A Riotous Lord Of Misrule At The Temple
The high spirits of the Temple Sparks occasionally led them to
licence, as the author of The Reign of King Charles (1655) tells us
was the case in 1627. That Christmas the Temple Sparks had enstalled
a Lieutenant, which we country folk call a Lord of Misrule. The
Lieutenant had, on Twelfth eve, late in the night, sent out to collect
his rents in Ramme Alley and Fleet Street, limiting five shillings to
every house. At every door they winded their Temple horn, and if it
procured not entrance at the second blast or summons, the word of
command was then 'Give fire, gunner.' This gunner was a robustious
Vulcan, and his engine a mighty smith's hammer. The next morning the
Lord Mayor of London was made acquainted therewith, and promised to be
with them next night; commanding all that ward, and also the watch, to
attend him with their halberds. At the hour prefixt, the Lord Mayor
and his train marched up in martial equipage to Ramme Alley.
Out came the Lieutenant with his suit of Gallants, all armed in
cuerpo. One of the Halberdiers bade the Lieutenant come to my Lord
Mayor. 'No,' said the Lieutenant, 'let the Lord Mayor come to me.' But
this controversy was soon ended, they advancing each to other, till
they met half way; then one of the Halberdiers reproved the Lieutenant
for standing covered before the Lord Mayor. The Lieutenant gave so
crosse an answere, as it begat as crosse a blow; which, the Gentlemen,
not brooking, began to lay about them; but in fine the Lieutenant was
knockt down and sore wounded, and the Halberdiers had the better of
the swords. The Lord Mayor being master of the field, took the
Lieutenant, and haled rather than led him to the Counter, and with
indignation thrust him in at the prison gate, where he lay till the
Attorney General mediated for his enlargement, which the Lord Mayor
granted upon condition he should submit and acknowledge his fault. The
Lieutenant readily embraced the motion; and, the next day, performing
the condition, so ended this Christmas Game.
We can hardly expect an unbiassed opinion on the subject of Lords of
Misrule, or any other merriment, from Phillip Stubbes, the Puritan,
who, in The Anatomie of Abuses (ed. 1583), speaking of these
Christmas Lords, says: The name, indeed, is odious both to God and
good men, and such as the very heathen people would have blushed at
once to have named amongst them. And, if the name importeth some evil,
then, what may the thing it selfe be, judge you? But, because you
desire to know the manner of them, I will showe you as I have seen
them practised myself.
First, all the wilde-heds of the parish, conventing togither, chuse
them a graund-captain (of all mischeefe) whom they innoble with the
title of my Lord of Mis-rule, and him they crowne with great
solemnitie, and adopt for their king. This king anointed chuseth forth
twentie, fortie, three score, or a hundred lustie guttes, like to him
self, to waight uppon his lordlie Majestie, and to guarde his noble
person. Then, everie one of these his men, he investeth with his
liveries of green, yellow, or some other light wanton colour; and, as
though they were not gaudie enough, I should say, they bedecke them
selves with scarfs, ribons and laces, hanged all over with golde
rings, precious stones, and other jewels; this doon, they tye about
either leg xx or xl bels, with rich handkerchiefs in their hands, and
sometimes laid a crosse over their shoulders and necks, borrowed for
the most parte of their pretie Mopsies and looving Besses, for bussing
them in the dark.
Thus, al things set in order, then have they their hobby horses,
dragons and other antiques, togither with their baudie pipers and
thundering drummers, to strike up the devil's daunce withall. Then
marche these heathen company towards the church and church yard, their
pipers piping, their drummers thundring, their stumps dauncing, their
bels jyngling, their handkerchefs swinging about their heds like
madmen, their hobbie horses and other monsters skirmishing amongst the
route; and in this sorte they go to the church (I say), and into the
church (though the minister be at praier, or preaching), dancing and
swinging their handkercheifs over their heds in the church, like
devils incarnate, with such a confuse noise, that no man can hear his
own voice. Then, the foolish people, they looke, they stare, they
laugh, they fleer, and mount upon fourmes and pewes, to see these
goodly pageants solemnized in this sort. Then, after this, about the
church they goe againe and again, and so foorth into the churchyard,
where they have commonly their sommer haules, their bowers, arbors,
and banqueting houses set up, wherin they feast, banquet and daunce al
that day, and (peradventure) all the night too. And thus these
terrestriall furies spend the Sabaoth day.
