Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tudor Tart: Elizabeth Amadas

No known portrait of Amadas exists.
However, here is a lovely "Unknown"
by Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale
Elizabeth Amadas, wife of Robert Amadas - Royal Goldsmith is up for vote as this week's Tudor Tart for several reasons. In the 1520's, it was rumored that Elizabeth was a mistress of Henry VIII. It is said that Henry wrote many a letter to the young lady, asking her to meet at William Compton's London home for a tryst. It is unknown whether or not Elizabeth did, in fact, become the King's mistress or not.

If she did, it would potential explain her later behavior. In 1532, Elizabeth was arrested for treason. She had spoken out against the King's marriage to Anne Boleyn saying Anne was a "harlot" and that the King should return to Katherine of Aragon. 

Unlike other less fortunate subjects who railed against their King's new wife, Elizabeth escaped execution and was released. However, she and her husband were permanently banished from court.

Now that the evidence has been laid before you, what do you think? Was Elizabeth spared because of the King's former affection for her as his mistress?
Pin It

Monday, December 26, 2011

Who Wore it Best? - Six Wives Christmas Regalia

The Tudors has helped bring the world of Henry VIII to life. In this new monthly post series, I will compare items and clothing worn by characters on the show. As would have been done in real life, items were recycled on the series, passed from person to person.

To start of this monthly posting, I thought it would be fun to compare outfits worn by Henry's Six Wives during the Christmas Celebrations.

1) Katherine of Aragon


During the show, we only see Katherine preside over one Christmas. She wears the traditional red and gold, topped with a beautiful wreath adorned with pearls and rubies.


2) Anne Boleyn


Anne Boleyn presides over two Christmases during the show: One before she is Queen, and one while she is Queen.

As Lady Anne:

In this scene, Anne wears the traditional red with an elegant wreath of holy, rubies, and pearls. Not so traditional; her rather low neck line.


As Queen Anne:

As Queen, Anne dones royal purple rather than red. Her simple dress is dressed up with a bejeweled neckline and topped with an the traditional wreath.



3) Jane Seymour

Jane's short reign did give us one Christmas. Here she wears a stunning crimson silk dress with an elaborate gold underskirt. She, too, wears the traditional holiday wreath adorned with pearls and rubies.




4) Anne of Cleves

Unfortunately, we do not get to see Anne of Cleves as Queen during Christmas. However, she does attend the Christmas celebrations presided over by Katheryn Howard.

Here, Anne wears a stunning bejeweled crimson dressed. She, too, wears the traditional holiday wreath.

5) Katheryn Howard

Young Katheryn looks ever the youth in her almost pink dress, bejeweled as fitting for a Queen. She, too, wears the traditional holiday wreath. However, unlike her predecessors, her wreath consists of mostly flowers, which matches her bejeweled flower neckline.


6) Catherine Parr
The only time Catherine Parr is seen at Christmas is before she is introduced to the King. In the absence of a Queen, Princess Mary is presiding over the festivities. Catherine is shown here in a lace and silk dress, demure but elegant.


Now you decide! Which Queen wore it best?
Pin It

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Twelve Days of Tudor Christmas: Gift Giving

Portrait of baby Edward, given
by Hans Holbein to Henry VIII
On this last day of our Twelve days of Tudor Christmas, we will discuss the tradition of gift giving. If we had followed the original Twelve Days of Christmas, today would have been the first day of Christmas. But, breaking with tradition, I have it as our last. Gift Giving was a part of the Twelve Days of Christmas, but occurred on the seventh day of the Twelve Days, which we celebrate as New Years Day. All nobles would send or bring their monarch a gift. Each gift was carefully recorded on a Gift Roll. Some, like one from 1539, still survive today.

Some gifts had special meanings. For example, Elizabeth I received a jeweled whip from Sir Philip Sidney as an apology for suggesting she not marry. It represented his submission to her will.

Silk stockings belonging
to Elizabeth I
Some gifts were more practical. Robert Dudley gave Elizabeth a pair of silk stockings during her first New Years celebration as Queen. During his reign, Henry VIII often received shirts made and embroidered by the women of his court.

