The Royal Masque

An entertainment based on the court masques created by Ben Jonson for James VI & I, those masques which also saw the final flowering in England of the chivalric tournament, to which one of the Museum's five galleries is devoted.

The masque - an extravagant court entertainment based on Greek and Roman stories and a forerunner of opera and classical ballet - emerged toward the end of Elizabeth I's reign. Like the Tournament, which it first incorporated then replaced, its appeal was to the nostalgia for antiquity, but always with the serious intent of praising the monarch or influencing court policy. Courtiers took the principal historic roles themselves. Having written and devised many of them, Ben Jonson declared masques should `always lay hold on more removed mysteries and that as regards their content they `doth or should be curious after the most high and hearty inventions to furnish the inward parts'. Serious minds wanted these spectaculars to mean something. But also by associating themselves with mythic heroes through graceful and witty means no doubt the participants also asserted the validity and continuity of their own position in society.

At the opening of the Royal Armouries Museum, in the world as it is now, a Royal Masque on the theme of what is our attitude to war seems most appropriate and relevant.

from the program for the Official Opening

Why is this Knight different from all other Knights?

"Hurry up and wait" is true no matter what period you do.