The Lord Of Misrule

We have seen in the account of historic Christ-tides how a Lord of

Misrule was nominated to amuse Edward VI., and with what honour he was

received at the Mansion house. The popular idea of the Lord of Misrule

is that he was a buffoon; but this is far from being the case. Warton

says that, in an original draught of the Statutes of Trinity College,

Cambridge, founded in 1546, one of the chapters is entitled De

udorum, qui IMPERATOR dicitur. And it was ordered, as

defining the office of Emperor, that one of the Masters of Arts

should be placed over the juniors every Christmas for the regulation

of their games and diversions at that season. His sovereignty was to

last during the twelve days of Christmas, and also on Candlemas day,

and his fee was forty shillings. Warton also found a disbursement in

an audit book of Trinity Coll. Oxon. for 1559. Pro prandio Principis


Anthony a Wood, in his Athenae, speaking of the Christmas Prince of

St. John's College, whom the Juniors have annually, for the most part,

elected from the first foundation of that College, says: The custom

was not only observed in that College, but in several other Houses,

particularly in Merton College, where, from the first foundation, the

fellows annually elected, about St. Edmund's Day, in November, a

Christmas Lord, or Lord of Misrule, styled in the Registers Rex

Fabarum, and Rex Regni Fabarum: which custom continued till the

Reformation of Religion, and then that producing Puritanism, and

Puritanism Presbytery, the possession of it looked upon such laudable

and ingenious customs as popish, diabolical, and anti-Christian.

The office was one of dignity, as we may see by Henry Machyn's diary,

1551-52: The iiij day of Januarii was made a grett skaffold in chepe,

hard by the crosse, agaynst the kynges lord of myssrule cummyng from

Grenwyche and (he) landyd at Toure warff, and with hym yonge knyghts

and gentyllmen a gret nombur on hosse bake sum in gownes and cotes and

chaynes abowt ther nekes, and on the Toure hyll ther they went in

order, furst a standard of yelow and grene sylke with Saint George,

and then gounes and skuybes (squibs) and trompets and bagespypes, and

drousselars and flutes, and then a gret company all in yelow and gren,

and docturs declaryng my lord grett, and then the mores danse, dansyng

with a tabret, etc.

But so popular were these Lords of Misrule that every nobleman and

person of position had one. Henry Percy, fifth Earl of Northumberland,

had one certainly in 1512, whose fee was 30s. Nor did Sir Thomas More,

when attached to the household of Cardinal Morton, object to stepp in

among the players. That they were usual adjuncts to great houses is

evidenced by an extract from Churchyard's Lamentacion of

Freyndshypp, a ballad printed about 1565:--

Men are so used these dayes wyth wordes,

They take them but for jestes and boordes,

That Christmas Lordes were wont to speke.

Stow tells us that, by an Act of Common Council, 12, Philip and Mary,

for retrenching expenses, among other things it was ordered that the

Lord Mayor or Sheriffs shall not keep any Lord of Misrule in any of

their houses. But it still seems to have been customary for Sheriffs,

at least, to have them, for Richard Evelyn, Esq. (father of the

diarist), who kept his Shrievalty of Surrey and Sussex in 1634, in a

most splendid manner, did not forego his Lord of Misrule, as the

following shows:--

Articles made and appoynted by the Right Wo^{ll} Richard

Evelyn Esq., High Sheriffe and Deputie Leavetenaunt to the

Kinge's Ma^{tie} for the Counties of Surrey and Sussex.

IMPRIMIS. I give free leave to Owen Flood my Trumpeter, gent. to be

Lo^{d} of Misrule of all good Orders during the twelve dayes. And also

I give free leave to the said Owen Flood to co[=m]and all and every

person whatsoev^{r}, as well servants as others, to be at his

co[=m]and whensoev^{r} he shall sound his Trumpett or Musick, and to

do him good service as though I were present my selfe at their


His Lo^{pp} commaunds every person or persons whatsoev^{r} to appeare

at the Hall at seaven of the Clocke in the morninge, to be at prayers,

and afterwards to be at his Lo^{pps} commaunds, upon paine of

punishment, accordinge as his Lo^{pp} shall thinke fitt.

If any person shall sware any oath w^{th}in the precinct of the ...

shall suffer punishment at his Lo^{pps} pleasure.