Even humble subjects gave their monarch gifts. Probably one of Henry VIII's favorite gifts was a portrait of his son, Edward, by Hans Holbein. One year, Elizabeth received a pair of cambric sleeves from a school master.

The monarch was not the only one to receive gifts during the Christmas season. Peasants in Tudor times would give gifts too, though not as rich as at the royal court. Gifts of fruit (such as oranges, which were quite rare), nuts, and possibly a new piece of clothing or a handmade toy or two were common. Though we now give gifts on Christmas rather than New Years, we can easily imagine the excitement of Tudor Children on New Years day as they received gifts.

I must admit I am sad to finish my Twelve Days of Tudor Christmas. I hope all my readers have enjoyed it and have a very Happy Christmas! Pin It

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Twelve Days of Tudor Christmas: Father Christmas

On the Eleventh day of our Tudor Christmas, we will discuss Father Christmas. Santa Clause, as we know him today, we present in Tudor times, despite what many believe today. He is not a purely Victorian invention. Rather, he dates back to the Middle Ages where he was known as "Lord Christmas." A poem from about 1485 says,
"Goday, goday, my lord Sire Christëmas, goday!
Goday, Sire Christëmas, our king,
for ev'ry man, both old and ying,
is glad and blithe of your coming;
Goday!"
In Tudor England, Lord Christmas wore a long green robe trimmed in fur. Eventually, this evolved to the red and white suit we know so well today. Though he was present, Lord Christmas wasn't central to Tudor Christmas celebrations. It wasn't until Stuart and Victorian England that Father Christmas became a more central character in these festivities.

17th Century England, not long after the Tudors, had a more recognizable version known as Father Christmas. He represented the "Old Christmas" of times past. With the coming of the Commonwealth, the Puritans banned all Christmas celebrations. "Old Father Christmas" came to represent a nostalgic  Christmas of the "old days," such as those celebrated by the Tudors.

St. Nicholas, a 4th Century Christain Saint, was eventually merged with Father Christmas to form our modern Santa Clause. St. Nicholas was certainly known in Tudor times. He was a wealthy Greek orphan who was raised in a religious home by his uncle, and later became a priest. He is depicted as an older man with a white beard. While traveling, St. Nicholas came upon a house where a man had murdered three boys and was trying to pass off their remains as ham. St. Nicholas saw through the ploy and brought the boys back to life. Another story tells of St. Nicholas secretly leaving money for a poor man who did not have the means to provide a proper dowry for his daughters (meaning they would probably have to resort to prostitution). Eventually, the legends around St. Nicholas had him leaving money and gifts for those who needed them. As stated before, though Father or Lord Christmas wasn't central to a Tudor Christmas, St. Nicholas was well known, an eventually combined with the Medieval Lord Christmas to form our modern day Santa Clause.
Pin It

Friday, December 23, 2011

Twelve Days of Tudor Christmas: Ghost Stories

On the Tenth Day of our Twelve Days of Tudor Christmas, we will discuss the telling of Ghost Stories. This tradition, like many Christmas traditions, has pagan roots. The days surrounding Christmas have short, cold days and long, cold nights, leaving those enduring them to sit by the warm hearth. Telling stories by the hearth has been a tradition from the dawn of man. However, around the end of the year, the old spirits go out and the new come in, thus might have some bearing on the tradition of telling stories of spirits. Winter is also said to spark more paranormal activity than other parts of the year.


One story that might have been told by the Tudors is a Medieval ghost story titled Hellequin's Hunt. Probably written by a monk, Orderic Vitalis, it tells of a man who was caught in the forest at night and began to witness supernatural things. First, he heard the echoes of an army, then he saw a giant man carrying a mace. This giant told him to stay still and to watch. He then began to see a series of supernatural voyagers, the first on foot (including some his dead neighbors). They were lamenting. The rest were tortured in different ways, reflecting their sins. One group, for example, was of women on horseback, riding sidesaddle with the saddles studded with hot nails. Their crime was loving luxury and debauchery. Throughout the story, all social stations were represented - no-one escaped...

