1472: Christmas at Middleham Castle
With Christmas a mere seven days away, I thought it might be fun to revisit Christmas at Middleham Castle in 1472 (as described in the first Francis Cranley mystery, The Woodville Connection).
To set the scene, Cranley has arrived back at Middleham after completing a sensitive mission for his friend and master, Richard of Gloucester. He returns somewhat battered and bruised, and with Matthew, a new serving boy, in tow. Gloucester tells Cranley that he believes the inexperienced lad will enjoy Middleham’s Yuletide festivities.
“My noble friend was right, Matthew did indeed relish the mummings, as he did the mystery plays, the carolling, the hot lambswool beer with apples bobbing on the surface and, most particularly, the swan roasted with butter and saffron. Every part of Christmas at Middleham was a new delight to him and it gladdened me to see his eager enjoyment of it all.
For my own part, fatigue had caught up with me early on in the feast and near propelled me face first into my venison. As soon as was polite I murmured an excuse and slipped away to my chamber, catching sight as I exited the great hall of Matthew coaxing a buxom laundry wench towards the kissing bough.”
Several other Christmas references in the text can’t be quoted here in full as they include plot spoilers. However, rest assured that an enormous Yule log, Twelfth Night gifts, goose, frumenty and pastry-wrapped ‘umbles’ all make an appearance. The Feast of the Holy Innocents, otherwise known as 28th December, is also referenced.
Merry Christmas, one and all!