1540s, “time of merrymaking before Lent,” from French carnaval, from Italian carnevale “Shrove Tuesday,” from older Italian forms such as Milanese *carnelevale, Old Pisan carnelevare “to remove meat,” literally “raising flesh,” from Latin caro “flesh” (originally “a piece of flesh,” from PIE root *sker- (1) “to cut”) + levare “lighten, raise, remove” (from PIE root *legwh- “not heavy, having little weight”).
Folk etymology has it from Medieval Latin carne vale ” ‘flesh, farewell!’ ” Attested from 1590s in the figurative sense of “feasting or revelry in general.” The meaning “a circus or amusement fair” is attested by 1926 in American English.Related entries & more
Pancake Day is the day we eat up all our surplus food so that we can begin our lenten fast and turn out mind to repentance. Traditionally, in Britain it is a simple pancake with lemon and sugar (here is a recipe from the BBC) but it can also be a day of excess before the 40 days of restraint. As we saw before on ‘Lardy Thursday’ the Carnival period might be up to a week. Shrovetide was normally three days from the Sunday before Lent to Ash Wednesday the beginning of Lent.
In France, it’s called Mardi Gras which means Fatty Tuesday, in Italy Martedi Grasso. In New Orleans it stretches from Twelfth Night to Shrove Tuesday, in most other places it is a week or three days. In Anglo-Saxon times there was ‘Cheese Week’, ‘Butter Week’, ‘Cheesefare Sunday’ and ‘Collop Monday’.
Shrove Tuesday is the day we should be ‘shriven’ which means to make confession. The point is that the Church has been leading up to Easter since Advent – before Christmas. Easter is the date of the conception and, also, the date of the execution and apotheosis of Jesus Christ. So the pious should confess their sins, then undertake their lenten fast before entering the Holy Week purged and sin-free.
In the Anglo-Saxon Church, there was a custom called ‘locking the Alleluia.’ The Church stopped using the word Alleluia from 70 days before Easter. Alleluia represented the return from exile in Babylon, and with the approach of the death of Christ it was not felt appropriate to be celebratory.
The sombre nature of this block of time was highlighted by Ælfric of Eynsham (c. 955 – c. 1010)
Now a pure and holy time draws near, in which we should atone for our neglect. Every Christian, therefore, should come to his confession and confess his hidden sins, and make amends according to the guidance of his teachers; and let everyone encourage each other to do good by good example.
Ælfric, Catholic Homilies Text Ed. Peter Clemoes quoted in ‘Winters in the World’ Eleanor Parker
Shrove Tuesday was traditional for football games in the days before football had any rules to speak of. It was a wild game in which teams tried to get a bladder from one end of town to the other, or one side of a field to the other. In Chester, the traditional football game on the Roodee island which was held on Shrove Tuesday was so rowdy that the Mayor created the Chester Races specifically to provide a more sedate alterative to the violence of the ‘beautiful game.’
Here is a youtube video of Shrovetide Football.
In London, John Stowe quotes Henry Fitzstephen who was a contemporary of Thomas Becket and is writing about London in the late 12th Century:
‘Every year also at Shrove Tuesday, that we may begin with children’s sport, seeing we all have been children, the school boys do bring cocks of the game to their master, and all the forenoon they delight themselves in cockfighting. After dinner all the youths go into the fields to play at the ball. The scholars of every school have their ball, or baston in their hands. The ancient and wealthy men of the City come forth on horseback to see the sport of the young men and to take part of the pleasure in beholding their agility.’
I have just found a video of the pancake race at the Guildhall Yard in the City of London. It is an inter-livery company pancake race competition. The competitors, representing the medieval Guilds, have to run across the Guildhall while holding a frying pan and pancake. There is a zone where they have to toss the pancake. There is also a novelty costume race. Here is a youtube video of the 2023 race.
First published on February 21st, 2023 republished on February 13th 2024
London, February 12. There is no abatement of the abnormally cold weather which has prevailed in northern Europe for the last week. The Upper Thames is frozen over, and huge blocks of ice breaking away from the mass are floating down, the river, causing much damage to the smaller shipping craft. Water traffic is consequently at a complete standstill. Many cases of death from cold and exposure are reported, the privation and distress in the east end of the city being particularly severe. The cold is so intense that birds are found frozen to death on the branches of the trees, and thousands are perishing. The severe weather has also directly caused considerable mortality, a number of deaths from exposure having been reported among postmen, omnibus drivers, cabmen, and labourers.
