The Progress of the Nation page 10
Many of these beds have testers and canopies: in the will of Lady Neville, in 1385, is mentioned a "white couvrelit and tester, powdered with popinjays." Many, however, had hangings of tapestry all illustrated in needlework, with pictures of battles and great events, as well as scenes from the Bible and from the favourite romances; and Matthew of Paris tells us that Eleanor of Castile, wife of Edward I., covered the floor with tapestry, at which there was much scoffing.
Clocks which struck and chimed the hour are mentioned at the close of the thirteenth century, and Matthew of Paris gives us a rich idea of a cupboard of plate, containing a cup of gold, six quart standing pots of silver, twenty-four silver bowls with covers, a basin, ewer, and chasoir of silver. There are also frequent mention of silver and silver-gilt plate, dishes, chargers, salt-cellars, spoons, silver lavatories, spice-plates, knives with silver handles, and a fork of crystal belonging to Edward I. Forks were used in Italy as early as 1330, but not till the seventeenth century in this country. Eire-screens standing on feet were in use in the reign of Edward I., and also ornamental andirons, or fire-dogs.
The feasts at coronations of kings, the installations of prelates, the marriages of great nobles, and similar high occasions, were profuse in the number of dishes, and the guests entertained sometimes amounted to thousands. The coronation banquet of Edward III. cost £40,000 o£ our money. At the installation of Ralph, Abbot of St. Augustine, at Canterbury, in 1309, 6,000 guests sat down to 3,000 dishes, which cost £45,000 of our money. At the marriage-dinner of the Earl of Cornwall to the daughter of Raymond, Earl of Provence, at London, in 1243, 30,000 dishes were served up. The marriage-feast of Alexander III. of Scotland and Margaret of England, held at York, in 1281, causes Matthew Paris to say: - "If I attempted to describe the grandeur of this solemnity, the number of the illustrious guests, the richness and variety of the dresses, the sumptuousness of the feasts, the multitude of the minstrels, mimics, and others whose business it was to amuse and divert the company, my readers would think I was imposing on their credulity."
Chaucer describes in his "Parson's Tale" the artificial cookery to which they had attained, and adds, "They had excess of divers meats and drinks, boiled, roasted, grilled, and fried." They had "mortries," and blancmanges, "and such maner bake metes, and dish metes brenning of wild fire, paynted and castelled with paper and somblable waste, so that it is abusion to think."
The latter ornaments were what they called their "intermeats" (entremets). These represented battles, sieges, &c., introduced between the courses for the amusement of the guests. At a banquet given by Charles V. of France to the Emperor Charles IV., in 1378, there came a great ship into the hall as if of itself, the machinery being concealed. It came with all its masts, sails, rigging, and colours - the arms of Jerusalem - flying. Geoffrey of Bouillon, with several knights armed cap-a-pie, were represented on deck. Then appeared the walls of Jerusalem, and a regular siege, assault, and conquest of the city was gone through.
As for the drinks of this period, ale and cider satisfied the common people; but a great variety of foreign wines were imported and consumed by the wealthy. Warton, in his "History of English Poetry," quotes the following enumeration of wines known and used at this time: -
"Ye shall have Rumney and Malespine,
Pyment, yprocras, and claret were compounded of wine, honey, and spices of different kinds, and in different proportions; and were considered as great delicacies. People of rank had two meals a day - dinner and supper. Princes and people of high rank had a kind of collation just before going to bed, called "the wines," consisting of delicate cakes and wine warmed and spiced. It would appear by a passage in Chaucer that they ate spiced condiments after their meals, as we take a dessert.
"There was eke wexing many a spice,
It is clear that those who had wealth knew no contemptible amount of the art of good living.
The costumes of this period were rich and varied. Great complaints are made, by the historians of the extravagance in dress, and laws were enacted both to restrain the excesses in dressing and eating. Edward II. decreed that none of the great men of his realm should have more than two courses at their meals, each to consist of only two kinds of flesh, except prelates, earls, barons, and the greatest men of the land, who might have an intermeat of one kind. In 1363, sumptuary laws restricting dress in like manner were passed in Parliament, but we are told that some of these laws were not at all regarded. "The squire endeavoured to outshine the knight, the knight the baron, the baron the earl, and the earl the very king himself."
We have examples of the different royal robes of the kings of that time in their statues. Henry III., in Westminster Abbey, has a long and very full tunic, and a mantle fastened by a fibula on the right shoulder, both devoid of ornament. But the boots are exceedingly splendid, being fretted or crossed with lines, and each square of the fret containing a lion or leopard. The cloth he wore is said to have been inwoven with gold, and on his head he wore a coronet or small chaplet of gold. Edward I. has no statue, but on opening his tomb, he was found dressed very much like Henry III.; his tunic was of red silk, his mantle of crimson satin.
Edward II., in his effigies in Gloucester Cathedral, appears in a loose tunic with long streamers or tippets at the elbows, and his mantle open in front.
Edward III. appears in his loose tunic and mantle, both richly embroidered. His son William, in York Cathedral, in a close embroidered tunic and mantle, with jagged edges.
The military costume changed from the chain mail of the Knights Templars in the time of Edward III. to plated armour. Sometimes the helmet was closed with a visor, and in other cases had only a protecting piece of steel down the nose called a nasal. To describe all the accoutrements, armorial bearings on shields, crests, and banners of the knights of this period, and the armour and caparison of their horses, would require a volume.
