31 January, 2009

Edward II and Minstrels

Here are a few details about minstrels and other performers in Edward II's era. This is a very, very long way from being an exhaustive list, of course - that would fill a book! Unfortunately, the kind of songs or music that minstrels performed before the king is rarely stated, but I've given as much detail as I can.

Anyone interested in medieval music definitely needs to read Richard Rastall's fantastic thesis 'Secular Musicians in Late Medieval England', where some of the info in this post comes from. It's available online: Part 1 and Part 2. There's also Constance Bullock-Davies' Menestrellorum Multitudo: Minstrels at a Royal Feast (1978) and A Register of Royal and Baronial Domestic Minstrels 1272-1327 (1986).

To get an idea of how generous Edward was to his minstrels, bear in mind that a typical wage for the majority of people in the country was 1 to 3 pence a day. So although Edward giving a pound to a minstrel might not sound like much, it was a few months' wages for most people.

£1 = 240 pence, or 20 shillings
1 mark = 160 pence, or 13 shillings and 4 pence

July 1290: 426 minstrels perform at the wedding of Edward's sister Margaret to the future duke of Brabant.

Christmas 1296: 12-year-old Edward gives 2 shillings to the famous acrobatic dancer (or tumbler, saltatrix) Matilda Makejoy, who "made her vaults before the Lord Edward, the king's son" at Ipswich, almost certainly naked. Matilda was still performing for Edward in 1311.

c. 1300: A bawdy, farcical play (in English) called The Interlude of the Clerk and the Damsel appears, wherein a clerk unsuccessfully practises his seduction techniques on a young woman. A fragment survives, including the line "but his arse ly withouten door". Given that Edward II loved watching plays, I wonder if he ever saw this one.

5 January 1303: Edward (aged 18) gives half a mark to 3 clerks of Windsor playing interludes before him.

February 1303: Edward goes swimming with his fool Robert Bufford, and has to pay him compensation for playing a trick on him in the water.

May-October 1303: the Genoese violists Bestrudus and Beruche spend a few months in England, and receive £5 and 16 shillings from Edward. They return in August 1304, and get another 30 shillings from him.

1305: Edward sends "Richard, our rhymer" to the abbot of Shrewsbury, to learn the 'crwth' or crowd. In 1302/03, a man called 'Teguareth le Crouther' lives in Edward's household and is given shoes for the entire year, and Edward has another crowder called Matthew in 1305/06.

1305-06: a taborer called Martinettus is in the household of Edward's little half-brothers Thomas and Edmund. Edward I pays 11 pence to repair his drums, which the boys have broken.

22 May 1306: for the knighting of Edward of Caernarfon and nearly 300 others, Edward I spends a total of 200 marks on hundreds of minstrels. This includes a payment of five marks each to men called the king of Champagne, King Capenny (also called Capiny, King of the Heralds), King Baisecue, King Marchis and King Robert. Other performers are:

- The famous Matilda Makejoy
- Pearl in the Eye (Perle in the Eghe; given in English, not French, in the original. Apparently he was blind, suffering from cataracts.)
- Reginald 'The Liar' (le Menteur)
- Lion de Normanville
- "The minstrel with the bells"
- "The gitarer"
- Grendone, Mellet, Fairfax and Monet (identified only by their first names)
- Bandettus le Tabourer, Hugethun the harper and Janin the organist
- Edward of Caernarfon's harper Amekyn, his crowder Nagary, his trumpeters Januche and Gillot and his "five boy-trumpeters"

25 and 26 May 1306: 2 harpers and various other minstrels perform at the weddings of Edward's nieces Jeanne de Bar and Eleanor de Clare to the earl of Surrey and Hugh Despenser at Westminster. Edward I, who attends both weddings, pays them over £37.

1306-07: in his first year as king, Edward II has 4 'young minstrels' in his household: Little Andrew, John Scot, Roger the trumpeter and Francekinus the nakerer.

17 September 1307: Edward gives £2 to his trumpeter Richard to help him build a house.

1 November 1307: Edward pays a total of £20 for minstrels at the wedding of Piers Gaveston and Margaret de Clare. (He also gives 5 shillings to a local resident for "damage done by the king's party" to his property.)

September 1310: Edward gives 2 shillings to the harper Willekyn Fox to buy himself a furellus, whatever that is.

March 1311: Edward pays his minstrel Grillo 31 shillings and 4p, which he owes him for wages.

