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Author Topic:   Fools
Dorothy Davies
Senior Member
posted 11-23-2004 04:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dorothy Davies     Edit/Delete Message
I have seen a drawing of Richard and his Fool. Were Fools only for fun, or were they, as alleged by Philippa Gregory, also seers, advising the monarch? Is there anywhere I can go to find out more about Fools?

posted 11-23-2004 02:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Maria   Click Here to Email Maria     Edit/Delete Message
You will find some information in the entertainment topic (in Life inside a castle, view all topics).

Dorothy Davies
Senior Member
posted 11-24-2004 04:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dorothy Davies     Edit/Delete Message
Peter says Jesters and Fools were invented for the film industry, but as I said, I've seen an engraving of Richard and his Fool. Philippa Gregory in her book The Queen's Fool (Queen Mary) mentions the fact she is a seer, and that is why she was taken for a Fool. Philip had his own Fool at that time. I understand Queen Elizabeth loved jokes, so she probably had a Fool too. I just can't find out anything about them at the moment ... I need to go back to the source, I think, those who were there at the time! Often helps, but sometimes memories need jogging, as it were. (For example, I asked where Ravenspur was, he said 'along the coast' - for which read, I can't remember/I don't know/it was just a convenient point to land a boat - take your pick, I thought.)

I have 3 more books to write after this one, I cna't see my migraines getting any less ...

thanks guys, I really appreciate you all being here, it's one of the first sites I visit each day to find out more about our precious heritage.

Senior Member
posted 11-24-2004 07:42 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Merlin   Click Here to Email Merlin     Edit/Delete Message
In all the books I read about royal palaces and culture at the royal court in the high middle ages in central europe I never saw any mention of fools. Nor any texts from that time suggesting that they existed.

posted 11-24-2004 10:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Levan   Click Here to Email Levan     Edit/Delete Message
I can think of a few well known Jesters:

Henry VIII of England had a fool/jester named Will Somers.

In the Islamic world, there are tales of Mulla Nasrudin, the legendary 14th century mystic jester of Tamerlane.

According to Shakespear, Elizabeth I of England and James VI of Scotland had jesters. In 1605, one of Shakespear's performers (the Lord Chamberlin's Men) named Robert Armin wrote a book called, "Foole upon Foole".

King James I of England had a jester called,
Archibald Armstrong, who let many honours go to his head and eventually over-reached himself by insulting too many influencial people.

By the time of the English Civil War, Charles I of England employed Jeffrey Hudson as a jester - Jeffery fought as a soldier on Charles' side during the war. Oliver Cromwell's reformist Christianity didn't approve of such frivolity as jesters so most left England to entertain in Ireland instead.

For more detailed information, I suggest you try to find the following book: "The Fool : His Social and Literary History" ISBN 1299142745 by Enid Welsford. Unfortunately the book is out of print, but you might find it in a library or second-hand store.


posted 11-24-2004 10:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Levan   Click Here to Email Levan     Edit/Delete Message
An excellent link on Jesters:

Will Somers features in the English school History curriculum for Key Stage 2, so you should be able to find a reasonable amout of information about him:

Will Somers - a picture:

A novel: "The Autobiography of Henry VIII with some notes by his fool, Will Somers" by Margaret George. Very well reviewed on Amazon:

A good link for Archibald Armstrong:


[This message has been edited by Levan (edited 11-24-2004).]

Dorothy Davies
Senior Member
posted 11-24-2004 11:13 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dorothy Davies     Edit/Delete Message
that really is great, many thanks, Levan! I can go check out now, much appreciated.

Richard's Fool was called John and came from Pontefract, I found out earlier today (at lunch, actually) - such information makes life extremely interesting, and yours is adding to it. Again, many thanks.

Dorothy Davies
Senior Member
posted 11-24-2004 11:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dorothy Davies     Edit/Delete Message
I followed the Etoile linkm superb stuff. If anyone else asks, this is a bit from the article ...
After the War of the Roses was settled the English Court lightened up a bit and there are many references to the keeping of Fools in the household accounts. Elizabeth of York paid a Keeper or attendant, one Phyp, two shillings a month to feed and clothe her William. She also gave gifts to the fools of other nobles. Henry VII made provision in his will for gowns for his two fools Mr. Martin and Mr. John, and old "Phyp", to wear in his funeral procession. Henry VIII kept Mr. Martin on and also took in Sexton and Patch, providing attendants for each of them. Patch, a 'natural' was in the household of Cardinal Wolsey, who could have sold him for 1000 pounds, but upon Wolsey's fall from grace he just gave Patch to King Hal. Patch was not too pleased, but he settled down after being befriended by the Greenwich Court's resident jester, Will Somers- an artificial.The fool may have been regarded as mere chattel but in most noble homes he was well cared for, had a place at the family dinner table and was free to take part in the conversation. Thomas More's fool, Henry Patterson, went to great lengths to persuade his master to take the oath of Royal Supremacy of King Henry. More refused, and knowing his fate was sealed handed Patterson over to the Lord Mayor of London on the condition that he would act as Fool to every succeeding Mayor for the rest of his working life.

