Harefield Entertainment

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John Davies (& John Lyly?) (1602)

Historical Records

Textual Witnesses

While no complete text of the Harefield Entertainment survives, various fragments are preserved in several early manuscript and print witnesses, depicting five discrete events that took place during the Queen's visit: (1) a dialogue between a Bailiff and a Dairymaid as the Queen first approached the Harefield grounds; (2) a dialogue between Time and Place upon the Queen's arrival at the house; (3) a Mariner's song and lottery; (4) a letter about St. Swithin and Iris that accompanied the presentation of a rainbow gown to the Queen; and (5) Place's farewell upon the Queen's departure. (Numeration of the scenes follows Wiggins.) A version of all of the extant scenes is readily accessible in Bond 491-504. (However, the "Complaint of the Satyres against the Nymphes" [pp. 497-98] included in Bond's copy text is now thought to be part of a different entertainment.) For a more recent, reliable, and comprehensively edited text, see Heaton, The Harefield Entertainment.


Fragments of the Harefield Entertainment were widely disseminated and have been preserved in a greater number of manuscript witnesses than any other Elizabethan entertainment. (These are listed in McGee and Meagher 147-51; Wiggins 390-91; and are discussed in Heaton, "Elizabethan Entertainments in Manuscript," 234-43.) The MSS usually reproduce one or several of discrete portions of the entertainment. Numeration of the scenes and sigla for MSS below follow Wiggins, with links to Beal's CELM, the source for the dates of transcription. For descriptions of the scenes, see Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues below.

A    British Library, Add. MS 22601. (c. 1605) [DaJ 292]
Includes part of 3 (ff. 49r-51r); edited in Halliwell 5-10.
A2* British Library, Add. MS 24665. (c. 1615-26) [DaJ 296]
Includes a musical setting of part of 3 (ff. 19v-20r).
B West Yorkshire Archive Service, Bradford, 32D86/21
Includes 5; transcribed from T.
C Folger, MS X.d.172. (The Conway MS; c. 1602) [DaJ 291]
Includes 3 and 4 (ff. 4v-6r); edited in Cunningham 65-75.
Facsimile of f. 5r on Folger Digital Image Collection.
F Folger, MS Z.e.28. [DaJ 294]
Includes 1-2 and 5 (Part II, ff. 102r-3v).
H North Yorkshire Record Office, ZAZ 75. (The Hutton MS; 1602.) [DaJ 290.8]
Includes 25 (1286/8282-89); edited in Raine 278-86 and Heaton, Harefield Entertainment.
K National Archives, Kew, SP 12/285. (1602) [DaJ 290.5]
Includes 5 (f. 158). (Also includes part of 3 in a modern copy.)
M British Library, Harley MS 5353. (John Manningham's Diary; 1603.) [DaJ 293.]
Includes part of 3 and a short extract from 1 (f. 95r-v); edited in Sorlien 180-82.
N Warwickshire County Record Office, CR 136/B2455. (The Newdigate MS; c. 1602.) [DaJ 290]
Includes 1-2 and 4-5; a 1803 transcript of the MS was edited in Nichols 586-95 and Bond 491-504.
Q The Queen's College, Oxford, MS 130. (c. 1620s-30s) [DaJ 294.5]
Includes 2 and 5, with part of 3 (pp. 86-88).
T Lambeth Palace Library, MS 3201. (1602) [DaJ 297]
Includes 5 (f. 43r); edited in Lodge 3:132.
Y Yale, Osborn MS fb 9. (c. 1610) [DaJ 295]
Includes 2 and 5 (ff. 40r-41v).
*Siglum not used by Wiggins.


