Yesterday was Twelfth Night for the modern Church of England, but today is Twelfth Night for the Catholic Church and in England in former times. It is the big party night, featuring the famous Twelfth Night Cake which is now called Christmas Cake; (makes sense doesn’t it, why would you want Christmas Dinner, Christmas Pudding and Christmas Cake all on the same day? ) and theatrical entertainments; mumming and wassailing.
I gave a recipe for the cake two days ago (here it is) but the important point is that it had a bean and a pea in it. The one who got the bean was selected thereby as King for night and the pea the Queen. Cards were then given to all the participants detailing a role they were to play for the rest of the night, with an introductory speech. The King and Queens led the way and for the rest of the evening the party members adopted the persona of their person. It might be a soldier, a cook, a parson etc. It the illustration above you will see the participants,pulling their role cards out of their hat. In the game the women’s cards were drawn from a ‘reticule’ (bag) and the men’s from a hat. In this case the hat seems to be a revolutionary sans culotte’s cap. Several versions of Cruikshank’s illustration exist, one of the others has ‘speech bubbles which give some idea of the controversy the game might provoke,
This blog post has some interesting additional information about Twelfth Night from which I quote below.
‘Mr and Mrs William Clifford and their seven children (and maid), John Fox snr. and Sally Twining, Mr and Mrs William Fox, and William Weale. To feed this crowd took “Ham, Greens, 3 fowls roasted, Soup, Leg of Mutton, potatoes, Boiled rump of beef (large)” Desert included pudding, mince pies and a forequarter of home lamb. For supper, the assembled party consumed tarts, stuffed beef, mince pies, cold mutton, oysters, cold sliced beef, cold lamb, apple pies and pears. 12th Night Cruikshank, Isaac, 1756-1811 printmaker. Published Janr. 10, 1897 by Thomas Tegg, 111 Cheapside, 1807’