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Peerage Elevations & Entertainments

Hugh de Calais: Quest for the Foundling

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I seem to have become involved in customising peerage elevations or providing elevation-related entertainment. I blame Master Nicodemus Novello for that -- he attended a class I was giving on persona development via paperwork (ie amassing letters, bills, wills and the like) and made a chance remark, and it all grew from that...

Quest for the Foundling : Canterbury Faire 2017

I gave a class at Festival in 2016 regarding how you could use documents to build up a persona and inspire other projects. While discussing various interpretations of an orphan name tag found amongst my “father’s” possessions, Nicodemus remarked that such things could be used to form the basis for an interesting quest. A day later, when Hugh de Calais was invited to join the Laurels and opted to do so at Canterbury Faire the following year, the Quest for the Foundling was born.

The general concept developed very quickly – the Quest would start with the reading of a will; the associated inventory would list the items being hunted for; and documents in the deceased’s coffer would provide clues to the whereabouts of the items and the identity of the unknown heir. With luck, Hugh would play without twigging to his central role in the Quest; that is, he had no idea what was being planned.

I started to ask various Laurels if they would be interested in providing a gift for Hugh on his elevation and got enthusiastic buy-in, especially once I’d explained how the whole thing was to be framed. The main concern seemed to be could they do justice to whatever item they volunteered to make, to meet the sort of standards that Hugh was worthy of!

So I then had the fun of matching the items offered to appropriate documentation and building up the story of the life and times of one Henry de Calvile, a soldier-merchant residing in Calais until his death in 1376. He would be Hugh’s unknown father, with his last will, testament and inventory being the thing to kick the whole quest off.

That time and place was chosen to match the chronology of the Company of the Staple (Inc.), an historical re-enactment group to which Hugh de Calais belongs. From there it was a matter of intense on-going research to produce items and documents to match, building up the chronology of Henry’s life and providing reasons for why his possessions might be scattered around the countryside. All this without making it too obvious that the Quest was based in Calais or pointing too obviously to Hugh as the foundling.

The reading of the will was scheduled for the opening day of Faire (Monday), with the instructions noting that the quest would run through the following four days. The document coffer (made by Master Edward Braythwayte) with all its documents (made by me) was turned over for the questers to examine, and copies of the inventory and quest rules provided. I had to make a nasty nylon cover for the coffer as Ed had carved the leather with symbols referencing Hugh.

To keep the Quest running, and to string out the various clues, some of the inventory and a couple of major clue-providers were scheduled to appear on Wednesday (Magister Bartholomeaus as horoscope caster) and Thursday (Nicodemus as Cardinal Simon Langham), with the identity-based material released last. The final denouement was scheduled for Half-Circle Theatre on Thursday evening. The run-sheet with timeline, notices, interactions, props list etc ran to around 20 pages.

I acknowledge that is it an act of immense hubris to develop a completely novel persona background for someone without their knowledge or consent (even more so when appearing to make him illegitimate, albeit acknowledged at the end!), but I was always confident that Hugh de Calais would take it his stride, appreciating the high respect and affection those involved showed by doing so.

The Story Unfolds

My aim was to build a coherent set of materials illuminating certain aspects of Sir Henry’s character, past and position, using the various promised items in conjunction with related documentation. Thus I had to think hard about what would be found where and why, then build a story around that that worked logically as well as chronologically. When I found myself wondering how medieval illiterate laundresses tracked their customers’ items, or dating letters after investigating how long it would take for a ship to get from Southampton to Calais, I knew I was in for a year of intensive, but entertaining research.

The questers were told to consider the documents carefully, then act upon them. If they found any items, they were to come and tell/show me and then hang onto them until Half-Circle Theatre. As they were discovered, the items were crossed off the inventory posted on the Market Cross. This meant I could get any accidentally lifted items returned to proper owners, and questers would know which items were still in play.

The questers were also told they would get one -- and only one -- chance to identify the foundling, but they had to keep quiet about it until the denouement. And the final important item of information was that they could take a document out of the box if they needed to, but only for a certain period; this was to alert them to the idea that they might need to present something in order to gain an item.

Photo supplied by Hugh de Calais

All the documents were based on as close-to-the-period textual material as I could find. It is all paper-based, rather than actual parchment, but follows general 14th-century practices. The various hands used for the different correspondence are based on typical handwriting of the period but simplified somewhat to make it more readable for the untutored eye.

