Tuesday, 12 August 2003

1603 and all that

At the Book Festival last night I heard a talk by Christopher Lee who spoke about 1603, his new book on that momentous year:
A great step-change in British history took place in 1603: the year that Elizabeth I died and the monarchy passed from the Tudors to the Stuarts, from the house of Henry VIII to James VI of Scotland who ruled as James I of England. It was also the year the Black Death returned, killing some 30,000 out of a population of only 4 million. This is the story of both the history-makers - Elizabeth, James, Robert Cecil, Shakespeare, Galileo - and of the common people; of turmoil in the Church, state-sponsored piracy and the establishment of new trade routes
Lee, a Cambridge academic I believe, held the audience spellbound with his tales of King James, Walter Raleigh ("Raw-ley") and Robert Cecil ("Sissell"). Shakespeare's manager was described as the Cameron Mackintosh of his day who apparently made more money from bear baiting than from the Bard. I noticed Father of the House of Commons and local MP Tam Dalyell sitting close by.

Later in the evening my wife and I saw and heard further references to 1603 at the Edinburgh Tattoo.