        Robert Jones's Vltimvm Vale (1605). [STC 14738.]
Includes a musical setting of part of 3 (sig. E2v).
Francis Davison's A Poetical Rapsodie (1608). [STC 6374.]
Includes part of 3 (pp. 4-8); reprinted 1611 and 1621


Sir Thomas Edmondes to Gilbert Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, 3 August 1602

Her Highnes hath ben verie honorablie enterteyned at my Lord Keeper's house, and manie tymes richelie presented; yett all men are not confident that the same will procure an abolition of former unkindnes.
(Lambeth Palace Library, MS 3203, f. 69; qtd. Lodge 3:135)

Sir William Browne to Sir Robert Sidney, 12 August 1602

I send you the Queen's entertainment at Cheswick and at my Lord Keeper's; I have gotten them copied out for you.
(Centre for Kentish Studies, U1475 C8/135; calendared HMC, De L'Isle and Dudley, 2.534)

Sir George Savile to Gilbert Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, 14 August 1602

My humble Dewty remembred vnto your Lordship & my lady I haue ^ made \ the longer stay to signifie the same In hope of some nouelty of worth to advertise withall which tho hard for me to doe, for your Lordship, so many Frendes of better Intelligence, yet to show my desire to do your Lordship some service Behold inclosed the manner of her Maiestys late Intertaynment at my Lord kepers howse, whervnto I must add the daynty playing of Barly Breaks, Dansinge of Contrye dances by the Boys of the Chapple, And excellent vawtinge of Tumblers. The feast so great, as sixe Dishes vpon head stood so furnished throughe the whole service which by report is greatly spoken of in London. Your lordship hath hard of her Maiestys Returne to Otlands wher yet ther is a Speeche of goinge foreward & to my lord of Harfords. In this Inclosed your lordship maye see the manner of presentinge the giftes which weare many and great. The Iewell my lord keper presented was held Richly worth 1000 li. as I was credibly told. Another Iewell said worth vj C. li. And the Gowne of Raynbows very Riche Embraidred.
(Nottinghamshire Record Office, Savile Papers, MS DDSR 1/D/1426, f. 1; qtd. Palmer 343.)

"Anthony Rivers" to Robert Parsons, 25 August 1602

The progress of her Majesty was soon at a stay. After she had been most royally entertained and feasted at the Lord Keepers his charge in that behalf, amounting to about 4,000 li, passing further into Oxfordshire, the weather and ways proving foul, a[n]d the country murmuring to be hindered from their harvest business, by persuasion of some of the Council she suddenly returned to a standing house at Oatlands…
(Westminster Archdiocesan Archive, vii, no. 57, p. 275; qtd. Foley 1:46)

Matthew Hutton, Archbishop of York to Edmund Sheffield, 3rd Baron Sheffield, 30 August 1602

As for hir Majestie's entertainment at my Lord Keeper's house, I am glad to heare it was to hir good likinge and best contentment; and (in deede) it could not be otherwise, ffor, besides the loyall and chearefull harts of the master of the house and his good ladie (well knowne to hir Highnes before, and then speciallie shewed), two of the first creatures that ever God made, and so now two of th' ouldest, Time and Place, forgetting their yeres, 5564, did (as it were) caste awaie their crutches and frame themselves to the present worlde to speake placentia, concurring, consenting, and conspiring to cheare and solace hir Highnes, by whose wise and happie government bothe time and place themselves have bene much graced. These two are verie nere of kinne to two oulde predicaments as ould as them selves, quando et ubi, which I praie God may allwaies and everie where likewise concurr to serve her Majestie; that, whensoever and wheresoever shee taketh anie thinge in hand, God's holie hande and powerfull spirit may direct it to his glorie, and hir happines and comforte, bothe in this world and in the world to come.
(North Yorkshire Record Office, ZAZ 1286/8290; qtd. Raine 167-68)

John Chamberlain to Dudley Carleton, 19 November 1602

I send you here the Quenes entertainment at the Lord Kepers; yf you have seen or heard yt alredy yt is but so much labour lost.
(SP 12/285, f. 150r; qtd. McClure 1:173)

Carleton to Chamberlain, 12 December 1602

…and I make the more hast to thacnk you for it [your letter], and the Inclosed which were great nouelties: but for my Lord keepers deuises he might haue kept them to himself vnles they had bin better. for all here find so little tast in them that they Judge the autor striude to be dull and ridiculous, as if it were quanto melius veterius, tanto melius.
(SP 78/47 f. 234r)

Chamberlain to Carleton, 23 December 1602

You like the Lord Kepers devises so yll, that I cared not to get Master Secretaries that were not much better, saving a pretty dialogue of John Davies twixt a maide, a widow and a wife…
(SP 12/286 f.38v; qtd. McClure 1:177-78)

Theatrical Provenance

Performed for the Queen during her visit to Harefield House, Middlesex, where she was hosted by the Lord Keeper Sir Thomas Egerton and his wife Alice, Countess Dowager of Derby, from 31 July to 2 August 1602.

