteries and refers to Henry VIII as 'Harry of the ruthless heart'.

Episode VI. The Dissolution, AD 1530-1603

Scene I. AD 1530

Mother Shipton sits beside a great cauldron; she looks into the steaming contents and predicts that Cardinal Wolsey will never come to York to be enthroned as archbishop. Seated behind her (thinking themselves unseen) are the Duke of Suffolk, Lord Percy, Lord D'Arcy and a citizen of York called Master Besley. Shipton knows they are there however, and humorously makes them aware of this; they then throw off their cloaks and reveal themselves. They ask the old woman to prove that she can see into the future; she makes various colourful predictions, including some about each of the lords who visit her. They warn her that she will burn as a witch if Wolsey comes to York, but she is unafraid. All make to take their leave and she tells them to inform Wolsey that she will be stitching his shroud.

Scene II. AD 1536

Citizen discuss recent events and the fact that 'the North is up against King Harry!' The Lord Mayor of York (William Wright) accompanied by Sir Peter Vavasour, Sir Christopher Hildyard, Sir William Fairfax, Sir John Dainey, Sir George Lawson and Sir Robert Constable, all enter. They wear the badge of the Pilgrimage of Grace (a cross with the letters I.H.S. on). Wright asks that they keep their protest outside the city walls; Constable replies that they will swear to do so, but the citizens are likely to rally to the cause once they have heard Robert Aske speak. Members of the local gentry enter, including Sir Richard Tempest and two women (Ladies Bulmer and Fairfax). Discussion continues before Aske appears on the scene. He produces a notice and asks for it to be displayed: it is a call for the religious orders to return to York. Several monks rush in calling out that Aske is their deliverer. Women encourage men to join the Pilgrimage. The crowd grows excited as a member of the Percy family arrives on horseback. Aske delivers an address that is met with wild enthusiasm. He tries to impress upon the mob that this is a peaceable protest and asks all to march with him to Pomfret [Pontefract]. The scene ends with singing of a 'Marching Song'.

Scene III. AD 1541

The Lord Mayor of York (Robert Hall) enters, together with sheriffs and members of the corporation; they are joined by the Mayors of Hull and Newcastle. A member of the corporation (Sir Ralph Clayton) is anxious about the speech he must give to the king. All wear 'penitential garments'. Sir Robert Bowes and Archbishop Lee enter in advance of the arrival of King Henry VIII. The king appears, accompanied by the Duke of Norfolk, the earl of Southampton, Lord Parr of Kendal, the Duke of Suffolk, the Bishop of Durham, and Catherine [sic] Howard; those waiting fall to their knees. The queen advises the king to be merciful but Henry is bellicose. The Archbishop of York steps forward and gives Henry a purse containing £600; Henry complains that Yorkshire churches still contain idols. Then Bowes comes forward, giving the king £900 from 'the gentlemen of the County'. The mayors of Hull and Newcastle give similar gifts; then the Lord Mayor of York offers £100 and £40 to the queen. The king complains about these amounts and impatiently interrupts Clayton's speech in which he begs for the forgiveness for the city.  Before retiring, he states that he will appoint a council to rule the north. The king goes off leaning on the arm of Lord Parr. He asks of news of his sister (Katherine Parr). Finally, the king asks for news of the King James of Scotland who is supposed to be travelling to York to meet with him; he is told that there is no news of this arrival. Henry curses James. All leave the arena.

Scene IV. AD 1603

A huge procession enters headed by city dignitaries who are accompanying James I. The monarch is under a canopy and converses with Dr Thornborough (Dean of York, later Bishop of Worcester). In his wake are the Duke of Lennox, Lord Home, the Earl of Argyle, Lord Roxburgh, the Earl of Northumberland and several others. From the other side of the arena, citizens and a choir of singers enter. The king addresses the Lord Mayor (Robert Watter) saying that he has enjoyed his visit in York. He enquires about the maker of the cup given to him as a gift from the city and is told that it is Christopher Harrington. The king asks to see Harrington and the goldsmith is brought forward to receive the king's thanks; James states that 'an English King is delighted to honour an English craftsman'. The king then knights the mayor and orders the release of prisoners in York jail. Queen Anne is then ushered in; with her are her eldest children Prince Henry and Princess Elizabeth. Madrigal singers prepare to perform and the mayor's wife asks if the Queen would like some refreshments. She is offered spiced wine; but with some embarrassment, she states that she is 'perishing of thirst' and asks instead if she may have a mug of beer. Great hilarity ensues. The queen says that she has been quick to learn local ways and proposes a toast using local dialect:' Here's tiv us—all on us—May we niver want nowt—none on us—me an' all!' Everyone cheers, and the singers then perform a madrigal.

Narrative Chorus VII. What means this shouting?

A chorus on the subject of King Charles I is sung, describing him as the 'unhappy King'.