If any man shall come into the Hall, and sett at dinner or supper

more than once, he shall endure punishment at his Lo^{pps} pleasure.

If any man shal bee drunke, or drinke more than is fitt, or offer to

sleepe during the time abovesaid, or do not drinke up his bowle of

beere, but flings away his snuffe (that is to say) the second draught,

he shall drinke two, and afterwards be excluded.

If any man shall quarrell, or give any ill language to any person

duringe the abovesaid twelve dayes w^{th}in the gates or precinct

thereof, he is in danger of his Lo^{pps} displeasure.

If any person shall come into the kitchen whiles meate is a

dressinge, to molest the cookes, he shall suffer the rigor of his

Lo^{pps} law.

If any man shall kisse any maid, widdow or wife, except to bid

welcome or farewell, w^{th}out his Lo^{pps} consent, he shall have

punishment as his Lo^{pp} shall thinke convenient.

The last article: I give full power and authoritie to his Lo^{pp} to

breake up all lockes, bolts, barres, doores, and latches, and to

flinge up all doores out of hendges to come at those whoe presume to

disobey his Lo^{pps} commaunds.

God save the King.

These somewhat whimsical articles of agreement were evidently intended

to prevent mirth relapsing into licence, which, unfortunately, was too

often the case, especially with the Lord of Misrule or Prince of Love,

who directed the revels of the law students. Gerard Legh, in The

Accidens of Armory, 1562, says that Christmas was inaugurated with

the shot of double cannon, in so great a number, and so terrible,

that it darkened the whole air, and meeting an honest citizen,

clothed in a long garment, he asked him its meaning, who friendly

answered, 'It is,' quoth he, 'a warning to the Constable Marshall of

the Inner Temple to prepare the dinner.'

Sir William Dugdale, in Origines Juridiciales (ed. 1666, p. 163,

etc.), gives us the following account of a grand Christmas in the

Inner Temple, extracted out of the Accompts of the House:--

First, it hath been the duty of the Steward to provide five fat

Brawns, Vessells, Wood, and other necessaries belonging to the

Kitchin: As also all manner of Spices, Flesh, Fowl, and other Cates

for the Kitchin.

The Office of the Chief Butler to provide a rich Cupboard of Plate,

Silver and Parcel gilt; Seaven dozen of Silver and gilt Spoons; Twelve

fair Salt-cellars, likewise Silver and gilt; Twenty Candlesticks of

the like.

Twelve fine large Table Cloths of Damask and Diaper. Twenty dozen of

Napkins suitable, at the least. Three dozen of fair large Towells;

whereof the Gentlemen Servers and Butlers of the House to have, every

of them, one at meal times, during their attendance. Likewise to

provide Carving Knives: Twenty dozen of white Cups and green Potts; a

Carving Table; Torches; Bread; Beer, and Ale. And the chief of the

Butlers was to give attendance on the highest Table in the Hall, with

Wine, Ale, and Beer; and all the other Butlers to attend at the other

Tables in like sort.

The Cupboard of Plate is to remain in the Hall on Christmass day,

St. Stephan's day, and New Year's day. Upon the Banquetting night

it was removed into the Buttry; which, in all respects, was very

laudably performed.

The Office of the Constable Marshall to provide for his imployment, a

fair gilt compleat Harneys, with a nest of Fethers in the Helm; a

fair Poleaxe to bear in his hand, to be chevalrously ordered on

Christmass day, and other days, as, afterwards, is shewed: touching

the ordering and setling of all which ceremonies, during the said

grand Christmass, a solempn consultation was held at their

Parliament in this House, in form following:--

First, at the Parliament kept in their Parliament Chamber of this

House, on the even at night of St. Thomas the Apostle, Officers are

to attend, according as they had been, long before that time, at a

former Parliament named and elected to undergo several offices for

this time of solempnity, honour, and pleasance: Of which Officers,

these are the most eminent; namely the Steward, Marshall,

Constable Marshall, Butler, and Master of the Game. These

Officers are made known, and elected in Trinity Term next before;

and to have knowledg thereof by Letters, if in the Country, to the end

that they may prepare themselves against All Hallow-tide; that, if

such nominated Officers happen to fail, others may then be chosen in

their rooms. The other Officers are appointed at other times neerer

Christmass day.

