Queen Elizabeth’s Eight Ordinary Footmen

Queen Elizabeth's spectacular signature

One of the spectacular representations of British royalty we are honored to offer in October comes in the form of a centuries-old document, hand-written and signed by one of Britain’s most beloved and revered leaders, Queen Elizabeth I. Besides her majesty’s flowing, grandiose signature – which, in and of itself, makes this document invaluable – the entirety of the order is written in her hand, detailing what seems to be a very ordinary order…and is. But the story this commonplace document tells holds its own historical weight. Addressed to her life-long Keeper of the Great Wardrobe, John Fortesque, who would have been accustomed to receiving such orders from the Queen, as he served her highness from her days as a princess until she passed away in 1603, Elizabeth orders to be delivered to each “of our eight ordinary footmen” two and one-half yards “of Crymson Velvett for there ordenary runnying coattes, and also to paie for lynynge makinge and emborderinge of the said Coates,” naming the eight recipients as Richard Clarke, James Russell, John Reade, Thomas Harvye, Francis Broughton, Edmond Ducke, John Jordan, and Brian Morrison. These footmen, although labeled “ordinary,” were anything but, as it was their charge to push the Queen’s royal triumphal chair through her many public appearances and processions.

Queen Elizabeth Going in Procession to Blackfriars in 1600

According to Roy Strong’s account, “The Cult of Elizabeth,” the ordinary footmen were distinctly dressed in lavish uniforms bearing the royal colors, including, “black skullcaps and crimson tunics embroidered with gold…jerkins with sleeves of crimson velvet with ‘our letters before and behind having the crown embroidered over the said letters’ and velvet nightcaps…” As Strong examines Elizabethan art in his study, he presents the legendary depiction, Queen Elizabeth Going in Procession to Blackfriars in 1600, in which these very uniforms can be seen on the footmen immediately behind the Queen, pushing Elizabeth “along from behind on some sort of triumphal car with a chair of state upon it.” Strong takes this imagery as evidence of an “Elizabethan version of an a l’antique triumph,” much in the same vain as the entry of Alfonso the Great into Naples in 1443. In “The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth,” John Nichols presents correspondence from a Sir William Cecill, Chancellor of Cambridge, dated July 12, 1564, providing details regarding what would come to be known as ‘The Grand Reception and Entertainment of Queen Elizabeth at Cambridge, 1564,’ stating that she intended to “come thither, wishing him to provide lodgings, and such Academical Exercises for her Entertainment as may be most agreeable to her…about the eight of August next. Recalling the date on the document we possess in-house, July 17, 1564, this timeline would connect the need for fresh uniforms to her trip to Cambridge. The “Queen Majestie” arrived at King’s College on the 5th of August to great pomp and circumstance, and one can only presume, her footmen in full, royal attire.

Is it not truly amazing what can be learned from connecting the historical dots, based on a simple order for ordinary running coats? This document comes to us from a time of royal splendor, grandiose processions, and an era when our leaders were still carried, by hand, under triumphal canopies, making their political station – and supreme power – unquestionable.

The Doc Salomon Collection

All of the items that come through RR Auction have a story. Each one is special, whether on its own or as part of a broader collection. These pieces not only tell the story of the celebrity they represent; some of these gems carry with them the story of the individual who collected them. The story behind our latest collection – the Doc Salomon collection – is one such legacy that deserves as much recognition as the pieces themselves.

Doc Salomon and Jack Warner

Through letters and autographed photos, we were able to piece together the life of a man whose name truly became synonymous with both Warner Bros Studios and Hollywood: A. M. “Doc” Solomon, a beloved friend and colleague of co-founder, Colonel Jack Warner. Having started with the fledging production studio in 1918, Doc proved a loyal and dedicated employee, quickly climbing the ranks from janitor to general manager of the Burbank, California studio. When the time came for Warner Bros to open shop across the pond, Doc was Warner’s man, and would come to be known as the face and man behind the magic of the Teddington, England branch.

During his personal and professional journey with the studio, Doc amassed a most impressive collection of memorabilia from stars and starlets who comprised his Hollywood family, including Barbara Stanwyck, John Barrymore, Roscoe Ates, Pauline Frederick, Edward G. Robinson, Jack Sharkey, Richard Bartholomew, Kay Francis, Mae West, Anna May Wong, and two of his dearest friends, James Cagney and Jack Warner.

While manning the Teddington studio in early 1944, Doc played host to the Duchess of Kent, giving her a behind-the-scenes tour of the studio and all of its twists and turns. A January 29, 1944 newspaper clipping details the highlights of the visit, including the re-recording theatre, where she saw how “six different sound tracks, each recording a separate noise, are joined into one, one noise being superimposed on the other.” Doc himself was a pivotal figure in the advent and implementation of sound into Warner Bros films, and used the very real soundtrack of WWII to experiment with auditory effects. According to Jack Warner, “Doc had secured many reels of sound effects during the London ‘Blitz’ of a few years ago, which he had sent to the home studio for incorporation into pictures in which they would fit.” Accompanying the clipping is a beautiful photo of the two at the studio, along with a letter written from York House on behalf of the Duchess.

On July 5th, 1944, Doc would write his last letter home, typing haunting words regarding the current war: “I really don’t think it will be long before this war is over and let’s hope we can all get together again. What a day that will be!” Later that day, while recording the sound effects of robot bombs at the Teddington studio, the building itself fell target to one of these destructive devices, leveling the building…with Doc inside. Virtually nothing remained, except for this legacy of photographs.

The fact that this collection still exists is a miracle; it proved resilient in the face of a force so destructive that nothing else – not even the collector – survived. In a letter dated July 14, 1944, Jack Warner wrote to Doc’s daughter, Maxine: “From what I have learned to date, the Studio was virtually demolished by the robot bomb, and I have not heard what they have been able to salvage. If Doc’s book of autographed pictures is still intact, you are most welcome to it…” In the same letter, Warner offered condolences, and the warm sentiment, “I have always considered Doc to be my best friend…I can assure you that I will miss him a great deal, for no one could have had a more loyal friend or a more loyal employee than Doc.”

Doc’s 30-plus years of commitment to Warner Bros Studios helped build the present day multi-billion dollar production company, making him an integral brick in its legendary foundation. Doc lives on through these photos and letters, each item a testament to the love and respect he garnered from his Hollywood family. Join us as we celebrate Doc Salomon’s life and legacy! www.rrauction.com