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Herne was Richard III’s huntsman….?

from the Royal Collection Trust, Samuel Ireland (1744-1800)
The original oak was blown down in the 19th century and replaced by one donated by
Queen Victoria

Herne and his oak tree seem to have been associated with Windsor Castle Great Park for a very long time. The Sun “….Meanwhile, in the grounds of Windsor Great Park, it has been said you can sometimes spot the ghost of Herne, who was a huntsman for Richard III….”

Really? Methinks the newspaper is mistaken, because Herne goes back a lot farther than Richard III.

Herne the Hunter by Andrew Howat, 1976

Mind you, if you go to ancient pages , it’s only about a century earlier. “….Is there a true story behind the legend of Herne the Hunter? There are several versions of an old tale revealing the faith of Herne, who was a huntsman employed by King Richard II….”

Others will assert that Herne goes no further back than Shakespeare, but then again, maybe he’s the antlered god of the Celts, Cernunnos.

Cernunnos on Gundestrup Cauldron

Whatever the truth, I don’t think Herne was one of Richard III’s huntsman. Although he may have made an appearance to that ill-omened king, of course.

The Devonshire Tapestries showing scenes of medieval hunting….

 

The Devonshire Hunting Tapestry: Boar and Bear Hunt, 1425-1430,
probably made in Arras, France. Museum no. T.204-1957.
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The four 15th-century Devonshire Tapestries, which depict a Boar and Bear Hunt, a Swan and Otter Hunt, a Deer Hunt and a Falconry Hunt, were accepted by HM Government in lieu of tax payable on the estate of the 10th Duke of Devonshire and allocated to the Victoria and Albert Museum.

To see the Boar and Bear Hunt, go to https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/the-devonshire-hunting-tapestries-boar-and-bear-hunt/hwFmCcIwXAxYCw

For the Swan and Otter Hunt, go to https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/the-devonshire-hunting-tapestries-swan-and-otter-hunt/XgGfQdqOEsjN1A?hl=en

For the Deer Hunt, go to https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Deer_Hunt,_V%26A_Museum.jpg

For the Falconry tapestry, go to http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O94142/falconry-tapestry-unknown/

Visit to Rayleigh and Hadleigh – 20th July 2019

via Visit to Rayleigh and Hadleigh – 20th July 2019

THE MEDIEVAL DOGGIE AND EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT THEM….

UPDATED POST ON sparkypus.com A Medieval Potpourri at https://sparkypus.com/2020/05/14/the-medieval-doggie-and-everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-them-2/

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It’s obvious from the amount of depictions of dogs from the medieval period they were highly prized by our ancestors, both for work and play. They are everywhere! Their delightful little figures pop up on tombs, heraldry and manuscripts regularly.

Some think, when depicted on a tomb effigy of a lady especially, they represent fidelity.  Of course..that figures..but casting that aside I believe that actual pets were being represented unlike the lions, representing strength,  that were found at the feet of the effigies of males.  Indeed some of their names are on the tombs.  Lady Cassy’s little dog, ‘Terri’ was shown and named on her brass at Deerhurst, Gloucestershire and since the brass was commissioned by Lady Cassy after the death of her husband ‘it is likely that the name of the dog represents personal initiative on her part'( 1 ).  Another dog named on an effigy at Ingham was “Jakke”.

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Lady Cassy’s little dog, Terri, wearing a collar of bells.  Deerhurst, Gloucestershire.

Many wore collars festooned with bells such as the dogs on Bishop Langham tomb instead of the usual lions found on a male’s tomb.  Richard Willoughly specifically requested that bells adorn the collar of the dog at the bottom of his wife’s effigy.

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Richard Willoughby specifically requested the dog on his wife’s effigy to be adorned with bells.  Wollaton, Notts.

Blanche Mortimer’s effigy has a little dog, now sadly headless, peeping out of her spread skirts on her tomb at Much Marcle, Herefordshire.

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Blanche Mortimer‘s little dog, still with her on her monument.  Much Marcle, Herefordshire.  

And there they are, for all posterity at their mistresses and masters feet, looking for all the world as if they are about to roll over for a belly scratch at any time.

