Music was very important to Richard III, which is part of the reason why Matthew is allowed to join his household at Middleham. Not only is Matthew a former choirboy at York’s famous Minster, but he learns to play the lute once he is living at the castle. Richard values his singing and playing so much that he takes him to London for Christmas 1482.
On leaving London in the new year, Duke Richard and his entourage return to Middleham via York, to report back to the city council on the events in the recent Parliament. On their arrival at Micklegate Bar, one of the main gateways into the city, they are greeted by the town band, known as the ‘waits’. Many towns had their waits, who would play on festive occasions and greet important visitors.
We know the names of the waits who played on the occasion of Duke Richard’s visit in 1483 – John Swynbourne, Walter Kirkeby and Edward Skerne – and they knew Matt of old, and are surprised to see him riding in the cavalcade behind the Duke. Playing joyously and noisily, they lead the procession through the ancient winding streets of York and to the west door of the Minster, where the Duke is welcomed by all the most important men of the city.
The York Waits still exist today. They are famous for their revivals of the ancient tunes and for ensuring their preservation in a variety of recordings. They can also be seen performing across the country. Listening to CDs and attending performances have been influences at times on the writing of The Order of the White Boar!
(Thanks to the York Waits for the photos.)