A joyous day was it for Windsor and great were the preparations made by its loyal inhabitants for a suitable reception to their sovereign. At an early hour the town was thronged with strangers from the neighbouring villages, and later on crowds began to arrive from London, some having come along the highway on horseback, and others having rowed in various craft up the river. All were clad in holiday attire, and the streets presented an appearance of unwonted bustle and gaiety. The Maypole in Bachelors' Acre was hung with flowers. Several booths, with flags floating above them, were erected in the same place, where ale, mead, and hypocras, together with cold pasties, hams, capons, and large joints of beef and mutton, might be obtained. Mummers and minstrels were in attendance, and every kind of diversion was going forward. Here was one party wrestling; there another, casting the bar; on this side a set of rustics were dancing a merry round with a bevy of buxom Berkshire lasses; on that stood a fourth group, listening to a youth playing on the recorders. At one end of the Acre large fires were lighted, before which two whole oxen were roasting, provided in honour of the occasion by the mayor and burgesses of the town; at the other, butts were set against which the Duke of Shoreditch and his companions, the five marquises, were practising. The duke himself shot admirably, and never failed to hit the bulls-eye; but the great feat of the day was performed by Morgan Fenwolf, who thrice split the duke's shafts as they stuck in the mark.
"Well done !" cried the duke, as he witnessed the achievement; "why, you shoot as bravely as Herne the Hunter. Old wives tell us he used to split the arrows of his comrades in that fashion."
"He must have learnt the trick from Herne himself in the forest," cried one of the bystanders.
Morgan Fenwolf looked fiercely round in search of the speaker, but could not discern him. He, however, shot no more, and refusing a cup of hypocras offered him by Shoreditch, disappeared among the crowd.
Soon after this the booths were emptied, the bar thrown down, the Maypole and the butts deserted, and the whole of Bachelors' Acre cleared of its occupants -- except those who were compelled to attend to the mighty spits turning before the fires -- by the loud discharge of ordnance from the castle gates, accompanied by the ringing of bells, announcing that the mayor and burgesses of Windsor, together with the officers of the Order of the Garter, were setting forth to Datchet Bridge to meet the royal procession.
Those who most promptly obeyed this summons beheld the lower castle gate, built by the then reigning monarch, open, while from it issued four trumpeters clad in emblazoned coats, with silken bandrols depending from their horns, blowing loud fanfares. They were followed by twelve henchmen, walking four abreast, arrayed in scarlet tunics, with the royal cypher H.R. worked in gold on the breast, and carrying gilt poleaxes over their shoulders. Next came a company of archers, equipped in helm and brigandine, and armed with long pikes, glittering, as did their steel accoutrements, in the bright sunshine. They were succeeded by the bailiffs and burgesses of the town, riding three abreast, and enveloped in gowns of scarlet cloth; after which rode the mayor of Windsor in a gown of crimson velvet, and attended by two footmen, in white and red damask, carrying white wands. The mayor was followed by a company of the town guard, with partisans over the shoulders. Then came the sheriff of the county and his attendants. Next followed the twenty-six alms-knights (for such was their number), walking two and two, and wearing red mantles, with a scutcheon of Saint George on the shoulder, but without the garter surrounding it. Then came the thirteen petty canons, in murrey-coloured gowns, with the arms of Saint George wrought in a roundel on the shoulder; then the twelve canons, similarly attired; and lastly the dean of the college, in his cope.
A slight pause ensued, and the chief officers of the Garter made their appearance. First walked the Black Rod, clothed in a russet-coloured mantle, faced with alternate panes of blue and red, emblazoned with flower-de-luces of gold and crowned lions. He carried a small black rod, the ensign of his office, surmounted with the lion of England in silver. After the Black Rod came the Garter, habited in a gown of crimson satin, paned and emblazoned like that of the officer who preceded him, hearing a white crown with a sceptre upon it, and having a gilt crown in lieu of a cap upon his head. The Garter was followed by the register, a grave personage, in a black gown, with a surplice over it, covered by a mantelet of furs. Then came the chancellor of the Order, in his robe of murrey-coloured velvet lined with sarcenet, with a badge on the shoulder consisting of a gold rose, enclosed in a garter wrought with pearls of damask gold. Lastly came the Bishop of Winchester, the prelate of the Order, wearing his mitre, and habited in a robe of crimson velvet lined with white taffeta, faced with blue, and embroidered on the right shoulder with a scutcheon of Saint George, encompassed with the Garter, and adorned with cordons of blue silk mingled with gold.
Brought up by a rear guard of halberdiers, the procession moved slowly along Thames Street, the houses of which, as well as those in Peascod Street, were all more or less decorated -- the humbler sort being covered with branches of trees, intermingled with garlands of flowers, while the better description was hung with pieces of tapestry, carpets, and rich stuffs. Nor should it pass unnoticed that the loyalty of Bryan Bowntance, the host of the Garter, had exhibited itself in an arch thrown across the road opposite his house, adorned with various coloured ribbons and flowers, in the midst of which was a large shield, exhibiting the letters, b. and h. (in mystic allusion to Henry and Anne Boleyn) intermingled and surrounded by love-knots.