16 August, 2008

Highlights of the 1318 Household Ordinance

In a previous post, I wrote about Edward II's household, and mentioned the Household Ordinance, also known as the York Ordinance, of 6 December 1318. The text of the Ordinance is printed in full, in the original French, in T. F. Tout's Place of the Reign of Edward II in English History (2nd edn., 1936). The full text runs to 37 pages, and only small parts of it have ever been translated into English - which can be read on Kevin's blog. I've been reading the Ordinance recently - yes, reading nearly 40 pages of fourteenth-century French is the kind of thing I do for fun - and I've translated a few of the interesting bits. I've kept as close to the original word choice and word order as possible, to give a good flavour of how it reads.


- robes: members of the household were entitled to a new set of clothes, either once or twice a year depending on rank.
- messe de gros/gross: literally, 'a large portion' or 'a large dish', a serving of whatever meat was offered that day. Only extremely important people (like Edward II himself) were entitled to eat alone; everyone else had to share a messe with 2, 3 or 4 others. Anyone interested in this subject (which is far too complex to go into here) should take a look at Peter Hammond's Food and Feast in Medieval England, or C. M. Woolgar's The Great Household in Late Medieval England.
- messe of roast: only household members above the rank of valet were entitled to eat roast meat, while the rest had to make do with the boiled kind. Higher-ranking members received a messe of roast in addition to the messe de gros; in other words, they got more food than the lower ranks.
- pantry or pantlery: the office responsible for bread and 'dry' things.
- butler: officer responsible for drinks, i.e. wine and ale (not used in the modern sense).
- usher: a doorkeeper, responsible for admitting people to rooms and escorting them in.
- verge: the area subject to the jurisdiction of the steward of the royal household.


12p = 1 shilling
20 shillings or 240p = £1
1 mark = two-thirds of a pound, or 160p

Item, the king will have 30 sergeants-at-arms, sufficiently armed and mounted, that is, a horse for each one, a hackney and a pack-horse; they will daily ride armed before the king's body when travelling around the country, if they have no other order from the king or the steward. And they will take for their wages every day, 12p per day. Of these 30 sergeants, 4, whom it will please the king to nominate, will daily be attending to the usher of the chamber, in aid of the usher; they will sleep outside the door, and as close to it as they can. And they will have for their bed 1 pitcher of wine, 2 candles, 1 torch. And the 26 sergeants will lie in the hall beside, to be nearby when the king needs them. And they will have for their bed 3 pitchers of wine, 6 candles, 1 torch. And all of the 30 sergeants will have 2 robes per year, or 46 shillings in money, 1 messe de gros from the kitchen, and 1 messe of roast.

[The names of some of Edward's sergeants-at-arms throughout his reign: Oto le Alemaund ('Otto the German'), Gaillard and Arnaud de Sancto Martino, John le Botiller, Roger atte Watre, Rodrigo de Medyne, William Beaukaire (a town in southern France), Bertrand de la Mare, Henry de Clare, Ivo de Welles, John de Enefeld, Raymond and Edmund Provost, Owen Gogh (also called Owen le Waleys, 'the Welshman'), John de Carleford, Guy Amany, Simon de Friskenade, Ralph Convers, William Fraunceys ('Frenchman'), Hugh de Cos, Giles de Miripoys, Poncius de Fossato (probably either Fossato di Vico in Perugia, or Fossato Serralta in Calabria).]

Item, 24 archers on foot, the king's bodyguard (garde corps le roi) who will go before the king when travelling about the country, of whom each one will take for wages 3p per day, 1 robe of 1 set (or suit: dune seute) or 1 mark in money, and for shoes 4 shillings and 8p.

Item, that the king will have 1 squire server and keeper of the foods for his mouth, and [who will be] food-taster at his table; and 1 squire carving before the king, and 1 squire to serve him from his cup; these 3 squires will each take for his chamber at night half a pitcher of wine, 2 candles, 1 torch, and bedding for the whole year, and wood for the season from the usher of the chamber. And he will take livery as a sergeant, that is, 1 penny worth of bread, half a pitcher of wine, half a gallon of ale, 1 messe de gros from the kitchen, 1 messe of roast; and each one will have for wages 7 and a half pence a day, 2 robes per year, or 40 shillings in money.

