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The Oddment Emporium

A Cornucopia of Eclectic Delights

Posts tagged Aristocracy:

The Lord of Misrule and the Feast of Fools
In medieval England, the Lord of Misrule was an officer appointed by lot at Christmas to preside over the Feast of Fools - a riotous banquet where the central idea seems always to have been a brief social revolution in which power, dignity and impunity is briefly conferred on those in a subordinate position. The Lord of Misrule was generally a peasant appointed to oversee these Christmas revelries, which often included drunkenness, wild partying and general licentiousness.
The appointment of a Lord of Misrule comes from antiquity. In ancient Rome a Lord of Misrule was appointed for the feast of Saturnalia, in the guise of the god Saturn. During this time the ordinary rules of life were subverted as masters served their slaves, and the offices of state were held by slaves. The Lord of Misrule presided over all of this, and had the power to command anyone to do anything during the holiday period. 
In the medieval version young people chose from among their own number a mock pope, archbishop, bishop, abbot to reign as Lord of Misrule. Participants would then “consecrate” him with many ridiculous ceremonies in the chief church of the place, and give themselves such names as Archbishop of Dolts, Abbot of Unreason, Boy Bishop, or Pope of Fools.
The parody often tipped dangerously towards the profane, the ceremonies mocking the performance of the highest offices of the church, while other persons, dressed in different kinds of masks and disguises, engaged in songs and dances and practised all manner of revelry within the church building. As a result, the Feast and the almost blasphemous extravagances were constantly the object of condemnations of the medieval Church, until it was finally forbidden under the very severest penalties by the Council of Basel in 1431.
[Image Source: Pieter Bruegel, The Fight Between Carnival and Lent (1559)]

Advent Calendar of Oddments 2012: December 22nd

The Lord of Misrule and the Feast of Fools

In medieval England, the Lord of Misrule was an officer appointed by lot at Christmas to preside over the Feast of Fools - a riotous banquet where the central idea seems always to have been a brief social revolution in which power, dignity and impunity is briefly conferred on those in a subordinate position. The Lord of Misrule was generally a peasant appointed to oversee these Christmas revelries, which often included drunkenness, wild partying and general licentiousness.

The appointment of a Lord of Misrule comes from antiquity. In ancient Rome a Lord of Misrule was appointed for the feast of Saturnalia, in the guise of the god Saturn. During this time the ordinary rules of life were subverted as masters served their slaves, and the offices of state were held by slaves. The Lord of Misrule presided over all of this, and had the power to command anyone to do anything during the holiday period. 

In the medieval version young people chose from among their own number a mock pope, archbishop, bishop, abbot to reign as Lord of Misrule. Participants would then “consecrate” him with many ridiculous ceremonies in the chief church of the place, and give themselves such names as Archbishop of Dolts, Abbot of Unreason, Boy Bishop, or Pope of Fools.

The parody often tipped dangerously towards the profane, the ceremonies mocking the performance of the highest offices of the church, while other persons, dressed in different kinds of masks and disguises, engaged in songs and dances and practised all manner of revelry within the church building. As a result, the Feast and the almost blasphemous extravagances were constantly the object of condemnations of the medieval Church, until it was finally forbidden under the very severest penalties by the Council of Basel in 1431.

[Image Source: Pieter Bruegel, The Fight Between Carnival and Lent (1559)]

Advent Calendar of Oddments 2012: December 22nd

The Monkey Aristocracy

These monkeys were once a scathing critique on French aristocracy. There is a monkey on a early sort of bicycle called a velocipede, a monkey harpist, a monkey violinist, two small monkey musicians, and an incredible monkey dandy under a large glass dome. All are dressed in fine silks with hair done up in the style of French Royalty. These automata were a post-French-revolution joke on the former rulers and current dandies of France. So popular was the theme of foolish aristocratic monkeys that it was common in French homes, and whole rooms were decorated around the theme.

One such room is the Chateau de Chantilly’s Monkey Room in Paris, France. In the mid-1730s the artist Christophe Huet was commissioned by Louis-Henri, the duke of Bourbon, to paint scenes with monkey vignettes on the walls of an elegant white Rococo salon with gilded stucco ornaments. By 1737, Huet had decorated nearly every surface  with a complex allegorical design in which monkeys, fashionably dressed, are depicted in aristocratic pursuits: boar hunting, drinking chocolate, doing their hair, dancing and singing. While the monkeys are charming, they also gently mocked the nobles they represented.

The use of monkeys to poke fun at the rich wasn’t always restricted to art, and often the rich joined in on the fun. “In the early 1700s it was fashionable for aristocrats to keep monkeys as pets. They dressed the monkeys in fancy outfits for comic effect and taught them human tricks, like pickpocketing, that they would display on leisurely walks around Versailles.” Little dressed up versions of humans, stealing treats from the lavish banquet spreads.

(Source: curiousexpeditions.org)