Winter of 1895 Limehouse to left, Tower of London to right. Images from Isle of Dogs blog.
For more details and contemporary newspaper accounts read the Isle of Dogs blog. 1895 was the culmination of a decade of particularly cold winters (and for some the end of the so-called Little Ice Age. On the 11th February the coldest day in British History was recorded at Braemar at −27.2 °C. February 1895 was the second coldest on record, with the lowest minimum temperatures on record. Shipping in the biggest port in the world was stopped. Many workers were laid off, and had to resort to what were then called ‘soup kitchens’ and now ‘food banks’. Winter death rates were said to be doubled, with people dying in the street and in unheated homes.
Record minima were set for these dates in February 1895:
7th: −21.7 °C or −7.1 °F
8th: −25.0 °C or −13.0 °F
9th: −23.9 °C or −11.0 °F
10th: −25.6 °C or −14.1 °F
11th: −27.2 °C or −17.0 °F
12th: −20.6 °C or −5.1 °F
13th: −21.9 °C or −7.4 °F
14th: −21.7 °C or −7.1 °F
16th: −23.9 °C or −11.0 °F
17th: −23.9 °C or −11.0 °F
18th: −23.9 °C or −11.0 °F
19th: −22.2 °C or −8.0 °F
On the flip side people resorted to ponds around London particularly the Serpentine which had 6 inches of ice and 50,000 skaters, with speed skating competitions.
I have republished my post of the Chinese New Year which you can see here:
January 30th is the anniversary of the day King Charles I was beheaded as a murderer and traitor, or, on the other hand, a martyr to the Church of England.
Samuel Pepys observed the funeral, as did thousands of others. They crowded around the scaffold outside a window of Inigo Jones’s magnificent Banqueting Hall, in Whitehall, London. Whether Charles appreciated the irony of his last walk, which was below the magnificent Peter Paul Reubens’ ceiling depicting the Apotheosis of his father, James I, we can’t say. But it is, perhaps, more likely he thought he was soon on his way to meet his father in heaven in glory as a Martyr to his religion. He walked outside, through the window, into the cold January air. He seems to have been wearing 2 shirts, perhaps to stop him shivering, which would have been misinterpreted by his many enemies. Then, he made a short speech exonerating himself. All the Rooftops around were lined with spectators and, as the executioner axe fell, there was a dull grown from the crowd.
This was on January 30th, 1648. But, if you look at a history book, it will tell you it was in 1649. This was before our conversation to the Gregorian calendar. In those days, the year number changed not as we do on January 1st but on March 25th when the archangel Gabriel revealed to the Virgin Mary that she was pregnant. For more on the importance of March 25th look at my Almanac entry:
On the same day, twelve years later, in 1660 Oliver Cromwell’s and his chief henchmen were dug up from their splendid Westminster Abbey tombs and their bodies abused by official command. Cromwell’s head was stuck on the top of Westminster Hall, where it remained for many years.
The Royalist, John Evelyn, said in his diary:
This day (oh the stupendous, and inscrutable Judgements of God) were the Carkasses of that arch-rebel Cromwel1, Bradshaw, the Judge who condemned his Majestie and Ireton, sonn in law to the usurper, dragged out of their superb Tombs (in Westminster among the Kings) to Tybourne, and hanged on the Gallows there from 9 in the morning till 6 at night, and then buried under that fatal and ignominious Monument in a deep pit. Thousands of people (who had seen them in all their pride and pompous insults) being spectators .
Samuel Pepys records by contrast:
…do trouble me that a man of so great courage as he was should have that dishonour, though otherwise he might deserve it enough…
Pepys served the Parliamentary side before the restoration of Charles II, when he adroitly, swapped over to the Royalist side.
Get Back To Where you Once Belonged.
This is also the anniversary (1969) of the rooftop concert in Saville Row where the Beatles played ‘Get Back’.
