16 December, 2017

Edward II And Dice Games

For the record, in a piece of news unrelated to the current post, this blog had a whopping 6,434 visitors yesterday! Thank you all for visiting and reading. :-)

It was Edward II's custom for many years to play at dice on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas night with members of his retinue. At Nottingham on 25 December 1316, for example, the king spent the large sum of five pounds to play (whether he won or not, I don't know). Edward didn't only play dice at Christmas: on 7 January 1323, he played while at the royal manor of Cowick in Yorkshire, and spent two pence at Langdon Abbey playing dice in late August 1325 and celebrated the Nativity of St John the Baptist at the Tower of London on 24 June 1326 playing dice with Sir Giles Beauchamp. On the Langdon occasion, Edward sent his chamber servant Piers Pulford to buy new dice at a cost of two pence. Christmas does seem, though, to have been Edward's favourite time to play at dice. Again at Nottingham on Christmas night 1324, he played a game called rafle or raefle with three members of his chamber staff and with William Montacute (b. 1301), future earl of Salisbury and the son of one of Edward's greatest friends, the elder William Montacute, who died in Gascony in 1319.

Edward also enjoyed a game called cross and pile, the medieval equivalent of heads or tails. On 5 May 1326, he borrowed five shillings from his barber Henry to play with him, and spent another twenty shillings playing again a few days later (these were large sums of money!). Edward II attended the wedding of Hugh Despenser the Younger's household retainer Sir Robert Wateville and Hugh's niece Margaret Hastings on 19 May 1326, and three days later lost eight shillings to the newly-married Wateville playing cross and pile with him. On 13 July 1326 the king lost another two shillings playing against his chamber usher Peter Bernard, so apparently wasn't very good at it, or was very unlucky.

The king did not only enjoy indoor games, he loved outdoor physical activity as well; I've previously written posts about his love of swimming and rowing, ball games, digging ditches and so on. But, sadly, the British climate and long hours of darkness for part of the year does not always permit outdoor activities - though Edward did go swimming in the Thames in February one year, brrrrrrr - and so Edward stayed inside and took part in games of chance to while away the long winter evenings.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Kathryn, lovely stories about Edward, I really am a fan of his. His wit and humour, and in this post, humanity, show admirably. He played games with his courtiers and as said before welcomed the 'common man' when went swimming, fishing and digging ditches. I adore him. Amanda

sami parkkonen said...

I bet for him the gambling was a social entertainment. He was a social gambler, not a gambling man like the pros. But he was certainly spending some cash on this too.

Anonymous said...

Lovely stories! Apparently, rafle involves three dice where you have to shake three of the same number. If my rickety maths is correct, the probability of that is 1 in 216 so it's not surprising that Edward lost quite a bit of cash. Jo

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, everyone! :) Jo, that's great, thanks for telling me - was wondering what rafle is!:)