20 February 1312: Edward pays 40 marks to celebrate the purification of his niece Margaret Gaveston after the birth of her daughter Joan. The guests are entertained by 'King Robert'.

30 June/7 July 1312: on his way from York to London after Piers Gaveston's death, Edward gives a pound each to the minstrels Graciosus and Janin 'the Magician' (or 'Conjuror', tregettour), the former performing before him at Howden and the latter in the king's chamber at Swineshead Priory.

16 August 1312: Edward gives 3 shillings to John of Bologna, "making his minstrelsy with snakes before the king" at Canterbury.

12 October 1312: the oddly-named Ooghmus, minstrel of the earl of Pembroke, performs for Edward and, presumably, the heavily pregnant Queen Isabella, as they await the birth of their first child at Windsor Castle. Edward gives him £2.

20 May 1313: Edward gives "Ivo Vala the citoler and Thomas Dynys, his fellow" £4 17s 8p to buy themselves hackneys and saddles.

18 June 1313: on his French trip, Edward gives a pound to the dwarf of the count of Armagnac.

19 June 1313: here's the original entry (translated from Latin) regarding the naked dancers of a recent post: "To Bernard le Fol and 54 of his fellow actors, coming naked into the presence of the king and dancing, of the king's gift, 40s [£2]".

June 1314: Edward takes his poet, the Carmelite friar Robert Baston, with him to Bannockburn to make songs about his glorious victory. Oops. Baston is captured by the Scots and forced to write about their victory instead.

June 1314: on the way to Bannockburn, Edward, appropriately enough, listens to bagpipers, fiddlers, a trumpeter and others.

June or July 1315: Edward gives 20 ells of striped cloth to William de Forsham and 3 others "for singing before the king in his chamber at Westminster."

August 1315: During the Great Famine, Edward issues a proclamation which states, among other things, that only 2 or 3 minstrels a day should visit great households, and they should not go to "smaller people" at all - "unless requested to do so," he adds helpfully.

1 November 1316: Edward gives the very large sum of £5 to Robert Daverouns, minstrel of his second cousin Philip, prince of Achaea.

December 1318: An Ordinance for Edward's household states that he will have 2 minstrels and 2 trumpeters with him at all times and as many others as he wants, "who will make their minstrelsy before the king at all times that it will please him."

September 1319: Edward takes minstrels sent to him by his brother-in-law the king of France to the siege of Berwick.

12 May 1321: the earl of Pembroke's violist Merlin performs for the king at Westminster, 8 days after the start of the Despenser War.

After March 1322: the execution of Thomas, earl of Lancaster, inspires a song in Latin, which calls him "the blessed Thomas" and the "flower of knights," and says "the pouring out of prayers to Thomas restores the sick to health; the pious earl comes immediately to the aid of those who are feeble." Yes, that's Thomas of Lancaster. But in a world where there was a campaign to canonise Edward II *pauses for hysterical laughter*, anything is possible.

March 1322: minstrel John le Boteler, who uses the name 'Fiery King', is captured at the battle of Boroughbridge.

October 1322: Edward grants John le Boteler's forfeited houses in Pontefract to his harper William Morley, called 'King of the North'.

28 October 1322: smarting from his recent ignominious near-capture by the Scots at Rievaulx Abbey, Edward gives a pound to Sourelius, minstrel of the earl of Louth, who plays for him in York.

January 1323: Edward gives £2 to 4 clerks of Snaith, Yorkshire, for "playing interludes in the hall at Cowick before the king and Sir Hugh [Despenser]".

February 1323: gives a pound to his 'piper minstrel', Laurentin.

February 1323: Edward gives a mark to John, his nakerer. This may be the Janinus the nakerer who had perfomed for the king as early as 1303 (Edward gave him money to buy skins to cover and repair his nakers). Nakerers called Janotus and Januche also appear, possibly the same man with a variety of spellings of his name.

1323: Edward listens to northern women singing songs about Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester (killed at the battle of Evesham in 1265 fighting against Edward's father).

6 January 1325: Edward gives an Epiphany gift of 50 shillings to his minstrels, and 2 shillings to his piper Little Alein for his performance.

12 February 1325: Edward gives 20 pounds compensation (a huuuuge amount of money!) to 2 squires of his chamber, Giles of Spain and Berduk de Till, who burnt their arms - and thighs as well, in Berduk's case - while "playing before the king." What they were doing unfortunately isn't stated. This took place at Burgundy (Borgogne), a hut or cottage in the precincts of Westminster Abbey where Edward spent quite a bit of time in the last couple of years of his reign, shunning all his luxurious accommodation in and around London. Bless his little peasant heart.