First published in 2023, revised on January 29th 2024
‘On the 27th much snow fell all day, and in the evening the frost became very intense. At South Lambeth, for the four following nights, the thermometer fell to 7, 6, 6, and at Selborne to 7, 6, 10, and on the 3ist of January , just before sunrise, with rime on the trees and on the tube of the glass, the quicksilver sunk exactly to zero, being 32 degrees below the freezing point’
If there was a Giant upon whose shoulders Charles Darwin climbed, then it was Gilbert White’s. He was one of many churchmen of the 18th and 19th Century who spent their extensive leisure time, on observing God’s wonderful creation in their gardens and parishes. What made White so important was that his practice was ‘observing narrowly’ and regularly. For example, his observations of the importance of earth worms were fundamental to Charles Darwin’s own studies, Once Darwin came back from his travels on the Beagle, he settled in a country property in Orpington and, like White, used his garden and the local area as his laboratory with which he worked to prove his theory of evolution.
Earth worms were one of Darwin’s passions. This is what Gilbert White wrote about their contribution to nature:
“Earth-worms, though in appearance a small and despicable link in the chain of Nature, yet, if lost, would make a lamentable chasm. For, to say nothing of half the birds, and some quadrupeds which are almost entirely supported by them, worms seem to be the great promoters of vegetation, by boring, perforating, and loosening the soil, and rendering it pervious to rains and the fibres of plants, and, most of all, by throwing up such infinite numbers of lumps of earth called worm-casts, which, being their excrement, is a fine manure for grain and grass.”
By such minute and repeated observations, Gilbert White investigated the food chain, the migration of birds (which was at the time disputed) and laid the foundations of what we now call ecology.
White, although rising to Dean of Oriel College in Oxford, chose to spend his career in the relatively humble occupation of Curate. A Curate is the bottom-feeder in the Anglican Church food chain, and Jane Austen would tell you that a Curate hardly earned enough to maintain a position in the Gentry (£50 p.a.). Although White gained the title of Perpetual Curate (a title shared with Patrick Brontë), he still would only be pulling in, I guess, something like £200 p.a. But then White didn’t need much, he inherited his father’s property at Shelborne, Hampshire. White’s grandfather was the Vicar at Shelborne. But Gilbert could not inherit the title because he went to Oriel College, while the ‘living’ at Shelborne was ‘in the gift of’ Magdalen College, And they were not going to give the role to an alumnus of a rival college; however, he might deserve it.
The house, now open to the public, is just around the corner from Chawton where Jane Austen spent her last years. He was born in 1720; was 55 when Austen was born, and he died in 1793. He lived 4 miles away, so the families knew of each other. We know Jane Austen’s brother wrote a poem about Gilbert White and his natural history observations, particularly on birds
From ‘Selbourne Hanger’ by James Austen
Who talks of rational delight } When Selbourne’s Hill appears in sight } And does not think of Gilbert White? } Such sure he was – by Nature grac’d With her best gift of genuine taste; And Providence – which cast his lot Within this calm, secluded spot, Plac’d him where best th’enquiring mind Might study Nature’s works, and find Within her ever open book Beauties which others overlook. Enthusiast sweet! Your vivid style The attentive reader can beguile Through many a page, and still excite An Interest in what you write! For whilst observant you describe The habits of the feathery tribe Their Loves and Wars – their nest and Song, We never think the tale too long.
For more information on White and Austen go to Gilbert Whites House’s web page here:
Here is more of that epic cold January 1776
‘On the 27th much snow fell all day, and in the evening the frost became very intense. At South Lambeth, for the four following nights, the thermometer fell to n, 7, 6, 6, and at Selborne to 7, 6, 10, and on the 3ist of January ‘, just before sunrise, with rime on the trees and on the tube of the glass, the quicksilver sunk exactly to zero, being 32 degrees below the freezing point ; but by eleven in the morning, though in the shade, it sprang up to I6J,1 — a most unusual degree of cold this for the south of England \ During these four nights the cold was so penetrating that it occasioned ice in warm chambers and under beds ; and in the day the wind was so keen that persons of robust constitutions could scarcely endure to face it. The Thames was at once so frozen over both above and below bridge that crowds ran about on the ice. The streets were now strangely encumbered with snow, which crumbled and trod dusty ; and, turning grey, resembled bay-salt : what had fallen on the roofs was so perfectly dry that, from first to last, it lay twenty-six days on the houses in the city ; a longer time than had been remembered by the oldest housekeepers living…..’
