De Mowbrays Retinue updated their website address.
De Mowbrays Retinue are a group of friendly historical interpreters operating across England and Europe, based in South East England. The Retinue operates across the England and Europe, at historical sites and venues, inside and out.
Made up of friendly volunteers, the group strives to interpret manuscripts, objects and text in order that our visitors can build a better understanding of many strands of 15th century life - both civilian and domestic. Why not get in touch?
De Mowbrays Retinue updated their website address.
The Gentlemen of her Graces retinue, take their leisure.
It had been quiet, too quiet of late. The plague was abroad and trepidation in the air. Food had been scarce, hoarded and at times fought over, such was the uncertainty of the present. Travel between villages ceased and people retreated both within themselves and their homes.
As each day passed, though the sickness was still present, life returned, people remembered how to hope and the fear lessened. It was a good day, when the baker returned to the Duchess's lands once again, bringing with him his cart and oven ready to bake whatever was presented to him... for a small fee of course! The miller's wife waited patiently, milling flour was all very well, but it was the taste of fresh baked bread which she longed for. She did not have to look on for long, within the hour she once again possessed a bakers dozen of manchettes. Although tonight's meal would again be a vegetable pottage, accompanied with her bread she would feel once again as if she were the Duchess herself.
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The seventh day of January, this year, was Plough Monday. Although the land had so far evaded the snow and (to a degree) the rain, the harsh wind was no weaker for it. Sheltered in the lee of Milady's Framlingham keep, the men returned to the work that kept them all fed - and, indirectly, clothed, warm and paid. The device that gave the day its name was brushed, checked and pressed into service. The earth, brown and rich, gave in to it willingly. The labourers were pleased - furloughing frozen soil was a fool's errand. With the earth tilling so well, it bode well for the broadcasting and thence, the Spring. Praise be to the Lord, and He shall keep us.
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The chill wind blew fiercely and found its way under the smithy door. As it whirled its way around the forge the wind lifted ash and dust binding them together as it became one with the smoke of the fire. It caused the smith to stop for a moment in his work to clear his lungs evoking the Saynte Eligius to keep his work safe as he tended to his rather more urgent his need for breath.
Smith paused for a moment; the absence of the rhythmic sound of his hammer on anvil was deafening and he mused that perhaps Eligius may also have had to deal with the foul air as his mastery of the forge and renown as an extremely skilful metal smith grew. It would be a boon if the favour and perhaps some of the saynte's fortune would find it's way to his own hand and forge, he may yet be able to pay the rent due on Christ's mass.
The Lord giveth but he also taketh away he muttered under his breath as once more he set his hand to the hammer, his arm to the bellows, his back to the task in hand and his eye to read the metal before him. However, in his heart was was a happiness in the creating and in the forming of the metal from base to beautiful. In this the Smith was blessed by Eligius after all.
The breeze picked up, it's direction changing, and the chill was once more felt in the air. Draughts, long forgotten over the summer months when the sun warmed your back and the walls of your home, made their existence felt keenly. It would not be long before the first frosts would add a sparkle to the ground.
It would be a beauty lost on those who that had to endure them.
Extra blankets, long dormant, were unpacked from the chests, aired and added to the beds of the house. Final repairs to roofs, shutters and doors were hastily completed. Stock was taken of the food stores then carefully hoarded away.
But it was the joints of the more weather-sensitive souls - and the behaviour of the house cats - that told of the changing of the season, long before it actually arrived. Their craving for the sun's warmth to ease the aches and stiffness and the requisitioning of the warmest spot in the house in which to curl up that confirmed it.
Winter was coming.
The Chamberlain sighed. Ever since the forces moved west to attack Tudor, the country had been afire. Hundreds of missives, messages, orders and queries had flooded into the House. What would be the outcome? Where does the Duchess stand? Would she support the Howards if the worst fate should befall the Duke?
Once Richard put this fool down, hopefully business would return to normal, and Milady could enjoy her hard-won dotage, untroubled by further politicking.
He grabbed the latest package, and opened it with barely a thought. Noting the seal at the top, he read the first lines....and his heart stopped. He rubbed his eyes, stood, and hurried out to catch Milady before she started her morning ride.
Damn Tudor, he thought bitterly. And then, aloud.
"Damn him straight to hell!"
Victory! Outnumbered, but with right on their side, the Yorkist cause had won the day, Edward had proved he was indeed the rightful King of England and the rout of the Lancastrian was decisive. Tewkesbury Abbey had provided sanctuary for a while, but could not hold the Lancastrian nobles forever and many had met their God in sight of it.