If the Steward, or any of the said Officers named in Trinity Term,

refuse, or fail, he, or they, were fined, every one, at the discretion

of the Bench; and the Officers aforenamed agreed upon. And at such a

Parliament, if it be fully resolved to proceed with such a grand

Christmass, then the two youngest Butlers must light two Torches, and

go before the Bench to the Upper end of the Hall; who, being set down,

the ancientest Bencher delivereth a Speech, briefly to the whole

society of gentlemen then present, touching their Consent, as afore;

which ended, the eldest Butler is to publish all the Officers names,

appointed in Parliament; and then in token of joy and good liking, the

Bench and Company pass beneath the Harth, and sing a Carol, and so to

Boyer (drink).

[Sidenote: Christmas Eve.]

The Marshall at Dinner is to place at the highest Table's end, and

next to the Library, all on one side thereof, the most ancient persons

in the Company present: the Dean of the Chapell next to him; then an

Antient, or Bencher, beneath him. At the other end of the Table, the

Server, Cup-bearer and Carver. At the upper end of the Bench Table,

the King's Serjeant and Chief Butler: and, when the Steward hath

served in, and set on the Table, the first Mess, then he, also, is to

sit down.

Also, at the upper end of the other Table, on the other side of the

Hall, are to be placed the three Masters of the Revells; and at the

lower end of the Bench Table, are to sit, the King's Attorney, the

Ranger of the Forest, and the Master of the Game. And, at the lower

end of the Table, on the other side of the Hall, the fourth Master of

the Revells, the Common Sergeant, and Constable Marshall. And, at the

upper end of the Utter Barister's Table, the Marshall sitteth, when he

hath served in the first Mess: The Clark of the Kitchin, also, and the

Clark of the Sowce-tub, when they have done their offices in the

Kitchin, sit down. And, at the upper end of the Clark's Table, the

Lieutenant of the Tower, and the attendant to the Buttry are placed.

At these two Tables last rehersed, the persons there, may sit on both

sides of the Table: but, of the other three Tables, all are to sit

upon one side. And then, the Butlers, or Christmas servants, are first

to cover the Tables with fair linnen Table-Cloths; and furnish them

with Salt-cellars, Napkins and Trenchers, and a Silver Spoon. And

then, the Butlers of the House must place at the Salt-cellar, at every

the said first three highest Tables, a stock of Trenchers, and Bread:

and, at the other Tables, Bread only, without Trenchers.

At the first Course the Minstrells must sound their Instruments, and

go before; and the Steward and Marshall are, next, to follow together;

and, after them, the Gentlemen Server; and, then, cometh the meat.

Those three Officers are to make, altogether, three solempn Curtesies,

at three several times, between the Skreen and the upper Table;

beginning with the first, at the end of the Bencher's table; the

second at the midst; and the third at the other end; and then,

standing by, the Server performeth his Office.

When the first Table is set and served, the Steward's Table is next

to be served. After him, the Master's table of the Revells; then that

of the Master of the Game, the High Constable-Marshall: Then the

Lieutenant of the Tower; then the Utter Barister's table; and lastly,

the Clerk's table. All which time the Musick must stand right above

the Harthside, with the noise of their Musick, their faces direct

towards the highest Table: and, that done, to return into the Buttry,

with their Musick sounding.

At the second course, every Table is to be served, as at the first

Course, in every respect, which performed, the Servitors and Musicians

are to resort to the place assigned them to dine at; which is the

Valect's, or Yeoman's Table, beneath the Skreen. Dinner ended, the

Musicians prepare to sing a Song, at the highest Table; which ceremony

accomplished, then the Officers are to address themselves, every one

in his office, to avoid the Tables in fair and decent manner, they

beginning at the Clerk's Table; thence proceed to the next; and thence

to all the others, till the highest Table be solempnly avoided.

Then, after a little repose, the persons at the highest Table arise,

and prepare to Revells: in which time, the Butlers and other Servitors

with them, are to dine in the Library.

At both the dores in the Hall, are Porters to view the Comers in and

out at meal times: To each of them is allowed a Cast of Bread and a

Candle nightly, after Supper.

