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IN ALL AGES OF WESTERN EUROPE.
BY THOMAS WRIGHT, F.S.A.
WOMANKIND IN THE FEUDAL CASTLE (Continued.)-HUNTING AND
HAWKING. It is a curious fact, that the writer of the “Ménagier de Paris,” so often quoted in these chapters, which consists of a code of instructions for his wife in the regulation and management of herself and her household, places hawking as one of the accomplishments of the lady, and under her especial direction, and gives her a rather long treatise on the subject; and that the earliest treatise on hunting and hawking, written in the English language, was the work of a fair lady of knightly family, who was, moreover, the superior of a monastic house. This was dame Juliana Berners, prioress of the nunnery of Sopewell, near St. Alban's, and supposed to have been the daughter of King Richard the Second's favourite, Sir James Berners, and to have lived during the first half of the fifteenth century. However, we have other reasons for knowing that, both in France and in England, the feudal ladies were passionately fond of the chace. A great and learned ecclesiastic of the twelfth century, John of Salisbury, who condemns the practice of hunting as one of the most oppressive manifestations of feudal tyranny, bears witness to the eagerness with which the ladies of his time followed the sport of hawking; and, to come to a later period, it was at a grand hunting party, given by King Louis XII. to the Archduke Maximilian, that the wife of the latter, Marie of Burgundy, was thrown from her horse, and killed. Catherine de Medicis was a great huntress of the stag, and a little poem in French, belonging to the early ages of printing, entitled, “The Women's Wishes” (Les Souhaitz des Femmes), makes the knight's lady wish for the green woods, with her hounds in leash, to hunt the stag, and that her husband might be bold in courage.
Et moy, qui suis chevaleresse,
A mon mary hardy courage. The coarse caricaturist of feudal society in its last stage of decadence, François Rabelais, describing the freedom of manners of the people of his model convent of Theleme, says, “If any one of them said, 'Let us go to the sports in the field,' they all went. If
it were to hawk or to hunt, the ladies, mounted on fair hackneys, with their richly-caparisoned palfrey, carried each on her fist, genteely gloved, either a hawk, or a laneret, or a merlin."*
Hunting was, indeed, one of the great safety-valves of feudalism, and one which had been received from a period far more remote. It was the active occupation of the old primeval chieftain when not engaged in war, and it similarly relieved the male inhabitants of the castle from that tedious inactivity which they felt as the greatest of
In other words, it kept them from worse mischief. One of the cynegetical writers of the middle ages, Gaston Phæbus, speaks rather boastingly of hunting in a moral point of view. By hunting, he says, you avoid “the sin of idleness"-(le péché d'oyseuse) “and,” he says, "since he who flics the seven mortal sins, according to our faith, is to be saved, therefore every good hunter will be saved ”—(Car qui fuyt les sept péchiez mortels, selon nostre foy, il devroit cstre sauvé; donc bon veneur sera sauvé). I do not make myself responsible for the truth of the reasoning, although it is put very logically.
But, like everything else under the feudal system, hunting was now placed under exact rules and forms, which had not been defined before, and these were soon committed to writing, for the instruction and use of the feudal household; for skill in hunting and falconry had become one of the great accomplishments of a gentleman, and among the finest features of a noble character stood prominent the love of hounds and hawks. At first, these treatises were short, and composed in verse, for the purpose, no doubt, of committing them to memory. The oldest known treatise of this description, which is in French verse, and belongs to the close of the thirteenth century, is entitled the “Dict de la chace dou cerf” (the ditty of staghunting). In the century following, these treatises became more elaborate, and some of them became very celebrated and popular. Among the first comes the work of an anonymous writer, the “Book of King Modus ” (Livre du roy Modus), compiled in 1328. Gaces de la Vigne wrote a French treatise on hunting in 1359; Gaston Phæbus, already mentioned, in 1387; and Hardouin, lord of Fontaine-Guérin, in 1394. All these were very aristocratic authors. These French books were accepted as authorities on the subject in England, but some of our Englishmen became, in course of time, ambitious of furnishing us with treatises of our own, though these,
* Si disoit, allons à l'esbat és champs, tous y alloient. Si c'estoit pour voller ou chasser, les dames montées sus belles hacquenées avecques leurs palefroy gourrier, sus le poing mignonnement enguantelé portoient chascune ou un esparvier, ou un laneret, ou un esmerillon.-Rabelais, Gargantua, liv. i., c. 57.
also, were at first written in French. The earliest bears the name of Twety, who is said to have been chief huntsman to King Edward II., though his book appears to have been compiled from the works just quoted. It was written originally in French, but there is an English translation of it, preserved in manuscripts of the fifteenth century. Then comes a treatise on hunting, called the “Master of the Game,” which is dedicated to the Prince of Wales, afterwards Henry V., and is said to have been compiled by that Edward, Duke of York, who was slain at Azincour. Lastly comes the treatise of dame Juliana Berners, already spoken of, which was the first book on the subject printed in the English language.
