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The deer fancied a writ or two….!

from here.

When it comes to deer and the medieval period, we always think of the poor things being hunted for their venison and everything else. But it seems that they were sometimes kept in the house! Not just a casual break-in as in the image above, but actually being there all the time.

Hard to imagine having a large hart wandering around the home as if it were the mistress’s cat or master’s dog. But it did happen, and here is an amusing anecdote to prove the point:

“….We know from a letter circa 1280….that John of Maidstone paid a visit to Gregory de Rokesle, then mayor of London. With him, he brought some writs from court, which he left on a counter in Gregory’s chamber, presumably for his review, before they were dispatched to Boston and elsewhere. This routine matter was disrupted, however, when a hart (the male red deer), which was in the house, entered the chamber and devoured the writs. The mayor was forced to write to John de Kirkby, the keeper of the chancery rolls, to ask for duplicates….”

The above paragraph was taken from this website.

I am reminded irresistibly of the (apocryphal?) story of Henry VII’s pet monkey, which was allowed such free rein that it was loathed by courtiers. Henry, as we know, kept a little (black?) book in which he jotted down things people said or he’d heard (or his accounts, depending on where you read the tale). That book was mightily feared. Then, one blessed day, the monkey destroyed the book in a fit of pique. The court changed its opinion of him…but Henry, being Henry, merely started another book….! 

Henry VII and his monkey of a monkey….

(c) Palace of Westminster; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation Henry VII and his pet monkey

Henry VII and his monkey of a monkey . . . . 

The above drawing (partially coloured by me) is of unknown origin, but I like it because it shows Henry’s pet monkey. I don’t know what its name was, or even if it had one, but in my next Cicely books he is called Crumplin. This is a fond way of referring to someone who is small of stature and perhaps a little crooked – not as in lawbreaker, but in appearance. The monkey also appears in the above painting, by Frank Cadogan Cowper, of Erasmus and Sir Thomas More meeting Henry’s children.

My fictional Henry gives his monkey the name Crumplin, as a sly dig at Richard III, who, apparently, was sometimes fondly referred to by it. I understand that the supposed tomb of Richard’s little son at Sheriff Hutton was, and still is, referred to as ‘Little Crumplin’, the inference being that the boy’s father, Richard, was ‘Big’ Crumplin. Whatever the truth, the nickname was not meant unpleasantly, certainly not in Yorkshire, where Richard was particularly loved. However, it was not fond or a compliment when used by Henry Tudor for his monkey.

So, fictional name or not, for the sake of argument, let’s call the little creature Crumplin. Henry was apparently very fond of it, and laughed at its antics, even if no none else did. If the above illustrations are to be believed, it had a handler who carried it behind the king and it was often with Henry. But they aren’t pictures from the period, so must be taken with a pinch of salt.

I am told that Henry carried a dreaded notebook with him at all times, in which he jotted down who had said what, and when they were unwise enough to say it. Henry has a book in the drawing, and while it looks more like a Book of Hours, I can imagine it was this omnipresent notebook, to which he was apt to refer in order to be sure of his facts when he wished to haul someone over the coals. Or, perhaps, to praise them, although the fact that it was dreaded suggests not. That notebook was definitely feared and hated. If he had it in his hand when he entered a room, hearts would sink in unison.

There is a story that one day, when Henry was not present, Crumplin was particularly naughty and drove the attendants to distraction. He was roundly scolded, which he did not like at all. So, what did he do? He found the notebook on a table, Henry having left it there in error, and tore it to shreds! Henry wasn’t pleased, but everyone else was delighted. And relieved. I imagine Crumplin was forgiven a lot of monkey sins after that.

No doubt a new notebook was soon in Henry’s hand, but at least his courtiers enjoyed a little respite.

Name the Monkey

I’m writing the latest book in my Cicely Plantagenet series, in which Henry VII’s pet monkey makes its appearance. But I’m stuck for a suitable name for the little darling. The monkey, that is, not Henry. I’ll love to hear any (polite) suggestions. I’ll love to hear them all, of course, but the name in the book has to be sly and clever (ironic, some people might say!) Not anachronistic either. I would love it to be one that has a go at the House of York. I mean, it’s Henry’s monkey, he’s bound to find it amusing to call it something along the lines of Dickie. But I can’t bring myself to that. Henry can’t have his way. So please let me know your suggestions. A copy of Cicely’s King Richard to the winner.

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