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

1 comment:

  1. This is interesting. Today the tradition is a bit muddied but continues somewhat in New Orleans. On Twelth Night the Krewe of Phunny Phorty Phellows rides on the St. Charles street car line, and often the krewe theme is some form of satire of a political nature. On Mardi Gras day, the mayor of New Orleans "officially" turns the rule of the city over to Rex, the king of Carnival. It's really cool to see how these Tudor traditions still exsist today.