‘The consequences of this severity were, that in Hampshire, at the melting of the snow, the wheat looked well, and the turnips came forth little injured. The laurels and laurustines were somewhat damaged, but only in hot aspects. No evergreens were quite destroyed ; and not half the damage sustained that befell in January, 1768. Those laurels that were a little scorched on the south-sides were perfectly untouched on their north-sides. The care taken to shake the snow day by day from the branches seemed greatly to avail the author’s evergreens. A neighbour’s laurel-hedge, in a high situation, and facing to the north, was perfectly green and vigorous ; and the Portugal laurels remained unhurt.’
‘We had steady frost on to the 25th, when the thermometer in the morning was down to 10 with us, and at Newton only to 21. Strong frost continued till the 3ist, when some tendency to thaw was observed ; and, by January the 3d, 1785, the thaw was confirmed, and some rain fell.’
Here, as a bonus, are food stuffs that are in season now.
Today is the day after the anniversary of Queen Elizabeth 1’s coronation 1559. She soon developed enduring relationships with the senior members of her Government. For example, William Cecil, Lord Burghley served the Queen for the rest of his life – from 1558 to 1598 when he died.
Elizabeth gave leading members of her Court, nicknames. My interest in the nicknames was revived, a few days ago, by a post on the subject in an interesting blog called The Chronicles of History, whose author became a follower of this blog. She listed a few of the nicknames. I had a record of all the nicknames I had come across but can never find it when I want it. The Chronicles mentioned three of them so I went in search for the rest and here is what the internet says:
Her chief minister, William Cecil Lord Burghley, was called her ‘spirit’, and her alleged lover, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, was her ‘eyes’. Rather more cheekily, she called François, Duke of Anjou, her ‘frog’.
Elizabeth called Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester her “Eyes” William Cecil was her “Spirit” Robert Cecil was her “pigmy” or “elf” Sir Christopher Hatton was her “mutton” or “lids” Francis Walsingham was her “Moor” Francis, Duke of Alencon, (her French suitor) her “frog”
A comment on the same page says the moor was, in fact, Edward De Vere Earl of Oxford and that the attribution to Walsingham is a mistake. De Vere had a house in Clapton, Hackney, very near to where I lived, and is one of the many people conspiracy theorists think wrote Shakespeare (as is Queen Elizabeth 1).
Robert Cecil was Lord Burghley’s son and largely took over his father’s role. Christopher Hatton was a handsome aristocrat who had a lovely house and garden in Holborn which is now called Hatton Garden. Francis Walshingham was the ruthless spy master. Duke of Alencon was one suitor she seemed to take seriously, although she gently mocked him. Dudley was her favourite and almost her official escort/companion.
Illustrations from a Victorian History of England.
First Published in January 2023, republished in January 2024
Today is the most depressing day of the year, so called Blue Monday. It was only a marketing stunt but seems to have stuck. So, ‘officially’ Blue Monday is the third Monday of the year – in 2024 156 January. It was worked out using this ‘equation’:
[W + (D-d)] x TQ M x NA
(W) weather, (D) debt, (d) monthly salary, (T) time since Christmas, (Q) time since failed quit attempt, (M) low motivational levels and (NA) the need to take action. (https://news.sky.com )
Queen Elizabeth 1’s Coronation
Queen Elizabeth 1 ascended the throne on 17 Nov 1558. Her courtiers immediately began work on the Coronation, scheduled for January 15th 1559. In terms of Coronations, this was rushed. The precise date was, in fact, chosen by the Royal Astrologer, John Dee on a date that the celestial bodies deemed propitious, and which was sooner rather than later because Elizabeth’s position was not secure.
Her accession was certainly greeted with an outbreak of joy by the Protestant population. But the supporters of her dead sister Mary 1 did not want a Protestant monarch. On hearing the news of the death of her sister, Elizabeth rushed to occupy the Tower of London, even shooting London Bridge, such was her haste. She consulted lawyers about the legal position. Elizabeth, and her sister Mary, had been declared bastards by two Succession Acts passed during Henry VIII’s ‘troubled’ married life. The Third Succession Act of 1543/44, following Henry’s marriage to Katherine Parr, had restored Mary and Elizabeth to the Royal line but did not restore their legitimacy. Rather than tackle the complex legislation, Sir Nicholas Bacon, the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, advised:
“the English laws have long since pronounced, that the Crowne once worn quite taketh away all Defects whatsoever“.