Dorothy Davies
Senior Member
posted 11-24-2004 11:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dorothy Davies     Edit/Delete Message
just to let you know I am a little hurt at a 'your attempt to hack into this website ... your ISP has been noted' message came up when I emailed this page to a friend ... I have never hacked into anything, don't know how to do such things, but simply wanted to share the fools topic with my friend as we had been discussing it earlier by email and I wanted to let him know how great this site is.

so if I offended anything or anyone with inept computer use, sorry, otherwise ... it wasn't me! honest!!!!!

posted 11-24-2004 03:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Peter   Click Here to Email Peter     Edit/Delete Message
Since I typed that I bought a book called ' Castles in Italy', The Medieval Life of Noble Families.
Whilst this is about castles, with each castle it has a medieval life segment. Food, travel, music etc.
I found these add on segments fascinating, explaining much on little covered subjects when dealing with castles.
It was staggering to learn that peope who entertained the court (Lord or King) were prized like some footballers today.
But the common picture of jester is still something that has been boosted by the film industry. Because a fool for much of the time he most certainly wasn't.
Strange comment in your last posting?

Dorothy Davies
Senior Member
posted 11-25-2004 04:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dorothy Davies     Edit/Delete Message
have you seen the message that comes up when you try to email the page to a friend? it's sort of threatening, 'you hacked into this website, we have your ISP number and you'll be stopped,' is the overtone, so ... that's the reason for the 'strange message' I can't hack, have no knowledge to do such a thing. It came up twice, because I did it again to the same person to see if it was a fluke, it wasn't. so I won't be trying to email pages again in the future.

I've ordered the book on Fools, Social History, etc. It would appear most fools were dwarfs, or deformed in some way (which people thought amusing at that time) but Richard III's fool was not either of those, instead he was a much trusted aide. I think the others were, too.


posted 11-25-2004 12:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ipflo   Click Here to Email ipflo     Edit/Delete Message
no, when i try to send a email, it works and it sends a message and then returns to this page. so i have no clue why it has happened.


posted 11-25-2004 03:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Levan   Click Here to Email Levan     Edit/Delete Message
I just tried mailing the page too - no problem at all.

It's probably better practice to mail the link - that way they get the most up-to-date information, and will also be in a position to join in the discussion.


Dorothy Davies
Senior Member
posted 11-27-2004 05:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dorothy Davies     Edit/Delete Message
thank you, guys, will do that next time.

the book search firm turned up the book on Fools by Enid Walsford, but it was sixty eight pounds, so I had to decline ... way too much for me to spend, unfortunately.

posted 11-27-2004 12:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Maria   Click Here to Email Maria     Edit/Delete Message
About deformed people and dwarfs, the spanish painter Velasquez painted the court fools...

posted 11-27-2004 02:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ipflo   Click Here to Email ipflo     Edit/Delete Message
probably you already have found the following links:



Dorothy Davies
Senior Member
posted 11-29-2004 04:32 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dorothy Davies     Edit/Delete Message
many thanks - the court.jester link turned up two more books I will try for, they might be cheaper.

Rikchard III's Fool seemed to be a close companion, I am intrigued and want to know more. Once you start on research ...

posted 11-29-2004 02:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ipflo   Click Here to Email ipflo     Edit/Delete Message
yes, they are a lot cheaper:

Customer review of the book:

The fool, though constrained, continually threatens to break free in pushing to its limits whatever freedom he is given."

John Southworth's earlier work, The English Medieval Minstrel, remains one of the best books on medieval entertainers. In Fools and Jesters, however, he has surpassed himself, producing a seminal work which will become a classic on an equal footing with Enid Welsford's landmark The Fool: His Social and Literary History (first published in 1935). And in his particular focus, the historical English court jester, he provides the most comprehensive overview yet, superceding Welsford and all other writers to date.

Southworth has brought to light sources which have not been delved into before, and he has helped tidy up the mess of the jester's provenance, superbly defining the chaotic nomenclature of medieval court entertainers. He begins by touching on the universal aspect of the jester, then looking at aspects of fools (dwarves, warriors, musicians and naturals) before homing in on the real target of his study - the heyday of historical court jesters in England. This leads to some excellent biographical chapters (arranged more or less chronologically) devoted to the principal named jesters, placing them in the context of their time and considering their contemporary fools.

One of the best chapters deals with the open-ended debate about the European jester's costume, with Southworth soundly knocking a few nails in the coffin of the notion that real jesters cavorted in cap and bells as a matter of course. He teases out threads from a wide-ranging array of materials to write perhaps the clearest and most reliable overview of the arguments and counter-arguments. I have increasingly leaned towards believing that jesters rarely, if ever, wore the archetypal cap and bells in real life, and Southworth has succeeded in edging me further in that direction.

Fools and Jesters contains a wealth of detail and footnotes to engage `jesterologists', and for those making a study of English (or European) court entertainment, or looking at Shakespearean or other dramatic fools, it is essential reading.

That said, it also boasts the uncommon virtue in highly scholarly works of being wholly accessible and appealing to a general reader - the book is beautifully designed and produced, sumptuously illustrated and would serve as a superb starting point for anyone venturing into fools' territory, for fun or enlightenment.

I'd name this as one of the four key works on jesters yet written, which perfectly complements the other three.

posted 11-29-2004 02:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ipflo   Click Here to Email ipflo     Edit/Delete Message
also check http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/search-handle-url/index=books&field-subject=Fools%20and%20jesters/202-4114382-3403052

here amazon mentions 29 books about fools and jesters

Dorothy Davies
Senior Member
posted 12-08-2004 09:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dorothy Davies     Edit/Delete Message
The John Southworth book has arrived, what a terrific book it is! Very very pleased to have it. Thanks so much for all the advice.

am busy with book, early life in the castle, with the author constantly insisting how cold it was, all the time!

All times are PT (US)

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