Since most of the ghost stories told by the Tudors would have been passed down from the Middle Ages, it is no surprise that most of them would have a religious theme.

Like Hellequin's Hunt, the stories were meant to inspire fear in those who heard them to keep them on the straight and narrow path.

Though the Victorians really popularized the tradition, the Tudors would have certainly sat around the hearth, sipping wassail and telling ghost stories. Though the tradition has pretty much died out in our modern celebrations of Christmas, we still reference it. For example, the song It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year features a line saying, "There’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago..."

If you would like to read some fun ghost stories from Tudor England, be sure to click here!

Pin It

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Twelve Days of Tudor Christmas: Caroling

On the Ninth day of our Twelve Days of Tudor Christmas, we will discuss Caroling. Caroling as we know it is a mostly 19th Century invention. However, it does have its origins in Medieval and Tudor times. Wassailing (not to be confused with the drink Wassail, though they are connected) was a type of "caroling" performed three times a year (Christmas, Jan. 6th/Twelfth Night, and Shrove Tues.) by local peasants. They would "come a wassailin'" to the Lord's manor, begging charity. These were not normal beggars, but local townspeople who only asked charity on these days. When approaching the manor, they would sing "We are not daily beggars that beg from door to door, but we are friendly neighbors whom you have seen before."

A famous Victorian carol is based on Wassailing. It is aptly titled "He We Come a Wassailing." Watch the video below to hear my favorite version of it:



Unfortunately, it is only instrumental. However, here are the lyrics to the original song:


Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green,
Here we come a-wand'ring
So fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail, too,
And God bless you, and send you
A Happy New Year,
And God send you a Happy New Year. 

We are not daily beggers
That beg from door to door,
But we are neighbors' children
Whom you have seen before
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail, too,
And God bless you, and send you
A Happy New Year,
And God send you a Happy New Year.

The connection between Wassail (the drink) and Wassailing stems from pagan roots where villagers would make Wassail as well as sing to the apple trees in the hopes of a fruitful harvest.
We are not daily beggars that beg from door to door but we are friendly neighbors whom you have seen before. Pin It

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Twelve Days of Tudor Christmas: Churching

Christmas Mass as Seen in "The Tudors"
On the Eighth Day of Tudor Christmas, we will discuss the importance of Churching. Going to Church was the most important part of any Tudor Christmas. The monarch would begin the Twelve Days of Christmas by attending Mass three times a day, exiting the Privy Chamber and walking in procession to the chapel. While processing, the genealogy of Christ was sung. Each Mass service required the monarch to wear new clothing, each sumptuous outfit accented with coronation robes and crown.

A popular tradition was the election of the "boy bishop." During the Twelve Days of Christmas, an altar or choir boy was decreed bishop. He performed all of the duties of the bishop, such as preaching and visiting parishioners. The only act he did not perform was conducting Mass. In the 1540's, Henry VIII abolished this practice, as he saw it as mocking the English Church, as well as its head...him.

King Edward VI decreed that all his subjects should walk to church during the Twelve Days of Christmas. I suppose since he had to walk, he felt his subjects should too. Technically, this decree is still in law.
Pin It

Monday, December 19, 2011

Twleve Days of Tudor Christmas: The Yule Log

On the Seventh Day of Tudor Christmas, we will discuss the burning of the Yule Log. The burning of the Yule Log was an extremely popular tradition in Tudor and Stuart England. Originally, young males would find and drag a heavy log into a home and place it in the hearth. The log was usually decorated by the young maids of the household with ribbons and greenery. The young men would be rewarded with beer once the log was placed in the hearth. A remnant of the previous year's Yule Log was used to light the new log. It was meant to represent protection from evil. The log, due to its size and denseness, would burn the entire Twelve Days of Christmas. Once the log had burned down, a remnant was taken and kept for the next year.