Which, when you think about it, basically legitimises successful any ‘Coup’! And, from a legal perspective, she was still, arguably, illegitimate.
The Coronation began with a procession from the Whitehall Palace in Westminster back to the Tower of London for the Vigil, then a Royal Procession through the City of London to Westminster Abbey for the Coronation service, followed by the traditional Coronation Banquet at Westminster Hall.
The Vigil Procession was on the Thames where she was escorted to the Tower by ‘ships, galleys, brigantines‘ sumptuously decorated. The Royal Entry consisted of 5 Pageants and 11 Triumphal Arches.
The first pageant showed the Queen’s descent from Henry VII and his marriage to Elizabeth of York. This marriage effectively ended the Wars of the Roses by linking the House of York and the House of Lancaster. The pageant also emphasised her ‘Englishness’ as opposed to the Spanish affiliations of Mary. The second pageant demonstrated that the Queen would rule by the four virtues of True Religion, Love of Subjects, Wisdom and Justice, while trampling on Superstition, Ignorance and other vices.
The third pageant, at the upper end of Cheapside near the Guildhall, provided the opportunity for the City to give Elizabeth a handsome crimson purse with 1000 marks of gold, showing the closeness of the City and the Crown. The fourth pageant, contrasted a decaying country during the time of Mary with a thriving one under Elizabeth. It featured the figure of Truth, who was carrying a Bible written in English and entitled ‘the Word of Truth’. The Bible was lowered on a silken thread to the Queen, who kissed it and laid it on her breast to the cheers of the crowd. She promised to read it diligently. The final pageant was Elizabeth portrayed as Deborah, the Old Testament prophet, who by rescuing Israel and ruling for 40 years was an ideal role model for Elizabeth. (https://www.rmg.co.uk/stories/topics/queen-elizabeth-coronation)
‘All the houses in Cheapside were dressed with banners and streamers, and the richest carpets, stuffs and cloth of gold tapestried the streets’.
British History.ac.uk Vol 1 pp315 -332.
The Coronation was traditional – in Latin and presided by a Catholic Bishop, but there were significant innovations. Important passages were read both in Latin and in English, and the Queen added to the Coronation Oath that she would rule according to the ‘true profession of the Gospel established in this Kingdom.’ This showed the way forward, introducing innovation gradually into tradition, but emphasizing that the fundamentals had indeed changed. This was going to be a Protestant reign.
Please do remember, I wrote a best-selling book on the Kings and Queens of Britain which k has been reprinted several times and is available below.
The Decline And Fall Of Roman London Walk Sun 11.15 am 18th Feb 2024 Exit 2 St Pauls Underground Station To book The Leap Year Pub Walk Thurs 6pm 29 February 2024 Tower Hill Underground To book Roman London – A Literary & Archaeological Walk Sun 11.30 am 3rd March 2024 Monument Underground Station To book Jane Austen’s London Sun 2.30 pm 3rd March 2024 Green Park Underground station (Green Park Exit. Fountain in Green Park), To book Myths, Legends, Archaeology and the Origins of London Sun 11.30am 23rd March 24 Tower Hill Underground To book 1066 and All That Walk Sun 2.30pm 23 March 24 Blackfriars Underground Station To book Chaucer’s Medieval London Guided Walk Sun 11.30am 7th April 24 Aldgate Underground For a complete list of my walks for London Walks in 2024 look here:
“redwood, elephants’ teeth, negroes, slaves, hides, wax, guinea grains, or other commodities of those countries”
On January 10th. 1663 King Charles II affirmed the new charter for the Company that, above all else, was responsible for British continuing involvement in slavery. Shareholders included his nephew, Prince Rupert, Samuel Pepys, and much of the British Establishment, Aristocracy, and City Merchants. Its headquarters were in Cornhill, not far from the East India Company’s HQ. The company was closed in 1752.