Probable Genre(s)

Royal Entertainment (Harbage).

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

The extant fragments provide accounts of five discrete events that took place during the Queen's visit. Numeration of the scenes follows Wiggins.

1.    Saturday, 31 July. Upon the Queen's arrival at Harefield, she was greeted by a Bailiff, who had come to usher the company to the house, and a Dairymaid, who welcomed the "strangers" to the Egertons' modest accommodations ("but a Pigeon-house"), with the promise of rustic dining. Due to the rain, the still-mounted Queen heard this dialogue while sheltered underneath a tree.
2. Saturday, 31 July. After the Queen dismounted and approached Harefield, she encountered Place and Time (the latter holding an hourglass "stopped, not runninge"), who discussed the apparent impossibility of the Queen's magnificence occupying so little a physical space, as well as her ability to make time itself stand still. Time gave Place a crystal heart to present to the Queen.
3. Saturday, 31 July (?). A mariner approached the Queen with a box, singing in praise of "Cynthia Queene of Seas and lands," whom Fortune is eager to serve lavishly. He presented a chest of recently discovered booty, and the ladies present drew lots for prizes. The Queen received Fortune's wheels set with diamonds; the rest won trinkets such as a mask, a necklace, or a fan, while some drew blanks. The final prize, a jewel in the form of a feather, was presented to the Queen (H). (This event may have taken place on Sunday, 1 August rather than Saturday; however, a Saturday performance is indicated in A [Erler 361].)
4. Monday, 2 August (?). The Queen was presented with a rainbow gown (either by Egerton [H] or Lady Walsingham [N]) and an accompanying poem that offered an explanation for the bad weather in order to exonerate St. Swithin. (Rain on St. Swithin's Day, July 15, was supposed to bode more of the same for forty days.) Rather than the saint himself weeping from the heavens, the poem explains that Iris who had come to his feast was the cause of the rain. After the goddess refused to depart, St. Swithin stole her rainbow gown to offer it to the Queen, who knows "better how to raine." (N describes the event having taken place on Monday morning, but in H this scene precedes 3.)
5. Monday, 2 August. As the Queen departed Harefield House, Place appeared in mourning clothes to bid a sad farewell, while acknowledging that "it is against the nature of an Angell to be circumscribed in Place, so it is against the nature of Place to haue the motion of an Angell."

References to the Play

(Content welcome.)

Critical Commentary


The attribution of the entertainment to John Davies is based on the ascription of the Lottery section (3) to "I.D." in Davison's Poetical Rapsodie (1608), where it appears between two other poems attributed to "Iohn Davys." (On Davies's poems in the various editions of A Poetical Rapsodie, see Grosart cvi-cx; Krueger and Nemser 431-34.) Grosart assigned the entire entertainment to Davies on the basis of its internal consistency and parallels with his other works (cxiii-cxvi). Although Chambers found Grosart "hardly justified" in attributing the whole entertainment to Davies (ES 4:68), Krueger found Grosart's arguments "entirely convincing" (410). Davies had a well-documented connection to the Egertons and was an active writer of similar entertainments around the same time (Heaton, Harefield Entertainment, 178).

That John Lyly should have had a hand in the entertainment stems from Collier's forgery of an account by Arthur Mainwaring for Egerton, in which Collier included a payment to Lyly's man for bringing the lottery box to Harefield (Collier 343). Bond included the Harefield Entertainment in his edition of Lyly in part based on this "significant proof," but claimed that he was convinced of Lyly's authorship of the prose speeches and the Mariner's song on purely stylistic grounds, prior to his encountering the Mainwaring account (534-35). Similarly, Erler, while acknowledging the account as a forgery, nevertheless favored Lyly as the author of the prose speeches based on the ascription to Lyly of two similar speeches that were performed before the Queen on 28 and 29 July at Chiswick House (Erler 362n; see Beal LyJ 2).