The dogs that lived in upper class households undoubtedly were extremely lucky and led pampered lives but hopefully even the poorest households valued their dogs or ‘mungrell curres’  as a 13th century writer put it.  For the many other aspects of medieval doggies  lives see this article, covering everything you ever wanted to know about our canine friends…. I must say I feel for the poor  ‘dog boy’ who had to be in the kennels at all times, even nights, to prevent the dogs fighting –  Good luck with that! – to monks complaining that dogs and puppies ‘oftentimes trouble the service by their barkings, and sometimes tear the church books’..

image.pngPiero della Francesca – detail of the dogs from St Sigismund and Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatestaimage.png

Dogge eyeing up a cat…14th century manuscript..

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Alaunt with a posh collar…

Please see updated post at https://sparkypus.com/2020/05/14/the-medieval-doggie-and-everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-them-2/

You might also like to read further about Blanche Mortimer and her tomb at https://sparkypus.com/2020/05/14/the-tomb-of-blanche-mortimer-lady-grandison/

  1. English Church Monuments in the Middle Ages p307 Nigel Saul

The legend of Fowlescombe Manor….

Fowlescombe Manor

It is a fact that in this modern age most of us frown upon the ancient practice of hunting with hounds, whether on horseback or not, but in times gone by, such things were commonplace and accepted. I’m not here to promote a debate on the rights and wrongs of hunting, but to mention a legend that I have just happened upon. It may be something that most of you know already, but it was new to me.

Fowlescombe Manor, near Ugborough in Devon, is now an ivy-covered 16th-century ruin, but its records go back to 1453, when a Sir Thomas Fowell, “a member of the king’s court” (Edward IV? Richard III? Or, horrors, Henry VII?) is recorded as being born at the manor. I have not found him anywhere, but the Fowell family was definitely associated with the manor, and a William Fowell (Fowhill) was born there in 1408. This means there must have been a house there prior to 1408, but how far back, I do not know. Anyway, my ramblings around the internet took me to this website, where I found the legend:-

“….A pack of hounds was kept at kennels at Fowlescombe for many years. It is said that a kennel-master used sometimes to keep the hounds hungry so that they would hunt well the following day, but that one night, when visiting his hounds which were making a lot of noise, he failed to wear his usual jacket, and was eaten by the hounds, only his boots being found the next morning….”

There is a song about the story here.

Such an awful fate serves the kennelmaster right, did I hear you say? Well, probably, but by now my interest in Fowlescombe Manor had unearthed more about the house. It is one of three in Devon that may have been Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle’s Baskerville Hall. The others are Hayford Hall, west of Buckfastleigh, and Brook Manor, a few miles east of Hayford Hall. See more here.

There is another Baskerville-type legend attached to Brook Hall, and you can read it at here. This one, of course, is very much like the Sherlock Holmes legend of Baskerville Hall, and how the dreadful hound first came about.

One thing seems evident… when you’re in that neck of the woods, don’t upset any large canine you may encounter!

And on a lighter note:

Mr Fox’s Hunt Breakfast on Xmas Day (1900) by Harry B. Neilson

Richard III had three lymers with his hart-hounds….

The Hunt in the Forest (also known as The Hunt by Night or The Hunt)
by the Italian artist Paolo Uccello, circa 1470 

For the purposes of the historical novel upon which I am at present working, I have recently been looking into the complicated business of medieval hunting. By which I mean the sort of hunting indulged in by royalty and the aristocracy. The poor man sneaking off with some midwinter game has been left well alone – and I hope he enjoyed every nourishing mouthful of his illicit stew!

I know nothing about modern day hunting, wherever in the world it takes place, nor do I wish to, but things were very different during medieval times. Then, hunting was much admired, and deemed to make men good and noble. I think my 21st-century attitude would soon lead to me being pursued to a very sticky end in the heart of some royal forest or other! That unlikely scenario aside, those long-gone huntsmen knew all the vast numbers of intricate rules and very precise words that can be quite mystifying to us today. Especially given the happy-go-lucky medieval spelling!

The hounds are still today described variously as lymers/limers, raches (running hounds), greyhounds, alaunts (large haunts), spaniels, mastiffs (called curs), terriers (small curs). And these are only some.

Lymers (scent hounds) appear to have played a very significant role, and I always thought (from the frequency with which they are mentioned) that they were numerous. But, in The Hound and the Hawk, by John Cummins, it is recorded that “…Richard III’s Master of the Hart-hounds received a feeding allowance for forty dogs and three lymers…” The king himself only had only three lymers with his hart-hounds? These must have been very valuable hounds indeed.

Cummins goes on “…The lymer (French limier, German leit-hund, Spanish can de traella) had a special role in detecting the whereabouts of the hart on the morning of the hunt, when the huntsman in charge of the lymer went out with it on a leash in order to report back to the assembly. It was vital to locate the hart as precisely as possible without disturbing it; the essential qualities of a lymer, therefore, were strong scenting abilities and silence. It was often housed apart from the other hounds, sometimes in the huntsman’s own accommodation….”

