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London sits in the fertile south-east of England at an ancient crossing point of the River Thames. For most of its history, ships have been able to navigate up to the city, giving it its status as gateway to the world and fuelling its prosperity. London is currently the largest city in the country by a huge margin, with a population heading towards 200,000, and this dominance has been the case pretty much from the time the Kingdom of England.

In the summer anyone who can afford it leaves London, to avoid the heat, the smells and the plague, which is worse when the weather is good, and in the early 1590s there has been a lot of good weather. In summer the Queen goes on “Progress”, a tour of one of the regions of the country. The law courts stop sitting, the great lords retreat to their estates and the playing companies go on tour, so there is much less to do.

Foreign visitors and people from the east and south coast will likely arrive by ship and disembark downriver at Greenwich or come up to the port itself. Most visitors will arrive on foot or horseback via a road system stretching in every direction, many routes still following the path of the ancient Roman roads.

London Bridge is the only bridge over the Thames and while it has shopping opportunities along it and you can have fun trying to identify dead traitors from the heads stuck on poles at the south entrance, it isn’t always convenient, especially if you are staying in Westminster. Plus you might be sharing passage with herds and flocks of sheep, cattle and poultry from Kent and Surrey being brought into town for sale or slaughter. It is however one of the great sights of the city, with its twenty huge arches towering above the river.

If you are staying more than three days, the innkeeper will also register you with the city authorities, as is required to do this yourself if you make other arrangements. Regulation of Inns is pretty strict and any complaint will be taken seriously, so you should be reasonably relaxed. Foreign visitors often comment on how clean English Inns are.

If you are visiting as an agent of your Lord, you will be put up in his London House, perhaps on the Strand by the river. If you are dropping your eldest son off for a term at the Inns of Court to learn to be a gentleman, they will put you up. For those without such connections, you can also get room and board in a private house easily enough.

The Baron James Kurtnay as friends in 1590.

Ludger Bedard

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