Margaret of Anjou had in her own hand written to Edward and confirmed to him that she was “at his commandment”. Despite her previous reputation for being ruthless, she was now broken in spirit the death of her only son the cause and she was now held for the King by William Stanley at Wallingford Castle.
Those of the retinue who would live to tell tales of what had occurred on that bloody meadow, would count themselves blessed as they moved eastwards, once again to see home, but the screams of the dying that day would echo in the living as the memories of the battle played out in their sleeping minds.
A letter has been received; Margaret of Anjou has arrived in England. Her forces are gathering pace and the call has gone out to rally arms to the Yorkist cause. The Duchess sighed; peace was ever fleeting, but to protect the rightful King, she would face the very devil himself if she had need.
Margaret was a powerful woman, capable in politics, warfare and now treason it seemed. Years before she had ruled England in place of her husband Henry IV. Ostensibly to provide a channel of direct communication between the King and the nobles, when Henry was in deep conversation with God or troubled by visitations of the saints. However, it was commonly thought she had been and ever was the power behind the throne and had vowed to regain her rightful place and that of her son Edward of Westminster.
So the men of the retinue turned their faces west, towards Wales and the setting sun, joined by a few hardy womenfolk, they sharpened falchions, checked bows and said prayers. They packed up what little they needed and said their goodbyes; they prayed they would once more see home, but knew their duty was to maintain God's rightfully anointed sovereign upon his throne and so they kept their promises and followed their Duchess once more unto battle.
The gatehouse loomed large and imposing ahead of the Duchess. As she gazed ahead from her vantage point of her favourite palfrey, she wondered how many had trembled as they entered the confines of the castle. Some would have come for diplomatic reasons, some for business and some seeking refuge in times of conflict. Rarely would pleasure be the main reason to seek the castle out.
Today however was one of those rare occasions, today the Duchess would be a guest, invited to enjoy the spectacle of the Joust a plaisance that was to be held. Today and for the next few days she would be accommodated in a room overlooking the courtyard, she would have servants to fill her a bath lined with fine linen, protecting her from the less than delicate timbers of the bath staves themselves. Whilst on the morrow the joust itself would begin.
This was not the only reason for her visit though and whilst the lances would shatter upon impact on the targe, she would continue to establish more connections, further her causes, safeguard her interests. It would be indeed pleasurable to watch the sport, but it would also be a pleasure to secure her family and business for a few more months to come.
The Duchess had requested for music to be played; lost in the intricate fi*****ng and in the recollection of the piece to be performed, Margaret did not notice how the bray harp bent her back, tenderised her fingers and dimmed her sight. The music soothed away all pains and hurts whenever she cradled her harp to her and allowed her the freedom to soar with the angels at will.
When the chamberlain and the duchess's ladies maid Martha were of a mind to join her, the beauty of the music increased beyond measure. The sheets of notation that was traded both at home and from further afield gave each another challenge to master, as the Duchess was known to tire of pieces played too often for her entertainment.
Today the sun warmed her and the music flowed effortlessly as Margaret lost the memory for whom she was playing, for her at this moment, she played for her pleasure alone. The Duchess may think otherwise, but truthfully who could control or own the music once it was released from the confines of the written notes?
You advise me to do what?! Master Wilson, barber churgeon, was confused; had he not attended to the injured, maimed and sick for eons without complaint? Had he not hacked and bled and lanced and probed to the best of his ability? Those he helped often lived to recount the tales and those who didn't... well God helped those who didn't.
Master Wilson was the one charged with the care of the retainers, soldiers, archers and all those who bore arms for the Duchess and bore their wounds for her too, sometimes without too much whining. If surgery was required it was seldom conducted by the lofty physicians, who felt it far beneath their academic prowess to do a task so base.
Instead it was the barbers churgeons, who, in having more than a passing skill with blades of all types were called upon for numerous tasks ranging from cutting hair to amputating limbs and if you didn't like it, Master Wilson was also known to be handy with the messer as well!
Alas surgical mortality is very high, often due to blood loss and infection and although Master Wilson liked to hone his skills with the blade, he was less enamoured with airy-fairy advice from the physicians and this latest suggestion was yet another to be disguarded; washing his hands?! Regularly? It was going to take no small measure of ale to calm him after hearing this.
A cacophony of sound broke the Duchess' concentration; the Boke of St Albans lay on her table, left open to display the beauty of the illustrations as her attention was drawn to the window. Below, the cause of the disturbance became apparent; the hounds were baying again.
The berner Stephen and his wife Alessandra were about their business of feeding, caring, exercising, training and tending to the multitude of dogs that inhabited the Duchess' lands. Amongst the lively, dancing pack the Duchess could pick out the lymers which found the game, the mastiffs for whom the fight was made, the raches that would run the quarry down and the small hunting kennets.
