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Silver gilt bells and a horse’s ass

The canopy that the Barons of the Cinque Ports held over the monarch was cloth of gold with little silver gilt bells, held aloft on spears or staves. At Henry VIII’s coronation, the canopy was reportedly held over him while he rode a horse, so it had to be pretty tall.

The Barons took the canopy home as a payment, sometimes taking it in turns and sometimes selling it and splitting the money. Bits of various canopies and Baron costumes survive in local museums.

The silver gilt cup above is in the V&A and was made of recycled canopy bells used during the coronation of James II in 1685. Two Barons (from the same family) pooled their share to make it.

At the coronation of Charles II in 1661, the Barons were attacked by the king’s footmen as soon as they were done escorting the king. The footmen dragged the Barons down the hall and almost into the street, hoping to pinch the canopy. The Barons prevailed, but while they were fighting, others snuck in and took their seats at the dinner table and ‘the poor barons’, per Samuel Pepys, ‘naturally unwilling to lose their dinner, were necessitated to eat it at the bottom of the second table below the Masters in Chancery and others of the long robe!’

At the coronation of George III, William Talbot the Lord Steward (responsible for organizing the business) didn’t set aside tables for the Barons. An argument ensued that only ended when Talbot (a pugnacious man) threatened them with a duel.

Incidentally, Talbot presided over the banquet on horseback. He went to a lot of trouble to teach his horse to walk backwards away from the thrones. Which went splendidly, but the horse kept walking back into the hall backwards, presenting his ass to the king. The crowd hooted.

George IV was the last monarch to walk to the banquet under the Cinque Ports canopy. He decided to walk in front of the canopy for some reason, the barons struggled to overtake him, and the whole procession hobbled down the road at an undignified jog-trot. I have read elsewhere that alcohol may have been involved.

May 4, 2023 — 3:00 pm
Comments: 4

Bloodwit and infangthief

So what did the people of the Cinque Ports get in return for their annual shiplending? A pretty sweet deal, in fact. Here it is in the original Anglo Saxon legal speak:

  • Exemption from tax and tallage
    (tallage is usually property taxes)
  • Rights of sac and soc
    (jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases, from the Anglo Saxon soke)
  • Rights of toll and team
    (authority over the sale and movement of cattle)
  • Rights of bloodwit and fledwit
    (authority to punish those who shed blood or do a runner)
  • Rights of pillory and tumbril
    (authority to punish social ne’er-do-wells)
  • Rights of infangthief and outfangthief
    (authority to imprison or execute thieves and felons)
  • The right of mundbryce
    (the right to build sea defenses on private land)
  • Rights of waifs and strays
    (finders keepers)
  • Rights of flotsam, jetsam and ligan
    (the right to appropriate stuff that leaks from ships)
  • All freemen of the towns had the right to call themselves Barons of the Cinque Ports, but in practical terms the Barons were those appointed by the various mayors and councils to attend a coronation.

    The Barons of the Cinque Ports had the right, from time immemorial, to hold a canopy over the head of the king as he processed to his coronation and thereafter to dine with him at his right hand (though at the coronation of William and Mary in 1689, they were refused this seating arrangement and never got it back).

    “Aha!” sez you, “now I know what gives!”

    Uncle B informs me that time immemorial is an actual date in English law: 1189 AD. Anything before that is time immemorial, a matter of tradition, anything after that is assumed to be written down and attributable to somebody.

    May 3, 2023 — 3:00 pm
    Comments: 6

    Let us talk about the Cinque Ports

    The Cinque Ports are a confederation of towns along the Southeast coast of England, mostly in Sussex and Kent. As an official body, they pre-date the Norman Conquest and are mentioned in the Domesday Book (though not by name) and (by name) in the Magna Carta. It’s super old is what I’m saying.

    Their original purpose was to provide ships to the king – between them they were to provide X number of ships for X days in service to the crown every year. They bill themselves the Cradle of the Royal Navy.

    Everyone from the Corded Ware People to William the Conquerer to Napoleon to Hitler has tried to enter Britain from this area closest to the continent, so it makes sense to keep it on a warlike footing.