Episode VII. The Siege, AD 1642-1644

Citizens enter; they discuss events taking place in the Minster where a meeting of the 'Chapter of the Most Noble Order of the Garter' is taking place at which the young Prince James is in attendance so that he can be elected to this body. Discussion continues and the Lord Mayor (Sir Edmund Cowper) enters; Sir William Allenson (York's MP) passes by and richly attired lords and ladies also arrive: they remark that 'life is worth living in York since his Majesty hath brought his court hither'. Allenson approaches Sir Thomas Fairfax and presents him with a petition and a request that he present this to the king. Fairfax replies, 'I am to bell the cat eh?... Nothing will move Charles' pride. But I will present the petition'.  A crowd of young boys announces the king's exit from the Minster. With the king and members of the Chapter are his sons Charles (age 12) and James (age 9), Charles Lewis, the earl of Lindsay, the Bishop of Winchester, the earl of Caernarvon and others. A 'gentleman' approaches with a petition on behalf of the nobility and gentry of York that the king not remove his 'sacred person' from among them, and that he maintain the arsenal at Hull. Charles states he will give close study to this petition. Fairfax then approaches with his own petition for the king, asking that his majesty 'rely, not on armed force, but on the known love and loyalty of your commons'. This is 'coldly' received. 

Sir Francis Wortley and Sir Robert Strickland enter with a detachment of soldiers on horseback; Wortley reports that this is the king's own bodyguard, under the formal command of the Prince of Wales, though he is lieutenant. It now numbers 200 'of the flower of our young gentlemen of Yorkshire'. Strickland indicates that there are also 700 foot soldiers. Prince Charles asks why he cannot take command, and his father explains that his mother would not approve. The king makes a snide comment to Fairfax about the strength of his bodyguard to which Fairfax replies that his enemies will now understand that the king is 'arming against Parliament'. Fairfax leaves in despair. The king announces that they will go to Hull to check on the arsenal there and is told that the 'Governor' in Hull is 'a hot Parliament man'. But Charles pays no heed and rides off with his bodyguard. Sir Thomas Glemham arrives and announces to Cowper that the king has appointed him governor of the city. It transpires that Cowper's position as Lord Mayor has also been made by royal appointment.

            Queen Henrietta Maria then arrives in a coach guarded by the Duke of Newcastle. She is travel-weary, as are all the women in her retinue. The queen reports that she has two million pounds 'begged, borrowed and—yes! very nearly stolen'. The Marquis of Montrose arrives and offers his services to the queen. Henrietta then begs the women to give her their jewels in aid of the king's cause. Many ladies come forward and offer their jewellery; then an old woman gives a silver cup, saying it belonged to her late husband and this is all she has to give. The queen is very touched. A citizen who supports parliament is so moved by Henrietta's bravery and loyalty that he gives his fob watch. The queen then leaves, cheered on by citizens who walk beside her coach. Frantic activity then takes place: troops march, trumpets sound, firing is heard in the distance. Glemham reads a despatch that does not provide good news. The Duke of Newcastle notices that people are streaming towards the Minster for it is Trinity Sunday and he and others go too. A few Royalists are left behind and they discuss the bad state of affairs. The arena empties, but this is a calm before the storm.

A loud explosion is heard and Parliamentarians rush in, led by Colonel Crayford. But behind them come 'Whitecoats' led by the Duke of Newcastle. There is hand-to-hand combat and eventually the Royalists overcome the Parliamentarians, through in the assault the tower of St Mary's has been blown up and all the city's records destroyed. A messenger brings news that Prince Rupert has arrived. The prince enters and urges a move to Marston Moor where Fairfax has withdrawn. The duke advises caution, for he expects the arrival of more troops in a few days, but the prince is determined to move quickly. Loyally, the duke agrees to go with him to meet the Parliamentary forces. Those left behind kneel and pray: the break into singing of Psalm 68. A wounded messenger arrives and interrupts the song; other wounded soldiers follow. The news is that the Royalists have been beaten; the Prince has retreated into Lancashire and Lord Newcastle has flown the country.

Sir William Constable arrives bearing a flag of truce; he addresses Sir Thomas Glemham as governor of the city and delivers a missive from Fairfax which reads:

Citizens in no way to be molested—incoming garrison to be two parts men of Yorkshire—No billeting—no fines—no arrests—churches and buildings to be respected... York has fought a good fight: it has stood a siege of eighteen weeks; it has repulsed twenty-two attacks and four countermines; and you, Sir Thomas, have done all a man could. Now you are alone with only one regiment—you can do no more.

Glemham accepts the terms. At this Lord Ferdinando Fairfax, Sir Thomas Fairfax, the Earl of Manchester enter; they are met by a new mayor named Hoyle. The Parliamentary army follow; but the Royalist soldiers enter 'spiritedly', accompanied by many townspeople. Fairfax's men salute them. The scene ends with Thomas fairfax calling on all soldiers and citizens to go to the Minster to give thanks. The arena empties.

The Final Tableau

The boys of St Peter's School march on carrying a banner and sing in Latin.

Narrative Chorus

The narrative and dramatic choruses join together to sing the triumph song of York.


