In masks at court, when a king like James I did not perform himself, courtiers strove to impress him with their ingenuity and skill. They lobbied for attention, demonstrating their loyalty, and sometimes (as in the case of the Duke of Buckingham) they succeeded in gaining favour through their superlative dancing. Most records list the names of participants so that the community at large might recognize their important status at court.
During royal entries, power relations were made plain through time-honoured gestures and words. Although coronations might be regarded as proof of dynastic continuity, entries were more complex. The chief performers demonstrated a balance of power between the monarch who, through the symbolism exalting his name and deeds, received recognition of his authority, and the citizens (the merchants who had usually paid for the splendour) who filed in great numbers before the king demonstrating their strength and a desire that their civic privileges be renewed.
Listen to this text: