Pageant of the Life of Guy of Warwick
Place: Guy’s Cliffe (Warwick) (Warwick, Warwickshire, England)
Number of performances: 2
28 July 1927, 3pm and 7pm
Rain during the matinee performance marred a number of the scenes. The pageant advertisement’s notice ‘if wet at the Hall, Chesford Grange’ does not seem to have been carried out.
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- Pageant Master: Lancaster, Mr
- Writer and Producer: Barbara Drummond
- Music: Mrs Reynolds, Miss Haynes and Friends
- Stage Manager: Miss Joan Batchelor
Names of executive committee or equivalent
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
- Drummond, Barbara
Names of composers
Numbers of performers100
Twenty-one named actors plus extras including children at Leek Wootton and Sherbourne Schools and Leek Wootton, Old Milverton, Budbrooke, and Sherbourne Women’s Institutes.
Object of any funds raised
- Grandstand: No
- Grandstand capacity: n/a
- Total audience: n/a
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
Admission: 1.6d. WI members wearing badge, 1s.; Children half-price. Teas and refreshments half price for WI members.
Spoken by St. Dubricias about the hero of Warwick, slayer of the pagans.
Episode I. An Open Space near Warwick Castle
Maids and children playing, singing, and dancing. Guy fights Rolf who seizes and attempts to kiss a girl. Earl Rohant, who enters with his men and spectates, becomes his patron. Phaelice enters and guy is amazed at her beauty.
Episode II. The Same. May Day and a Hunting Party. Guy Feigns Sickness in Order to See Phaelice
Guy is unmoved by the attempts of dancing maids enticing him into a game; one suggests if Phaelice were playing he would be more amenable. Rohant asks him to join in the hunt. Guy feigns sickness and Rohant offers to send him a doctor. They exit and Guy asks God’s forgiveness for lying. The doctor asks what’s wrong, to which Guy replies: ‘Good doctor, spare your pains; there is one flower and one alone, whose touch hath healing power for the disease that doth affect my heart. Its name is Phaelice.’
Episode III. Guy Goes to Normandy
Episode IV. Guy Returns to Warwick. Phaelice Refuses to Marry Him
Episode V. The Dun Cow
Villagers crying ‘the cow, the dun cow, beware!’ All flee in terror, except Guy who stands and fights her. Two or three men and boys creep back when the noise ceases. They help Guy drag off the dead cow. Guy begs them be silent as he wishes to sail to Normandy.
Episode VI. Guy Meets Heraut
Episode VII. He Returns to England, is Knighted by the King, and Fights the Northumbrian Dragon
Episode VIII. The Wedding of Guy and Phaelice
Episode IX. Guy Decides he Must Go on a Pilgrimage and Says Farewell to Phaelice before Departing
Episode X. He Meets Earl Jonas and Sets Free the Latters’ Children by Slaying the Giant Amarat
Episode XI. Guy Slays the Danish Champion at Winchester
Episode XII. Phaelice Succours the Poor at Warwick. Guy Returns Unknown. He Reveals his Identity when Dying
Phaelice, still comely, but sad, clothed in black weeds, devotes herself to almsgiving and care of the sick whilst mourning Guy’s absence. Guy comes as a herdsman, hoary-headed and roughly clothed. She asks him for news of Guy and he says he has none. She notices: ‘Something familiar in his voice and gait, some trick of raising up his head to speak, reminded me of Guy.’ He send Phaelicia his ring as he is dying. He is brought in on a bier, gives his last will and testament, and dies. Phaelice follows the bier grief-stricken.
Key historical figures mentioned
- Guy of Warwick (supp. fl. c.930) legendary hero
Musical productionOld Milverton Women’s Institute Choir
Newspaper coverage of pageantHampshire Chronicle
Royal Leamington Spa Courier and Warwickshire Standard
Home and Country
Book of words
- Programme Pageant of the life of Guy of Warwick. Np. .
Other primary published materials
References in secondary literature
Archival holdings connected to pageant
- Papers of Barbara Drummond, Hampshire Record Office. 220M85W/15.
- Copy of the Book of Words held at the Hampshire Record Office. 9A06/C1.
Sources used in preparation of pageant
- Merriden. History of Guy Earl of Warwick. London: 1821.