All the performers return to the arena; together with the audience they sing the hymn 'All People that on Earth Do Dwell'. The National Anthem is then sung, finally all of the performers march past.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Cartimandua [Claudia Cartimandua, Julia Cartimandua] (d. after AD 69) queen of the Brigantes
  • Venutius (fl. AD 51–c.71) king in Britain
  • Caratacus [Caractacus] (fl. AD 40–51) king in Britain
  • Ostorius Scapula, Publius (d. AD 52) Roman governor of Britain
  • Julius Agricola, Gnaeus [known as Agricola] (AD 40–93) Roman governor of Britain
  • Hadrian [Traianus Hadrianus] (AD 76–138) Roman emperor
  • Septimius Severus, Lucius (145/6–211) Roman emperor
  • Caracalla [Marcus Aurelius Antoninus] (188–217) Roman emperor
  • Carausius [Marcus Aurelius Mausaeus Carausius] (d. 293) Roman emperor in Britain and Gaul
  • Allectus (d. 296) Roman emperor in Britain
  • Constantius I [Flavius Valerius Constantius; called Constantius Chlorus] (250?–306) Roman emperor
  • Constantine I [Flavius Valerius Constantinus; known as Constantine the Great] (272/3–337) Roman emperor
  • Eborius (fl. 314) bishop of Eburacum (York)
  • Eadwine [St Eadwine, Edwin] (c.586–633) king of Northumbria
  • Queen Æthelburh (d. 647) Ethelburga
  • Paulinus [St Paulinus] (d. 644) bishop of York and of Rochester Paulinus
  • Hild [St Hild, Hilda] (614–680) abbess of Strensall–Whitby
  • Áedán [St Áedán, Aidan] (d. 651) missionary and bishop
  • Colmán [St Colmán] (d. 676) bishop of Lindisfarne
  • Oswiu [Oswy] (611/12–670) king of Northumbria
  • Ælfflæd [St Ælfflæd, Elfleda] (654–714) abbess of Strensall–Whitby
  • Eanflæd [St Eanflæd] (b. 626, d. after 685) queen in Northumbria, consort of King Oswiu
  • Agilbert (d. 679x90) bishop of the West Saxon
  • Eadberht [Eadbert] (d. 768) king of Northumbria
  • Ecgberht [Egbert] (d. 766) archbishop of York
  • Alcuin [Albinus, Flaccus] (c.740–804) abbot of St Martin's, Tours, and royal adviser
  • Æthelred I (d. 796) [also known as Ethelred] found in Oswulf (d. 759), king of Northumbria
  • Ívarr [Ívarr inn Beinlausi, Ingwaer, Imhar] (d. 873) viking leader
  • Æthelstan [Athelstan] (893/4–939) king of England
  • Edmund I (920/21–946) king of England
  • Erik Bloodaxe [Eiríkr Blóðöx, Eiríkr Haraldsson] (d. 954) viking leader and king of Northumbria
  • Wulfstan (d. 955/6) archbishop of York
  • Siward, earl of Northumbria (d. 1055) magnate
  • Waltheof, earl of Northumbria (c.1050–1076) magnate
  • Tostig, earl of Northumbria (c.1029–1066) magnate
  • Morcar, earl of Northumbria (fl. 1065–1087) magnate
  • Harold II [Harold Godwineson] (1022/3?–1066) king of England
  • Ealdgyth [Aldgyth] (fl. c.1057–1066) queen of England, consort of Harold II
  • Ealdred [Aldred] (d. 1069) archbishop of York
  • Malet, William (d. 1071?)landowner
  • William I [known as William the Conqueror] (1027/8–1087) king of England and duke of Normandy
  • Edgar Ætheling (b. 1052?, d. in or after 1125)prince
  • Gospatric, earl of Northumbria (d. 1073x5) magnate
  • Thomas [Thomas of Bayeux, Thomas (I) of York] (d. 1100) archbishop of York
  • Richard [Richard (I) of Fountains] (d. 1139) abbot of Fountains
  • Thurstan (c.1070–1140) archbishop of York
  • William le Gros, count of Aumale and earl of York (c.1110–1179) magnate
  • Brus [Bruce], Robert (I) de, lord of Annandale (d. 1142) baron and soldier
  • Mowbray, Sir Roger (I) de (d. 1188) magnate
  • Stephen (c.1092–1154) king of England
  • Murdac, Henry (d. 1153) abbot of Fountains and archbishop of York
  • William of York [St William of York, William fitz Herbert] (d. 1154) archbishop of York
  • Malebisse [Malebysse], Richard (c.1155–1209/10) justice
  • Despenser, Hugh, the younger, first Lord Despenser (d. 1326) administrator and royal favourite
  • Edward II [Edward of Caernarfon] (1284–1327) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • Thomas of Lancaster, second earl of Lancaster, second earl of Leicester, and earl of Lincoln (c.1278–1322) magnate
  • Isabella [Isabella of France] (1295–1358) queen of England, consort of Edward II
  • Seagrave [Segrave], Nicholas (d. 1321) administrator and soldier
  • Valence, Aymer de, eleventh earl of Pembroke (d. 1324) magnate
  • Brittany, John of, earl of Richmond (1266?–1334) magnate and administrator
  • Bohun, Humphrey (VII) de, fourth earl of Hereford and ninth earl of Essex (c.1276–1322) magnate and administrator
  • Melton, William (d. 1340) archbishop of York
  • Hotham, John (d. 1337) administrator and bishop of Ely
  • Keith, Sir Robert (d. 1343/4) nobility
  • Seton, Sir Alexander (d. c.1348) nobility
  • Darcy, Sir John (b. before 1284, d. 1347) landowner and administrator  
  • Melton, William (d. 1340) archbishop of York
  • Edward III (1312–1377) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • Philippa [Philippa of Hainault] (1310x15?–1369) queen of England, consort of Edward III
  • Douglas, Sir James [called the Black Douglas] (d. 1330) soldier
  • Robert I [Robert Bruce] (1274–1329) king of Scots
  • Maudeleyn, Richard (1371/2–1400) royal councillor
  • Anne [Anne of Bohemia] (1366–1394) queen of England, first consort of Richard II
  • Richard II (1367–1400) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • John [John of Gaunt], duke of Aquitaine and duke of Lancaster, styled king of Castile and León (1340–1399) prince and steward of England
  • Fitzalan, Richard (III), fourth earl of Arundel and ninth earl of Surrey (1346–1397) magnate,
  • Mowbray, Thomas (I), first duke of Norfolk (1366–1399) magnate
  • Neville, Ralph, first earl of Westmorland (c.1364–1425) magnate,
  • Beauchamp, Thomas, twelfth earl of Warwick (1337x9–1401) magnate
  • Devereux, John, Baron Devereux (d. 1393) soldier and royal councillor
  • Scrope, Richard (c.1350–1405) archbishop of York
  • Percy, Henry, first earl of Northumberland (1341–1408) magnate and rebel
  • Bardolf, Thomas, fifth Baron Bardolf (1369–1408) landowner and rebel
  • John Harrington, fourth Baron Harrington (1384–1418)