Valuable and pampered. I wonder if Richard knew these three lymers? He must have done. And their names, I imagine.

Cummins again: “…Under Richard III, the Master of the Hart-hounds was allowed 3s 3d a day ‘for the mete of forty dogs and twelve greyhounds, and threepence for three lymers’…” So, in England at least (it may have been different on the continent) lymers were a separate and larger breed of hound.

Looking at illustrations, it often seems that medieval lymers were an early type of bloodhound, and that as the years passed into the Renaissance period, they were more definitely bloodhounds as we know them today.

If you wish to know all the minutiae of high-class medieval hunting, then Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York, wrote an excellent book that he presented to Henry V, when Prince of Wales. The book is called The Master of Game, and can be read in its entirety here. And if you want to see all the different types of dogs and hounds, then go to this article, which is packed full of colourful illustrations.

Bestwood Park, where Richard used to hunt….

I can’t say that this article is all that informative, or, indeed, erudite, but it is about Bestwood Park, which as we all know was a favourite hunting park for many of our monarchs. Including Richard, of course, and he does get a mention.

If nothing else, the wintry illustrations show what it may have been like if Richard chose to hunt, or even just ride, there during the colder months.

I remember Bestwood from my teens, when I lived in nearby Hucknall. I cycled there at dusk one summer evening, and was greatly spooked by a creepy old building set among thick trees. Not for the faint-hearted!

The female of the species was as deadly as the male. Well, almost….

ladies watching jousting

When we think of medieval women, in particular the ladies, we are inclined to label them a little as is the following two illustrations. Simpering, sighing and generally being soppy over their menfolk. As above. There they are at a tournament, looking star-struck, and only good for making cow-eyes at the men and presenting the prizes. Or perhaps being fawned over by one of said menfolk. I wonder, is that a real bird she’s holding?

Or is it more likely she’d be petting a dear little squirrel, while her chap brandishes a ring and a fearsome hawk. Hmm, on reflection. The ring’s acceptable, I suppose, but I think I’d rather have the hawk than a squirrel. The latter are nasty little varmints. I think the lady’s hound knows who’s better off.

Luttrell Psalter - my lady has a squirrel

So, the above is generally how we view these well-born ladies. Decorative, dim and dull. It’s the men who were brave and courageous, shielding their womenfolk and generally being Knights in Shining White Armour. However, a quick trip around Google Images soon reveals that there was another side to the medieval female of the species. They went hunting with the men, not to watch and sigh prettily over their heroes, but to take part alongside them. Sometimes they went out in all-female groups, and bagged quarry of their own. They handled bows and arrows, crossbows, spears, swords and whatever else, and sometimes even wore armour and fought alongside the men!

By the way, why are the two ladies at the back wearing those odd hooded masks?

Medieval_women_as_warriors-287x450

There is even an illustration of a queen indulging in a little bricklaying! OK, maybe that’s be to be taken with a grain of salt, but even so, it is clear that in general, these fine ladies were not so decorative, dim and dull after all. 

bricklaying queen

Perhaps it just suits our romantic present-day selves to view the past with a rosy glow; to see the noble ladies of the medieval period as if they all stepped from a Mills & Boon novel. They didn’t, they were as courageous and capable as the men . . . but with hardly any of the rights and freedom.

 

 

 

Was Roland de Velville the son of Henry VII….?

henry-vii-london-bridge

The following article is necessarily filled with supposition, inference and sneaking suspicion. The result of smoke and mirrors, you ask? Well, I think it is all much more substantial than that, as I hope to explain in the coming paragraphs.

Today (25th June) in 1545, died a man by the name of Roland de Velville (or Vielleville, Veleville, Vieilleville, and other variations). He crops up at regular intervals in connection with the first Tudor king, Henry VII. Why? Because of a persistent whisper that Roland was Henry’s illegitimate son. Well, his son, but no one can really categorically state he was illegitimate. All that can be claimed is that he was born sometime during Henry’s exile in Brittany between 1471 and 1485, and that when he arrived in England he was soon rumoured to be Henry’s unacknowledged child, born any time from about 1472 on, when Henry himself was only fourteen or fifteen.

It needs to be mentioned here that medieval kings usually acknowledged any offspring fathered before their official royal marriages, so there would not appear to be any reason why Henry would not admit to Roland. (I can think of at least one very good reason, but will save that until the end of this article.)