The burning of the Yule Log is rarely practiced in today's Christmas festivities. Rather, a Yule Log (a chocolate and cream cake made in the shape of a log) is often made and eaten in modern Christmas celebrations. Pin It

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Twelve Days of Tudor Christmas: Music

On the Sixth Day of our Tudor Twelve Days of Christmas, we will discus Tudor Christmas Music.

The Twelve Days of Christmas is one of today's most popular Christmas songs. Did you know that it originated as a way for Catholic Tudors to share their beliefs secretly with other Catholics? During the reign of Elizabeth I, Catholics were often persecuted, as their Queen and her government were Protestant. The Twelve Days of Christmas was a way for Catholics to teach their children the tenants of their faith, as well as let other Catholics know they were not alone in their persecution.



Here is a translation of the meanings behind the gifts in the song:

On the first day of Christmas my True Love gave to Me, a Partridge in a Pear Tree.
("My True Love" represents God, "Me" the baptized believer, and "a Partridge in a Pear Tree" represents Christ).

On the second day of Christmas my True Love gave to Me, Two Turtle Doves...
("Two Turtle Doves" represent the Old and New Testament).

On the third day of Christmas my True Love gave to Me, Three French Hens...
("Three French Hens" represent the Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

On the fourth day of Christmas my True Love gave to Me, Four Calling Birds...
("Four Calling Birds" represent the Four Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).

On the fifth day of Christmas my True Love gave to Me, Five Golden Rings...
("Five Golden Rings" represent the Five Catholic Obligatory Sacraments - Baptism, Communion, Confirmation, Penance, and Last Rites).

On the sixth day of Christmas my True Love gave to Me, Six Geese a Laying...
("Six Geese a Laying" represent the Six Days of Creation).
On the seventh day of Christmas my True Love gave to Me, Seven Swans a Swimming...
("Seven Swans a Swimming" represent the Seven Sacraments).
On the eigth day of Christmas my True Love gave to Me, Eight Maids a Milking...
("Eight Maids a Milking" represent the Eight Beatitudes - days required for Catholics to receive Communion).
On the ninth day of Christmas my True Love gave to Me, Nine Ladies Dancing...
("Nine Ladies Dancing" represent the Nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit). 
On the tenth day of Christmas my True Love gave to Me, Ten Lords a Leaping...
("Ten Lords a Leaping" represent the Ten Commandments). 

On the eleventh day of Christmas my True Love gave to Me, Eleven Pipers Piping...
("Eleven Pipers Piping" represent the Eleven Apostles, Excluding Judas).
On the twelfth day of Christmas my True Love gave to Me, Twelve Drummers Drumming...
("Twelve Drummers Drumming" represent the twelve points of the Apostles Creed).
Another popular Christmas song was The Boar's Head Carol. This carol describes the presentation of a Boar's Head as part of the Yuletide feast. Much as we have a turkey or ham as our Christmas dinner centerpiece, so did the Tudors have a boar's head. Listen to the carol below:



Though originally not a Christmas song, the tune Greensleeves has been adapted to the popular Christmas song "What Child is this." Legend has it that Greensleeves was written by Henry VIII about Anne Boleyn. However, some historians doubt this. Despite who wrote it, it is one of my favorite Tudor songs. My favorite version of Greensleeves is by Mannheim Steamroller. Listen to it below :)


Most Christmas music from Tudor England was religious. Christmas, after all, was one of the most important religious holidays in Tudor England...as it still is today!

Pin It

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Twelve Days of Tudor Christmas: Mumming

Day Five of our Twelve Days of Tudor Christmas will focus on Mumming. Mumming, or Mummer's Plays, was a common entertainment during the Christmas season. Mummers would usually dress in a guise a perform a play, sometime with a religious allegorical undertone. Common characters in these plays would be Saint George, Robin Hood, a Turkish Knight and Slasher (both opponents of St. George) and later, Father Christmas.

The players would wear costumes which disguised them. They would then go from house to house, or perform in the streets. Mummers would often ask the crowd for money. It was apparently a very lucrative profession, sometimes raising an entire months wages in one night!