With the feudal sentiments attached to it, hunting received several technical and more or less ceremonious names. The most comprehensive was that of chace, or chasse, in mediæval Latin, chacea, or cacea, signifying an extent of territory abandoned to wild beasts; but the derivation of the word appears to be unknown. There was, however, an older and a more dignified word, formed from the purer Latin venatura (hunting), which had, probably, been the name in use in Gaul ever since the Roman times, and which in French, was moulded into venerie. This became what we may, perhaps, call the higher title of the science, and was the more fashionable one for books on the subject : that of Twety was entitled, Le Art de Venerie. La chasse was the more comprehensive name in use in Norman England, as in France, and embraced animals which were not objects of the chace acknowledged under the title of venatura. We Englishmen have preserved, through all changes, our own Anglo-Saxon word, huntung (hunting).
Venerie, therefore, which was considered in feudal times as the noblest division of the art, included only the animals which were acknowledged in the earlier mediæval venatura, and which were those hunted in primitive times. There were only four beasts of venerie ; the hare, the hart, the wolf, and the boar, which are thus enumerated in verse in the English translation of Twety.
To venery y caste me fyrst to go,
Of venery for sothe ther be no moe. There were five other beasts “of chace;" the buck, the doe, the fox, the martin, and the roe; and some others, of less account, which might be included within the province of the hunter.
These animals, of course, were hunted with hounds, of which there were several kinds employed in the Middle Ages. Among them, one of the best known, was the rache, or scenting-hound,
which appears to have been a strong dog, and which was used especially in hunting the stag. It was, no doubt, our modern hound. The greyhound was, as now, the dog used for hunting the hare, and it was the favourite of the ladies. In an early English manuscript of poetry in the Cambridge University Library (Ff. v. 48, fol. 119), we are told of a lady riding forth on her palfrey attended by both these kinds of dogs, greyhounds and raches :
She was as feyre and as gode,
And as riche on hir palfray ;
Hir rachis coupuld, be my fay (by my faith).
It is probable that the lady of the castle, however spirited and courageous she may have been, did not go personally to hunt the wild boar or wolf. But we have already seen that the feudal ladies did hunt the stag, and we can produce pictorial evidence of the
manner in which they entered into the sport. The illuminator of a manuscript in the British Museum (MS. Reg. 2 B VII.), well known to antiquaries by the name of Queen Mary's Psalter, took a fancy to adorn the foot-margins of his pages of vellum with subjects chosen from the field-sports of the day, as well as with others of a kindred character. The manuscript and its illuminations belong to
the beginning of the fourteenth century, perhaps, to the reign of Edward II. One of these, which is copied in our cut, represents a lady and her damoiselle engaged in the chace of the stag. The lady is mounted astride on her palfrey, and is blowing the mote with her horn like a true huntswoman. Her rache, probably, is attacking the animal courageously; but the skill of the damoiselle, with her unerring arrow, has most effectually decided his fate. The use of the horn was sufficiently elaborate, and required skill and experience on the part of the blower, whether gentleman or lady. It formed a sort of instrument of communication, not only among the hunters themselves, but between them and their dogs, and the language in which it was used, like almost everything feudal, was French. Twety is very particular in his instructions on this point. When the hunter has got sight of the hart, he is taught to “ blowe after one mote, ij. motes, and if myn howndes come not hastily (immea diately) to me as y wolde, I shalle blowe iiij. motes, and for to haste hem to me, and for to warne the gentelys that the hert is sene, than shalle I rechace on myn howndis iij. tymes, and whan he is ferre fro me, than shalle y chase him in this manner, Trout, trout, tro ro rot, trout, trout, tro ro rot, trou ro rot, trou ro rot;"
because “that the hert is sene, and y wot (know) nevere whedir that myn houndys be become fro myn meyné (company).” Other combinations of motes are ordered for different incidents of the chace. And so with the hare, "if ye hounte at the hare, ye shalle sey, atte uncouplyng, Hors de couple, avaunt; and after iij. tymes, Sohow, sohow, sohow! and ye shalle seye, Sa, sa, cy, avaunt, sohow. And if ye se that your houndes have good wyl to renne, and be feer (far) from you, ye shalle sey thus, How amy, how amy, swef, mon amy, shefe. And if eny fynde of hym where he hath ben, as Rycher or Bemond, ye shalle seye, Oiez à Bemond le vuillaunt, que quide trovere le coward, ou le court cow !" i.e., “Hark to Bemond the valiant, who believes he has found the coward with the short tail.” Richer and Bemond, it must be understood, were names of dogs, and coward was a popular name for the hare.
The ladies of the castle, undoubtedly, took an active part in the hunting of the hare; but their exploits in coursing are not frequently alluded to, and I have not seen any mediæval drawing representing it. Another animal, however, which might almost be classed with it, seems to have been an object of great amusement to the ladies of the castle; at least this may be presumed from its not unfrequent appearance among the sports in the margins of Queen Mary's Psalter mentioned above. This was the rabbit which was called in French, a connil, and in English, a coney, from the