  • Henry IV [known as Henry Bolingbroke] (1367–1413) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • John [John of Lancaster], duke of Bedford (1389–1435) regent of France and prince
  • Neville, Ralph, first earl of Westmorland (c.1364–1425) magnate
  • Beaufort, John, marquess of Dorset and marquess of Somerset (c.1371–1410) soldier and administrator
  • Fitzalan, Thomas, fifth earl of Arundel and tenth earl of Surrey (1381–1415) soldier and administrator
  • Beaufort, Thomas, duke of Exeter (1377?–1426) magnate and soldier
  • Stanley, Sir John (c.1350–1414) soldier and administrator
  • Arundel [Fitzalan], Thomas (1353–1414) administrator and archbishop of Canterbury
  • Margaret [Margaret of Anjou] (1430–1482) queen of England, consort of Henry VI
  • Edward [Edward of Westminster], prince of Wales (1453–1471)
  • Ros, Thomas, ninth Baron Ros (1427–1464) soldier
  • Henry VI (1421–1471) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • Beauchamp, John, first Baron Beauchamp of Powick (c.1400–1475) nobleman and administrator
  • Edward IV (1442–1483) king of England and lord of Ireland
  • Neville, Richard, sixteenth earl of Warwick and sixth earl of Salisbury [called the Kingmaker] (1428–1471) magnate
  • Scrope, John, fifth Baron Scrope of Bolton (1437/8–1498) soldier
  • Stanley, Thomas, first earl of Derby (c.1433–1504) magnate
  • Wenlock, John, first Baron Wenlock (d. 1471) diplomat, administrator, and speaker of the House of Commons
  • Neville, John, Marquess Montagu (c.1431–1471) magnate
  • Booth [Bothe], William (d. 1464) archbishop of York
  • Courtenay, Thomas, fourteenth earl of Devon (1432–1461)
  • Butler, James, first earl of Wiltshire and fifth earl of Ormond (1420–1461) magnate
  • Rotherham [Scot], Thomas (1423–1500) archbishop of York
  • Richard III (1452–1485) king of England and lord of Ireland
  • Anne [née Anne Neville] (1456–1485) queen of England, consort of Richard III
  • Edward [Edward of Middleham], prince of Wales (1474x6–1484)
  • Stewart, Alexander, duke of Albany (1454?–1485) magnate and rebel
  • Edward, styled earl of Warwick (1475–1499) potential claimant to the English throne
  • Percy, Henry, fourth earl of Northumberland (c.1449–1489) magnate
  • Howard, Thomas, second duke of Norfolk (1443–1524) magnate and soldier
  • William Herbert, second earl of Pembroke (1455–1490) magnate
  • Pole, John de la, earl of Lincoln (c.1460–1487) magnate and rebel
  • Stanley, Thomas, first earl of Derby (c.1433–1504) magnate
  • Sutton, John (VI) [John Dudley], first Baron Dudley (1400–1487) courtier and diplomat
  • Scrope, John, fifth Baron Scrope of Bolton (1437/8–1498) soldier
  • Shipton, Mother (supp. fl. 1530) supposed witch and prophetess
  • Brandon, Charles, first duke of Suffolk (c.1484–1545) magnate, courtier, and soldier
  • Percy, Henry Algernon, sixth earl of Northumberland (c.1502–1537) magnate
  • Darcy, Thomas, Baron Darcy of Darcy (b. in or before 1467, d. 1537) soldier and rebel
  • Constable, Sir Robert (1478?–1537) rebel
  • Sir Richard Tempest (c.1480–1537) 
  • Aske, Robert (c.1500–1537) lawyer and rebel
  • Bowes, Sir Robert (1493?–1555) soldier, lawyer, and rebel
  • Lee, Edward (1481/2–1544) archbishop of York
  • Henry VIII (1491–1547) king of England and Ireland
  • Howard, Thomas, third duke of Norfolk (1473–1554) magnate and soldier
  • Fitzwilliam, William, earl of Southampton (c.1490–1542) courtier and naval administrator
  • Parr, William, marquess of Northampton (1513–1571) nobleman and courtier
  • Brandon, Charles, first duke of Suffolk (c.1484–1545) magnate, courtier, and soldier
  • Tunstal [Tunstall], Cuthbert (1474–1559) bishop of Durham and diplomat
  • Katherine [Catherine; née Katherine Howard] (1518x24–1542) queen of England and Ireland, fifth consort of Henry VIII
  • James VI and I (1566–1625) king of Scotland, England, and Ireland
  • Anne [Anna, Anne of Denmark] (1574–1619) queen of England, Scotland, and Ireland, consort of James VI and I
  • Thornborough, John (1551?–1641) bishop of Worcester
  • Stuart [Stewart], Ludovick, second duke of Lennox and duke of Richmond (1574–1624) courtier
  • Home, Alexander, first earl of Home (c.1566–1619) nobleman
  • Campbell, Archibald, seventh earl of Argyll (1575/6–1638) magnate and politician
  • Ker, Robert, first earl of Roxburghe (1569/70–1650) politician
  • Percy, Henry, ninth earl of Northumberland (1564–1632) nobleman
  • Henry Frederick, prince of Wales (1594–1612)
  • Elizabeth, Princess [Elizabeth Stuart] (1596–1662) queen of Bohemia and electress palatine, consort of Frederick V
  • Charles I (1600–1649) king of England, Scotland, and Ireland
  • Charles II (1630–1685) king of England, Scotland, and Ireland
  • James II and VII (1633–1701) king of England, Scotland, and Ireland
  • Fairfax, Thomas, third Lord Fairfax of Cameron (1612–1671) parliamentarian army officer
  • Charles Lewis [Karl Ludwig] (1618–1680) elector palatine of the Rhine
  • Bertie, Robert, first earl of Lindsey (1582–1642) naval officer and royalist army officer
  • Stuart, James, fourth duke of Lennox and first duke of Richmond (1612–1655) nobleman [also known as Stewart, James]
  • Curll, Walter (1575–1647) bishop of Winchester
  • Dormer, Robert, first earl of Carnarvon (1610?–1643) royalist army office
  • Wortley, Sir Francis, first baronet (1591–1652) poet and royalist army officer
  • Glemham, Sir Thomas (1595–1649) royalist army officer
  • Henrietta Maria [Princess Henrietta Maria of France] (1609–1669) queen of England, Scotland, and Ireland, consort of Charles I
  • Cavendish, William, first duke of Newcastle upon Tyne (bap. 1593, d. 1676) writer, patron, and royalist army officer
  • Graham, James, first marquess of Montrose (1612–1650) royalist army officer
  • Rupert, prince and count palatine of the Rhine and duke of Cumberland (1619–1682) royalist army and naval officer
  • Constable, Sir William, baronet (bap. 1590, d. 1655) parliamentarian army officer and regicide
  • Fairfax, Ferdinando, second Lord Fairfax of Cameron (1584–1648) parliamentarian army officer
  • Montagu, Edward, second earl of Manchester (1602–1671) politician and parliamentarian army officer