Mumming is originally thought to have come to England from Ireland. Like many of our Christmas traditions, it has evolved through time and still practiced today! Pin It

Friday, December 16, 2011

Twelve Days of Tudor Christmas: Feasting


The Fourth Day of our Tudor Christmas bring us to one of the most important aspects of a Tudor Christmas: Feasting. I am going to focus on some of the most popular food items; Minced Pies, Meat, and Puddings.

Minced pies were enjoyed by Tudors from the lowliest peasants to the King and his court. Minced pies were made with thirteen ingredients to represent Christ an his apostles. Below is a traditional minced pie recipes. Often times, pies were shaped like a crib (to represent the Christ child) or decorated with a crib or infant child (like the image to the right).

Traditional Tudor Minced Pies
1 cup lamb (minced)
1/2 cup veal (minced)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup raisins
1 cup currants
1 orange (both zest and juice)
1/2 lemon (both zest and juice)
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground mace
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 cup dates
Individual Pie Crusts


Mix ingredients. Cover and let sit overnight. Place filling in Pie Crusts. Place extra crust on top of each pie (you can cut top crust into fun Christmas shapes). Dust with egg yolk. Bake at 400 degrees F for 30 mins or until golden brown.

Meat was the main course of any Christmas feast. For peasants, poultry or game would have to suffice. However, for the rich, Swan, Peacock, and a Boar's Head were eaten. The first Christmas Turkey in England dates from the early 1520's, and was served to none other than King Henry VIII himself.

Though expensive, Queen Elizabeth ordered that every household in England should eat goose as part of their Christmas Feast in 1588, as it was the first meal she enjoyed after the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Needless to say, many of the Queen's poorer subjects had to settle for much smaller and less expensive game.

Presentation was extremely important in Tudor England. When meat, such as swan or peacock, was cooked, the skin and feathers were removed, then replaced once the bird had finished roasting, leaving the bird to look as if it had never been cooked!


Christmas pudding has been a very popular Christmas treat since the Middle Ages. In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church decreed that every household was to serve a pudding made on the 25th. It was to be prepared with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and his 12 apostles, with every family member taking a turn to stir the pudding from east to west, to honor the Magi.

Here's the link to an excellent Christmas Pudding recipes from Historical Foods.



Pin It

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Twelve Days of Tudor Christmas: Drinks



An important part of any Tudor celebration was libations. The 3rd day of the Twelve Days of Tudor Christmas will discuss the four most popular drinks; Wassail, Mulled Wine, and Egg Nog, and Buttered Beer, all of which we still drink today!

Wassail is a drink dating back to Angol-Saxon times. It is still drunk today in many parts of Europe and America. The drink is made from hot ale, sugar, spices, and apples. A piece of bread or toast is placed at the bottom of the bowl. Once the Wassail has been drunk, the toast is given to the most important person in the room. This is where we get our modern day raising of the glass and "toasting" an important guest from. 
I have enjoyed making Wassail for the last few years in my own home. I find it to be a delicious drink that my family and guests enjoy. Here's the recipe I use:

1 lb of apples, cored and cooked at 375 degrees for 1 hour in a foil covered baking dish. Remove peel when apples have cooled and mash.
1-2 cups light brown sugar (to taste) 
6 bottles of ale (such as double bock) 
1 cup sherry 
1 whole nutmeg, grated 
2 tsp ginger 
1/8 tbsp cloves 
Dissolve sugar in 1 bottle of ale over a low flame. Add spices and stir. Add remaining ale and sherry and remove from heat. Let sit for several hours, covered. Warm and add mashed apples. I usually garnish the Wassail bowl with apples.

Wassail was served in an elaborate bowl made in the shape of a large goblet. Small goblets or cups made of wood would accompany the bowl, making a Wassail set.

Another drink dating from ancient times, and thoroughly enjoyed by the Tudors, is Spiced or Mulled Wine. I love wine, and have enjoyed making this drink for the holiday season.

Spiced wine comes in many forms. The most common form is a red wine, heated, and spiced with sugar, cinnamon, orange, and cranberries.

