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The Children's Wedding - from Harper's

 

It very often happens that children of royal families are by their parents or by wise statesmen engaged to marry each other almost as soon as they are born, but the actual weddings do not generally take place until the children are grown up. One of these weddings did, however, actually take place, a great many years ago, between two children, and the story of it is as follows:

January 15, 1478, was the day appointed, when Richard, Duke of York, second son of Edward IV., aged four years, and created already Duke of Norfolk, Earl Warren and Surrey, and Earl Marshal of England, in right of his intended wife, was to lead to the altar the little girl whose tiny hand would bestow upon him the immense estates and riches of the Norfolk inheritance.

The little Lady Anne, who was, as an old book informs us, the richest and most noble match of that time, appears to have been two years older than her intended husband, and must have reached the advanced age of six years! She does not appear to have objected to the match, but to have been quite ready to act her part in the pageant, and no doubt the little Duke was eager to receive the notice and applause of the courtly throng, whilst both children looked with astonishment at the sumptuous preparations, and the costly splendor of their own and the spectators' dresses.

The ceremony began by the high and mighty Princess, as the little bride was called in the formal language of the day, being brought in great state and in solemn procession to the King's great chamber at Westminster Palace. This took place the day before the wedding, on the 14th of January. The bride, splendidly dressed, most probably in the bridal robes of white cloth of gold, a mantle of the same bordered with ermine, and with her hair streaming down her back, and confined to her head by the coronet of a duchess, was led by the Earl of Rivers, the bridegroom's uncle. She was followed, of course, by her mother, and by the noblest of the court ladies of rank, and the gentlewomen of her household, whilst behind came dukes, earls, and barons, all in attendance on the little bride.

As soon as she had arrived in the lofty hall of Westminster Palace she was led to the dais, or place of estate, as it was called, where, under a canopy, and seated on a chair of estate, or kind of throne, she kept her estate, i. e., sat in royal pomp with the King, Queen, and their children seated on either hand, whilst her procession of peers and peeresses stood around and waited upon her. Refreshments were then brought "according to the form and estate of the realm," which must have been a very wearisome and formal ceremony for a little girl of six years old, and which ended that day's ceremony.

On the 15th the Princess came out of the Queen's rooms, where she had slept, and led on one hand by the Earl of Lincoln, nephew to the King, and on the other by the Earl of Rivers, she passed through the King's great chamber in the palace into the White Hall, and from there to St. Stephen's Chapel. She was followed by a long suite of ladies and gentlewomen. Meanwhile the little bridegroom, the Queen, and a noble procession of lords and gentlemen, had already entered the chapel and taken up their places on the seats appointed for them, ready to receive and welcome the bride. There were also present the King and the Prince of Wales, the King's mother, and the three Princesses who acted as bridemaids, Elizabeth, Mary, and Cecily.

As soon as the bride drew near to the door, between her two noble supporters, the Bishop of Norwich came forward and received her at the chapel entrance, intending to lead her and the bridegroom to their proper places and begin the service. Then the bishop asked who would give the Princess away? In answer the King stood up and took her hand, and gave it to the bishop, who placed it in the bridegroom's, and went on to the rest of the service, concluding with high mass. When this part was concluded, the Duke of Gloucester brought into the chapel basins of gold filled with gold and silver pieces, which he threw amongst the crowds of people who had pressed in to see the wedding, and who were highly delighted with this part of it.

Then followed the usual wine and spices, which were actually served out to the royal party in the church itself. The bridal party then left the chapel, the little bride and bridegroom, escorted by the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Buckingham (Richard's two uncles) on either side. They returned to St. Edward's Chamber in the palace, where a splendid banquet was prepared, and their numbers were increased by the bride's mother, who staid at home, strange to say, instead of accompanying her daughter and the Duchess of Buckingham. Another guest who now presided at a table on one side of the room with many ladies, whilst the Earl of Dorset, the Queen's son by her first husband, sat opposite at another side table, was the Earl of Richmond, afterward Henry VII., who, wonderful to say, was present, and whom Edward IV. must have invited to get him into his power. However, as soon as the marriage feasts were over, he managed to escape abroad without being stopped by the King.

The banquet completed the festivities of the wedding day, and, tired and wearied, the baby couple must have been glad to close their eyes in sleep.

No marriage, however, was complete without a tournament, and so on the 18th, when the children had recovered the fatigue of their wedding, a grand tournament took place, when the bride became the "Princess of the Feast," took up her place at the head of the first banqueting table, and there, supported by the Dukes of Gloucester and Buckingham, gave her largesse to the heralds, who proclaimed her name and title in due form.

All the royal family were present, and the foreign ambassadors, and one of the most distinguished spectators was "my lord of Richmond." The coursers were running at each other with either spear or sword, and at the close of the jousts, the Princess of the Feast, with all her ladies and gentlewomen, withdrew to the King's great chamber at Westminster to decide upon the prizes. First, however, the high and mighty Princess called in her minstrels, and all the ladies and gentlewomen, lords and knights, fell to dancing right merrily. Then came the king-at-arms to announce to the Princess the names of those whose valor deserved the rewards she was to give away, as the principal lady on whom the duty devolved. But the little lady was both very young and bashful, and so to help her the lovely Princess Elizabeth, then a girl of fourteen, was appointed, and a council of ladies was held to consider the share each should take.

The prizes were golden letters, A, E, and M, the initials of Anne, Elizabeth, and Mowbray, set in gems, and were delivered to Elizabeth by the king-at-arms. The A was to be awarded to the best jouster, the E to the best runner in harness, and the M for the best swordsman. The first prize was then presented by the little bride, aided by Elizabeth, to Thomas Fynes, on which the chief herald cried out, "Oh yes! oh yes! oh yes! Sir William Truswell jousted well; William Say jousted well; Thomas Fynes jousted best; for the which the Princess of the Feast awarded the prize of the jousts royal, that is to say, the A of gold, to him," quoth Clarencieux.

Then the other prizes were given with the same ceremonies, the king-at-arms, Clarencieux, proclaiming in a loud voice before each, "Right high and excellent Princess, here is the prize which you shall award unto the best jouster," which Elizabeth received and then handed to her little sister-in-law, until all had been given, and the tournament was over. And now the infant marriage, with its pretty pageantry and joyous festivities, was concluded, and the children returned to the daily routine of play and lessons, whilst the wonderful wedding must have gradually faded from their memories.