Musical production

Music was live and under the direction of local composer, T. Tertius Noble. Unless otherwise stated, words are by James Rhoades (parker's long-time collaborator) and the music by T. Tertius Noble. The musical pieces are as follows:

  • Narrative Chorus I: 'Hail, Hope, bright bringer of the Years'
  • Narrative Chorus II: 'Eight Centuries Onward'
  • 'The Roman Dance', (Episode II, scene III)
  • Song: 'Hymn to Apollo', (Episode II, scene VI) 
  • 23rd Psalm (Episode II, scene VI)
  • Narrative Chorus III: 'Where are the old God's altars?'
  • The Ballad of Saint Hilda: 'When Hilda built her holy hall' [Words by Louis N. Parker] (episode III, scene III)
  • Narrative Chorus IV: 'Whom have we here?'
  • The Lyke-Wake Dirge: 'This ean night' [traditional, arranged by T. Tertius Noble] (Episode VI, scene I)
  • Song of Defiance: 'Where are thy enemies' [words by J.E. Harold Terry, music by Alan Gray] (episode IV, scene II)
  • Narrative Chorus V: 'For law and justice'
  • Song: 'Vigdal' [traditional, harmonised by C.G. Varrinder] (Episode V, scene IV)
  • Morris Dance [traditional music] (Episode V, scene VI)
  • 'Children's Dance' (Episode V, scene X)
  • Narrative Chorus VI: 'Hark! a note of strife and ire!'
  • 'Marching Song' (Episode VI, scene II)
  • Madrigal: 'In these delightful pleasant groves' [edited and marked by T. Tertius Noble, music by Purcell] (episode VI, scene IV)
  • Narrative Chorus VII: 'What means this shouting?'
  • Psalm 68 'Let God Arise' (Episode VII)
  • Song: 'Carmen Seaculare' [words by George Forrest Browne, music by G.F. Tendall] (final tableau)
  • Chorus: 'Sing to the triumph of York'
  • Hymn: 'All People that on Earth Do Dwell' [words, William Kethe, music traditional] (Finale)
  • National Anthem (Finale)

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Cheltenham Chronicle
Faringdon Advertiser
Gloucestershire Echo
Hull Daily Mail
Leeds Mercury
Illustrated London News
The [Manchester] Guardian
Manchester Courier
Sheffield Independent
Sunderland daily Echo
Tamworth Herald
Yorkshire Evening Post
Yorkshire Post

Book of words

The York Pageant July 26th to 31st 1909: Book of Words, Master of the Pageant, Louis N. Parker. York, 1909.