They have, also, certain papers, wherein is painted some babblerie or
other, of imagery woork, and these they call My Lord of Misrule's
badges: these they give to every one that wil give money for them, to
maintaine them in their heathenrie, devilrie, whordome, drunkennes,
pride, and what not. And who will not be buxom to them, and give them
money for these their devilish cognizances, they are mocked and
flouted at not a little. And, so assotted are some, that they not only
give them monie, to maintain their abhomination withall, but also
weare their badges and cognizances in their hats and caps openly. But
let them take heede; for these are the badges, seales, brands, and
cognizances of the devil, whereby he knoweth his servants and clyents
from the children of God; and so long as they weare them, Sub vexillo
diaboli militant contra Dominum et legem suam: they fight under the
banner and standerd of the Devil against Christ Jesus, and all his
lawes. Another sorte of fantasticall fooles bring to these hel-hounds
(the Lord of Mis-rule and his complices) some bread, some good ale,
some new cheese, some olde, some custards and fine Cakes; some one
thing, some another; but, if they knew that as often as they bring
anything to the maintenance of these execrable pastimes, they offer
sacrifice to the devil and Sathanas, they would repent and withdraw
their hands, which God graunt they may!
Although Stubbes wrote with exceeding bitterness and party bias, he
had some warrant for his diatribe. In the Injunctions of Parkhurst,
Bishop of Norwich (1569), he says: Item, that no person or
persons calling themselves lords of misrule in the Christmas tyme, or
other vnreuerent persons at any other tyme, presume to come into the
church vnreuerently playing their lewd partes, with scoffing, iesting,
or rebaldry talke, and, if any such haue alredy offended herein, to
present them and their names to the ordinary.
[Footnote 71: Second Report of Ritual Comm., from which the examples
following are also taken.]
Grindal, Archbishop of York, in his Injunctions (1571) also says:
Item, that the Minister and Churchwardens shall not suffer any lordes
of misrule, or sommer lordes or ladies, or any disguised persons or
others, in Christmas or ... at rish bearings, or any other times to
come vnreuerently into any Church, or Chapell, or Churchyarde, and
there daunce ... namely, in the time of diuine service, or of anie
sermon. And so say Overton, Bishop of Lichfield (1584); Bancroft,
Bishop of London (1601); and Howson, Bishop of Oxford (1619).
Merely to show how general throughout England were these Rulers of
Christmas Festivities, I will give one more example, taken from the
Records of Norwich, re what happened there at Christ-tide 1440.
John Hadman, a wealthy citizen, made disport with his neighbours
and friends, and was crowned King of Christmas. He rode in state
through the City, dressed forth in silks and tinsel, and preceded by
twelve persons habited as the twelve months of the year. After King
Christmas followed Lent, clothed in white garments, trimmed with
herring skins, on horseback, the horse being decorated with trappings
of oyster shells, being indicative that sadness and a holy time should
follow Christmas revelling. In this way they rode through the City,
accompanied by numbers in various grotesque dresses, making disport
and merriment; some clothed in armour, others, dressed as devils,
chased the people, and sorely affrighted the women and children;
others wearing skin dresses, and counterfeiting bears, wolves, lions,
and other animals, and endeavouring to imitate the animals they
represented, in roaring and raving, alarming the cowardly, and
appalling the stoutest hearts.
Naturally, among the pastimes of this festive season dancing was not
the least. And it was reckoned as a diversion for staid people. We
The grave Lord Keeper led the braules,
The mace and seals before him.
It was a practice for the bar to dance before the Judges at Lincoln's
Inn at Christmas, and in James I.'s time the under barristers were, by
decimation, put out of Commons, because they did not dance, as was
their wont, according to the ancient custom of the Society. This
practice is also mentioned in a book published about 1730, called
Round About our Coal Fire, etc. The dancing and singing of the
Benchers in the great Inns of Court at Christmas is, in some sort,
founded upon interest, for they hold, as I am informed, some
priviledge by dancing about the fire in the middle of their Hall, and
singing the song of Round About our Coal Fire. In the prologue to
the same book we have the following song:--
O you merry, merry Souls,
Christmas is a coming,
We shall have flowing bowls,
Dancing, piping, drumming.