At night, before Supper, are Revells and Dancing; and so also after

Supper, during the twelve days of Christmass. The antientest Master of

the Revells is, after Dinner and Supper, to sing a Caroll, or Song;

and command other Gentlemen then there present, to sing with him and

the Company, and so it is very decently performed.

A Repast at Dinner is viii^{d.}

Service in the Church ended, the Gentlemen presently repair into the

Hall, to Breakfast, with Brawn, Mustard, and Malmsey.

At Dinner, the Butler appointed for the grand Christmass, is to see

the Tables covered and furnished: and the ordinary Butlers of the

House are decently to set Bread, Napkins, and Trenchers in good form,

at every Table; with Spoones and Knives.

At the first Course is served in, a fair and large Bore's head, upon

a Silver Platter, with Minstralsye. Two Gentlemen in Gownes are to

attend at Supper, and to bear two fair Torches of Wax, next before the

Musicians and Trumpeters, and stand above the Fire with the Musick,

till the first Course be served in, through the Hall. Which performed,

they, with the Musick, are to return to the Buttry. The like course is

to be observed in all things, during the time of Christmass. The like

at Supper.

At Service time this Evening, the two youngest Butlers are to bear

Torches in the Genealogia. A Repast at Dinner is xii^{d.} which

Strangers of worth are admitted to take in the Hall; and such are to

be placed at the discretion of the Marshall.

[Sidenote: St. Stephan's day.]

The Butler appointed for Christmass is to see the Tables covered, and

furnished with Salt-cellars, Napkins, Bread, Trenchers and Spoones.

Young gentlemen of the House are to attend and serve till the latter

Dinner, and then dine themselves.

This day, the Server, Carver and Cup-bearer are to serve, as afore.

After the first Course served in, the Constable Marshall cometh into

the Hall, arrayed with a fair, rich, compleat Harneys, white and

bright, and gilt; with a Nest of Fethers of all Colours upon his Crest

or Helm, and a gilt Poleaxe in his hand: to whom is associate the

Lieutenant of the Tower, armed with a fair white Armour, a Nest of

Fethers in his Helm, and a like Poleaxe in his hand; and with them

sixteen Trumpetters; four Drums and Fifes going in rank before them:

and, with them, attendeth four men in white Harneys, from the middle

upwards, and Halberds in their hands, bearing on their shoulders the

Tower; which persons, with the Drums, Trumpets and Musick, go three

times about the Fire. Then the Constable Marshall, after two or three

Curtesies made, kneeleth down before the Lord Chancellor; behind him

the Lieutenant; and they kneeling, the Constable Marshall pronounceth

an Oration of a quarter of an hour's length, thereby declaring the

purpose of his coming; and that his purpose is, to be admitted into

his Lordship's service.

The Lord Chancellor saith, He will take farther advice thereon.

Then the Constable Marshall, standing up, in submissive manner,

delivereth his naked Sword to the Steward, who giveth it to the Lord

Chancellour: and, thereupon, the Lord Chancellour willeth the Marshall

to place the Constable Marshall in his Seat; and so he doth, with the

Lieutenant, also, in his Seat or Place. During this ceremony, the

Tower is placed beneath the fire.

Then cometh in the Master of the Game apparalled in green Velvet: and

the Ranger of the Forest also, in a green suit of Satten; bearing in

his hand a green Bow, and divers Arrows; with, either of them, a

Hunting Horn about their Necks; blowing together three blasts of

Venery, they pace round about the fire three times. Then the Master of

the Game maketh three Curtesies, as aforesaid; and kneeleth down

before the Lord Chancellour, declaring the cause of his coming, and

desireth to be admitted into his service, &c. All this time, the

Ranger of the Forest standeth directly behind him. Then the Master of

the Game standeth up.

This ceremony also performed, a Huntsman cometh into the Hall, with a

Fox and a Purse-net; with a Cat, both bound at the end of a staff;

and, with them, nine or ten Couple of Hounds, with the blowing of

Hunting Hornes. And the Fox and Cat are, by the Hounds, set upon, and

killed beneath the Fire. This sport finished, the Marshall placeth

them in their several appointed places.

Then proceedeth the second Course; which done, and served out, the

Common Serjeant delivereth a plausible Speech to the Lord Chancellour,

and his Company, at the highest Table, how necessary a thing it is to

have Officers at this present; the Constable Marshall, and Master of

the Game, for the better honour and reputation of the Common-Wealth;

and wisheth them to be received, &c.

