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How much did things cost in the medieval period….?

 

Well, I recently read that Edward III paid “not quite $1,200” for Sir Robert de Clynton’s war horse. Right. Very helpful. I have no idea how that would translate to today’s dosh. Anyway, while searching for more on the subject, I came upon this site which is interesting, if not always easy to work out. It’s all very well to know how much was paid for something in, say, 1284, but how much would that be now? What would the ratio be?

The author admits to difficulties, and that the prices are things that he’s located but not necessarily researched. That’s fair enough. I wouldn’t be able to research them either! I have trouble enough with today’s currency without floundering around converting it into what it would possibly have been hundreds of years ago.

But I hope the site is helpful to some of you, at least!

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Fancy a little shot at queek….?

a queek board

Queek/queak is a strange word, with at least three very different meanings of which I am aware.

Since the early 18th century, queak has meant a high-pitched squeak or screech, such as the call of a bird or squeal of a pig.

On the other hand, Queek Headtaker is “the legendary and much-feared Lord of the City of Pillars, Great Warlord of Clan Mors and the personal right-claw of Warlord Gnawdwell, the one and true Grand Ruler of Clan Mors.” This is from Warhammer, the wargame.

Thirdly, however, queek is a board game that was popular in the 14th century. It involved two players and a black-and-white chequered board like a chess or draughts/drafts. There was enthusiastic betting on this game, in which pebbles were thrown carefully on to the board, and money was laid upon whether it would land on black or white. It should have been straightforward. But, as always with the human race, things were rigged. There was a case from 1381 when an embroiderer from the Ropery district of London was indicted for corrupting a queek board, in which all the white squares were imperceptibly sunken, “so that all those who played the said board…were maliciously and deceitfully deprived of their property”.

Naughty embroiderer. But it just goes to prove that when it comes to betting, you can never trust anyone!

The above case is taken from London: a Travel Guide Through Time, by Dr Matthew Green. The image was found on Pinterest.

Medieval fun at the feast….

 

The above scene is one of my favourites. Modern, but a wonderful take on a medieval feast. The details are exquisite—think Bruegel—and very funny, although juggling with chicks is probably not to modern taste.

I don’t know where it comes from.

An Honest Bed: The Scene of Life and Death in Late Medieval England.

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Death bed of Richard Whittington…London 1442-1443.

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A link to an interesting article covering all things about the medieval bed including childbed, deathbed and much, much  more …

 

 

A fabulous collection of Hundred Years War gold coins….

Coins from the past are always fascinating, but gold coins in such mostly spectacular condition (the Isladulcie Collection) are amazing beyond belief. It will be auctioned on 26th June 2019 at Spink. The collection doesn’t only cover the Hundred Years War, because it stretches from 1346 to 1483 under Edward IV.

To read a lot more about it, and see a lot of illustrations, go to this article.

The first “red carpet” in England….?

 

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.

Britain’s Most Historic Towns (2)

This excellent Channel Four programme, presented by Professor Alice Roberts, with Dr. Ben Robinson in the helicopter, has returned for a new series. The early venues were Dover (World War Two, visiting the underground base, concentrating on the retreat from Dunkirk and subsequent Channel defence, meeting some survivors, wearing ATS uniform and riding in a tank), her home city Bristol (Georgian, with slavery, gin, chocolate and great architecture featured) and Cardiff (where coal and the Marquess of Bute brought much prosperity in the Edwardian era, before it could supplant Machyllenth as Wales’ capital).

The series then moved on to Oxford to illustrate the Civil War sieges, where Alice Roberts’ Worsleyesque love of dressing up saw her in New Model Army uniform, playing real tennis and viewing Charles I’s ersatz capital. Episode five illustrated Plantagenet Canterbury, featuring St. Augustine, Becket, Chaucer, the Black Death and Peasants’ Revolt. We were also shown a copy of the Magna Carta. The last show was about Stewart Stirling, where she visited the Castle and walls, brewed beer, played with a replica antique football and visited a well, illustrating how individual Stewart monarchs were vulnerable, even to internal opposition, but the line was secure.

Some dilgirunt for His Majesty, if you please….!

Medieval dishes

Don’t you just love it when glossaries cross-reference you from the word you seek, to another word, which then refers you back to the first word – with no definition or explanation whatsoever?

I have just been looking at this culinary glossary, seeking more information about an intriguing medieval dish known as ‘dilgirunt’. Intriguing because of its unusual history. But, when looking up dilgirunt, I am referred to ‘malpigeryum’. Just that dilgirunt = malpigeryum = dilgirunt. Not a word about what these words actually mean. But from other sources, I know that dilgirunt is a sort of spiced chicken pottage/porridge/gruel, and that if lard/suet is added to it during cooking, it becomes malpigeryum. But in spite of my quibble about the above glossary, the site is nevertheless good for reference.

