Disguisings in the Hall

During the early Tudor period, Westminster Hall came to be used for disguisings, the forerunners of court masques.

Opportunities for spectacle

Just as at medieval banquets where minstrels performed between courses, disguisings were mainly opportunities for spectacle, music and dancing on the themes of courtly love.

They were usually performed with speeches but without dialogue, and were held at night under artificial light.

Musicians in the gallery

The royal party would sit on the dais, with the musicians in a gallery at the opposite end and spectators in scaffolds along the side, leaving the central area free.

The most spectacular such entertainments were held to celebrate Katherine of Aragon's marriage to Prince Arthur in 1501. During the three disguisings held in the Hall, pageant-cars on wheels, representing castles, mountains, ships and lanterns, were used for the first time.

Jousting tournaments

During these festivities, the Hall also had a role in the jousting tournaments which took place in New Palace Yard.

The challenger's party assembled in the Hall on their horses and emerged through the north door, on one occasion accompanied by a pageant-car drawn by four beasts and carrying a fair young lady on a chair covered with gold cloth.

King's party

The King's party reached its stand on the south side of the Yard through the Hall and the Exchequer Chamber. The last jousting in New Palace Yard appears to have been the one held in conjunction with Edward VI's coronation.


You can access biographies of

Katherine of Aragon
Edward VI

from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for free, online, using your local library card number (includes nine out of ten public libraries in the UK) or from within academic library and other subscribing networks.