A passage in 2 of approximately twenty lines, in which Time and Place compare the Queen's magnificence to the sun, is found in N and Y, but not F or H. Heaton suggests that this may indicate that a last-minute revision was made before the performance in light of the rainy weather, which would have rendered the lines infelicitous (Harefield Entertainment, 182n).

(Content welcome: see Works Cited.)

For What It's Worth


Some records survive about the cost of the entertainment. The crystal heart ("A diamond without a foyle") that was presented to the Queen in 2 was reported to have cost £300 (H); a jewel in the form of a feather, presented to the Queen at the end of 3, cost £600 (H); the rainbow gown of 4 cost £340 (H); and the anchor given to the Queen as she departed cost 100 marks (H; described as "A Iewell" in N). Sir George Savile described a jewel worth £1,000, and "Anthony Rivers" claimed that the total cost of entertaining and feasting the Queen came to around £4,000 (see Correspondence above).

(Content welcome.)

Works Cited

Bond, R. Warwick, ed. The Complete Works of John Lyly. 3 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1902.
Collier, J. Payne, ed. The Egerton Papers. Camden Society. London, 1840.
Cunningham, Peter. "The Device to entertayne hir Maty att Harfielde…" The Shakespeare Society's Papers II. London, 1845. 65-75.
Davison, Francis, ed. A Poetical Rapsodie. London, 1608.
Erler, Mary. "'Chaste sports, Juste Prayses, & All Softe Delights': Harefield 1602 and Ashby 1607, Two Female Entertainments." The Elizabethan Theatre 14 (1991) 1-25.
Estill, Laura. Dramatic Extracts in Seventeenth-Century English Manuscripts: Watching, Reading, Changing Plays. Newark: U of Delaware P, 2015.
Erler, Mary C. "Sir John Davies and the Rainbow Portrait of Queen Elizabeth." Modern Philology 84 (1987): 359–71.
Foley, Henry, ed. Records of the English Province of the Society of Jesus. 7 vols. London, 1875-83.
Grosart, Alexander B., ed. The Complete Poems of Sir John Davies. London, 1876.
Halliwell, James Orchard. Poetical Miscellanies from a Manuscript Collection of the Time of James I. Percy Society. London, 1845.
Heaton, Gabriel. "Elizabethan Entertainments in Manuscript: The Harefield Festivities (1602) and the Dynamics of Exchange." In The Progresses, Pageants, and Entertainments of Queen Elizabeth I." Ed. Jayne Elisabeth Archer, Elizabeth Goldring, and Sarah Knight. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. 227–43.
Heaton, Gabriel. The Harefield Entertainment. In John Nichols's The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth I: A New Edition of the Early Modern Sources. Ed. Elizabeth Goldring, Faith Eales, Elizabeth Clarke, and Jayne Elisabeth Archer. 5 vols. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2014. 4:176-95.
Kolkovich, Elizabeth Zeman. The Elizabethan Country House Entertainment: Print, Performance and Gender. Cambridge: Cambridge, 2016.
Krueger, Robert and Ruby Nemser, eds. The Poems of Sir John Davies. Oxford: Clarendon, 1975.
Jones, Robert. Vltimvm vale, with a triplicity of musicke. [London], 1605.
Lodge, Edmund, ed. Illustrations of British History, Biography and Manners. 3 vols. London, 1791.
McGee, C. E., and John C. Meagher. "Preliminary Checklist of Tudor and Stuart Entertainments: 1558-1603." Research Opportunities in Renaissance Drama 24 (1981) 51-155.
McClure, Norman Egbert, ed. The Letters of John Chamberlain. 2 vols. Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1939.
Palmer, Barbara D. "Court and Country: The Masque as Sociopolitical Subtext." Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England 7 (1995): 338-54.
Raine, J., ed. The Correspondence of Dr Matthew Hutton. Surtees Society 17. London, 1843.
Sorlien, Robert Parker. The Diary of John Manningham of the Middle Temple, 1602-1603. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1976.
Wiggins, Martin, in association with Catherine Richardson. British Drama 1533–1642: A Catalogue. Volume IV: 1598–1602. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2014.
Wilson, Jean. "The Harefield Entertainment and the Cult of Elizabeth I." Antiquaries' Journal 66 (1986): 315–29.

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