chapter  12
15 Pages

Father Ben

Jonson returned to London to find that many changes had taken place in his absence. As on his visit to France the Royal Family had again suffered a personal loss. On 2 March 1619 while Jonson was on his return home from Scotland, Queen Anne died. At forty-four she had had a good life by contemporary standards, and the time had passed when she could provide the focus for a masque as she had done a decade or so previously. But she had been one of his most important patrons, by virtue both of her position and her great love of masquing. Her death was therefore a professional, if not a personal, loss for him. The little queen had not long survived another portentous event, the destruction by fire of Queen Elizabeth's banqueting hall at Whitehall. Originally built in 1581 it had been the site of most of the court masques of those days. Sadly Anne did not live to see the great new banqueting hall raised up in its place by Inigo Jones between 1619 and 1622.