Friday, September 20, 2013

Royal Feasts in Medieval Fiction by Christy English

by Christy English

The upcoming release of Castles, Customs, and Kings, has got me thinking about one of my favorite aspects of historical fiction, the medieval feast.

In my novels about Eleanor of Aquitaine, and in a good deal of medieval fiction, the reader is subjected to a large number of royal banquets. There are a lot of reasons for that, mainly because it was the one time during the day when the king and the queen came together in public, allowing for all sorts of theatrical drama to ensue to help in the weaving of a novel's plot.

Not all the drama at royal banquets was political, however. A medieval feast was often accompanied by music, quiet and melodious during the dinner itself, and louder, more raucous music for the dancing after. Often the king or queen would also pay for dancers and mummers to perform for the crowd, amusing the highborn ladies and lords who were fortunate enough to dine at the high table with the royals, a mark of favor that was rarely bestowed and always sought after.

Interior of the Palace at Poitiers, Eleanor's capital in Poitou

In my first historical novel, The Queen's Pawn, Prince Richard, later King Richard I, sang at his mother's feasts. This was less as part of the entertainment and more of a gesture of support for her and for the culture she came from, namely the south of what is now modern day France, the duchy of the Aquitaine and the county of Poitou. In this region, the art of courtly love was welcome at court, and lords sang for their ladies, writing songs for them as easily as paid troubadours. Of course, professional songmasters were sought after even in England, where they sang at the court of the Angevin King Henry II.


Henry II of England

Courtly feasts were a lovely place to hear stories told, songs sung, and to watch political power plays, which were almost as exciting as the entertainment, if not more so. If I could transport myself back in time, I would love to stay just long enough to eat at one of Eleanor's feasts, listen to Richard sing, and then get out of there.

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Christy English is the author of The Queen's Pawn, To Be Queen, and Love on a Midsummer Night, and a contributor to Castles, Customs, and Kings. For more about Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard the Lionheart, and Shakespearean Regency romance, please join Christy on her website Chasing the Muse .

5 comments:

  1. What an interesting post. I love learning tidbits of history this way. I've always loved historical fiction, although I was drawn to later periods of history (Victorian Era for one). But this makes me want to read more about Medieval days.

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    1. Thank you Elizabeth...I hope you do...and if you do, I hope you enjoy it. It wasn't all darkness and warfare. They had some fun too.

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  2. Ah, you're very wise to want to get out after the feast! ;-)

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    1. LOL Sue...with no family connections and no burly protector, I'm not sure I would be safe even that long. But still, it might be worth it just to catch a glimpse of Eleanor.

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  3. Christy,
    Thanks for stressing the fact that noblemen in the 12th and 13th Century could sing and compose music. So many people still think of medieval man as brutish, boorish and illiterate. I'm on my own crusade to try to counter such notions, and I'm slowly building a Website: http://tales-of-chivalry.com. I'd love contributions,if you're interested in adding an article or two.

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