December 15, 1604.
The face of England is changing.
Since the arrival of the Stuart dynasty in London last year in the person of HRH King James I (VI of Scotland), owners at country houses and other important buildings across the country have been using the occasion to engage in a bit of architectural spring cleaning.
“Tudor architecture, and Elizabethan architecture, for that matter, are so terribly last-century,” said Lord Whatchamacallit, the owner of a large estate in West Thingummyshire. “The whole half-timbering motif just screams out its obsolescence. These are exciting times, so it’s high time we had some exciting architecture to go with them.”
Lord Whatchamacallit is renovating his main residence to reflect what experts are already referring to as “Jacobean” architecture, with an emphasis on pilasters, arches, and parapets. Nor is Lord Whatchamacallit alone: this year’s issue of the Daily Architect reports fifty-seven manor houses across the country are undergoing similar renovations. Fifteen more houses under construction have issued change orders to include new features more in line with the new style.
This spate of activity has been a boon for the building industry, which has suffered amid the declining economic situation of the past several years, as well as the relative stability of the major aristocratic families.
“We haven’t seen this much activity in the industry since Queen Elizabeth’s early years,” said builder Egbert Entwistle, who is overseeing work on Whatchamacallit Hall. “Or for that matter since the Wars of the Roses. The more turnover there is in the aristocracy, the more often these houses change hands–which means the more people there are wanting to add their own personal touches. And that means more business for us.”
Of course the new style without its critics. The Earl of Greater Pipsqueak suggested the new style was more evolutionary than revolutionary. “Sure, we’ve got pilasters and arches going up everywhere,” he said, “though I notice a lot of the ornamentation hasn’t changed that much.”
Another critic, Lord Atwitsend, had less to say about the new style but more about the building boom driving it. “I wonder how many of these building projects represent spending to accommodate changing needs, and how many of them are just updating for the sake of updating. At any rate, it makes you wonder just who comes up with these new styles. And what authority they have to inflict them on the rest of us.”
Asked about his personal tastes with respect to the new schools of architectural thought, Mr. Entwistle professed ambivalence. “It doesn’t really matter to me what they want. If they want pilasters all over the place, what do I care? This whole dynastic changeover has been wonderful for business, and I can’t help thinking it wouldn’t hurt to change dynasties more often.”
Mr. Entwistle’s trial for sedition and high treason is set for next week in Star Chamber.