Bringing Guildford Castle to life
"It's the most wonderful time of the year" and we are getting ready for a royal visit from the past! We will be welcoming King Edward III, Queen Philippa of Hainault and members of their court to Guildford Castle on Saturday 7 December.
King Edward and his court visited Guildford Castle in 1347, during which time the king and queen enjoyed a Christmas masque. Originating in Italy, masques were a type of entertainment popular in high society. They involved dancing and acting, with performers wearing masks and costumes. Masques flourished across Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries.
King Edward also visited Guildford on a few other occasions, including Easter in 1336 and the Feast of Circumcision (1 January) in 1337, and in 1340.
Alongside such big events celebrated by the upper classes, there was often a joke version taking place among the lower classes. Around the Christmas period, for example, there was the 'coronation' of the 'Lord of Misrule' - a person, usually someone from the lowest class of society (in this case our gong scourer), chosen to be in charge of festivities and boss everyone around. If you join us on 7 December you will have a chance to be the 'Lord of Misrule!
There was no present giving on 25 December. Gifts were mostly given around New Year's Day to celebrate the Epiphany, the Feast of The Three Kings. Boxing Day was a day for the reversal of fortunes where the rich provided gifts for the poor. The gift was generally money given in a small clay pot with a hole at the top, which had to be broken in order to get the money out. Nicknamed 'piggies' they became the first version of the piggy banks we have today.
Carols, especially those showing devotion to Mary and her purity, became very popular. Did you know that singing carols from door to door resulted in carols being banned in churches in medieval times? It was thought that church Masses were being ruined by carol-singing and dancing in a circle - which is how they were originally performed!
Wealthy families could serve up to ten courses! The medieval Christmas was also a period for charitable giving, such as sharing food with those who were less fortunate.
Did you know that King Edward III (born on 13 November 1312) was the first English king to have the exact time of his birth recorded at 5:40 am! That is 707 years ago almost to the day!
Blog post by Dajana Topczewski, Guildford Museum's Engagement Officer.
Images by Nick Bale, Friend of Guildford Museum. The photos were taken during Christmas at Guildford Castle in 2017 and 2018 © Guildford Borough Council, Heritage Services.