The dresses of gentlemen, in the early part of this period, consisted generally of a loose, long tunic, and over that the cyclas or contoise - a sort of mantle - and when travelling a supertotus, or overall. Short dresses afterwards prevailed, with close-fitting hose and shoes, The shoes in the early part of this time were well fitting to the foot, but afterwards assumed enormous long toes, which are represented as suspended to the knee by chains or cords, though no drawing of these suspended toes have come down to us. In the reign of Richard II. gentlemen's dresses again became long and very luxurious, often with open sides to their garments, and preposterously long-toed shoes. These were called craclcowes, being supposed to come from Cracow, and had often their upper part cut in imitation of a church window. Chaucer's parish clerk, Absalom, "Had Paul'is windows carven on his shose." The capuchon, or head-dress, in some cases resembled a simple cap, or rounded hat, in others assumed very much the character of a turban.
Camden's description of a dandy of the fourteenth century is particularly ludicrous: - "He wore long-pointed shoes, fastened to his knees by gold or silver chains; hose of one colour on one leg, and of another colour on the other. Short breeches, not reaching to the middle of the thigh; a coat, one half white, and the other half black or blue; a long beard, a silk band buttoned under his chin, embroidered with grotesque figures of animals, dancing-men, &c., and sometimes ornamented with gold, silver, and precious stones."
The Scotch at this period dressed very much as the English, except in the Highlands. The Welsh were least luxurious of any people in the island in dress, and the common soldiers of that nation at the battle of Bannock -burn are said to have been conspicuous to the Scots by the scantiness and rudeness of their clothing.
The ladies' dresses were as varied. In the earlier period they wore long dresses, and on their heads a sort of hood or cowl; but in the reign of Edward II. they adopted a most becoming style of head-dress - that of simple bands or nets, supporting the hair in great elegance of form, which was plaited and turned up behind. It has very much of an Eastern air, and probably is of Saracen origin, brought to Europe during the Crusades. Sometimes on this was worn a light sort of hood, with a silken bandage passing under the chin. Their dresses also assumed more the fashion of modern gowns. Aprons, richly embroidered, appeared, and the female costume of the time of Edward III. would pass very well now, the gown fitting elegantly to the bust, and of modern proportion, but without any crinoline monstrosity. They had, however, the long narrow bands depending from the elbows, or from a little above them.
The pencil and engraver, however, can only give us a full idea of all the varied costumes of this period, which have been gleaned from illuminated works and sculptured monuments, many of which may be found well displayed in Planche's "History of British Costume."
The diversions of those ages were very much the same as those of the former one, and, therefore, need no particular description. We are surprised to hear, towards the end of the reign of Edward III., that the practice of archery was on the decline amongst the people. Every man in the feudal ages in England, who did not possess land to the value of forty shillings a year, used to be required to qualify himself for a bowman; and the practice of archery in the villages, from boyhood upward, produced those famous bowmen who cleared the fields of Crecy and Poictiers of all opponents. Could it be the introduction of gunpowder and cannon which had already produced this effect? Yet Rymer says, "That art is now neglected, and the people spend their time in throwing stones, wood, or iron; in playing at the hand-ball, football, or club-ball; in bull-baiting, and cock-fighting, and in more useless and dishonest games."
Wrestling for a ram was a favourite amusement; and a wrestling-match of this kind, between London and Westminster, in 1222, terminated in a regular battle, in which much blood was spilled.
By the "dishonest games" is probably meant such games of chance as cross and pile, to which the common people were then much addicted, and in which Edward II. spent both his time and his money; for there are found in this king's accounts items of money borrowed of his barber and the usher of his chamber while at such play. Cards were invented towards the end of the fourteenth century by Jaquemin Gringonneur, in Paris, to amuse the melancholy hours of the mentally afflicted Charles VI, but they do not appear to have been so early introduced into this country.
Tournaments, hunting, dancing, pageants, mummings, and disguisings were the amusements of the great, even the greatest princes, and were the delectation of the people when they could witness them. At a masquerade at the court of Charles VI. in Paris, in 1388, the king and five young noblemen had dressed themselves as savages, with long hair of flax fixed to their robes by pitch, which caught fire from the torches, and the king was rescued with difficulty, while four of his companions were burnt to death.
The drama appeared in that day under the form of "Mysteries and Moralities," or "Miracle-plays," which were acted in the churches and monasteries by the clergy and monks, and in which the most sacred passages and personages of the Scriptures were introduced in the most free and extraordinary manner. In these Adam and Eve appeared without the slightest aid from the draper, and yet without seeming to give any scandal; and Noah has a terrible time of it to get his wife into the ark, and when forced in, she rewards her husband with a sounding box on the ear, to the vast delight of the most aristocratic spectators. From the clergy the drama by degrees passed over to the laity. In the streets the tragetours, or jugglers, gave extensive amusement; and, according to Chaucer, legerdemain must have reached considerable perfection, for he says the tragetours could make people believe they saw a boat come swimming into a hall; a lion walk in; flowers spring up as in a meadow; ripe grapes, red and white, appear on imaginary vines; castles, looking solid lime and stone, appear, and then vanish again.
Such is a picture of England in the fourteenth century. In arms she had won eternal and unequalled fame; in poetry, literature, and art, she had made brilliant advances. Her churches were piles of glorious poetry in stone; and in poetry itself she had a Chaucer; in architecture, a Wykeham; in philosophy, Bacon and Grosteste; a number of learned historians; "Wycliffe had made the Bible common property, and given religion new wings, sending it to the cottage and the dwelling of the industrious citizen. In the constitution, the Great Charter had been confirmed, and many excellent statutes passed, restraining the royal and baronial power, and extending that of the people. Gunpowder and cannon were come to change all warfare, and make strong castles useless. Manufactures had been introduced by the noble Queen Philippa of Hainault. Gardens of culinary vegetables, of medicinal herbs, and of flowers, as well as pomaria, or orchards, were becoming general, though vineyards were fast dying out; and, altogether, it must be pronounced a distinguished and progressive era, which did its duty to the common country, and to posterity - except it were in the two important domains of morals and of humanity.
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