Reining Cavaliers

Lucy Worsley discusses the importance of the art and discipline of horsemanship to the men who became known as the Cavaliers.

Everybody has a mental picture of the Cavaliers, the gorgeously-dressed supporters of Charles I. We see them through the eyes of Sir Anthony Van Dyck, as his portraits of the aristocrats of the Stuart court suggest a coherent group linked by their clothes, behaviour and ideology. However, the technical art of horsemanship from which they take their popular name is not widely understood. Manège, or the art of teaching horses to dance, was a spectator sport requiring high expenditure and enormous specially-built riding houses, some of which survive to this day. Manège had a political significance that goes beyond its image as courtly pastime. Horsemanship was seen as a metaphor for the self-control of passion necessary for a courtier to make a graceful appearance in a life where an audience was never absent.

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