Although they would not profess to have favourites and despite the rare complaints of excrement found in the wrong place, an errant hound located in the kitchen midden or a misplaced cold canine nose the both were known to have a particular soft spot for the old shaggy gentle lady Xanthia and the more youthful running hound May. The Duchess smiled; all of her dogs would always be well and fit for purpose with the berner in charge, but she knew too that Xanithia and May in particular would never be in want of a warm bed or a kind hand.
The fire snapped and popped on the hearth, with plenty of fuel stored carefully beside it, none paid much attention to the bitter winter that continued outside.
The pottage bubbled away contentedly whilst below, curled tightly in a ball on the floor rushes, the resident cat echoed the warm contentment that permeated the house. Soft purrs could be heard and if you listened closely enough, the small rustle of vermin might also reach your ears.
The cat's ears twitched; she also heard the sound and suddenly with head up, confirming the location of the next meal, the cat forgoing the usual long stretches, began her hunt. The rat's short life was fast reaching it's climax as cat and rat began the age old dance of predator and prey.
The end was swift and clean, a feast was had and little was wasted in filling the cat's belly. It was a fitting event for the day of Saint Gertrude and a satisfying event for the house; with one less uninvited mouth to feed, those who resided within the modest home, would sleep more soundly in their beds.
Snow? Snow in March?? The retinue had been taken by surprise! They'd thought the worst of the winter was past and were looking forward to the warmer days of spring. Alas the biting cold winds from the east had brought with them snow that although resembled the fleeces that provided both warmth and wealth in Norfolk, bore little benefit to those who must endure underneath the white blanket.
Fires were kept fed, but finding a steady supply of fuel was more laborious than usual, Extra layers, if available, were added to beds, but some folk took to bedding down by the hearth for a more tolerable nights sleep. Cloaks were wrapped around chilled shoulders and pattens seldom gone without, but the snow found its way to seep into the woollen cloth and drying it out was nigh on impossible. The easterly wind was brutal, finding it's way through every crack, every hole, every repair that had yet to be made, it drove straight into your bones and drained what felt like your very soul from your body and there appeared to be no end in sight.
Yet, when the snow did cease and the weak sun reached its zenith, there was a satisfaction from the full belly of pottage that gave a warmth which soothed the weary body, then there was fun to be had. Then the aim could be tested, strength weighed against another, balance could be honed and feet asked to be nimble for snow balls were flying and it would not do to be laid low by a ball thrown that reached its mark, for want of a well timed duck!
A symbol of hope at last; the small and delicate snowdrops were finally being seen pushing their stubborn way into the early spring air. As Ysabel made her way home, she paused to breathe in the beauty before her.
She pondered a while on how Eve, cast out from the garden of Eden, had mourned for the loss of the sun and the seemingly endless winter snows. She empathised entirely with the feeling that the cold would never end and was thankful that some of the snowflakes that Eve had seen, had been transformed into these blooms to prove that winter would indeed give way into spring.
However, she was not so foolish as to believe that with these first snowdrops winter was gone entirely and part of her hoped for just a little more snow before the month of Feverell was out. For it would foretell of a fine summer and that would be something to hope for indeed.
This far into the winter, stores were running low. Those working in the kitchens of the Duchess were accustomed to relying on the dried food supplies to keep the retinue fed, but after the payments to the retainers were made at Candlemas just past, the clerk of the kitchen sometimes wondered if the Duchess was perhaps a little over generous at times.
No matter, today a fresh cauldron of pease pottage had begun it's slow change from a hard and unpalatable state, into a soft warm and filling paste as it bubbled away happily on the kitchen fires. Today it would be served hot and if luck was with them some small gobbets of meat might be found concealed amongst the green paste. If not then perhaps, when served cold upon the morrow some additional vegetables might be added to enhance the meal.
The Duchess' retinue were known to enjoy both the hot and cold versions and were thankful daily for the skills of the kitchen staff. What they were perhaps unaware of were the skills required to extend the life of the resulting dish, to eke out the leftovers, to make it go just that little further, to keep their bellies full. It was rumoured that they were skilled enough to make a single cauldron of pease pottage last for a whole nine days, but this was often dismissed, for the retinue were also known to enjoy their food and little went to waste, ever.
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The Retinue operates across the England and Europe, at historical sites and venues, inside and out. Made up of friendly volunteers, the group strives to interpret manuscripts, objects and text in order that our visitors can build a better understanding of many strands of 15th century life - both civilian and domestic. Why not get in touch? Or check www.demowbrays.com