Kage Baker admired the idea of Royal Progresses.
In her years of researching history and working at Elizabethan re-creation events, a lot of history got tagged as connected to a sovereign’s travels through their realm. History resulted from activities on a Progress, ranging from royal deaths and tantrums to bankrupting unhappy noble hosts. It could cause Progresses when a Monarch needed to show off his army to the commons – or, more likely, to the gentry who were getting ideas above their station; or when, already being worried about some nobleman who was collecting infantrymen at a suspicious rate, the ruler chose to distract them by giving them something better to spend their money on.
That was Elizabeth I’s usual plan of suppression when her nobles got antsy. She’d progress around England with most of her court attached, stopping at various people’s country houses with the whole show. It was an enormous honour to host the Queen of England on her summer Progress. It also cost an enormous amount of money in preparation, execution and cleanup after the royal mob – and Elizabeth expected rather more than bed and breakfast.
Strawberry parties in the garden were all very well, but you’d better make sure the bowls of berries were served by mythical creatures or all 9 Muses chanting hymns of praise to the Queen. Hunts (with guaranteed animals) were arranged; souvenirs often included trifles like 12 matched horses or a fireworks spectacular; special guest artists and special effects were de rigeur. After one of her visits, most noble houses took years to become dangerously wealthy again.
It was an ingenious method of controlling the elite and their power grabs. Kage admired it.
Not all Progresses were like Elizabeth I’s, of course. There were – and still are – the tours demanded of stage shows, musical artists and successful authors; those are working trips, with the members of the Progress out to shake their moneymakers and be noticed. Most of the people on the modern Progress are working very hard to make money for someone else – someone who, if all goes well, will then trickle down profits to pay the staff for their work.
I have just begun such a Progress. The annual migration to and from Dickens Fair started for me today; I’m a fortnight behind my entire group and the rest of the cast, due to battling with my liver and lights and weird bacteria. But I have my feet on the road at last! Today I took my first journey up the I5, Road of Weirdness, my parrot and my nephew at my side, to the Northern Climes where Extreme Christmas is now being built.
It was a good trip. We only got lost once, and that can be blamed on the early fall of night this season, and the habit of the Northern Lands to designate highways by at least 3 names – state highway number, county road number, personal name. We found our way out of that pretty well. I5 was mild and not too peculiar. Nothing fell off the car or onto us.
So this year’s Progress is progressing. There are even a few Queens that will ultimately be involved, so I have to get my Parlour finished and properly decorated to receive them. The Queen of Hearts wanders in from time to time, so the Bar has to be up and running. There’s probably at least one Snow Queen running around. And Queen Victoria herself stops by most afternoons, and every visit has to be properly welcomed with utter surprise and delight – as we spontaneously move the furniture around and lay out the good teapot to welcome her.
And now, Dear Readers, I’m exhausted and I have to get up early tomorrow to get to the Cow Palace. Along the way, the ever-amazing Neassa will employ her nephew and mine (strong young men both) to move some of the tables and chairs that have yet to delivered. We’ll have to send someone out for palm trees. And clear gaffers tape to hold down the rugs. And I can hardly wait to find out why the lads built a window into the usually-solid wall between the Bar and Kitchen – I mean, I have my suspicions, but I’d like to know if they’re trading beer to the Kitchen for cookies or something …
Needing what remains of my wits for the morrow, I am therefore toddling off to bed. Harry and Mike went long ago; Neassa and I are just sitting here gassing while I work on this blog and she attaches ears to a knitted mouse.
Strange things happen on Progress. We shall see what tomorrow will bring.