Christianna Brand’s Death of Jezebel gave us a recent blogpost, and I was intrigued by its setting: 'it combines knights on horseback and a cod-mediaeval pageant with a weird post-war Ideal-Homes-type exhibition. This must make it unique.’
I loved Inspector Cockerill’s diatribe on pageants in the book:
The English and their pageants! Nobody enjoyed them, nobody ever knew what they were intended to represent but it was in the national character to produce and witness them: and if one was anybody it was expected of one that one should attend. In North Kent, Cockie assiduously attended all the local pageants, standing craning his neck in the crowd and always at a loss to know what in the world was going on. To come to London, where he was so pointedly nobody, and yet still have to go to see one seemed the very height of indignity.
Regular and long-time readers of the blog will know that I love a pageant. One of my favourite set of photos of all time comes from the National Library of Wales, and shows a pageant in Builth Wells in 1909. (So not English, and proof against the inspector’s criticisms). I have plundered this archive many times.
Years ago, I said in the entry for this book: ‘Maybe one day I will find the book that requires as illo the photo called ‘Miss Godby dancing to the dirge’, (subtitle: ‘Queen of the Fairies foretelling the death of Prince Llewellyn’) and then I will probably think the blog can close down.' That's the top picture, and I still don’t think that’s happening any time soon. Meanwhile, these photos are the Court Jester, played by Arthur Price, and some Norman and Welsh squires and soldiers.
And there is this wonderful Ancient Briton little boy - forever Stig of the Dump for me:
Miss Read’s Fairacre (village life in England 50+ years ago) of course featured a pageant, and was the excuse for this blogpost:
Even Virginia Woolf was not immune to a pageant, in Between the Acts, and the blogpost features yet more on the topic, and the idea of costumes from curtains.
If anyone else knows of any good pageants in books (and excuses for me to get completely lost, yet again, in the range of photos of pageants archived online) then please put them in the comments.