The price of the book of words is unknown, however, according to published accounts, sales of this raised £362 4s 1d, plus £22 10s from advertisements placed in the book. (Unlabelled newscutting, Pageant Newcuttings Book, 1909; held at York Archives, ref: PAG.) Yoshino estimates that around 10000 copies of the York pageant book were printed; this figure includes the copies distributed to pageant actors. (Ayako Yoshino, Pageant Fever:  Local History and Consumerism in Edwardian England (Tokyo, 2011), 102.)

Other primary published materials

  • The Book of the York Pageant 1909 a Dramatic Representation of the City's History in Seven Episodes, From B.C. 800 to A.D. 1644. York, 1909.
  • To alle whom it may concerne. Ye York Historic Pageant will be enacted on July 26-31st, 1909. York 1909. [Publicity Pamphlet]
  • The York Pageant Music, The Words Chiefly Written by James Rhoades, the Music Chiefly Written by T. Tertius Noble, Price, One Shilling and Sixpence. York, 1909.
  • The Story of York by Norman Lambert (A Handbook of the Pageant, Illustrated). York, 1909.
  • The York Pageant. Described by C. E. Pascoe.York, 1909.
  • Who's Who in the York Pageant: A Popular Historical Guide with illustrations by the Rev. C.C. Bell, M.A. Leeds, 1909.

References in secondary literature

  • Yoshino, Ayako. Pageant Fever: Local History and Consumerism in Edwardian England. Tokyo, 2011.
    Yoshino's study makes multiple mentions of the York pageant. L.N. Parker makes many references to his work on the York pageant in his 1928 memoir. Initially, only 400 copies of the souvenir were produced. It is a lavish publication with many colour illustrations and cost 'half a crown' [2s 6d].
  • Parker, L.N. Several of my lives. London, 1928.

Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • The York Archives holds the following: Several copies of the Book of Words, refs: Y394 and Y394.5. Three copies of the pageant souvenir, ref: Y394.5. 2 copies of The Historic and Heraldic Guide to  The York Pageant, shelfmark: Y394.5. 1 copy of The York Pageant Music, 1 copy of "Who's Who in the York Pageant, ref: Y 394.5. York Pageant: Newscuttings Book, ref: PAG
  • The York Archives also hosts an online photographic archive of images related to the York Pageants accessed 22 October 2016 at:
  • The British Library holds the following:

    1 copy of the pageant souvenir, shelfmark: 11778. h. 3

    1 copy of the publicity pamphlet, shelfmark: YD.2005. b. 256

    1 copy of The Story of York by Norman Lambert (A Handbook of the Pageant, Illustrated), shelfmark: 9525.aa.48

    1 copy of The York Pageant. Described by C. E. Pascoe, shelfmark: 11779.l.23

    1 copy of The Historic and Heraldic Guide to the York Pageant, shelfmark: 10368.g.19

Sources used in preparation of pageant

  • Geoffrey of Monmouth (Norman chronicler), Historia Regum Britanniae
  • Smith, Lucy Toulmin (ed.) York Plays. The Plays Performed by the Crafts or Mysteries of York on the Day of Corpus Christi in the 14th, 15th, and 16th Centuries.London,1885.
  • Anglo Saxon Chronicles
  • Turner, J. Horsefall. A Yorkshire Anthology: Ballads and Songs—Ancient and Modern. Bingley, 1901.

Parker acknowledges the use of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in his foreword to the book of words, most particularly for episode III. Episode I is certainly based on Geoffrey of Monmouth's twelfth-century history. Part of the mystery play, 'The Angels and the Shepherds', is performed in episode V, scene X, and is acknowledged in the book of words as being the version edited by Toulmin Smith. Scene III in episode VI is acknowledged as based upon items in Horsefall Turner's 'York Anthology'. (York Pageant July 26th to 31st 1909: Book of Words, 97, 105).


Louis Napoleon Parker, the acknowledged inventor of modern historical pageantry, chose to end his career as a pageant master in 1909. His final performance as a director of a large-scale pageant was to be at York. As with all things in his public life, Parker stage-managed this particular exit brilliantly. The announcement of his retirement came well ahead of the pageant itself, which helped further publicise the show. Who would not want to catch the very last Parker pageant? Yet whether those in the know took Parker's proclamation of retirement seriously is another matter. In September 1909, after York had come and gone, Parker was offered the opportunity to direct the 1910 Chester pageant, so it is likely that he was not believed by some; but in the event he turned this down, so it does seem that his intentions were sincere.1 Showman to the last, for his pageant final bow Parker chose a city where history was lavishly present in everyday life. With its customary hyperbole, the press made an issue of York's fame stating, for example, that this was 'the most fitting city to present a pageant to the world' and that the event would 'leave an enduring and honourable record on the annals of twentieth century "pageantitis"'.2 Similar things were said of cities up and down the land, of course, but in the case of York there was some justification for such claims: with its medieval centre and the great Minster of St Peter's towering over all, York did have the past on show for all to see. York offered Parker exciting material to work with in terms of its past—and he made the most of this.

