The Lord of Misrule Holds Court

The Lord of Misrule Holds Court

Revivals of old customs are not restricted to modern times. The ‘Lord of Misrule’ had his heyday in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, when he presided over the revels lasting from All Hallow’s Eve until Twelfth Night. In Cambridge in 1868 a somewhat sedate revival of this tradition was held in the Guildhall.

The Invitation:


Thursday, January 2nd, 1868
In the Holly Bower with Yule-Log and head of Boar
will he keep his Festival.

Before him will his lieges take their merry pastime, bells will they jingle, puppets will they play, carols will they sing, at the Quintain will they tilt; in wonder may they be dissolved.

To Shovel Board, to Fox and Goose, and to othere ye games of ancientry and joyaunce does he invite his guests.

In the midst of his Court will rise a tree of marvellous fruit, from whose branches, in place of leaves, gauds and gems shall spring, the droppings whereof shall be transformed into work of cunning craftswomen.

To revive the energies of his liege-men and servants, the Lord of Misrule will provide drink from China, berries from Ceylon and flesh of pig
The charge to prepare this Festival is given to the Wardens, Sidesmen and their fellows of St Michael. A tribute of One Shilling current coin of the realm will be demanded. None will be allowed to enter the doors of the Hall who cannot produce a pass to certify that the tribute has been paid.

Whereas, moreover, the Christmas Tree of the Lord of Misrule produces wondrous fruits, he recommends that the other coins be brought in the pocket, that exchanges may be effected, and memorials of the Yule festival of 1867 be preserved by his lieges.

The Festival will commence at six o’ clock.

The Event (as reported by the Cambridge Chronicle)

The Soiree and Christmas festival announced by St Michael’s parish took place in the Guildhall on Thursday evening. The entertainment was of a novel kind and thoroughly Christmas-like; there was a Christmas jollity on the platform; there was a Christmas air pervading the audience; there was a decidedly Christmas savour in the refreshment stall, and in the boar’s head which graced the table; even the dissolving views were on Christmas subjects.

With over six hundred people present, the entertainment was altogether a great success. From six o’clock till seven the audience promenaded to the strains of an excellent band provided by Mr Sippel, and in investing current coins of the realm at the Christmas tree and at the stall for the sale of an abundance of pretty and useful articles, eagerly pressed by the young ladies, who proved themselves such capital saleswomen, in fact perfectly irresistible.

At seven a procession of singers marched on the orchestra where had been erected a spacious bower for the reception of the Lord of Misrule. His lordship took his seat, with the hobbyhorse and dragon on either side, the lady singers, all similarly habited in Christmas costume, being on the right, the gentlemen on the left. His lordship delivered an appropriate prologue, inviting his guests to partake in the revels, and was followed by an exceedingly good selection of carols, very well sang. This, we might say, was the principle feature of the evening.

Then the spectators were invited to various games and to a Marionette Exhibition, but unfortunately, owing to the sudden indisposition of the young lady who was to have worked the puppets, the exhibition could not take place.

Another selection of music followed and a festive collection of dissolving views concluded the entertainment. We should mention that the Revd. G Weldon and the Senior Churchwarden of St Michael’s gave two short readings which were, we fear, very indistinctly heard. Nevertheless, the whole affair was extremely well managed and reflected great credit on all concerned.

(Taken from Cambridge Chronicle, 4th Jan 1868 as featured in “A Fenland Christmas” by Chris Carling)