A Brief Background
I needed to develop a story as to how and why the foundling came to be born and then left in the care of the church. This involved a fair wodge of research as to what was going on in Europe in the 1340s leading on up to the “current” year of 1376. But it all started to come together quite nicely to produce a plausible background, thus:

As a young squire, Henry de Calvile arrived in France in August 1342, along with 1,500 English nobles and men at arms, including his uncle (the historically real) Hugh de Calverley (aka Calvyle, Caverle, Kerverley, Calvile, Colville etc), under the command of the Earl of Northampton. The force served in the Breton war of succession which pitted the English-backed Jean de Montfort against the Counts of Blois over the Duchy of Brittany, and led on to the Hundred Years' War.

Henry had a liaison with a Breton girl from Morlaix following the battle there in September, which resulted in the birth of a son on St David’s Day (May 24th), 1343, in the 16th year of the reign of Edward III. The foundling was taken to Avignon by Henry’s friend Simon Langham, later Cardinal Langham. Henry sent money to Avignon for his son’s upkeep, but died without ever meeting him.

The Amour
The love letter from Henry’s Breton paramour is based closely on that written by Margery Brews to John Paston in 1477. The French salutation (checked over by a native speaker, merci to the lovely Lady Elisabeth) attempts to set the scene and was intended to encourage questers to think of the whole thing as written in French; the post-script is based on a 1496 letter from Thomas Beston to Katherine Riche.

The love letter, with Henry's safe-conduct below.

It's clear, if you read it carefully that the letter is telling an age-old common story:
And if it pleases you to hear of my welfare, I am not in good health of body nor of heart, nor shall I be till I hear from you. For there knows no creature what pain that I endure and will so until May cometh.
And my lady my mother hath laboured the matter to my father full diligently, for which God knoweth I am full sorry. But if you love me, as I trust verily that you do, you will not leave me therefore.
For even if you had not half the livelihood that you have, for to do the greatest labour that any woman alive might, I would not forsake you.

Yes, she's telling him she's pregnant and her father's not happy about it. And those blots in the letter are tear-stains.

The writer's name is unidentified, but the initial A was selected as representing a very common starting letter for women's names in France in the 13-14th century (eg Aaliz, Agnes, Ameline/Avelinez). This letter doesn't contribute to identifying any of the specific items from the inventory, but does help to provide some background for the fondling's birth, and sets the scene to flesh out the story.

In researching how to seal the letter, I came across references to women using their own hair in items of intimate correspondence. I figured that including a lock of hair would be acceptable practice, and used the pleated format and a cord for the seal (which has a fleur-de-lys symbol to emphasise the French connection). Technically the cord should have been sewn through the end of the letter for absolute security, but I wanted it to be readily openable for the questers. (NB the letter-locking formats used throughout the documents are probably closer to Elizabethan style than 14th century.) Youtube clips: here and here.)

The safe conduct, requesting free passage for Henry to Brest, is based on one issued to Robert de Erle, a knight and Captain of Calais. It ties in with the Morlaix location of Henry’s paramour. The dating is based on safe conducts issued during that time (eg 5 Kal. Dec. Avignon 9 Clement VI).

I had great fun distressing the parchmentine with a crème brulee blowtorch for a bit of textural interest. It provides a reason as to why Henry didn’t go through with a formal marriage to his love, though Cardinal Langham knows that they exchanged betrothal vows, which was generally considered binding. Clearly by the time Henry was able to return to Morlaix, his love had already died in childbirth.

The Foundling's Name Tag
Erik Kwakkel’s fascinating Medieval Books blog cites a Leiden archive collection entitled The Child Book; How the Children Came Here, from 15th-century Holland. It contains short entries along with paper and parchment name tags -- with pin holes! -- of foundlings left at religious establishments eg:
My mother gave me an illegal father, which is why I was brought here as a foundling. Keep this note so that they can pick me up again later. I was baptised and born on St Remigius day.

It was Erik Kwakkel's blog entry (and his other blogs and books) that really got me excited about ephemeral paperwork as a persona-building tool, leading to years of happy thinking, researching and creating, and, of course, this Quest.

So based on this material, I made a name tag for the foundling with his birthdate, and the fact that he was carried off to Avignon. Simon Langham had connections with the Avignon papacy, and the writing used on this name tag matches the Cardinal's as used in his summons (possibly too subtle a point for the questers to notice, but it was good continuity).

So the foundling tag read:
My mother gave me no fathers name which is how I came to Avignon as a foundling. I was baptised and born on St Davids day.

St David's day is Hugh de Calais' real birthday (May 24). Interestingly, one set of questers decided that the period phrase "gave me no fathers name", rather than pointing to illegitimacy meant that the foundling had a generic by-name. That was part of what they considered evidence pointing to Hugh with his geographic byname -- totally wrong idea, but the right identification!