Here is the recipe I use every Thanksgiving and Christmas:

2 bottles of light red wine (such as pinot noir)
1 to 2 oranges (I squeeze the juice into the pot, then add the orange as well) 
1 to 2 lemons (I only squeeze the juice, then discard the lemon) 
1/2 cup kirsch (a cherry brandy) or other type of brandy 
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar 
Cinnamon sticks (to taste- I usually use three to five)

Combine all the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a low boil. Let simmer for an hour, then sit for a day or two (in the fridge). Heat up before serving.

Another drink of choice for Henry VIII and his court was Eggnog. Thought to originate in East Anglia, England, this popular drink is made from eggs, milk or cream, sugar, spices, and alcohol. One possible origin for the mixture was from the old English "Egg Flip" which was a drink made from beer, rum, eggs, sugar, spices, and milk, poured together and heated with a hot poker which caused a frothing effect. The term "Nog" might have originated from the term "noggin," a wooded drinking cup commonly used for alcoholic beverages.

Eggnog was generally only enjoyed by the upper class, as dairy and egg products were expensive and hard to keep fresh.

Here's a delicious recipe for eggnog:

8 large eggs
4 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
5 cups whole milk
1.5 cups rum
1 cup bourbon
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 cups whipping cream
2 tbsp superfine sugar (an instantly dissolving sugar)


Mix eggs, yolks, and sugar together (excluding superfine sugar). Pour mixture into sauce pan and heat slowly. Gradually stir in milk. Heat and stir steadily until mixture forms a custard. Pour custard into a large bowl and stir in vanilla, rum, bourbon, and nutmeg. Let mixture cool, then cover and refrigerate for several hours or a day. 30 mins before serving, whip cream and superfine sugar until it forms soft peaks. Fold into chilled mixture until completely mixed, and serve in chilled glasses, garnished with ground nutmeg.

Buttered Beer is another popular holiday drink dating from Medieval times. Though more popular in the UK than the USA, it is still a delicious beverage to add to any holiday gathering. The oldest written Buttered Beer recipe dates from 1588 and is as follows:

3 bottles of a good quality British Ale (not a lager)
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup sugar
5 egg yolks
1/2 unsalted butter (diced)


Slowly pour ale into a pot. Stir in ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. Gently heat to a low boil, then let simmer. Gently whip egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. Remove pot from heat and mix in whipped egg. Once thoroughly mixed, return to low heat for five mins. Mix in butter, making sure it melts completely. Froth the mixture by gently whisking it. After about 10 mins, remove from heat and let cool to a drinkable temperature. 


Though there are many other holiday drinks, I felt that these were the most popular and delicious of them. Each and everyone, in some form, was enjoyed by the Tudors, and can likewise be enjoyed by you in your own home! Happy drinking! Pin It

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Twelve Days of Tudor Christmas: Decorations

On the 2nd day of our Tudor Christmas, we will discuss Tudor Christmas Decorations.

Tudor Christmas decorations at Trerice.
The familiar sights of lights, Christmas trees, and red bows in our own homes was a far cry from what the people of Tudor times used to decorate their homes. 

Using greenery of the season, along with dried fruit, berries, and candles constituted the bulk of Tudor Christmas decorations. A good example of what a Tudor home would have looked like decorated is seen at Trerice. Hampton Court Palace also has very good representations of Tudor Christmas decorations. Seen in the image to the left, the window centerpiece is a combination of candles, dried oranges, and greenery.

Despite the fact that the Christmas tree did not become popular in England until the reign of Queen Victoria, Christmas trees did exist during the Renaissance.

According to legend, monks in Germany used the "Christmas" Fir tree as a symbol of the trinity. It became popular to have them displayed, especially around Holy Days such as Christmas. The first decorated Christmas tree on record was at Riga, Latvia in 1510.

Legend has it that Martin Luther added the first "Christmas lights" to his Christmas tree. While traveling home one night, he was struck by the beauty of the stars shining through the branches of the trees about him. He took a small tree home and placed candles on it to show his children how the stars would shine all night through the branches of the trees.

