London’s Biggest Celebration

This is an event that few people have ever heard of, yet seems to have brought the folk of these islands to a genuine frenzy: the return of Prince Charles from his failed attempt to woo the Spanish princess in 1623.They went mad because he failed, so the country was not at risk of being turned back to Catholicism. This is from David Cressy’s Bonfires & Bells.
“Every element in the vocabulary of celebration was brought into play. The air’s filled with the shouts and acclamations of people, with the rejoicing noises of instruments, ordnance, muskets, bells, drums, and trumpets… The day was commanded to be kept a holiday, so that no shops were opened, no manner of work was done from morning to night, but carrying and recurring wood to make bonfires, ringing filling, and emptying of pots, that all seemed as if the world was newly preserved from some second flood…
There was one bonfire made at Guildhall London, which cost one hundred pound (belike it was some logwood, which was prohibited and unlawful to be used by dyers, … Some in Smithfield burnt their old coaches, while others… committed their whole estate to fire and faggot…There were 108 bonfires betwixt Paul’s Churchyard and London Bridge, besides hundreds more…
The celebration knew no social bounds. ‘And to the intent that all estates should be merry, there were divers noblemen gentlemen, and others, that gave store of gold to the poor, some gave vessels of wine in the streets… The very vintners burnt their bushes in Fleet Street, and other places, and their wine was burnt all over London and Westminster, not all colours of the rainbow; whole pints, quarts, bottles, and gallons were made into bonfires of sack and claret, whilst good fellows, like loving salamanders, swallowed these liquid fires. … the reprieve of condemned criminals, 6 men and 2 women.
… Both London and the country fell into such innumerable expressions of joy that the people… seemed to lose their own being, and to forget that they were themselves: men women an d children made but one consort, and the music of that consort sounded nothing but ‘the prince is come, our Charles is come’

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