Gold from the Gold Coast was used to make coins, which became known as ‘guineas’. They were originally made from one quarter of an ounce of gold. Below is a sketch of a two guinea coin from the reign of Charles II. Note the elephant at the bottom of the coin.
The guinea was original worth 1 pound but fluctuated with the price of Gold. Pepys records it at 24 or 25 shillings. It was eventually phased out, but it became a posh way of expressing value. Ordinary goods would be priced in pounds, but expensive ones in Guineas. By then valued at 21 shillings. (£1 pound 5 pence). Wikipedia suggests it was used for ‘prices of land, horses, art, bespoke tailoring, furniture, white goods and other “luxury” items’. I remember going shopping with my parents in London and wondering at the fur coats being priced in Guineas. It died out, as a practice, in the 70s.
There are many sites giving a history of slavery, and the British involvement with it, which I encourage everyone to investigate. But, here, I would just like to point out, how involved the British Royal Family was in the trade. Also, to note that the British education system has emphasised the role of Britain in the abolition of slavery, rather than our involvement in setting it up and continuing it. This has begun to change, and a new generation of school children in London can visit the excellent London: Sugar & Slavery Gallery at the Museum of London in Docklands.
University College, London has undertaken a profound project where they took the records of compensation payments to:
The slaves? No, not to them but to the slave owners! UCL have created a resource where you can click on the streets of London and other areas, to find out the holders of slaves in that street. The compensation of £20m pounds is probably around £16billion in modern terms, and it makes me believe that the least we can do is to fund projects to correct the educational and life disadvantages of people and countries impacted by slavery to the tune of £16 billion.
I have just looked for the closest slave owner in my area of the East End of London, and it is about 500 yards away from me. Here are the abridged details from the database. It is very simple to use. Have a go by following the link below.
Solomon Nunes Flamengo of Kingston, living at Mutton Lane in Hackney when he wrote his will in 1778. Merchant. Estate probated in Jamaica in 1779. Slave-ownership at probate: 6 of whom 2 were listed as male and 4 as female. 4 were listed as boys, girls or children. Total value of estate at probate: Â£21356.26 Jamaican currency of which Â£332.5 currency was the value of enslaved people.
Presumably, the value of his compensation was Â£332.5. Solomon was Jewish, which is unusual for the records, by far the majority being Christian. I chose Solomon to show simply because he was the closest to my house.
Britain began regulating the Slave trade in the late 18th Century, abolished the Slave Trade in 1807. Slavery, with the compensation to slave owners in 1833, was abolished but they replaced slavery with apprenticeship – in effect bound labour. This was ended in 1838.For more details look at https://www.parliament.uk/
Finally, I have been updating, revising and republishing many posts which you might enjoy reading before Christmas and the New Year seem too far in the past!
I used the print above, two years ago for my post on New’s Day (in fact this is an update of it) and I use it in lectures on Christmas and Jane Austen. But I have always presented it in the context of explaining Twelfth Night Cake and the game that was played on Twelfth Night, which is, satirically, illustrated here.
Rushing to get the post done, I didn’t examine it in detail but assumed the papers they were reading, gave them satirical occupations to pretend to be, which would be funny to the contemporary audience in 1807. This year, I noted the title mentioned St Anne’s Hill, and thought I ought to at least try to find out what that referred to. And I then went down a deep and very enjoyable research rabbit hole.
But, more of that, later. Let’s begin with the more trivial aspect of the Print above from 2022 January 6th post, edited a little.
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 also Epiphany or Three Kings Day and because of calendrical differences, Christmas Eve for the Orthodox Church. In Ireland, it is Nollaig na mBan: Women’s Little Christmas; when Women get to rest and let men do the work.
It used to be the big party night, featuring the famous Twelfth Night Cake and theatrical entertainments; mumming and wassailing. The cake transmuted into our present Christmas Cake. This, I regret because I have had a lifetime when a very heavy Christmas Dinner is followed both by Christmas Pudding and, then, the Christmas Cake is brought out. No one, in their right mind, wants a slice of heavy Christmas Cake at that time. Many of my American friends disparage fruit cake, but they are mistaken. Good Christmas Cake is something to be thoroughly enjoyed, but on the days following Christmas Day.
