With the jousts and junketing, the tilts and tournaments, the masques and masquerades, which distinguished this palace during the reigns of Elizabeth, James the First, and Charles the First, we have nothing to do, for they took place in the palace and courtyard, and not on the river.
We note rather the boats and barges clustering round the Privy Stairs and Whitehall Stairs, the state and pageantry of the river, the carved and gilded barges, the silken pennons, the music and laughter, and the measured sweep of the oars, the oarsmen, and the more resplendent uniform of the King's barge masters as they sweep by, all scarlet and gold, and disturb the white swans on the silvery river.
The Old Palace of Westminster, though deserted now by the King and court, is lively enough with the two Houses of Parliament within its walls. The once magnificent Chapel of St. Stephen has been fitted up for the House of Commons.
Lodgings and houses for the various officials have sprung up on every vacant space, and their mean appearance detracts somewhat from the dignity of the old palace, but some are picturesque additions in their way.
The Star Chamber buildings and those of the Court of Exchequer are among these, but on the opposite side towards the Abbey a number of meaner buildings have been erected, including one or two taverns.
The remains of the old garden, now called Cotton Garden, still present a verdant appearance towards the river. At the extreme end of the building are the Parliament Stairs; a narrow passage leads down to them, passing by the side of Prince's Chamber.Next page: The Gunpowder Plot