This is in fact John Merridew’s edition of The Noble and Renowned History of Guy, Earl of Warwick (Chiswick, 1821).
This was a fairly small pageant that has left little trace, particularly compared to more illustrious pageants in the town. It was an instance of a small Women’s Institute Pageant, compared to the larger scale WI County Pageants that were a staple of this time. The Guy of Warwick Pageant involved members of districts in the villages around Warwick. It was also a pageant by Barbara Drummond, the daughter of F.E. Benson (see Winchester Pageant (1908)), who wrote and produced a number of pageants in England during the inter-war period. It turns what was originally a single episode of the Warwick Pageant (1906), the legend of the Saxon-era hero Guy of Warwick, into a full-length pageant-play.
A key feature of this Pageant was its setting, on the famous Guy’s Cliffe, a local beauty spot and site of a ruined Manor House to the north of Warwick, in the grounds of Lord Algernon Percy’s house, where Guy was alleged to have retired as a hermit—although the pageant strangely makes no link to this connection. In the event, the Leamington Spa Courier wrote that ‘It was an interesting pageant given in romantic and most suitable surroundings, and all who took part are to be congratulated on the high standard achieved.’1 The report went on to stress how often a meticulously planned pageant was a hostage to the contingencies of the weather: ‘Unfortunately the weather was not kind for the matinee, and heavy showers somewhat marred the beautiful wedding scene. This was undoubtedly one of the most picturesque scenes in the pageant, the stately procession of the King and Queen and the arrival of the chivalrous bridegroom and the smiling bride on their gallant white steeds.’2 It is perhaps surprising how few Pageants were ruined by rain, and in this one there appears to have only been a brief, if heavy, shower.
The Honourable Georgiana Dormer (daughter of Baron Dormer of Wyng) played Guy, an interesting choice. In the Leamington Spa Courier’s view, hers was an ‘unenviable task’—though the newspaper admitted that ‘Miss Dormer did carry off the part creditably, and seated on her fine white mount she looked an imposing figure.’3 While the script available is fragmentary at best, it is clear that the pageant followed the legend of Guy of Warwick—a story that can be traced back to popular ballads and early printed chapbooks from the thirteenth to sixteenth centuries in both French and English. In the legend, Guy, a champion, a Christian, and slayer of pagan foes, falls for the Earl of Warwick’s daughter Phaelice, who spurns him when he first offers to marry her. Guy then goes on to prove his valour in combat with a number of highly colourful enemies, including the Northumbrian Dragon, the Giant Amarat, and the famous Dun Cow (which had featured prominently in the 1906 Warwick Pageant). He wins glory from the King and others, and after eventually marrying Phaelice, he embarks on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, in part to atone for his life as a warrior. Returning to England a broken and dying man, he and Phaelice are brought together again when she, ministering to the poor, identifies him, and they are reconciled.
The Guy story is narrative of early chivalric virtue combined with Christian duty, set in an approximately tenth-century Anglo-Saxon context; it had a number of variants, and this is reflected in the pageant. Indeed, Barbara Drummond was a native of Winchester, and one scene features the Winchester version of the legend, in which Guy returns from the pilgrimage to save King Athelstan from the northern kings by slaying their champion, a Giant named Colbrand, outside the abbey.
St. Dubricius, who narrates the scenes, was born in Herefordshire and is associated with the area around the Welsh Borders, Somerset, and Exmoor. In legend, St. Dubricius was made Archbishop of Llandaff Cathedral (where he is reputedly buried), famously crowning King Arthur. He appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth and Alfred Tennyson’s Idylls of the King. Sir William Dugdale, in his Antiquities of Warwickshire (1656), claims that at one point Dubricius fixed his Episcopal See in Warwick, during which time the legend of Guy took place. Dubricius also retreated to a hermitage in the cliffs at this time.4
- Royal Leamington Spa Courier and Warwickshire Standard, 22 July 1927, 8.
- Rev. Alban Butler, ‘St. Dubricius, Bishop and Confessor’, in The Lives of the Saints (London: 1866), volume XI, 14 November, accessed 21 October 2015, http://www.bartleby.com/210/11/142.html.
How to cite this entry
Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Pageant of the Life of Guy of Warwick’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1079/