I gave a recipe for the Twelfth Night Cake in another post, (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/papers were then given to all the participants detailing a role they were to play for the rest of the night, with an introductory speech, or rhyme The King and Queen led the way and for the rest of the evening the party members adopted the persona; an aristocrat, a soldier, a cook, a parson, a dairy maid etc. The French do something similar with their Galette des Rois. The bean is called the feve, and may be replaced by a porcelain model.
In 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 the illustration above, the hat seems to be a revolutionary sans culotte’s cap. (and I have only just realised, while doing a third proofread of this article, that all the people in the Print are men.)
Here is an example of a Twelfth Night gathering, attending William Snooke were:
‘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.
6th January 1775, William Snooke’s Diary taken from this Pinterest post
St Anne’s Hill
Now, let’s go down that rabbit hole and look a little deeper.
The caption mentions St Anne’s Hill. I believe this refers to St Anne’s Hill, near Chertsey (SW of London on the River Thames) where the grand house was owed by Charles James Fox, the leader of the Whigs, a persistent opponent of King George III. He was a supporter of the American and French Revolutions, which explains the red bonnet used to pull out the cards in the illustration.
I am, as I write, researching this and am now struck with the fact that Fox died in Sept. 1806, but the print is dated Jan. 1807. But if I am right about St Anne’s Hill, the central character is Fox who, just before he died, saw his Foreign Slave Trade Bill of 1806 began the dismantling of this pernicious trade in the British Empire. He was Foreign Minister and assumed a couple of civil chats with the French would end the long-standing war, but he soon discovered that Napoleon was not to be trusted in negotiations and the war went on for another 9 or so years.
Charles James Fox was a mercurial figure with many radical views. He was also a notorious gambler and loved the high life. One of his many lovers was Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. He married, Elizabeth Armistead, an ex-mistress of the Prince of Wales, and it was in her house that they lived in at St Anne’s Hill. I am pleased to report that she is credited with calming his life-style time, and he spent more time at St Anne’s where they would ‘read, garden, explore the countryside and entertain friends’ (Wikipedia).
Cruikshank’s illustration is, of course, not designed to document quaint Twelfth Night customs but is a political satire and I have now just discovered the British Museum version of this print, and. It is dated to 1799 which makes much more sense!
At the back right of the print is a notice which says:
‘Rules to be observed at this Meeting 1. That the Cake be decorated with appropriate insignia 2 That the tickets be deposited in a Bonnet Rouge and drawn in Rotation 3 That the Old Fashioned Game of King and Queen be exploded & Catch as Catch can Substituted in its stead.’
The bonnet rouge is defined by the Collins Dictionary as a ‘redcap worn by ardent supporters of the French Revolution’ or ‘an extremist or revolutionary’. The last point relates to Fox’s opposition to the King, and the expression Catch as Catch Can refers to a free form of wrestling without rules.
The characters in the scene (all men) are all political figures, mostly associated with the opposition to the very right-wing Government of William Pitt. During the war with France, the opposition was led by a supporter of the French Revolution, a position that, many on what we would now call the left of the political spectrum, agreed with. But, for those on the right, which included Pitt’s government, this was tantamount to treason. Pitt suspended many civil liberties in ‘Pitt’s Reign of Terror’; arrested and indeed executed leading members of those demanding political change. The Government even suspended Habeas Corpus to make it easier to arrest their opponents,
Fox is seen drawing a 12th Night Game ticket which is marked ‘Perpetual Dictator’. To his right is Frances Burdett, a radical politician, who supported universal male suffrage, equal electoral districts, vote by ballot, and annual parliaments. Note that this is well before these aims became the core of the Chartists campaign for electoral reform. (for other figures, look at the British Museum notes on the print. )
Burdett is shown holding a ticket saying ‘Keeper of the Prison in Cold Bath Fields’. This is a satirical reference to a serious political crisis. The Cold Baths Fields was the site of a medical spring in Clerkenwell, London, where a prison was situated where radicals were imprisoned. They were held in poor conditions despite the recent rebuilding under the aegis of the prison reformer, John Howard. Burdett exposed it in the House of Commons and began a campaign against the magistrates involved in the arrests.