Roland was a member of the Breton nobility, an écuyer or esquire who may have accompanied Henry on the invasion of 1485. It is not known whether or not the boy fought at Bosworth, but my guess would be that he was probably too young. However, in 1489 he was certainly old enough to be in Sir John Cheyne’s retinue for the Breton expedition commanded by Sir Robert Willoughby.

1489-brittany

 The comment has been made that Roland was an ‘almost obsessive’ jouster, and was closely involved with the king’s falcons. It seems probable that he accompanied Henry VII when he went hunting and hawking. He appears to have been tolerated by English aristocrats, who must have been aware that he was favoured by the king. If that were not the case, I doubt Roland would have come even close to tournaments and the like. Roland’s life style would have been expensive, but Henry supported him, granting occasional gifts and allowing him an income from the royal revenues. Roland held no official position, he was simply there, enjoying himself, participating in royal pastimes and generally floating along. As we would all like to, given the chance.

Conjecture about him must have been rife, but that was all it amounted to. Conjecture. Because no one was party to the facts, not even Roland himself. Or so I guess, because his character was such that I doubt he’d have held his tongue and been discreet. He appears to have been of an unruly temperament, headstrong, irksome, arrogant and inclined to indulge in slander. Not at all like his subtle father. Well, rumoured father.

battle-of-roncevaux-pass-large

Might Roland have been named after the great 11th-century hero, Roland of Roncevaux? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roland) If Henry Tudor really was his father, it strikes me as very much in keeping with Henry’s grand ideas concerning his legendary ancestry. After all, did he not give the name Arthur to his first son by Elizabeth of York?

It was not until the reign of his “half-brother”, Henry VIII, that Roland received any real advancement. From Henry VII he had been given this and that in the way of minor money, and had been kept at royal expense, but there was nothing worthwhile. Except, of course, for being knighted at the Battle of Blackheath in June 1497. But he was still Breton, not English. It was to be 1512 before he received that acknowledgement.

 battle-of-blackheath-1497

Battle of Blackheath

 On the death of Henry VII on 21st April 1509, the new 17-year-old king Henry VIII did not exactly shower Roland with brotherly goodies. Within weeks (3rd July 1509) Roland was appointed Constable of Beaumaris Castle on the Isle of Anglesey, and was given, during pleasure, an annuity of £20. After twenty-five years or so of luxury at court, Roland was on his way to Wales pdq, as the jargon goes. Young Henry clearly did not want his awkward kinsman around. Tudor angst required being rid of anyone of dangerous royal blood, and Roland, if he was indeed a half-sibling, would almost certainly make Henry VIII twitchy. Send him away to the sticks, and if he became a problem, an accident might befall him. At least, that is how I interpret it. Especially, perhaps, as Roland was said to greatly resemble Henry.

 

Hmm, the above portrait of Henry VIII at eighteen (right) doesn’t look like the ogre we now know and, er, love. Indeed, he looks almost identical to his father at that age (above left). But while we know how Henry VII changed as he grew older, remaining lean and almost gaunt, it has to be said that Henry VIII changed a whole lot more, becoming the odious, gross King Hal who was so obsessed with producing male heirs that he was prepared to get through six wives in the process. Did Roland change in the same way? Not the six wives part, of course, but might the Constable of Beaumaris Castle become as awful and bloated as his half-brother the king?

This latter point raises an interesting question. Let us imagine that Roland and Henry were indeed half-brothers. It is generally accepted that for looks Henry VIII took after his maternal grandfather, the Yorkist king Edward IV (who was also tall and handsome, but became gross in his later years). If this were so, how could Roland also look like Edward IV? There was no blood connection. If the resemblance between the two half-siblings were that pronounced as to cause comment, then it has to be wondered if, perhaps, similar tall, handsome, “reddish-golden” looks were also to be found on Henry VII’s side? To my eyes, the first Tudor king and his mother have “Beaufort” stamped upon them. Some of Henry VII’s portraits are interchangeable with his mother. Both have high foreheads and cheekbones, small chins, hooded eyes and a general resemblance to the weasel. Put him in a wimple, and there she is!

