Some are born great: the Dukes of York as dance celebrities

The dance careers of two second sons of the Stuart kings illustrate a fascinating trajectory across time and circumstance. Charles, Duke of York, later King Charles I, started out with the significant disability of childhood rickets which was overcome by careful tutoring. His first appearances in court dancing were carefully stage-managed to minimise his weakness, but such appearances were clearly vital in demonstrating the strength of the new dynasty. A successful debut in Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue launched his image as a masquer, modelled by Inigo Jones on the Roman hero. It could be argued that under his leadership the achievement of the English masque rivalled that of France under Louis XIII.

James Duke of York, later James II, had just started his dance and masque education when the normal rhythm of a royal childhood was disrupted by the Civil War. He spent his formative years, until 1660, in England, France and the Netherlands. He was a proficient enough dancer however to take two contrasting roles in Le Ballet de la Nuit of 1653 for which the costume designs survive. The Duke of York can be identified in the painting of Charles II dancing with his sister at The Hague prior to his restoration to the throne. James participated

in court balls at the Restoration, at a time when the English country-dance was being influenced by the new French style of dancing. Now the Duke of York’s celebrity led to country-dances named after him, which continued when he was king. The development of Scottish country dancing may well have been initiated by him during his residency as Duke of Albany and York, with the first extant Scottish country dance emerging soon afterwards, in the style of country dances of the 1680s. The short span of James’ reign as II of England and VII of Scotland coincides with increasing interest by French masters in the English country dance and we may surmise that the residence of the Stuart family in France during the Civil War sowed the seed.

This paper will argue that despite difficulties of physique or continuity the dancing of the royal princes was significant in the dance culture of their day. It will attempt to discern patterns of influence linked to their celebrity status from the dominant discourse of political struggle, drawing on visual and written sources. 

Anne Daye pursues documentary research and practical reconstruction of dances and dancing of the past, with specialist study of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Her doctoral thesis examined the antimasque of the Stuart masque, exploring its development as a political and artistic concept, alongside the emergence of the professional dancer in England. Post-doctoral research investigates further the growth of expressive dance on the London stage. Anne teaches, rehearses and publishes widely on 16th - 19th century dance, combining theory and practice. She has contributed sections on dance to two recent publications: The Palatine Wedding of 1613 (2013) ed. S. Smart and M. Wade; Singing Simpkin and other Bawdy Jigs by R. Clegg and L. Skeaping. In addition to teaching in HE dance departments, such as TrinityLaban and the University of Bedfordshire, Anne is the Chairman of the Dolmetsch Historical Dance Society.

Anne Daye
Symposium Title: 
The dancer in celebrity in the long 18th-century 2014
Author affiliation: 
TrinityLaban, London, and Dolmetsch Historical Dance Society