Here is a little late medieval pewter artefact from my collection with an interesting & very seasonal history. At first glance it could be mistaken for a coin, which isn’t surprising as it is based on a medieval penny. The bishop’s mitre on the obverse is the clue, for this is what is known as… Read More...
Here is a little late medieval pewter artefact from my collection with an interesting & very seasonal history. At first glance it could be mistaken for a coin, which isn’t surprising as it is based on a medieval penny. The bishop’s mitre on the obverse is the clue, for this is what is known as a Boy Bishop token.
Today, 6th December is the feast of St Nicholas and the day when one of the medieval church’s strangest annual traditions began. Many cathedrals (although perhaps not all) would elect a Boy Bishop from the junior members of the church - often from the choristers or, where there was an attached school, from the scholars. He would be elected by his peers, either on St Nicholas’ day itself or St Nicholas’ eve and then dressed in full episcopal robes, usually specially made for the occasion at considerable cost. The Boy Bishop would assume the full duties of a bishop, sometimes just on St Nicholas’ Day or sometimes on Holy Innocents’ Day (28th December), while in some places he would rule for the entire period between the two dates. While in power the Boy Bishop had the authority to conduct all of the duties of the real bishop, with the notable exception of taking mass and he would expect to receive the respect usually given to a bishop. In some places, the Boy Bishop would make visitations to outlying churches, hold services and distribute alms. The culmination was a sermon preached by the Boy Bishop followed by a feast. While all this was going on, the real Bishop and senior clergy took on the usual duties of the choir-boys or junior clergy.
Some places issued tokens such as my artefact & these would be distributed to townsfolk as gifts, the recipients being able to exchange them with traders for goods, or maybe they would choose to keep them as devotional tokens associated with the cult of St Nicholas. The vast majority of surviving English Boy Bishop tokens have been found in East Anglia and date from between the 1480s to the 1530s. It’s thought very likely that most English tokens originate from Bury St Edmunds. My token reads on the obverse as ‘sanctus nicholaus’ & on the reverse as ‘ave rex gentis’ - hail (the) King of the people.
As might be expected when authority is suspended, the Boy Bishop festivities sometimes got out of hand, with fighting, riots and even murders being reported. At Salisbury in 1137, one of the canons was beaten to death by the Boy Bishop’s retinue - perhaps a case of old scores being settled. In Paris in 1367, the Boy Bishop himself was murdered during a fight with the city watch. In 1249, the Pope wrote to the Bishop of Regensburg to complain about the behaviour of the Boy Bishop and his retinue who had been accused of molesting the monks at a nearby abbey!
We don’t know exactly when & from where this strange custom originated, although mention of Boy Bishops occurs in church records as early as the 10th century. Wherever it came from, its popularity spread and by the 13th century it was widely practised throughout Europe. Its origins are undoubtedly ancient and it is impossible to avoid the similarities between this tradition and the Roman winter festival of Saturnalia where misrule and role reversal seem to have played a central part. The medieval secular world joined in with its own similar custom where great households would appoint a commoner as the ‘Lord of Misrule’ who presided over the Christmas festivities. It’s clear that this anarchic Christmas tradition of role reversal has very deep roots.
Although these customs were abolished in England at the time of the Reformation, this is a medieval tradition that refuses to totally die. In recent years, some churches and cathedrals have reinstated their Boy Bishops, albeit in a reduced form. Similarly, the Christmas tradition of role reversal survives in the secular world: The military, at least in the UK, has a tradition where the officers serve a Christmas meal to their subordinates and in a short while my own children will have their school Christmas lunch served to them by their teachers. Sadly, the children are never told the long history behind the custom, which is a pity, but I’m just happy that this particularly odd medieval tradition continues.
Pictured is my penny size boy Bishop token (both sides), plus an original stone mould for casting them. As you can see from the mould, Boy Bishop tokens came in two sizes - penny or groat size.
Happy St Nicholas' Day.
A FULL TOUR OF BOSWORTH BATTLEFIELD ~ YOUR LAST CHANCE TO SEE THE BATTLEFIELD BEFORE IT IS SPOILT FOREVER~ with latest interpretation based on recent archaeological finds and view of the battlefield from viewpoint of all 3 protagonists especially that of Henry Tudor which will not be possible if the western part of battlefield is… Read More...