Item, 1 sergeant under usher (vn sergeant soutz vsshere) of the wardrobe, who will sleep inside the door of the wardrobe, to safely protect all the things which are within. And he will be held responsible, if peril occurs by his default. [Oh no, the peril!! :-)] He will take for his livery 1 penny worth of bread, half a pitcher of wine, half a gallon of ale, 1 messe de gros from the kitchen, and 1 messe of roast. And 4 and a half pence a day for wages per day, 2 robes per year or 40 shillings, and his bed will be carried on the cart of the wardrobe.

Item, a porter of the wardrobe, who will carry chests and other baggage of the wardrobe to the carts, and will load and unload them. And he will be on the cart during journeys. And he will keep watch at night when the cart is outside when travelling around the country [literally, 'out of house when itinerant through country']. And he will take from the rolls of the spicery every day for wages, 2p, and for his pains (or efforts or exertion) 2p from these same rolls of the spicery in addition to his wages, by reason of staying awake and his pains; and 1 robe of a serving-man per year, or 1 mark in money, and for shoes 4 shillings and 8p, at 2 seasons of the year, as due to a serving-man, at Christmas (Nowelle) and Pentecost, in equal amounts.

Item, there will be 2 trumpeters and 2 minstrels, at times more, at times less, who will make their minstrelsy before the king at all the times that it will please him. And they will eat in chamber or in the hall, as they are commanded. And they will take for their wages and their robes according to their estate, at the discretion of the steward and the treasurer.

Item, 1 sergeant porter, who will guard the door of there where the king sleeps, so that no-one will enter except those who have the right to do so; he will not allow anyone to take away from the household bread, wine, ale, food, bedding or wood, nor any other things, except those who are allowed to do so. And if anyone does it, he will have them arrested [or detained]. Item, 2 valets of office under him, who will aid him day and night, in doing all things pertaining to the office.

[Note: usually the word 'porter' meant someone who kept a gate, not a door - that was an usher]

Item, it is ordained and expressly commanded that the chief butler of our lord the king will make purveyance and purchases of wine from now on well and fittingly, for the sustenance of his [Edward's] household, that he and the good men who are close to him can be served honourably by this office, and that his household will be fittingly served by this same office, to maintain the honour of the lord king; so that no-one of the household will have reason to slander the said household to the dishonour of the lord king by the default of the said butler.

Item, 1 sergeant butler before the king, who will receive all the wine, and the ale, which he will dispense in the king's chamber, from the sergeant butler of the household; and he will be responsible daily for the records to the clerk of the buttery. And he will have in his keeping all the silver hanaps for service of the said chamber, and he will be answerable for them to the wardrobe.

Item, 1 serving-man of the 'cuphouse' [this word is in English in the original: cuphous] who will serve the chamber according to the orders of his master sergeant aforementioned; and he will take 1 robe per year, or 1 mark in money; and for shoes 4 shillings and 8p. And he will take 1 penny worth of bread, 1 gallon of ale, 1 messe de gros from the kitchen, and a bed for him and the valet of the pantry before the king, carried on the cart of the pantry.

Item, 2 serving-men of the bakehouse (pistrine), of whom one will be attending to the oven, and the other to the mill, for milling the wheat. And each of them will take for his wages 2p per day from the pantry roll; 1 robe per year, or 1 mark in money; and for shoes 4 shillings and 8p, and 1 bed for them both carried on the cart of the bakehouse.

Item, 2 valets of the 'pitcher house' [also in English: picherous], who will serve the hall with wine and ale according to the advice of their superiors. And they will have the tankards, hanapers and all manner of vessels which they have in their keeping, under the the butler of the household.

Item, 2 purchasers, who will make the purchases of meat and fish for household provisions. And they will daily bring the price and the goods to the clerk of the kitchen, so that the knight usher of the hall and the assessor of the king's table, and the said clerk, can see immediately whether the said goods are sufficient to dispense, and of good value in accordance with the price, for the king. And they will make their purchases in proper manner, to the great profit of the king and at minimal grievance to the people, and will make payment or tallies [i.e., notched tally-sticks for recording debts] to every man from whom they have purchased goods, to the king's advantage.