One of the prisoners was Edward Despard who had associations with the London Corresponding Society, the United Irishmen and United Britons. Despard was married to Catherine, the daughter of a free black woman from Jamaica, and it was she who, with Burdett, led the campaign against these arrests without trial. The attorney general spoke about her letter in this demeaning manner:
‘it was a well-written letter, and the fair sex would pardon him, if he said it was a little beyond their style in general’
He did not comment on her colour. She described the imprisonment of her husband as being :
“in a dark cell, not seven feet square, without fire, or candle, chair, table, knife, fork, a glazed window, or even a book”
Despard was freed in 1802, went to Ireland, and back to London, where he was arrested again and accused of a being the alleged ringleader of a plot to assassinate the King. There was little real evidence. Horatio Nelson was a character witness, and appealed to the King for clemency. It was given, but only in so far as Despard was not disembowelled but ‘only ‘Hanged and Drawn’ at Horsemonger Lane Gaol (1803) – the last time someone was drawn through the streets at the tail of a horse before execution for treason. These are his last words:
Fellow Citizens, I come here, as you see, after having served my Country faithfully, honourably and usefully, for thirty years and upwards, to suffer death upon a scaffold for a crime which I protest I am not guilty. I solemnly declare that I am no more guilty of it than any of you who may be now hearing me. But though His Majesty’s Ministers know as well as I do that I am not guilty, yet they avail themselves of a legal pretext to destroy a man, because he has been a friend to truth, to liberty, and to justice
(a considerable huzzah from the crowd)
because he has been a friend to the poor and to the oppressed. But, Citizens, I hope and trust, notwithstanding my fate, and the fate of those who no doubt will soon follow me, that the principles of freedom, of humanity, and of justice, will finally triumph over falsehood, tyranny and delusion, and every principle inimical to the interests of the human race.
(a warning from the Sheriff)
I have little more to add, except to wish you all health, happiness and freedom, which I have endeavoured, as far as was in my power, to procure for you, and for mankind in general.
After his death, his family denied that Catherine was his wife but merely his ‘house-keeper.’ I assume, without knowing, this might have been because they wanted the inheritance rather than, or perhaps, as well as naked prejudice.
Francis Burdett married into the fabulously rich banking family the Coutts, and their daughter was the famous Angela Burdett Coutts who was a philanthropist who collaborated extensively with Charles Dickens.
@Phew! What a ride – this is what I love about my job, you find things out that link disparate parts of your knowledge, creating an ever-interwining web of history.
I have republished my post of the Chinese New Year which you can see here:
The Roman festival of Saturnalia, held between 17th and 23rd of December, included reversing rules so that slaves, ruled and masters served. In the medieval period, the disorder of Christmas was continued with the election of Lords of Misrule, Masters of the Revels, and Boy Bishops.
John Stows, London’s first great historian, wrote of the Lord of Misrule in London:
Now for sports and pastimes yearly used.
First, in the feast of Christmas, there was in the king’s house, wheresoever he was lodged, a lord of misrule, or master of merry disports, and the like had ye in the house of every nobleman of honour or good worship, were he spiritual or temporal. Amongst the which the mayor of London, and either of the sheriffs, had their several lords of misrule, ever contending, without quarrel or offence, who should make the rarest pastimes to delight the beholders. These lords beginning their rule on Alhollon eve, continued the same till the morrow after the Feast of the Purification, commonly called Candlemas day. In all which space there were fine and subtle disguisings, masks, and mummeries, with playing at cards for counters, nails, and points, in every house, more for pastime than for gain.
Against the feast of Christmas every man’s house, as also the parish churches, were decked with holm, ivy, bays, and whatsoever the season of the year afforded to be green. The conduits and standards in the streets were likewise garnished; amongst the which I read, in the year 1444, that by tempest of thunder and lightning, on the 1st of February, at night, Powle’s steeple was fired, but with great labour quenched; and towards the morning of Candlemas day, at the Leaden hall in Cornhill, a standard of tree being set up in midst of the pavement, fast in the ground, nailed full of holm and ivy, for disport of Christmas to the people, was torn up, and cast down by the malignant spirit (as was thought), and the stones of the pavement all about were cast in the streets, and into divers houses, so that the people were sore aghast of the great tempests.’