British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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26                                       TWELFTH DAY,                             [JAN. 6.
the characters were to be supported through the night. John Britton, in his Autobiography tells us " he suggested and wrote a series of Twelfth Night characters, to be printed on cards, placed in a bag, and drawn out at parties on the memorable and merry evening of that ancient festival. They were sold in small packets to pastrycooks, and led the way to a custom which annually grew to an extensive trade. For the second year my pen-and-ink characters were accompanied by prints of the different personages by Cruikshank (father of the inimitable George), all of a comic or ludicrous kind." Such characters are still printed.—Book of Days, vol. i. p. 64.
Formerly the Lord Mayor and Aldermen, and the Guilds of London, used to go to St. Paul's on Twelfth Day to hear a sermon. This is mentioned as an old custom in the early part of Queen Elizabeth's reign.
Twelfth Day and its customs appear to have been observed by royalty almost from time immemorial. At the English court in the eighth year of the reign of Edward III., the majes­tic title of King of the Bean was conferred upon one of the king's minstrels, as appears by a Compotus of that date, which states that sixty shillings were given by the king on the day of the Epiphany to Regan, the trumpeter, and his associates, the court minstrels, in the name of the king of the bean.—Strutt, Sports and Pastimes, 1801, p. 255.
The grand state of the sovereign on Twelfth Day, and the manner of keeping festival at court, in the reign of King Henry VII., are set forth in Le Neve's MS., called The Boyalle Book, to the following effect;
As for Twelfth Day, the king must go crowned in his royal robes, kirtle, surcoat, his furred hood about his neck, his mantle with a long train, and his cutlas before him; his armills upon his arms, of gold set full of rich stones; and no temporal man to touch it but the king himself; and the squire for the body must bring it to the king in a fair kerchief, and the king must put them on himself; and he must have his sceptre in his right hand, and the ball with the cross in the left hand, and the crown upon his head. And he must offer that day gold, myrrh, and sense; then must the dean of the chapel send unto the Archbishop of Canterbury by clerk or priest the king's offering that day;
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