Item, 5 serving-men of the king's kitchen, under the 2 sergeant cooks aforementioned, of whom 1 will be usher and will fetch, by the orders of his masters, from the great larder, everything, the meat and fish which will be dispensed in the king's chamber, bread, wine and ale from the pantry and butlery, and spices from the spicery by the commands and ordinances of his masters. And another valet will be ewerer, who will receive the vessels of the said kitchen by (indenture?) with the official in charge of the scullery, and will guard them both when travelling and resting [i.e., when the household stayed in 1 place]. And he will cook 'the great meat' (la grosse chare) and prepare the first course, fish as well as meat. And another valet will be potager, who will make the potages for the king's chamber, and all the suets which will be for his table. And 2 other valets will make the roasts and the other courses for the said chamber according to the orders of their masters. The which 5 valets will have a boy to carry their bed and to help in the kitchen.

Item, it is ordained that the king will be served with 4 good courses and no more for himself and the other lords eating in the hall, and madame [Isabella] also; and that others of his household all good men shall be served with 3 courses, and the boys with 2.

Item, it is ordained by our lord the king and his council, for the easement of his people, that the retinue (or followers, mesne) of his household who cannot be lodged within the household in the town with the king, will be lodged by the 'lodgers' (herberiours) within the verge, according to his estate, that is, knight with 4 horses, clerk, sergeant, squire, each one according to the wages he takes from the king, that is, at 4 and a half pence and 1 horse, at 7 and a half pence with 2 horses, at 12p with 3 horses, and at 15p with 3 horses, at rest or at work, so that the country around the king will not be made more expensive by excessive numbers of people [i.e., the huge numbers of the household demanding food and goods pushed up prices in the area where they stayed]. And that the officers of the household will be lodged closest to the court so that they can be ready to undertake the business of their office; and all the others in the said retinue as close as the country can well endure...And because our lord the king must be served wherever he will go, as is fitting for his lordship*, it is ordained and commanded that no-one will be so insolent as to impede his officers making his purveyance and his purchases.

[* Meaning 'the state of being a lord', not referring to Edward as 'His Lordship'.]

And finally (for now - more on the Ordinance to come soon) the question of punishment! There were various things for which household members could be punished, for example:

- taking bread, wine or food out of the household without permission.
- valets having pages to serve them, except the valets in the kitchen, who were permitted 2.
- a household officer allowing someone to enter his office (for example, saucery, chandlery, napery, scullery, ewery) when they had no right to be there.
- someone of the rank of serving-man (vallet de mestier) or below riding a horse.
- ushers and marshals of the hall permitting someone to eat there who was not allowed to.
- members of the household eating outside the hall, unless they were ill or had the permission of the steward or treasurer.

And the punishment was:

The offender "will be the first time warned in courteous manner by the steward and treasurer, that he amends himself; and if another time is found in the same error, and takes wages, will lose the wages for a month; and the third time will lose his wages; and will be immediately warned [again] in courteous manner; and the second time will lose his shoe allowance, and the third time will lose his robe allowance, and the fourth time will lose [i.e., leave] the king's household, without return."


Hannah Kilpatrick said...

Hm. That's an interesting little insight into the lives of the musicians - perhaps not an unequivocal position...

"And they will eat in chamber or in the hall, as they are commanded." - that, I suppose, is dependent on whether/where they're performing, but:

"And they will take for their wages and their robes according to their estate" - does this mean "according to the usual estate of a minstrel", I wonder, or is it an implicit acknowledgement that not all minstrels have exactly the same social standing - that some of them might be, if not noble, at least deserving by their birth some recognition slightly above servant standard - because musical talent does not confine itself to one class?

I suppose it's more likely to be the first, but the precision of the details elsewhere makes this look like it's deliberately not specifying one single situation in this case.

Anonymous said...

I noticed the minstrel item in particular, too. We humanities-lovers would see that paragraph in boldface. You historians will have a better take on minstrels' social standing, but I saw it as an indication of skill or popularity.

As a church pianist and organist, I'm considered talented by my employers and congregants. But could I "make it" commercially? No way! (It's just mad-money.) I'm talented and have years of education and experience, but I don't have that show quality of a soloist or entertainer. And there are "musicians" of miniscule musical talent who have the total package and worldwide fame--also the $$$$, such as Britney Spears. (Sorry for bringing down the tone of your blog with THAT anachronistic insert!)

