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 e
ery 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[71] (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,[72] 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

know how--

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.[73] 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!'

The Fiddler--

'Pray, kind sir, why say you so?'

The Cushion-Bearer--

'Because Jane Sandars won't come to.'

The Fiddler--

'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:--

The Lady--

'Our song it will no further go!'

The Fiddler--

'Pray, kind Miss, why say you so?'

The Lady--

'Because John Sandars won't come to.'

The Fiddler--

'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.