A FULL TOUR OF BOSWORTH BATTLEFIELD ~ YOUR LAST CHANCE TO SEE THE BATTLEFIELD BEFORE IT IS SPOILT FOREVER~
with latest interpretation based on recent archaeological finds and view of the battlefield from viewpoint of all 3 protagonists especially that of Henry Tudor which will not be possible if the western part of battlefield is built on in 2019.
Our Tour Guide will be Richard Mackinder
Richard worked at the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre for 26 years and worked with Glenn Foard on the archaeological survey (2005 – 2008) and has continued archaeological research ever since with the Ambion Historical & Archaeological Group (AHARG), a dedicated team of metal detectorists carefully plotting every find.
We hope that each tour will include descendants of those who fought in the battle and leading historians.
We only have room for 25 participants on each tour
Meet: Bosworth Battlefield Visitor Centre, Sutton Cheney, Leicestershire CV13 0AD
for 2.5 hour tour, including coach and briefing notes
Cost: £ 25
Pay on the Day
(NB please let me know in in good time if you cannot come so that somebody else can have the ticket) .
The Visitor Centre Tithe Barn is OPEN for Sunday Roast lunch at 1pm.
3 courses including soup, roast (or vegetarian alternative)
apple crumble or treacle sponge - all local produce - £14.85
Please indicate in your email if you would like Sunday lunch
so we can give the visitor centre an idea of numbers.
Then you can enjoy the visitor centre and its excellent bookshop and then go on to visit local villages and churches such as Daddlington
TOUR DATES ARE:
Sunday, December 9th
Sunday, December 16th
To get your NUMBERED ticket all you need to do is to email the organiser with your booking and provide your mobile number to:
Kelvin van Hasselt – Founder & Vice President - The Battlefields Trust
Tel: 01263 – 513 560
TICKETS WILL BE SERVED ON A FIRST COME FIRST SERVED BASIS
The bones of a medieval man uncovered beside London’s River Thames show signs of a hard life and a mysterious death. Read More...
Today, 28 November, in 1499, execution of Edward, Earl of Warwick, son of George Duke of Clarence and Isabel Neville, by beheading on Tower Green. After the death of King Richard III’s son, Edward of Middleham, in 1484, the 10-year-old Warwick was seen as a possible heir to the throne. The young Earl of Warwick… Read More...
Today, 28 November, in 1499, execution of Edward, Earl of Warwick, son of George Duke of Clarence and Isabel Neville, by beheading on Tower Green. After the death of King Richard III’s son, Edward of Middleham, in 1484, the 10-year-old Warwick was seen as a possible heir to the throne. The young Earl of Warwick was seen as a great threat to King Henry VII and kept a prisoner in the Tower from 1485 until 1499 his death. A plot between Warwick and Perkin Warbeck for Warwick’s escape was alleged and for that he was executed. By his death the Plantagenet male line became extinct.
Today, 20th November, is the feast day of Saint Edmund; England’s original patron saint (a title also claimed by Saint Edward the Confessor). In John Lydgate’s ‘Lives of Ss Edmund and Fremund’ a miracle is described that happened on this day in 1441: According to Lydgate, a group of children were playing on London Bridge… Read More...
Today, 20th November, is the feast day of Saint Edmund; England’s original patron saint (a title also claimed by Saint Edward the Confessor).
In John Lydgate’s ‘Lives of Ss Edmund and Fremund’ a miracle is described that happened on this day in 1441: According to Lydgate, a group of children were playing on London Bridge “at ffoure afftirnoon”, when a passing oxen lifted a small boy, just three years of age, with its horns and tossed him into the River Thames. The boy was swept away “towards Coldharbour, passing the Swan”.
According to the miracle story, a neighbour, fearing the worst, had run to tell the child’s mother of the tragedy. Grief stricken, the mother ran towards Thames Street, bumping into ‘Lord Fanhoop’ on the way. Lord Fanhoop informed the child’s mother that this was the feast day of Saint Edmund, whereupon she appealed to the saint for mercy before hearing her child crying nearby. By fortune or miracle, a boatman had spotted the child bobbing in the water, had pulled him into his boat and returned him alive and well to shore.