One of the most popular decoration in Tudor times was the "Kissing Bough." This hanging decoration was made from woven ash or willow wood, covered in greenery. In the center of the bough was placed a small effigy of the baby Jesus. The bough was hung by the door to the home. Whenever someone visited the home, they were embraced under the bough as a sign of goodwill. This tradition eventually became attached to mistletoe, which was commonly used to make the "Kissing Bough."

Another popular Christmas decoration was the Advent Wreath. The use of the Advent Wreath dates back to the Middle Ages. It served a double purpose; as decoration, and as a tool for spiritual preparation for the holy season.

The wreath was made of various evergreens, which symbolized continuous life, formed in shape of a circle, which represented the continuity of God, with no beginning or end. Four candles, representing the 4000 years between Adam and Eve and the birth of Christ, were placed in the wreath. Three of the candles were purple, and one was rose in color. Each had a specific meaning, and would be lit on different nights. The three purple candles symbolized prayer, penance, and good works. The rose candle represented the midpoint of the Advent season.

Decorations were extremely important to the Tudors, just as they are to us today. Decorating marked the beginning and the end of the holiday season. It was considered bad luck to leave Christmas decorations up past Candlemas (Feb. 2). Pin It

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Twelve Days of Tudor Christmas: The Lord of Misrule

To celebrate Christmas, I am placing my current article series, "Pastyme With Good Companye," on hold to focus on a new series: The Twelve Days of Tudor Christmas.

In Tudor times, the 12 Days of Christmas (made popular by the traditional song) actually began on Christmas day and went through New Years to the 6th of January. However, to get into the Christmas spirit, I am going to have our 12 Days of Christmas lead up to Christmas Day.

The first of twelve traditions I will discuss is the Lord of Misrule.

The start to the Christmas season began with the appointment of the Lord of Misrule. This "Lord" was generally a peasant who was appointed by the local Parrish. He led the celebrations, presiding over large drinking parties and feasting, including the "Feast of Fools." In this role reversal, the Lord of Misrule mocked the King, ruling in his stead for 12 days. At the end of the 12 Days of Christmas, his rule came to  an end and the King "resumed" his duties.

This tradition was passed down for generations until 1512, when Henry VIII abolished it. I suppose he didn't want to share his power with anyone, especially a "fool." When Mary I came to power, she reinstated the tradition, but Elizabeth I abolished it again.

Another form of the Lord of Misrule surrounded Twelfth Night. Twelfth Night was the last night of the 12 Days of Christmas, and was marked by a large feast. During the feast, a bean was baked into a cake. The person who foudn the bean became the "Lord of Misrule," and presided over the banquet. Roles were reversed, with the King and nobles becoming "peasants." At midnight, the Lord of Misrule's reign ended and the world returned to normal. Pin It

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pastyme With Good Companye: Hunting

I am starting a new article series on the many "pastymes" of the Tudor Court. The first is Hunting.

Hunting was viewed as "an essential mark of a gentleman and...was valued as a test of courage, strength, and agility..." (Tudor England: An Encyclopedia, 327). It became a main "pastyme" of the Tudor monarchs, especially Henry VIII. It was said that when he first came to the throne, finally out from under the strict eye of his father, Henry was "a youngling who cares for nothing but girls and hunting." He and his many courtiers would often spend a great deal of the day hunting, leaving little time to govern the country. By the 1520's, the number of courtiers hunting with the King was reduced (the keep the court functioning while the King was away). Thus, hunting with the King was an honor. Being invited or not was a tell-tale sign of one's real rank in the King's favor.

Hunting was "a royal and aristocratic sport, almost as prestigious as warfare, and required the same courage and skills as were needed in battle...The quarry, which was usually deer, was either shot with bows and arrows, tracked down by dogs, or driven into nets," then ceremoniously killed (Weir, 106). The deer or wild boar were chased by the King and his company on horseback. The King owned a staggering 200 horses for such activity.

Hunting was not all fun and pleasure. It could also be very dangerous. Once, while hunting a wild boar, Henry came face to face with death. The wild boar turned on him and he was saved only by a quick acting peasant girl who shot the beast down with her bow and arrow.

