We’re all accustomed to seeing dignitaries, film stars and so on walking along a red carpet, and know it’s a sign of great respect, courtesy or just plain flattery. According to Wikipedia :-
“The earliest known reference to walking a red carpet in literature is in the play Agamemnon by Aeschylus, written in 458 BC. When the title character returns from Troy, he is greeted by his vengeful wife Clytemnestra who offers him a red path to walk upon:-
“ ‘Now my beloved, step down from your chariot, and let not your foot, my lord, touch the Earth. Servants, let there be spread before the house he never expected to see, where Justice leads him in, a crimson path.’
“Agamemnon, knowing that only gods walk on such luxury, responds with trepidation:
“ ‘I am a mortal, a man; I cannot trample upon these tinted splendours without fear thrown in my path.’ “
From the above, I imagine that Aeschylus wasn’t the first one to know about red carpets, just the first to mention such a thing. So how much earlier did they in fact come about? I don’t know, but I was curious enough to wonder when the first reference appeared in England.
I’m afraid I could go no further back than 16th July, 1377, and the coronation of Richard II. According to King Richard II by Bryan Bevan (and various other sources): “Scarlet cloth had been laid down by William de Latymer, the king’s almoner, from the hall of the Palace of Westminster to the Abbey. So the boy, Richard, wearing white robes and a pair of red velvet shoes with fleurs-de-lis worked on them in pearls, passed in procession to the Abbey.”
Finding an illustration of this first coronation procession to the Abbey has defied me. There appear to only be images of the boy king on the throne during the ceremony, and one afterwards, when the exhausted boy was carried shoulder-high from the Abbey. No glimpse of the “red cloth”.
As for finding any medieval illustration of a red carpet of any description, all I could locate was another from the reign of Richard II – concerning the death, on 7th June 1394, of his much loved wife, Anne of Bohemia. This shows only that the artist decided to furnish her bedchamber with a patterned red carpet. Whether or not this signifies her “film star” status, I don’t know.
So, was Richard’s coronation the first time in England? I doubt it, but must appeal to you for any earlier references.