British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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28                                       TWELFTH DAY.                             [JAN. 6.
with the wassailj he must cry thrice " Wassaile," &c, and then shall the chapel answer it anon with a good song, and thus in likewise, if it please the king to keep the great chamber. And then when the king and queen have done, they will go into the chamber. And there belongeth for the king, two lights with the void, and two lights with the cup; and for the queen as many.—Antiq. Rep. 1807, vol. i. p. 328.
On Twelfth Day, 1563, Mary Queen of Scots celebrated the French pastime of the King of the Bean at Holyrood, but with a queen instead of a king, as more appropriate, in consideration of herself being a female sovereign. The lot fell to the real queen's attendant, Mary Fleming, and the mistress good-naturedly arrayed the servant in her own robes and jewels, that she might duly sustain the mimic dignity in the festivities of the night. The English resident, Randolph, who was in love with Mary Beton, another of the queen's maids of honour, wrote in excited terms about this festival to the Earl of Leicester. " Happy was it," says he, " unto this realm, that her reign endured no longer. Two such sights, in one state, in so good accord, I believe was never seen, as to behold two worthy queens possess, without envy, one kingdom, both upon a day. I leave the rest to your lord­ship to be judged of. My pen staggereth, my hand faileth,
further to write.------The Queen of the Bean was that day in a
gown of cloth of silver; her head, her neck, her shoulders, the rest of her whole body, so beset with stones, that more in our whole jewel-house were not to be found. The cheer was great. I never found myself so happy, nor so well treated, until that it came to the point that the old Queen (Mary) herself, to show her mighty power, contrary unto the assurance granted me by the younger Queen (Mary Fleming), drew me into the dance; which part of the play I could with good will have spared unto your lordship as much fitter for the purpose."—Lives of the Queens of Scotland, Strickland, vol. iv. p. 20.
Down to the time of the Civil Wars, the feast of the Epiphany was observed with great splendour, not only at court, but at the Inns of Court, and the Universities (where it was an old custom to choose the king by the bean in a cake), as well as in private mansions and smaller households.
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