Then the King's Serjeant at Law declareth and inferreth the

necessity; which heard, the Lord Chancellour desireth respite of

farther advice. Then the antientist of the Masters of the Revells

singeth a Song, with assistance of others there present.

At Supper, the Hall is to be served with all solempnity, as upon

Christmass day, both the first and second Course to the highest

Table. Supper ended, the Constable Marshall presenteth himself with

Drums afore him, mounted upon a Scaffold, borne by four men; and goeth

three times round about the Harthe, crying out aloud, A Lord, A

Lord, &c. Then he descendeth and goeth to dance, &c., and, after, he

calleth his Court, every one by name, one by one, in this Manner:--

Sir Francis Flatterer, of FOWLESHURST, in the County of


Sir Randle Backbite, of RASCALL HALL, in the County of RAKE


Sir Morgan Mumchance, of MUCH MONKERY, in the County of MAD


Sir Bartholomew Baldbreech, of BUTTOCKSBURY, in the County


This done, the Lord of Misrule addresseth himself to the Banquet:

which ended with some Minstralsye, mirth and dancing, every man

departeth to rest.

At every Mess is a pot of Wine allowed. Every Repast is vi^{d.}

[Sidenote: St. John's day.]

About Seaven of the Clock in the Morning, the Lord of Misrule is

abroad, and, if he lack any Officer or Attendant, he repaireth to

their Chambers, and compelleth them to attend in person upon him after

Service in the Church, to breakfast, with Brawn, Mustard and Malmsey.

After Breakfast ended, his Lordship's power is in suspence, untill his

personal presence at night; and then his power is most potent.

At Dinner and Supper is observed the Diet and service performed on

St. Stephan's day. After the second Course served in, the King's

Serjeant, Oratour like, declareth the disorder of the Constable

Marshall, and of the Common Serjeant; which complaint is answered by

the Common Serjeant, who defendeth himself and the Constable Marshall

with words of great efficacy: Hereto the King's Serjeant replyeth.

They rejoyn &c., and whoso is found faulty, committed to the Tower &c.

If any Officer be absent at Dinner or Supper Times; if it be

complained of, he that sitteth in his place is adjudged to have like

punishment, as the Officer should have had, being present: and then,

withall, he is enjoyned to supply the Office of the true absent

Officer, in all points. If any offendor escape from the Lieutenant,

into the Buttery, and bring into the Hall a Manchet upon the point of

a knife, he is pardoned. For the Buttry, in that case, is a Sanctuary.

After Cheese served to the Table, not any is commanded to sing.

In the Morning, as afore, on Monday, the Hall is served; saving that

the Server, Carver and Cup bearer do not attend any service. Also like

Ceremony at Supper.

In the Morning no Breakfast at all; but like service as afore is

mentioned, both at Dinner and Supper.

At Breakfast, Brawn, Mustard and Malmsey. At Dinner, Roast Beef,

Venison-Pasties, with like solempnities as afore. And at Supper,

Mutton and Hens roasted.

In the Morning, Breakfast, as formerly. At Dinner like solempnity as

on Christmass Eve.

The Banquetting Night.

It is proper to the Butler's Office to give warning to every House of

Court, of this Banquet; to the end that they, and the Innes of

Chancery be invited thereto, to see a Play and Mask. The Hall is to be

furnished with Scaffolds to sit on, for Ladies to behold the Sports,

on each side. Which ended, the Ladies are to be brought into the

Library, unto the Banquet there; and a Table is to be covered and

furnished with all Banquetting Dishes, for the Lord Chancellour, in

the Hall; where he is to call to him the Ancients of other Houses, as

many as may be on the one side of the Table. The Banquet is to be

served in, by Gentlemen of the House.

The Marshall and Steward are to come before the Lord Chancellour's

Mess. The Butlers for Christmas must serve Wine; and the Butlers of

the House, Beer and Ale &c. When the Banquet is ended, then cometh

into the Hall, the Constable Marshall, fairly mounted on his Mule;

and deviseth some sport, for passing away the rest of the night.

At Breakfast, Brawn, Mustard and Malmsey, after Morning Prayer ended:

And, at Dinner, the Hall is to be served as upon St. John's Day.