The Companye’s annual Twelfth Night banquet took place last Saturday. Not only was it a fantastic evening, but we have not one not two but three Guest Editors for you!
A NEWBIES EXPERIENCE
By Guest Editors Ash and Cindy
After joining the Harrington’s for the 2019 season, we had the privilege of being invited to their annual twelfth night banquet. Despite arriving later than expected, the medieval hall was easy to find, with a crowd of women and men in medieval attire, gowns flowing, tight fitting hose and mahoitered doublets not the normal sight in Higham Ferrers!
Despite only being able to attend a couple of shows this season, we were warmly welcomed by both Harrington’s and Bayard’s, who wouldn’t have looked out of place in the court of King Henry VII. The atmosphere was pleasantly overwhelming, with decorative wreaths, candles, and authentic cutlery and plates adorning the tables. The crackling fire glowed in the hearth while the Harrington and Bayard standards hung over the high table, finishing off a perfectly prepared hall.
Initially apprehensive and nervous about what to expect, our fears were allayed when we discovered that a seating plan had been implemented, enabling us to mingle with friends old and new. With the head table easily visible, an introduction to the history of the hall, followed by a short prayer in latin created an even more authentic feel to the evening. So much so that my bottle of pink gin and phone remained firmly hidden in the basket. Servers ensured the head table were fed three courses which were delicious. The onion pottage served with bread, herbs and spices was a warming first course. This was followed by slow cooked pork with spices, complimented by the bread, sauces and vegetables. Finally, despite some last minute adjustments, the desert finished off a delicious spread.
As knives carved and drink was consumed, the medieval music from the Myal Pyper completed the scene. Intervals provided the perfect opportunity for us to listen to the melodious tones of Kof while Phil’s rendition of the Magpie Song, encouraged nostalgia and allowed us to join in his rendition. As our food settled, we chatted and caught up on the off season shenanigans.
The highlight of the evening for some then occurred. In recognition of hard work and humorous moments of the season, awards were presented to the most deserving members. Archery, fighting, living history and participation were all recognised. Perhaps the best recipients were Tony M. (Bayards) for his extreme impact on the public and Phil D. who earned his the title of ‘Cardinal Chunder’ for his ability to reproduce foods previously consumed.
Arthur had a great evening, receiving recognition for his work on and off the field. It was also an unexpected but great surprise to receive our Harrington knots. In true Christmas tradition, a nativity mummers play was performed. There were innuendoes galore, and at one point, I honestly thought that Ash was going to fall off his chair laughing. I can’t remember seeing him laugh that much… ever.
With tables removed, the floor was ready for medieval dancing, hosted by Myal Pyper. A fantastic end to a wonderful night saw some attempting better than others to master the routines, most managing to turn in the right direction, only a few people bumping into each other and many people fully believing they were in the court of King Richard himself, (I’m sure Henry VII wouldn’t have been so enthusiastic about the dancing.) Having planned to leave by ten for the long journey home, we finally left at gone eleven thirty, having had our photos taken and saying goodbye to those with whom we had shared such a delightful evening. It was an night of medieval fun, making friends, recognising success and working together.
Thank you to everyone who planned and worked hard to ensure such a wonderful evening. We look forwards to meeting people soon during 2020.
THE TWELFTH NIGHT BANQUET
By Guest Editor Kerin. She’s Welsh you know.
Last weekend the Companye celebrated with our Twelfth Night (ish) banquet at the spectacular Bede House to celebrate the end of our re-enactment year, and to look forward to the coming year. This is the third year we have had our banquet at Bede House, which is a wonderful 15th C building that was created by Archbishop Henry Chichele. It is complete with vaulted wooden ceiling, gargoyles, and a large fire hearth that we use during the banquet and it really sets the scene and provides a great backdrop
WHY TWELFTH NIGHT?
Twelfth Night is a festival in some branches of Christianity marking the coming of the Epiphany. This is the day when the nativity story tells us that the wise men visited the infant Jesus. In Western Church traditions Twelfth Night concludes the Twelve Days of Christmas.
In some places, Old Twelfth Night is still celebrated on 17 January, which is the old date determined by the Julian calendar.
In medieval & Tudor times, Twelfth Night was an evening of merry making and tomfoolery, hence the naming of William Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night which was originally written to be staged on that date.
One Twelfth Night tradition was to have a bean and pea hidden inside a Twelfth-night cake, and both the lady and the man who find the bean in their slice becomes the King and Queen for the night. There is also a tradition of singing Christmas carols, as well as feasting. Our 2020 Queen of the night was appropriately our Lady Harrington who was waited on hand and foot befitting her status
This year, as in previous years, we hosted the Banquet jointly with our great friends the House of Bayard. A few guests also joined us from Harrington Household of the Wars of the Roses Federation (aka the Feddingtons) as they had been encamped with us at the Battle of Barnet event and formed part of our 2019 story. It was great to see them there having fun.
Firstly, finger bowls are sent by the High Steward for people to wash their hands before the feast. The stewards (servants) then serve the food, they have a sash to donate their function and can come in useful when serving hot dishes
The food is served in a series of removes, where courses are taken to table, and periodically removed. As in the 15th C these could have a theme, and this year they were:
- Onion Pottage with bread trencher
- Roast Pork, with stuffing
- Pies of berries or apples, with cream from the Dairy.
- Local Cheeses
- And the aforementioned twelfth night cake!
In-between removes, we use this night to present our annual awards.
These awards are granted for best combat, archery and living history. There is also a secret vote to vote for Harrington of the Year. This is for the member of the companye who is deemed by their peers to have done the most in the service of the Companye. This year Arthur T. was selected for his martial prowess on the field, always being willing to help and muck in wherever he can, and lastly his being by far the tallest member of the Companye he is very useful to Lord Harrington – who at 5ft 6in is an authentically average height for the medieval era (sorry M’Lord :- ) ).
We also welcomed our newer members into the Company and awarded the Harrington Knot to Tom, Emma, Sean, Vittoria, Cindy, Ash, Peter, Tina – along with four new junior members. The companye continues to grow and goes from strength to strength
In-between removes we were treated to songs from Kof and Phil. Kof sang a beautiful song called ‘This Endris Night’ from a manuscript written c 1471 – 1485. Then Phil gave us a rendition of The Magpie Song which was taught to him by the members of the Colonel Nicholas Devereaux Regiment of Foot around the campfire at our 2019 event at Delapre Abbey. This traditional song with its simple chorus afforded the chance for everyone to join in and the sound of song ringing around the hall with its acoustics was a beautiful sound.
After everyone had finished the Pork remove, it was time for our traditional Mummer’s Play. This year’s play was written by first time playwright Mike P. It was a traditional nativity mixed with the spirit of misrule of Twelfth Night, and it seemed to be well enjoyed by the audience and the players
Once the players had gracefully shown the exit (and their admirers removed from the stage door), space was cleared to facilitate what is becoming the highlight of our banquets ….. the dancing!
As in recent years we have enjoyed the talents of Myal Piper, who not only provide authentic live background music throughout the banquet but also lead us in some great dancing. I think that after three years our dancing may not be perfect, but I think it is showing some improvement. We certainly go into it with enthusiasm and I am sure that makes up for talent. After many songs, we finished off our dancing with an attempt to Strip the Willow, which was described as ‘pleasantly chaotic’.
After the dancing it was time to travel home, after saying goodbye to old and new friends with a promise to see them on the field in the year to come