Delicate minced pies,
To feast every virgin,
Capon and goose likewise,
Brawn, and a dish of sturgeon.
Then, for your Christmas box,
Sweet plumb cakes and money,
Delicate Holland smocks,
Kisses sweet as honey.
Hey for the Christmas Ball,
Where we shall be jolly,
Coupling short and tall,
Kate, Dick, Ralph, and Molly.
Then to the hop we'll go,
Where we'll jig and caper,
Cuckolds all a-row,
Will shall pay the scraper.
Hodge shall dance with Prue,
Keeping time with kisses,
We'll have a jovial crew
Of sweet smirking Misses.
We still keep up the custom of dancing at Christ-tide, and no
Christmas party is complete without it; but of all the old tunes,
such as Sellinger's Rounds, the one mentioned in the above song,
with many others, but one remains to us, and that is peculiar to this
season--Sir Roger de Coverly.
Notes and Queries, 19th December 1885, gives an account of a very
curious dance. One of the most popular indoor games at Christmas time
was, in Derbyshire, that of the 'Cushion Dance,' which was performed
at most of the village gatherings and farm-house parties during the
Christmas holidays upwards of forty years ago. The following is an
account of the dance as it was known amongst the farmer's sons and
daughters and the domestics, all of whom were on a pretty fair
equality, very different from what prevails in farm-houses of to-day.
The dance was performed with boisterous fun, quite unlike the game as
played in higher circles, where the conditions and rules of procedure
were of a more refined order.
The company were seated round the room, a fiddler occupying a raised
seat in a corner. When all were ready, two of the young men left the
room, returning presently, one carrying a large square cushion, the
other an ordinary drinking horn, china bowl, or silver tankard,
according to the possessions of the family. The one carrying the
cushion locked the door, putting the key in his pocket. Both gentlemen
then went to the fiddler's corner, and, after the cushion-bearer had
put a coin in the vessel carried by the other, the fiddler struck up a
lively tune, to which the young men began to dance round the room,
singing or reciting to the music:--
'Frinkum, frankum is a fine song,
An' we will dance it all along;
All along and round about
Till we find the pretty maid out.'
After making the circuit of the room, they halted on reaching the
fiddler's corner, and the cushion-bearer, still to the music of the
fiddle, sang or recited:--
'Our song it will no further go!'
'Pray, kind sir, why say you so?'
'Because Jane Sandars won't come to.'
'She must come to, she shall come to,
An' I'll make her, whether she will or no!'
The cushion-bearer and vessel-holder then proceeded with the dance,
going as before round the room, singing 'Frinkum, frankum,' etc., till
the cushion-bearer came to the lady of his choice, before whom he
paused, placed the cushion on the floor at her feet, and knelt upon
it. The vessel-bearer then offered the cup to the lady, who put money
in it, and knelt on the cushion in front of the kneeling gentleman.
The pair kissed, arose, and the gentleman, first giving the cushion to
the lady with a bow, placed himself behind her, taking hold of some
portion of her dress. The cup-bearer fell in also, and they danced on
to the fiddler's corner, and the ceremony was again gone through as at
first, with the substitution of the name of John for Jane, thus:--
'Our song it will no further go!'
'Pray, kind Miss, why say you so?'
'Because John Sandars won't come to.'
'He must come to, he shall come to,
An' I'll make him, whether he will or no.'
The dancing then proceeded, and the lady, on reaching her choice (a
gentleman, of necessity), placed the cushion at his feet. He put money
in the horn and knelt. They kissed and rose, he taking the cushion and
his place in front of the lady, heading the next dance round; the lady
taking him by the coat tails, the first gentleman behind the lady,
with the horn-bearer in the rear. In this way the dance went on till
all present, alternately a lady and gentleman, had taken part in the
ceremony. The dance concluded with a romp in file round the room, to
the quickening music of the fiddler, who, at the close, received the
whole of the money collected by the horn-bearer.
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