What we do not know, of course, is what the earlier Tudors looked like. There are no portraits of Henry’s father, Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, only a reproduction tomb engraving(below left). Nor are there portraits of his father, Owen Tudor. If, indeed, Owen had anything to do with fathering Edmund, there being yet another scandalous royal whisper that Owen’s “wife” (there is no solid evidence that she and Owen ever married) Queen Catherine of Valois, widow of Henry V, had actually been enjoying some hanky-panky with another Beaufort, who for whatever reason declined to marry her. Owen stepped in to make things less embarrassing for her. Tangled webs in every shadow. But let’s suppose that the earlier Tudors were indeed Henry VII’s forebears. They might have been tall and reddish-blond. Well, they could have been, so do not wag your fingers at my screen! The Vikings did NOT steer clear of Wales.

Whatever the reason for Roland and Henry VIII sharing physical similarities—and maybe it was simply coincidence—it could have been with some relief that Roland scurried off to Beaumaris with his neck still attached to the rest of him. Better to be alive, than meet some dark Tudor death because of being regarded as an awkward presence at court. On the other hand, he may well have resented Beaumaris for taking him away from luxury. It was said in 1534 (the year before Roland’s death) that the never-completed castle had deteriorated so that “there was scarcely a single chamber in Beaumaris Castle where a man could lie dry”.

beaumaris-castle

Given Roland’s character, it will come as no surprise that he was a troublesome constable, making all the capital he could from his privileges. Twenty-five or so years at court had undoubtedly given him expensive tastes. But whether he liked it or not, the rest of his life was to be spent at Beaumaris where he began to live (scandalously, of course) with widowed Agnes Griffith, whom he would eventually make his wife. She was a member of the most powerful family in Gwynedd, and had children with Roland. Their descendants were numerous, and included his famous granddaughter, Catherine of Berain, known as the ‘Mother of Wales’. Roland de Velville certainly left his mark in his wife’s homeland.

catherine-of-berain-rolands-granddaughter

Roland died at Beaumaris Castle on 25th June 1535, and was buried at the Church of St Mary’s and St Nicholas, Beaumaris. If he was indeed buried there, I cannot find anything about his actual resting place. I have not been to the church, so it does not signify that he is no longer there, just that he’s escaped me. How intriguing it would be (the discovery of Richard III’s DNA being so fresh in the mind) to see if Roland’s DNA could be obtained. That would indeed help to ascertain if he was Henry VII’s offspring.

st-mary-and-st-nicholas-beaumaris

There is a lot of conflicting information about Roland. Was he of royal blood? Or wasn’t he? Who said what, and when? To whom? Can a Welsh elegy to him, by Daffyd Alaw (1535), be given any credence whatsoever? Well, it claims that Roland was ‘A man of kingly line and of earl’s blood’, which would certainly fit Henry VII, who had been born Henry, Earl of Richmond (he was born posthumously). So yes, Roland could well have been Henry’s son. Why else was he brought to the English court and supported in the way he was? And those who say that such bardic traditions should be ignored as highly improbable should perhaps remember that bardic tradition was how Welsh history was recorded. It was committed to memory and and passed down through the generations. The Welsh are clever enough to train their grey cells!

Historians have been rude about each other where this mysterious Breton écuyer is concerned. That is, if he was even Breton. Yes, I fear the conflicting ‘evidence’ even calls this basic fact into question. Maybe his mother’s family hailed from a corner of France. You see, we do not know her identity either.

rolands-mystery-mother

It seems that Roland was granted arms that were quartered, indicating the families from whom he was descended. They do not, of course, include Henry. But although these families can be hazarded, they cannot be identified for certain, So, who was his mother? Did she marry someone called de Velville (or other variations of the name in both French and Breton)? Maybe this man believed the boy was his. He wouldn’t be the first to have another man’s child foisted upon him. But, yet again, it’s guesswork. All is vague and uncertain.

To read an intricate account of it all, with far more small detail, go to http://www.happywarrior.org/genealogy/roland.htm

And now I will tell you why I think Henry VII did not acknowledge Roland. No, it’s not that Roland simply wasn’t his son, what a boring conclusion to come to. Far more interesting to make the two father and son. What if (ah, those words beloved of fiction writers) a teenaged Henry had fallen passionately, lustfully in love with, and impetuously married, a young, equally passionate and lustful Breton noblewoman? What if it was a secret wedding that never came to light and was soon regretted on both sides? What if Henry was moved elsewhere in Brittany (he was a prisoner under house arrest) and his bride (frightened by her important male relatives, who knew nothing of the secret marriage, was forced to bigamously marry someone “suitable”. Pregnant with Henry’s child, she allowed her new husband to believe the child was his.