John Lydgate was a monk and poet of Bury St Edmunds Abbey. He wrote his ‘Lives of Ss Edmund and Fremund’ at the behest of Abbot William Curteys to commemorate the stay of the young King Henry VI at the abbey in 1434.
A group of Lydgate’s miracle stories follow a similar theme: Another story tells of a two year old girl who falls into a river or pond while picking flowers. She is stuck head first in the river mud and by the time help arrives is found to be lifeless. As the girl’s mother arrives on the scene, another women approaches, holds the girl upside down and shakes the mud and water from her lungs. At this moment, Abbot William of Bury St Edmunds passes by (the Abbot William who commissioned the book). He announces a miracle and orders the abbey bells to ring and a Te Deum to be sung.
In another miracle, yet another two year old girl is run over by a cart and appears lifeless. As neighbours gather, one suggests taking the girl to the nearby shrine of Saint Edmund where she is restored to life.
It’s thought that Lydgate was making a point with these stories: When the community acts together, they can, with faith and the help of the saints, achieve great results. Lydgate, as a monk, seemed to be extolling the virtues of the monastic community spirit and was encouraging the wider community to act in a similar fashion. A little bit of 15th-century social comment made through the medium of miracle stories.
Pictured are two miniatures depicting the miracle story of the boy falling from London bridge, from John Lydgate’s ‘Lives of Ss Edmund and Freemund’. (British Library, Yates Thompson 47 f.94v). Also pictured is our St Edmund pilgrim badge - catalogue item P14 on the website (still just £5).
TORM; Our craftspeople provide historically accurate goods and services of the highest Quality to Museums, Historic Houses, Theatres, Film Companies, Re-enactors and Local Authorities. Read More...
There’s a popular myth that people were considerably smaller in the past, varying from being about a foot shorter than the modern average to practically hobbit-sized! Were people "much shorter in those days"? Find out at https://maryrose.org/blog/historical/museum-blogger/how-tall-were-the-crew-of-the-mary-rose/ Read More...
There’s a popular myth that people were considerably smaller in the past, varying from being about a foot shorter than the modern average to practically hobbit-sized!
Were people "much shorter in those days"?
Find out at https://maryrose.org/blog/historical/museum-blogger/how-tall-were-the-crew-of-the-mary-rose/
- Read More...
The Paston Letters are a collection of correspondences between members of the Paston family of Norfolk gentry and others connected with them in England between the years 1422 and 1509. The collection also includes state papers and other important documents. Read More...
*NOW AVAILABLE AS A PRINT* 'Mother, I commend myself to you and let you know, blessed be God, my brother John is alive and fares well, and in no peril of death. Nevertheless he is hurt with an arrow on his right arm beneath the elbow, and I have sent him a surgeon which has… Read More...
*NOW AVAILABLE AS A PRINT*
'Mother, I commend myself to you and let you know, blessed be God, my brother John is alive and fares well, and in no peril of death. Nevertheless he is hurt with an arrow on his right arm beneath the elbow, and I have sent him a surgeon which has dressed him, and he tells me that he trusts that he shall all whole within right short time.'
Having allied themselves with the Earl of Oxford to help promote their own local interests, the Paston family had no alternative but follow him during the crisis of 1471, and Sir John Paston and his brother (confusingly also John) found themselves in the Earl's retinue at the battle of Barnet, on a foggy Easter Sunday, 14th April 1471.
Sir John wrote the above words in a letter to his mother on the 18th April, after they had found themselves to be on the losing side, to reassure her that although his brother had been wounded, they were safe. The remarkable surviving Paston family correspondence provides an almost unique window into this period of history, adding a personal, human element to the tumultuous events of the Wars of the Roses.
PRINTS OF THIS PAINTING ARE NOW AVAILABLE – see my website for full details – https://www.studio88.co.uk/acatalog/Pastons_at_Battle_of_Barnet_print.html
The original painting has sold.