Performing for the King

Almost 400 years ago, during the reign of King Charles I, giant celebrations were held at the Banqueting House, then part of Whitehall Palace, the biggest palace in Europe. 

These celebrations were a special type of theatrical performance called 'masques' when the hall would be filled with amazing set decorations, fantastic costumes and actors singing, dancing, and performing plays. These masques were the talk of the town and everyone wanted to go.

Marvellous mechanical contraptions!

Many of these masques were designed by Inigo Jones, a genius who could invent almost anything. 

He not only designed buildings (including the Banqueting House) but he was a dab hand at costume design, as well as inventing mechanical props, the likes of which we never see today. These included a cloud machine, a wave machine featuring a sailing ship, and a floating chariot in the sky, all operated by men and boys behind the scenes using ropes and winches to make the props move. Clever bloke!

Fantastical costumes!

The masque featured some of the finest costumes of the time. 

Performers were dressed up like wolves and baboons, as well as a vast array of colourful and expensive designs for everyone taking part. 

Even King Charles I’s wife, Queen Henrietta Maria, got in on the act and sometimes even played the starring role.


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