Perhaps these minstrel employees were the "regulars" who were skilled but didn't get the glory of a Welsh or Aquitanian bard on tour. They were probably the wallpaper instead of the centerpiece, and gave music lessons to courtiers to supplement their income. Even today, it's the only way to make a living as a musician.

So, to impose 21st-century culture on our ancestors, a musician of my "estate" might get the pence and the shoe allowance, but the "eSpearance de Brittany" bimbo would get the fortune from the grateful king! After all, people don't change. You see the same behaviors in Bible and mythological characters as you do in Shakespeare and in people today.

Kathryn Warner said...

The payment given depended to a very great extent on the social status and rank of the musician himself or his master - for example, in 1316 Ed gave £5 to the minstrel of his cousin the prince of Achaea and Taranto, but in 1323 10 shillings (half a pound) each to 4 clerks who 'played interludes' for him. And in 1317, he paid 4 men of low birth in striped cloth rather than in money "for singing before the king in his chamber at Westminster." (20 ells of cloth between the 4 of them.) Giving striped cloth rather than money to the minstrel of the prince of Achaea (who was also titular emperor of Constantinople) would have been very odd. As I wrote in my post on Ed's generosity recently, the amount of money he gave to people depended almost entirely on their birth, rank and wealth - though there were always exceptions, of course, and Ed could be ludicrously generous to people who especially pleased him, handing over 20 years' income or thereabouts to them for some favour. Can't think of any examples offhand, but quite possibly there were occasions when Ed gave a very generous amount to a musician because of his talent, not because of his social status.

Christy: that's definitely the first time anyone's mentioned Britney on my blog! You'll probably increase my hit rate enormously. :-)

Gabriele Campbell said...

I wonder what 'warned in a courteous manner' sounded like.

That's an interesting post. I tend to forget that noble lords had great households, because those people tend to get in the way. :) But I should make it more clear that when Roderic is in exile, he's bereft of him men at arms, valets, clerks, personal surgeon (I mention that guy after the fight with Kjartan) and whatever, and that would be even more valid later in the novel for Duke Conrad who must have had a larger retinue.

Jules Frusher said...

Fascinating post! I love all those details - but OMG, what a complicated logistics nightmare. You really couldn't feel lonely at court, could you?

"And they will make their purchases in proper manner, to the great profit of the king and at minimal grievance to the people..." That quote made me smile. No doubt the king profited quite well thanks to his purveyors and the grievances of the people were often not minimal at all!

The bit about the butler being responsible for the wine so that it reflected well on the king made me smile too as I remember something in the close (or was it patent) rolls about the merchants of Portsmouth complaining that they had been forced to buy bad wine from Hugh and the king when they had stayed in the castle there!

By the way... striped cloth - I'm sure I read somewhere (and can't remember where) that striped cloth was considered of the devil! I wonder if anyone else has read this?

Kathryn Warner said...

Gabriele: LOL, yeah, all those people must be a logistical nightmare in a novel, as well as in reality. ;)

Thanks, Lady D! Privacy must have been non-existent at court...;)

I haven't heard that about striped cloth - let me know if you find the ref!

Carla said...

Fascinating details about the workings of a great household. I wonder if they would think it decidedly odd that people 700 years later would be poring over household accounts that no doubt seemed mundane at the time!

For what it's worth, I'd read "according to estate" as reflecting the social class of the minstrels and/or their masters.

Gabriele - your Roderic and Duke Conrad would likely find it strange to be suddenly without a large retinue and would have had to adapt, even if it had its plus points (like not being followed everywhere and not being responsible for scores of people)

Anonymous said...

This is wonderful information! Searching on this sort of organization thing was how I came to this blog in the first place, months ago, but I've always been rather fascinated by Edward II so I just kept reading and reading. Anyway, thank you for the translation! Though I'm working on a fantasy story I really want it to have a anchor in reality, especially when it comes to stuff like this, and it's hard to find this sort of detail anywhere...

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Swiftgold! Glad you're enjoying the blog, and to hear that it's helpful for your writing. I'm planning another post on the Ordinance soon, maybe two more (for some odd reason, I'm really in the mood for translating medieval French at the moment, so might as well put it to good use! ;)

It's always great to meet people interested in Ed II - hope to hear from you again soon!