A royal river pageant: Aqua triumphalis

In the euphoria of Diamond Jubilee celebrations, here at Senate House Library we have had a special interest in last Sunday’s river pageant (3 June 2012). News coverage noted the last similar event on such a scale, the river pageant to welcome King Charles II and Queen Catherine of Braganza on 23 August 1662 on the occasion of their marriage. This drew our attention to the playwright John Tatham’s poem commemorating that event, Aqua Triumphalis.

Our copy of this poem, from the Bromhead Library of works about London, turns out to be one of just three in London and four in Great Britain more widely. The BBC borrowed it to show in connection with the Diamond Jubilee flotilla. Bound in a 20th-century calf binding, the book was in good condition and able to take the heat of the spotlight. Our usual loan and filming conditions include limiting the time under the heat of the lights, keeping handling to a minimum and holding it with clean hands carefully but securely. Dr Anna Whitelock was used to handling rare books so we knew it was in safe hands. The clutter of a studio and live filming could have presented problems but everyone was very accommodating. Unfortunately in the end the book did not quite make it to screen – maybe another time …

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