This was not only a labour of love however; Parker was well remunerated for his efforts. His fee plus expenses in 1909 is equivalent to around £200000 in 2016 prices; and though he probably worked hard for this compensation, he did have a lot of local help. Indeed, resources of money and enthusiasm were not in short supply in York; and though pageantitis was in full swing when planning in York began in 1907, the city was determined to attract the maximum amount of attention to its pageant.3 With the exception of Liverpool in 1907, no other northern city had yet attempted a pageant on this scale; and in the case of the Liverpool pageant, older, processional features were very prominent. York was to be the north's first pageant delivered in the modern format—that devised by Parker—and even better, it was to be managed by the great pageant inventor himself. Often when such a level of optimism is shown for a pageant, something can, and does, go wrong; but in the case of York, the fates were kind to the city, and to Mr Parker. This pageant was an enormous success in every way, and it allowed Parker to bow out of civic pageant management on a high note.

The publicity machine for the York pageant started early. Though the pageant did not take place until the end of July, the book of words was published and available for sale by early April 1909.4 It was always intended that the York pageant would be a tourist attraction, and the city was well placed to achieve this: 'All Roads Lead to York' declared a publicity pamphlet distributed in railway stations and via the travel agents Thomas Cook.5 Discounted rail fares were negotiated: from all over the country; travellers could purchase return tickets for the price of the equivalent 'single fare and a quarter'.6 This deal included fares from London. York consciously spread the word that it was second only to London as a centre for English history and culture; and it was asserted that in the distant past, 'it was a matter of uncertainty which was to become the metropolis of the country, London or York'.7 In order to spread news further of this great cultural event, the city invited press from all over the country to a slap-up lunch, at which Parker presided.

When it came to devising the pageant script, Parker went with legend and with the idea that York had a history stretching back into ancient times, so rendering the city a contemporary of Jerusalem and making it older even than Rome. Thus, Episode I began not where many people might have expected—with imperial Roman York—but instead reworked a legend that a band of far-wandered Trojans had founded the city. This mythical tale suited Parker's agenda perfectly for it allowed the bloodline of the English to be viewed as having been formed in even greater antiquity than the Romans, and as influenced by an even more ancient people. As Yoshino has pointed out, Parker was not especially enthusiastic about pre-Christian Roman rule, for the Romans by his way of thinking had attempted to displace a culture that was assertively British and proud of it.8 Thus the Romans come along, predictably enough, in Episode II, but Parker made the most of this history by ending it with the ascendancy of Christianity in the person of the emperor Constantine. This sets the tone for what follows: for perhaps more than other pageant in Britain over the course of the twentieth century—with the exception of the English Church pageant—the York pageant was a celebration of the centrality of ecclesiastical history to the English past, with senior clergy making a prominent appearance in nearly all episodes.

When the Romans depart, Parker's retelling of York's history moves swiftly forward three centuries to the ancient kingdom of Northumbria, with York at its centre, and to the time of King Eadwine—the first British monarch to be converted from paganism. Scene I of the third episode tells the tale of Eadwine and his queen, Etherlburga. Thus it is probably no accident that Eadwine became a great favourite within north of England pageants; Parker's celebration of him in the early days of pageantry assured this. The progress of Christianity then formed the main theme of the remainder of Episode III, including the foundation of St Peter's in the eighth century, and ending in 937 with the crushing of Saxon power and Athelstan being declared the 'King of all the English'.9 Episode IV takes the influence of Christianity again as its central theme. In the first scene, Earl Siward dies a dignified death having dedicated a church to his friend St Olaf at Galmanho (the St Marygate area of York today). The decline of the Danish influence, and the arrival of the Normans is the subject of this episode, and as with the Romans before them, Parker does not hail these conquerors as heroes. He does, however, accommodate them within his overall tale of English ascendancy, his means of doing so being to paint William I as a strong supporter of the church.

The most elaborate part of the pageant is contained in Episode V. This concentrates on York's strategic and cultural importance as the capital of the north in medieval England over a period covering 350 years of turbulent history. Parker chose to deal with this long time span within ten separate scenes; but structurally this span can be split into two sections. In the first, covered in scenes I to IV, the importance of York as an ecclesiastical centre is once more the running theme; an interval of 129 years between scenes IV and V then takes place. The story is afterwards taken up at the start of the thirteenth century in Episode V, and proceeds through to the fifteenth century in scene IX, which is set in the midst of the Wars of the Roses. Episode V concludes with the accession of Richard III who on the eve of his coronation in the Minster describes himself as, 'a genuine Yorkshireman' at the end of scene X.10 There can be no doubt that despite having ten scenes and a long timeframe, this episode was fast moving. In adopting this pace, Parker was able to leave out much that may have not have suited his historical long view, or his attitude as to what was appropriate for pageants. King John for example, does not make an appearance, though he later became popular in many large northern pageants. Neither does Edward I, which in many ways seems like a curious omission given that York was the de facto capital of England during much of his reign. On the other hand, some infamous moments during this time are dealt with such as the monastic revolt at St Mary's Priory in 1132 which features as the subject of scene I; similarly, the massacre of the Jews is dramatized in scene IV.

Parker's avowed dedication to authenticity no doubt drove him to include these elements, for they are notable in terms of the city's history—whereas for all York's importance during Edward I's reign, this particular monarch spent little time there. Just the same, aspects of the city's history that had become notorious were given a soft touch: no Jew was seen being cut down in the York pageant, and Parker's depiction of the beleaguered Jews is a little ambiguous. While showing little sympathy for the would-be murderers of the Jews who get their eventual comeuppance when the king punishes them following the atrocity, Parker is not entirely sympathetic to York's Jews either. Even when facing death, they are shown as being avariciously careful about hiding their jewels and money, and indeed the drama includes their own destruction of their 'treasure' following the group's decision to take their own lives. Central to this scene is the notion that the behaviour of the persecutors is undignified and unchristian. The scene begins with the mayor and his wife worrying over the situation, and the blame for this calamity is placed squarely on the fact that at the time, the city has no archbishop to calm the fury of anti-Jewish sentiment. Yet again, the Christian religion is shown to be the only surety that law and order will be maintained.