So that we know what we’re talking about with dilgirunt, here is an old recipe:-

‘Take almonde mylk, and draw hit up thik with vernage, and let hit boyle, and braune of capons braied and put therto; and cast therto sugre, claves (cloves), maces, pynes, and ginger mynced; and take chekyns parboyled and chopped, and pul of the skin, and boyle al ensemble, and, in the settynge doune of the fire, put therto a lytel vynegur alaied with pouder of ginger, and a lytel water of everose, and make the potage hanginge, and serve hit forth.’ — Household Ordinances (Society of Antiquaries), page 466.

Well, I hope you can follow the above, because although I did find a modern English version, I failed to make a note of where, and now cannot find it anywhere. Sorry about that.

The yellow-highlighted entry in the illustration below is a lengthy explanation of Dilgirunt. It is from Munimenta Gildhallae Londoniensis – Liber Albus, Liber Custumarum et Liber Horn, in Archivis Gildhallae Asservati – Volume 2. Liber Custumarum, with Extracts from the Cottonian MS. Claudius, D.II.

From as early as Edward I, and at least until George IV, diligrunt was traditionally served at coronations. Providing it was the jealously guarded right of the Barons Bardolf, Lords of the Manor of Addington, near present day Croydon. I’m not sure how the tradition first arose, but the barons were proud of their right. And when the Leigh family became Lords of Addington, they inherited the right to provide dilgirunt at the monarch’s coronation. Finally the right passed to the Archbishops of Canterbury, when they became lords of the village. I do not know if it was served at the coronation of our present queen. It would be interesting to know.

Coronation of George IV, 1821

This extract from the National Archives provides a description of the 1377 coronation ceremony of Richard II. It demonstrates how influential individuals and power groups wanted to secure their right to be involved in a medieval coronation ceremony. Interesting reading, and sometimes quite curious and quaint. For instance, if you go down the list to Number 15, you find:

“. . .William de Bardolf tenant of certain lands in Adynton. Petition to find a man in the king’s kitchen to make a mess called ‘dilgirunt’, and if lard be added it is called ‘malpigeryuin’. Claim admitted, and service performed. . .”

Three separate dishes of dilgirunt were then provided. One for the monarch, one for the Archbishop of Canterbury, and one for an individual the monarch chose to nominate.

It is interesting to think that if the dish was ceremonially served at all coronations from Edward I to George IV, then it must have featured when Richard III was crowned. A little research soon revealed that it was. At least, I think  that’s what I understand from a “dilgirunt” reference to The Coronation of Richard III : the Extant Documents, edited by Sutton and Hammond. (Gloucester: Alan Sutton; New York: St Martin’s, 1983) I wonder if Richard liked the dainty dish that was set before him? You can read a lot more about his coronation here.

If dilgirunt was offered to Henry VII, I can only hope a stray chicken bone stuck in his throat!

Henry VII by Luke Harookhi

 

Digging up Britain’s Past: By George, I think she’s got it

This second episode of this Channel Five series, presented by Alex Langlands and Helen Skelton, took us to Elsyng Palace, a North London house built by Henry VIII but with question marks about its precise venue until recently. Very unusually, the presenters clearly stated that the “King’s Great Matter” concerned not a divorce from Catherine of Aragon but an annulment (see the Shavian subtitle for my surprise), before they explained how Henry ran short of money and sought to extract it from the great monasteries, such as Rievaulx Abbey, which were thus dissolved. A visit to the Royal Mint, now at Llantrisant, showed how he debased the coinage from 92% silver to 25% and the plating over the King’s portrait wore off leaving him the moniker “Old Coppernose”.

Elsyng came into use because it was more private that Henry’s inner London palaces and because he could take his heir away from the unhealthy conditions that prevailed in the capital. In fact, Edward VI learned of his succession at Elsyng and spent his first night as King there.

A very detailed, interesting and informative thesis with a lot about Henry VI, Edward IV and Richard III…

Greyfriars, Leicester. showing probably site of Richard III’s original tomb. Drawing by University of Leicester. (not included in thesis)

There are few more fertile sources for intricate information about the medieval past (and other areas too, of course) than theses that have been published online. A prime website for these is White Rose eTheses on lineof which I have written before. I am mentioning the site again now because of finding a particularly absorbing 2016 thesis by Anna Maria Duch for her PhD at the University of York. It is titled The Royal Funerary and Burial Ceremonies of Medieval English Kings, 1216-1509 and can be found here.

It deals with all our medieval monarchs, but contains a great deal of interest to those who study the Wars of the Roses, and in particular Henry VI, Edward IV and, of course, Richard III. There is a long discussion of Richard’s motives in moving Henry VI’s remains from Chertsey, and again about whether or not he “disposed” of his nephews. The age-old question of that urn crops up as well.

Other kings aren’t neglected, I promise.

This is a book-length work, and needs close attention to be fully appreciated. A recommended read.

 

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