24 February 1325: Thomelyn Sautriour ('psalterer') of London plays before the king in his chamber at the Tower, and receives a pound.

1331: in Edward III's reign, Roland le Fartere performs by "making a leap, a whistle and a fart." :-)


Susan Higginbotham said...

Great list! Listening to the songs about Montfort must have made for a jolly evening.

Jules Frusher said...

Oooh, such a fascinating post! I love all those details - but it's so frustrating that so many of the entries raise more questions than they answer - for example - why did those two squires get burnt?! I wish we knew more of the music of that time and also the plays - that Clerk and Damsel one sounds like it's worth watching!

And 'Ronald le Fartere' - LOL!

Kathryn Warner said...

Susan: sounds like a right barrel of laughs, doesn't it?

Lady D: literally playing with fire, I imagine. ;) I wish more than a fragment of the Clerk and Damsel play had survived. It sounds a lot like the Miller's Tale.

Clement Glen said...

Thank you for this list Alianore.

If only we could get the chance to witness those entertainers in the smoke filled halls of Edward's reign. The colour,the laughter amidst the flickering candlelight...........

As Lady D has said it raises many questions.

Some of the performances seem to extremely varied, some quite plebian for a King.

The term 'minstrel' at that time comes across as a 'loose' term.

Making minstrelsy with snakes! What was all that about?

Christy K Robinson said...

"""After March 1322: the execution of Thomas, earl of Lancaster, inspires a song in Latin, which calls him "the blessed Thomas" and the "flower of knights," and says "the pouring out of prayers to Thomas restores the sick to health; the pious earl comes immediately to the aid of those who are feeble." Yes, that's Thomas of Lancaster. But in a world where there was a campaign to canonise Edward II *pauses for hysterical laughter*, anything is possible."""

Clergy held campaigns to get people canonized so they'd benefit financially from the tourist/pilgrim traffic, the tithes and offerings, the benefices (today called "planned giving"), etc. At Hereford Cathedral, they remodeled the aisles while the canonization campaign was run in Rome, so pilgrims could have better access to a shrine of Bishop Thomas Cantilupe. He was canonized as St Thomas of Hereford in 1320. One could also think about recent political campaigns where celebrities extol the candidates: "Obama Girl" is the first to mind! So the Thomas of Lancaster sainthood campaign was almost certainly about some sharp business venture!

Did naked mean starkers, or scantily clad? Ballroom dance costumes leave nothing to the imagination -- except no one has that specialty act that the "Fartere" had. Why am I not surprised that men have found gas emissions hilarious since time immemorial?

Kathryn Warner said...

Clement: I don't know, but I can't get the image of Salma Hayek in From Dusk Till Dawn out of my head. ;)

Christy: the thing about Lancaster's supposed sainthood was that, until the beginning of Ed III's reign, it was entirely a popular movement. Miracles were reported at the site of his execution within weeks of his death. People went to an effigy of his in St Pauls to 'worship it as a holy thing', and also made oblations at his tomb in Pontefract (Ed II, making his feelings very clear, called them 'malefactors and apostates' and said they were 'praying not to God but to idols'). The political aspects of his canonisation came years later, on Isa and Mortimer's invasion in 1326, when gaining the support of Lanc's adherents was necessary. It's the genuine, widespread feeling after 1322 that Lancaster was 'pious' and 'the gentle earl' that I find amusing!

Yes, naked means completely starkers.

Satima Flavell said...

Yes, nothing's changed - "exotic dancers" and fart jokes:-) I wonder if the squires got burnt trying to join in and do a fire act? Some people will do anything after a few drinks!

Alianore, the link to Rastall's thesis is especially valuable - many thanks.

Gabriele Campbell said...

It seems Edward really loved music and performances. I think that Giovanni he's living with in Italy better be a minstrel as well, in addition to being hot. :)

Carla said...

I was thinking the Clerk and the Damsel sounded like something Chaucer might have enjoyed. Or Sid James, Kenneth Williams and Barbara Windsor, come to that. With a title like that you can practically write the script yourself :-)

As an aside, did "clerk" imply a priest, or were clerks just as likely to be secular by then?

Kathryn Warner said...

Satima: hope you enjoy the thesis! I loved it.

Gabriele: LOL! I'm sure Giovanni was a great musician, as well as enjoying ditching and hedging and stuff. ;)

Carla: I'm not sure, but I think clerks were also secular - at least, they were in minor orders.