Author’s Note: Over Christmas break, I had the opportunity to go horseback riding for the first time in about 14 years. But as we ambled along, I couldn’t help but feel…well, regal in a way. My mind drifted off to royal progresses through the country. I found myself dreaming of horses decked in elegant trappings, of gorgeous riding habits, gloves, and hats, of people coming out to view a beloved queen or princess as she rode by, strew flowers before her horse’s hooves or hand up little nosegays to her in the saddle. I found myself sitting a little straighter in the saddle, a small smile on my lips. Here, I have endeavored to write it all down, cast myself in royalty, and paint that gorgeous picture that floated in my mind.
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The morning dawned clear and blue and bright as the courtyard rang with the activity. Carts were being loaded, horses tacked, and litters prepared. The royal court of England was on Progress!
Mistress Elizabeth Blackwell, maid-in-waiting to Queen Catherine of Aragon, was helped onto her horse by a man-at-arms who then held the horse’s bridle as she settled herself upon the saddle, adjusting the skirts of her tulip yellow riding habit along the horse’s back and flanks. Her mount was a handsome chestnut gelding with a silvery-white blaze down his nose and was lovely in his green and white trappings, the colors of the Tudor dynasty. Bess arranged herself a bit more comfortably in her saddle and reached up to make sure that her hat was pinned securely over the coils of her rich, soil-brown hair and her gauzy gossamer veil drawn down and fastened.
“Make way for his Majesty the King!” came the cry and King Henry VIII bounded out into the courtyard, the picture of youth, health, and vitality.
“A wonderful day to begin a progress!” he bellowed joyously, clapping his hands with a laugh. He was resplendent in a crimson velvet doublet, sleeves slashed with cloth of gold, crimson breeches, a summer mantle of crimson and thread of gold and the finest boots and gloves. He strode towards his great horse, swinging himself up into the saddle with ease, laughing jovially with his lifelong friend Charles Brandon as the rest of the cavalcade prepared.
Queen Catherine smiled elegantly from atop her palfrey, dressed in lovely deep Tudor green damask and velvet, her mount decked in the beautiful red and white trappings of the King’s rose. “A better day could not have been picked, my dearest husband,” she said sweetly as he reined his steed alongside hers.
“Nor a more beautiful Queen, my dear Catherine,” Henry agreed, raising her gloved hand to his lips and kissing it fervently. “Come now, let us away to our adoring subjects!”
And with that, the Royal Court commenced its summer Progress.