    The original Cinque Ports (West to East) were Hastings, New Romney, Hythe, Dover and Sandwich. In the Twelfth Century, they wanted to add the towns of Winchelsea and Rye, but that would really mess up the name. So those two aren’t called Ports, they’re called Ancient Towns, sometimes spelled Antient. It’s that way on some of the signposts. Which is very cool.

    Then the Ports and Ancient Towns wanted to include some of their neighboring towns, so those became Limbs or Members. At its biggest, there 40 towns in the whole organisation. Today there are 14 towns in the Confederation of Cinque Ports, and we don’t actually live in one.

    By the way, it’s pronounced SINK, not SANK as the French would have it, because screw the French is why.

    May 2, 2023 — 3:00 pm
    Comments: 10

    Where now?

    The tweet:

    Always makes me laugh that there’s only two manuscript parchment copies of the US Declaration of Independence and they are located in:

    1) the US National Archives

    2) the archives of West Sussex County Council, where it was found by chance in 2015.

    Following up on that, it’s true. There are lots of copies, but that’s the only other one on parchment. Most copies are 19th C, but they believe this one was about ten years after the original.

    Back to work tomorrow after a fabulous four-day break. I am sad.

    April 10, 2023 — 6:48 pm
    Comments: 7

    Pre-decimal mental math

    I pinched the illustration off this person on Pinterest. I hope she regards the link as sufficient payment.

    You want to see a wrinkly British face light up? Bring out some pre-decimal currency. Britain switched to a decimal system in 1971, but before that they had a base 12 currency. Everything’s ones, threes, sixes, twelves and twenty-fours. It’s fiendishly hard if you’re used to decimal.

    They can rattle it off like nothing. AND they remember what things cost back then, too. We ran across a bag of old money in the archives today, and off they went!

    If something costs one pound, two shillings and sixpence you could pay with a sovereign, a florin and a sixpence OR ten florins, two shillings, two tuppences and two pence OR two crowns, two half crowns, a thruppenny bit, a ha’penny and two farthings. You get the idea.

    Try it yourself! In pennies (d), it’s:

    Farthing: ¼d
    Ha’pence: ½d
    Penny: 1d
    Tuppence: 2d
    Threepence (thruppenny bit): 3d
    Groat: 4d
    Sixpence: 6d
    Shilling AKA ‘bob’: 12d
    Florin: 24d
    Half crown: 30d
    Crown: 100d
    Sovereign: 240d (£1)
    Guinea: 240d (£1)

    You ought to see how they beam over a train timetable.

    February 3, 2023 — 7:45 pm
    Comments: 17

    Sad news

    It’s okay – they’re not going out of business, they’re just moving.

    If you’re interested, here is an article about it in the Museums and Heritage Advisor, because this is a for real serious museum that I got notice of in my work account, y’all.

    I feel like there’s a wealth of vagina-related puns to be had here and I’m too much of a square to see them.

    If you poke around their website, be warned: they make their money from merchandise.

    January 30, 2023 — 6:42 pm
    Comments: 5

    Happy Solstice!

    Welcome to the shortest day, the day we turn Stonehenge over to smelly hippies who have no more idea what the builders of Stonehenge believed than my chickens have.

    I love this picture (uncredited); it shows how close Stonehenge is to a couple of major roads. See where the road splits in the upper left corner. The Heel Stone, middle left, is practically on the side of the road.

    I was shocked. It loomed out of the plain like a Texaco station.

    Still, there are 1,000 less famous stone circles left in the UK. Plenty of places to cavort naked on the solstice. Tip: pick the Summer solstice.

    From here, Winter begins, but the days get longer again. I’ll take it.

    In the thread before this one, tomfrompv suggested someone might want a break from my low effort holiday shitposting by submitting a guest post. If you’re burnin’ to be published on a low traffic but very elderly blog, message me at stoaty@sweasel.com.

    December 21, 2022 — 5:48 pm
    Comments: 7

    Marie, peas and leeks

    My cabbage friend below put me in mind of Marie Lloyd and her music hall number “She Sits among the Cabbages and Peas.”

