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Archibald Armstrong (d. 1672) by Thomas Cecill, pubd 1630 ? Copyright The British Museum

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Armstrong, Archibald [Archy] (d. 1672), court fool, was born of Scottish parents, perhaps at Arthuret in Cumberland or Langholm, Roxburghshire; his father was also named Archibald Armstrong. Young Archy's early life and the means by which he first entered the service of King James VI and I...

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Armytage, Percy (1853–1934), master of ceremonies, was born on 8 March 1853, at Huntroyde, Lancashire, the first son of Henry Armytage (1828–1901), colonel in the Coldstream Guards, and the Hon. Fenella Fitzhardinge Berkeley (1832–1903), daughter of Maurice Berkeley, first Baron Fitzhardinge. He was educated at private schools, at ...

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John Blanke (fl. 1507–1512) by unknown artist, 1511 [detail from the Westminster Tournament Roll] College of Arms, Westminster Tournament Roll. Reproduced by permission of the Kings, Heralds and Pursuivants of Arms.

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Blanke, John (fl. 1507–1512), royal trumpeter, was employed as a musician at the courts of Henry VII and Henry VIII, making his first recorded appearance there in 1507. He is thought to have been of African descent, but his age, place of birth, and parentage are unknown. His surname may have originated as a nickname, derived from the word ...

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Buck [Buc], Sir George (bap. 1560, d. 1622), master of the revels and historian, was baptized in Holy Trinity, Ely, Cambridgeshire, on 1 October 1560, the eldest son and probably second of the four children of Robert Buck (d. 1580), church official, and ...

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Cornysh [Cornysshe], William (d. 1523), composer and court impresario, is of unknown parentage. It is likely that he was close kin, perhaps even a son, of William Cornysh [Cornysshe] (d. 1502), composer, also of unknown parentage. Nothing is known of the elder ...

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Sir Henry Herbert (bap. 1594, d. 1673) by unknown artist, 1639 Powis Castle, The Powis Collection (The National Trust). Photograph: Photographic Survey, Courtauld Institute of Art, London

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Herbert, Sir Henry (bap. 1594, d. 1673), master of the revels, was baptized on 7 July 1594 at St Nicholas's Church, Montgomery, the sixth of seven sons (and three daughters) of Richard Herbert (d. 1596) and Magdalen or Magdalene, née Newport (...

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Killigrew, Charles (1655–1724/5), theatre manager and master of the revels, was born at Maestricht on 29 December 1655. He was the first son of Thomas Killigrew (1612–1683), dramatist, groom of the bedchamber (1661–83), and master of the revels (1673–7), and Charlotte (d...

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Richard Nash (1674–1761) by Nathaniel Hone, 1750 ? The Trustees of the Holburne Museum of Art, Bath

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Nash, Richard [known as Beau Nash] (1674–1761), master of ceremonies and social celebrity, was born on 18 October 1674 at St Mary's Street, Swansea, the son of Richard Nash, a glass maker of modest means, and his wife, the niece of the royalist army officer ...

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Pace, John (b. c. 1523, d. in or before 1592), scholar and court jester, was probably the son of John Pace, a brother of Richard Pace (1483?–1536), secretary to Henry VIII, diplomat, and humanist. In 1522 the elder John Pace received 'license to exercise by deputy the office of customer … in the port of ...

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Scoggin [Scogan, Scogin, Skogyn], John (supp. fl. 1480), supposed court jester and author, was associated in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with the earlier Henry Scogan (c. 1361–1407), the friend of Chaucer; however, he may very well have been an entirely fictitious character, the ‘author’ of a jest book, which survives as ...

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Somer [Sommers], William (d. 1559), court fool, is of unknown parentage and place of origin. According to James Granger, Somer 'was some time a servant in the family of Richard Farmor, esq. of Eston Neston, in Northamptonshire' (Granger, 149), but there is no independent evidence to verify this claim. He was in ...

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William Somer (d. 1559) by unknown artist, pubd 1530-47 ? The British Library Board, Royal 2 A.XVI, f. 63v

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Wade, William (1734/5–1809), master of ceremonies, though often identified as the illegitimate son or nephew of Field Marshal George Wade (1673–1748), was more probably his great-nephew and the grandson of George's brother William Wade (1670–1732), canon of St George's Chapel, Windsor. He was educated at ...