Tuesday 19 December 2017

The Tudor’s Christmas Lord of Misrule #Christmas #Tudors #history @tonyriches

The Tudor’s Christmas Lord of Misrule
By Tony Riches

King Henry VII liked to liven up the Tudor festivities by handing his court over to one of his jesters, as the ‘Lord of Misrule’ for the twelve days of Christmas. As well as organising the Christmas entertainment, including masked balls, plays and feasting, the Lord of Misrule presided over a mock court.  In my latest book, HENRY (Book three of the Tudor Trilogy) there is a short description:

Servants carried steaming cups of mulled wine for Henry and Elizabeth, as well as sweet treats for the children, who were brought low chairs and velvet cushions to sit on. A colourful satin curtain pulled back as if by magic, to reveal a candlelit wooden stage, with a canopy of state supported by long wooden poles, painted in spirals of Tudor green and white.

A musician beat his drum and the king’s trumpeters blasted a discordant note as Patch the fool appeared on the stage. Dressed as a knight, with a coat of knitted woollen mail and a cooking pot on his head, he began the entertainments as master of ceremonies, mimicking the arrogant tone of Sir John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, as he read from an over-large scroll.

He drew an enormous wooden sword, which he waved at the children while bellowing a humorous song of his great bravery. In a flash of smoke, another of Henry’s fools appeared. A stocky dwarf dressed as a bright red dragon, he did his best to avoid the oversized sword, roaring and dancing around Patch as Elizabeth’s minstrels played a lively jig. Little Harry clapped his hands in delight as the unconvincing dragon fell over his own tail and tripped from the stage.

Next came another of Henry’s fools, carrying a shepherd’s crook and wearing an absurdly high, gold-painted bishop’s mitre. Disguised as the Bishop of Misrule, he proceeded to wag his finger in the air and lecture the king and his family in a stentorian voice, yet none of his words made any sense.

‘He mocks Bishop Foxe!’ Elizabeth laughed.

‘A poor resemblance,’ Henry grinned, ‘yet his manner is unmistakable.’

A troupe of Flemish jugglers amazed them with their skill, throwing heavy wooden clubs to each other and spinning them high in the air. As the last of the jugglers vaulted from the stage, Patch the fool returned and bowed to Henry and Elizabeth with exaggerated reverence to announce the finale.

The choir of Westminster Cathedral entered, all dressed in white and wearing silver wings of angels. Their caroling echoed through the palace as they sang Henry’s favourite songs, accompanied by musicians with drums and flutes.

The tradition of appointing a Lord of Misrule has its origins in ancient Rome, as for the December feast of Saturnalia a slave was chosen to represent the god Saturn.as the ‘King of Saturnalia’.  The roles of master and slave were reversed, so as with the Lord of Misrule, the King of Saturnalia ‘ruled’ over his masters.

Although King Henry VIII followed the tradition of the Lord of Misrule with enthusiasm, his daughter, Mary Tudor did not approve and put an end to it.

Happy Christmas to all our readers!

Tony Riches

Tony Riches is a full-time writer and lives with his wife in Pembrokeshire, West Wales. After several successful non-fiction books, Tony turned to novel writing and wrote 'Queen Sacrifice', set in 10th century Wales, followed by 'The Shell', a thriller set in present day Kenya. A specialist in the history of the early Tudors, he is best known for his Tudor Trilogy. Tony’s other international best sellers include 'Warwick ~ The Man Behind the Wars of the Roses' and 'The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham'. 

For information about Tony’s books please visit his website www.tonyriches.com
and his popular blog, The Writing Desk at www.tonyriches.co.uk.  You can also find him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/tonyriches.author
and Twitter @tonyriches.

From Book 1: Based on the true story of a forgotten hero, OWEN is the epic tale of one young man’s incredible courage and resilience as he changes the course of English history.

England 1422: Owen Tudor, a Welsh servant, waits in Windsor Castle to meet his new mistress, the beautiful and lonely Queen Catherine of Valois, widow of the warrior king, Henry V. Her infant son is crowned King of England and France, and while the country simmers on the brink of civil war, Owen becomes her protector.

They fall in love, risking Owen’s life and Queen Catherine’s reputation—but how do they found the dynasty which changes British history – the Tudors?

This is the first historical novel to fully explore the amazing life of Owen Tudor, grandfather of King Henry VII and the great-grandfather of King Henry VIII. Set against a background of the conflict between the Houses of Lancaster and York, which develops into what have become known as the Wars of the Roses, Owen’s story deserves to be told. 


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks for the invitation - have a wonderful Christmas!

  2. I rather like the sound of a Lord of Misrule for a few days! Pity the tradition ended!

  3. Wonderful post, Tony! All the best!

  4. That does sound like it would have been very entertaining. Great post!!


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