Following the gap in temporal continuity, scene V takes up York's story in the reign of Edward II and this monarch receives a largely unsympathetic portrayal. The backdrop to scenes V and VI is the Scottish War of Independence, but this is kept in the background and instead, more personal portrayals of England's monarchs of the time are presented. The end of Scotland's conflict with England is symbolically portrayed when the earl of Douglas—on his way to the Holy Land carrying the heart of Robert the Bruce—arrives in York and is greeted cordially by the English king. Scene IX aims to demonstrate that the city was no less divided than any other parts of England in the struggle for power between Lancastrians and Yorkists; and the final scene gives a largely kind portrayal of Richard III. This scene shows Richard as a generous and charismatic figure and features the play within a play motif that was common in pageants when a medieval mystery play is performed in celebration of Richard's coming coronation.

The final two episodes feature, respectively, the dissolution of the monasteries and the famous Pilgrimage of Grace, and then, the English Civil War in the closing Episode VII. The era of religious reformation, unsurprisingly, has at its centre a cruel and capricious Henry VIII. Of note in this portrayal is Parker's sympathetic treatment of Catherine Howard who is seen trying to mitigate the worst of Henry's wrath and to persuade him to exercise forgiveness. All this was to no avail of course, the king being depicted as greedy and vengeful. Interestingly, the final scene in this episode marks the end of Tudor rule and gives a very sympathetic picture of James I. This monarch did not always get off so lightly in pageants, but in Parker's portrayal he is seen as erudite and well disposed towards the northern capital of his new kingdom. James's Danish wife is similarly seen as an attractive personality who is making an effort to be more English in her habits. Queen Anne's linguistic facility is also depicted in a comic sketch where she adopts local dialect. The portrayal of this royal couple's son—Charles I—in the final episode could not be more different. In this, Charles is seen as the author of his own demise. The episode concentrates on local history within the context of the civil war and is focussed on events leading up to the siege of York; it ends with the defeat of the Royalists at Marston Moor, after which York is treated well by the Parliamentarian victors.

Punctuating all seven episodes are narrative choruses: Parker made sure not to digress from the rules he had laid down in respect of how a pageant should be performed. The choruses were, however, quite short and effectively introduced the succeeding episode so that a narrative unity was achieved within the pageant overall. In similar vein, he did incorporate writing and original music by local authors and composers. Notably, the playwright and author Joseph E.H. Terry was responsible for the first scene of episode II and the second scene of episode IV. Terry, who was a member of the York family made famous as manufacturers of confectionery, obtained his first commissioned writing at the York pageant, and took an acting role as King Harold in episode IV.11 Parker's other well-known dictate that a pageant should be performed in a locally significant place was amply met in York: the performance took place in Museum Gardens in the centre of York, in front of the ruins of St Mary's Abbey and with the Minster only minutes walk away.

York was the most successful of Parker's pageants in financial terms: it played to almost full houses at every performance, despite some rain, but the fact that all seats were covered mitigated this potential disaster.12 In artistic terms, it likely also ranks highly. Moreover, it was an event that attracted all strands of society as both players and spectators. Many members of the aristocracy took acting roles; for example, the pageant's president, Lord Wenlock, took the part of one of his ancestors in episode V.13 And on Tuesday of pageant week, the upper classes were out in force for the visit of Princess Louise.14 By comparison with other pageants of the time, it is also a strong contender for the prize for the greatest number of known historical characters: the roll call of these is enormous. Parker pulled out all the stops to make this, his last grand-scale pageant, a model of his own vision for historical pageantry, and his efforts were amply rewarded.


1. ^ See 'Pageant Summary' for Chester 1910 on the Redress of the Past database, accessed 12 December 2016 at:  Although Parker carried on working in the theatre, and was responsible for some war-time productions, which were called pageants, and also involved himself with writing some small, charitable pageants, he did not return to directing large, open-air events.
2. ^ 'York Pageant', Manchester Courier, 23 July 1909, 11.
3. ^ 'Proposed York Pageant', Yorkshire Post, 30 November 1907, 13.
4. ^ 'York Pageant', Hull Daily Mail, 6 April 1909, 3.
5. ^ To alle whom it may concerne, np.
6. ^ Ibid, 8.
7. ^ Ibid, 1.
8. ^ Ayako Yoshino, Pageant Fever:  Local History and Consumerism in Edwardian England (Tokyo, 2011), 133.
9. ^ York Pageant July 26th to 31st 1909: Book of Words, 47.
10. ^ Ibid., 96.
11. ^ See unlabelled item in York Pageant: Newscuttings Book, held in York City Archives, ref: PAG. Parker also makes mention of Terry's future career in his memoir, Several of My Lives (London, 1928), 295.
12. ^ 'York Pageant Profits', Manchester Courier, 2 August 1909, 5.
13. ^ 'Lord Wenlock and the York Pageant', Leeds Mercury, 25 February 1909, 4.
14. ^ 'Pageantry in the Rain', Yorkshire Post

How to cite this entry

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