Surprisingly, hunting was not only a man's sport. Many times, the Queen would accompany the King. All three of Henry's first wives spent a great deal of time hunting with him. While I'm sure they enjoyed it, it also offered them more "alone time" with the King than they received at court. Elizabeth I also enjoyed hunting. There are a few surviving books from Elizabeth's reign about hunting, including "A Short Treatise of Hunting" and "The Noble Arte of Venerie or Hunting." There are also a number of sketches showing the Queen hunting and picnicking (another "pastyme" often associated with the hunt).

Though it was a sport, the meat did not go to waste. Oftentimes, the meat was given to local peasants, or placed upon the King's own table. In a letter Henry wrote to Anne Boleyn, he tells her that he is sending her a large amount of game for her table.

Hunting Sword used by Henry VIII
Bows and arrows, crossbows, and even guns were used when hunting. Another weapon yielded was the hunting dog. Henry favored greyhounds and spaniels. His two favorite dogs, Ball and Cut, were prone to getting lost. Henry often paid a handsome reward to the person who found them and brought them back to court (Weir, 33).

Though a bloody and dangerous sport, it was a favored pastyme of Kings and Queens of the Tudor age and beyond. Even today the royals still participate in this ancient "pastyme," many times in the same locations, such as Windsor Castle, as Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

Sources:
Henry VIII: The King and His Court - Alison Weir
Tudor England: An Encyclopedia - Kinney and Swain Pin It

Monday, December 5, 2011

Roguish Rake: Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey

Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey
Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey has been called "Henry VIII's last victim." But was he really a victim? Or did he deserve his fate on the scaffold?

Surrey was a well known poet in Tudor England, writing many verses including "The Means to Attain a Happy Life," "Love That Doth Reign and Live Within My Heart," and even Sir Thomas Wyatt's Epitaph. Surrey, along with Thomas Wyatt, were the first Englishmen to use the Sonnet form when writing poetry. Shakespeare later adopted the style. Surrey is also credited with the invention of Blank Verse, and giving the sonnet form its rhyming meter.

Along with being a poet, Surrey was rumored to have had his hand in match making. When it was suggested that his sister, Mary, marry Thomas Seymour, Surrey objected (as did Mary). The wedding did not take place. Rather, Surrey suggested to his sister that she should seduce the King in order to "wield as much influence on him as Madame d'Etampes doth about the French King..." Mary, having seen the way two of her cousins had gone, volunteered to go ahead and cut her own throat then wait for the King to do it.

Mary Howard
In 1547, Surrey was arrested and tried for treason. His crime? Bearing the arms of Edward the Confessor, which solely belonged to the King. Most historians agree that this was a trumpet up charge to bring down the Howards. Many speculate that the King was paranoid that the Howards were vying for the throne (hum...imagine that. He put two of them on the throne himself). Surrey was beheaded at the Tower of London on Jan. 19th. His father, Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, was scheduled to follow him shortly after, but was saved by the death of the King. He was later released.

Now it's up to you to decide. Was Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey a victim of the times? Was he an innocent poet who fell victim to trumped up charges? Or did he deserve his fate? Was he, in fact, vying for the throne? Did he attempt to use his sister to get close to the King and eventually take the crown? Pin It

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lizzy's Loo: Elizabeth I's Flushing Toilet


Did you know, that in 1596 Sir John Harington introduced Queen Elizabeth to her first flushing toilet? Sure, flushing toilets have been around since the time of the ancient Minoans, but for the English, they were a new marvel.

Harington, who was known as Elizabeth's "saucy godson," constantly fell in and out of favor with the Queen. However, his flushing toilet remained forever in her favor. Pin It

Fashion or Flop? Lord Burghley

Lord Burghley, perhaps Elizabeth I's most influential adviser, sports a red velvet ensemble, complete with a darker velvet cloak, large chain of estate, and even larger sash. It is topped with a large lace ruffle, all the rage in Elizabethan England.

Lord Burghley may have had his wits about him when it came to politics, but what about fashion? Is it a yay or a nay?

Pin It