Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Lord of Misrule Comes to Court

Christmas, 1551:
In December 1551, as Edward VI’s uncle Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, sat in the Tower of London awaiting execution, the king’s court was preoccupied with another matter entirely: the Lord of Misrule. Some time before Christmas, John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, sent a letter “scribbled in haste” to Thomas Cawarden, the Master of the Revels, announcing the appointment of George Ferrers as Lord of Misrule, to serve for the twelve days of Christmas. Ferrers was a courtier and poet who later contributed to A Mirror for Magistrates, described by Scott Lucas as a “compendium of tragic monologues” by a series of historical personages.

Ferrers began his reign by, as he recalled later, “coming out of the moon.” Despite this auspicious start, not all went smoothly at first. Ferrers wrote to complain to Cawarden that although his own costume was satisfactory, the same could not be said for the apparel of the gentlemen who were to accompany him on his grand entry into London.  Cawarden also was expected to come up with, among other items, “counterfeit harness and weapons,” a hobby-horse, eight vizers for a “drunken masque,” and eight daggers and swords for the same purpose. Meanwhile, lest Cawarden fail to get the point of Ferrers’s missive, the king’s council, including the Duke of Northumberland, wrote a stern letter on January 3, 1552, expressing its disapproval of Cawarden’s having “prepared not aptly” for the Lord of Misrule’s entourage. (Read entire post.)

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