Are you still with me? Right, move on to 1485. Henry is going to invade England to challenge Richard III for the throne. To be sure of much-needed Yorkist support, he vows to marry Elizabeth of York, Richard’s niece and the senior unmarried Yorkist princess. He wins at Bosworth and has to honour his vow. Sooo…knowing he is already married, he weds Elizabeth. Another bigamous match, but one that could have catastrophic consequences. Not least bloody rebellion and the chopping of Henry’s slender neck.

Then Roland enters his life much more immediately. The boy’s mother is on her deathbed and fears for his life at the hands of her second husband. She implores Henry to take Roland under his protection. And so he comes to court but cannot possibly be acknowledged by his royal father, who, understandably, doesn’t want any enemies poking around in what happened when he was a young prisoner in Brittany. Nor does Roland even know Henry is his father.

Thus history repeats itself, with Henry VII following in the footsteps of his father-in-law, Edward IV. Another secret wife, a second deceived bride, and heirs who are all illegitimate. Roland de Velville is his legitimate son. The rightful King of England? But can even Henry contemplate disposing of this inconvenient boy…? His own child?

There, is that not a half-decent plot for a historical novel? I thought so too, so I made it the main theme of the fourth book in my Cicely series. The book is called Cicely’s Sovereign Secret.

cicelys-sovereign-secret

 

 

To eat medieval meat, or not to eat medieval meat….

It is said that eating cheese last thing at night is very bad indeed for the digestion, and will result in alternate sleeplessness or bad dreams. Well, so I have been told. I ate cheese last thing last night and slept like a log, but I woke up this morning with the odd thought about the existence of vegetarianism in English history, specifically the medieval period.

The above illustrations show what I think to be the two extremes. The knight using his knife to hack himself a goodly portion of something spit-roasted, and the elderly man being spoon fed by a woman. His wife, or nurse, perhaps?

Hermits and such persons ate no meat for ascetic reasons, and as many of them lived to a ripe old age, it clearly did them no more harm then than it does now. But did the rejection of meat spread into the population at large? I do not mean not being able to afford meat, but the decision of those who could afford it, not to eat it.

The Vegetarian Society offers a history, but it seems to leap from the likes of Pythagoras and St David, to the Renaissance. Wikipedia also has an interesting entry for the subject, and performs the same leap. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_vegetarianism#Christian_antiquity_and_Middle_Ages So, apart from religious individuals and sects, what do we know about medieval vegetarians?

I’m in the dark here, literally, because I have never heard of any prominent medieval figure who rejected meat. I cannot imagine the likes of Henry “Hotspur” Percy choosing a plate of cabbage over the large haunch of beef that sizzled as it turned upon a spit. Or William Marshal’s nose wrinkling at the thought of a nourishing mutton stew after a hard ride through a winter storm. “Nay, sir, bring me yon dish of nuts!”

Please do not think I am mocking vegetarians, because that is not so, I am merely trying to place them in the context of the rather brutal medieval world. Even if someone like Edward IV had a hankering to decline all meat, would he have dared to do so? I am quite certain that all the knights and lords around him would have seen this as a sign of weakness. A true warrior needed red meat! The last thing a king needed was to gain a reputation for “softness”. Would the treacherous Stanleys have backed Henry Tudor if they learned he felt sick at the thought of eating anything that in life had possessed four legs? I think the outcome of Bosworth would have been very different. And where would a vegetarian have been in an aristocratic society that was obsessed with hunting? The whole scenario is surely impossible to picture.

If you go to http://www.ivu.org/history/renaissance/middle-ages.html, you’ll find an interesting article on the food of our medieval forebears, including monstrous feasts held over three days in September 1465 by held at Cawood Castle by Archbishop George Neville. 2500 people to be fed over three days! And so many living creatures slaughtered for the purpose that even I, a carnivore, feel ill at the thought. I know, I know…double standards. I plead guilty. These days menus include vegetarian options, but imagine having one’s stomach turned by the thought of the slaughter, and then having to sit at the board and smile as you chewed endlessly on one small morsel of beef, trying to make it last. Or would you sneak away to the kitchen in the hope of finding something more palatable to your conscience? I imagine cheese would be acceptable…unless there were vegans back then too. That is a further consideration, of course.

So, what happened? Unless someone can tell me the facts, I must conclude that the rejection of meat was a big no-no for our forebears, unless they were sick or very old. Most lists of famous vegetarians leap from Pythagoras and a few saints to Leonardo da Vinci. What about the generations in between? Does anyone have the answer?

 

 

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