    Oh, she sits among the cabbages and peas
    With a pretty little peapot ‘tween her knees
    She’s a whiz at shelling peas
    So she sits and shells with ease
    Till the pretty little peapot’s full of peas.

    Oh, she sits among the cabbages and peas
    And she talks to all the little bugs and bees.
    They climb up her legs and arms
    And all round her other charms.
    They see lots of things nobody ever sees.

    Oh, she sits among the cabbages and peas
    With her little dress away above her knees.
    All the boys that pass her way
    Stand and stare and wish that they
    Were that pretty little peapot ‘tween her knees.

    Oh, she sits among the cabbages and peas
    And the little birds are singing in the trees
    Waiting till she falls asleep,
    Then fly down and take a peek
    At her pretty little peapot full of peas.

    Oh, among the cabbages and peas she sits,
    And her pretty little dress so tightly fits
    When she stoops to take a pea
    That’s the time that you can see
    That she’s got a pair of very lovely hips.

    Oh, she sits among the cabbages and peas,
    But one day she felt so very ill at ease.
    She was sitting on a hole.
    In that hole there was a mole.
    It’s no wonder that she felt so ill at ease.

    Quote: The lyrics of “I sits among the cabbages and peas” raised some objections so on one occasion she changed them to “I sits among the cabbages and leeks” much to the delight of the audience.

    You can hear it here, if you’ve a mind to.

    October 19, 2022 — 6:44 pm
    Comments: 3

    Today’s word: ambrotype

    Today, a man brought in a whole box of wonderful family ambrotypes. This was a cheaper photographic process than the daguerreotype and was later superseded by the tintype.

    That helped us date them neatly from some time in the early 1850s to the early 1860s. Not that he didn’t have his documentation together!

    One was a very elderly man – possibly a posthumous portrait – meaning I reckon he was born around 1780. He had an old-fashioned cravat to prove it. Spooky.

    (Not the example picture, though. That’s an ambrotype of Abe Lincoln. I think we can all agree Abe was a very freaky looking dude).

    The man was donating all these family pictures and the meticulous research that went along with them. People do that a lot – give us their family histories. I think they feel they’ve done a duty by handing them over. We’ll get the names in our database and future historians will have access.

    The best part? He knew who every one of those people were and he had documentation to go with them.

    People, I am begging you – with my professional hat on – don’t leave all your pictures digital. Print your favorites and write on the back who they are.

    RIP Angela Lansbury. G_d’s Middle Finger take the dick. Back here. Friday.
    Dead Pool 159.

    October 11, 2022 — 7:37 pm
    Comments: 10

    A thing I had to do today

    Today, as part of a parcel of documents relating to the early history of the local Girl Guides troop (Girl Scouts to you ‘n’ me), we received a small silver bowl that was given as a prize. I was asked to interpret the hallmarks.

    So here you go. There are four or five marks on a fully hallmarked bit of British silver.

    The Standard Mark identifies it as sterling. This one – the lion passant – means it was assayed in London or other English assay office.

    The Town Mark is what it sounds like. The crown is for Sheffield.

    Some hallmarks have a Duty Mark, which tells you if duty has been paid. It’s a queen or king’s head. This one doesn’t have it.

    Now that we know the town, we can look up the Date Letters for Sheffield. This is a little harder. There are several lowercase G or Q marks. I’m calling this one for 1908 based on the gothic style letter. It fits with the provenance of the object, but there’s a little knob on the corner of the letter worries me a bit.

    Finally, the Maker’s Mark. HW in a plain rectangle – I made this out as Henry Wilkinson – a fine Sheffield silversmith. I was chuffed.

    But then I noticed the dot between the H and the W, which would make it Henry Wigful. Who at least has the redemptive quality of an amusing last name.

    And that’s that. Now the lot goes into a box and the box goes into a cupboard and there it will lie until some future scholar asks some future office weasel what she has on the Girl Guides.

    October 4, 2022 — 7:51 pm
    Comments: 3