The Foundling's Horoscope
The baby’s natal horoscope, as cast by Magister Bartholomaeus (courtesy of the online Astrolabe website), gives an indication of the foundling’s character, both mental and physical, based on the astronomical arts. The birthdate used was Hugh’s actual birthdate, with a generalised time (noon) and place (Sydney), to avoid having to ask awkward questions.

The period-styled horoscope notes the birth occurring in the sixteenth year of Edward III’s reign (1343) or AS18 (1983) on St David’s Day (May 24). The reading was taken from the astrological writings of Agrippa, Ficino and others, thanks to Christopher Warnock's handy Renaissance Astrology website with a bit of additional fudging to describe the foundling in more detail than the initial indications. For this reason, the Magister’s revelations were timed to occur later in the Quest. (The reason there’s an ink blob is because I absent-mindedly wrote in the position of Neptune, an unknown planet pre-1600!)

Bartholomew dropped some strong hints about being available for astrological consultations at a certain time but, by the time that came round, the questers had already figured out the identity. A shame really, as I’d written a whole page of chatter and astrologically derived descriptions and comments, like this:

Chatter, if questers don't present the chart: How could I be expected to remember a natal chart among the thousands I have prepared over my lifetime for everyone from Princes to merchants!
If presenting the chart:Ah yes, I remember this birth chart even though it was many years ago – the 16th year of Edward III, some 30 years or more it says. It had such good aspects, although I recall there was some cloud over the child’s parentage….Other than that, I know nothing of the child beyond what the stars reveal

Astrological reading: The Sun is in Gemini indicating a strong active body if thin of stature, dark of hair, with an agile mind that welcomes novelty. By nature Hot, Dry, but more temperate than Mars; a Masculine Planet, and in good aspect indicative of Fortune. Known to keep promises with all Puncutuality; speaking deliberately, but not many words, and full of Thought. Affable, Tractable, and very humane to all.

Pretty descriptive of Hugh, I'd say!

Henry's Will and Inventory
Henry Calvile's will was made on the Eve of St Hilary (ie January 13th, just before Faire), 1376, providing the usual instructions, including a bequest to Calais' Notre Dame Cathedral and to his uncle Sir Hugh de Calveley, then Captain of Calais. The remainder of his estate was left to his “natural born" son, to be located through Henry's long-time friend and father-confessor who had taken care of the child and kept an eye on him.

It is signed with a monogram formed from the initials HdC (as shared between Henry and Hugh). The witnesses to the wills are all recorded officers of Calais at the time, and the Father Confessor referred to is Simon Langham, then Cardinal of San Sisto Vecchio (Rome), residing in Avignon.

The will itself is based on the 1489 will made by John Barone of Leicester, recorded in the British History archives of Lincoln wills.

The accompanying inventory was basically a list of things the questers were expected to find by following the various clues from documents and people encountered along the way. It read:

The true Inventory all and singular of the guids and chattles remaining of Sir Henry de Calvile lately residing in the Captains quarters within the garrison, appraysed on xxist daie of December in the xlivth year of the kings reign.
Imprimus, his apparel and personal gear, being
Item a finely wrought linen shirt
Item hosen of fine brown baumwolle
Item a set of points well agleted
Item a finely woven belt in gold and red with metal mounts
Item woven garters with metal buckles
Itam ii linen napkins initialed , i lge i sml
Item a penner and assoc items
Secundus, items forthcoming or attested as owed
Item a leather document roll
Item xx gilded buttons in the form of acorns & held by the Luhi
Item gear for fashioning wood, leather, on loan
Item a shipment of Persian spices
Item ii ells of English wool shipped from Rd. Westbury
Item funds held of His Eminence
Exhibitum fuit huius modi Inventarium

The Spice Merchant
In his coffer, Henry had a letter from merchant contacts interested in shipping Persian spices to France, along with an offer of an ortoq from Tokhtamysh, a Blue and White Horde leader and descendent of Genghis Khan. The merchants had supplied a small wooden box of spice sample.

The ortoq covers business relationships, most commonly freedom to travel through the area controlled by the Horde leader, sometimes relief from customs and taxes. The ortoq offer is based on a letter in Persian written by Guyuk Khan to Pope Innocent III in the mid-13th century.

The English translation:
We, Tokhtamysh, by the power of the Eternal God, ruler of the White Horde, greetings. Know that we agree to an ortoq to allow your factors in our lands to trade and travel within the Pax Mughol. Written at the end of Jumada II 776 of the Hijira

With a covering merchant note: We are pleased to report success. The Persian spice mix is valued per lb at 200 ding or suke in Samarkand. Ingots would be acceptable where 1 ding is equal to 50 liang of silver in Cathay or 4000 stavraton with the merchants in Constantinople

The currencies are ones in use during the 1300s (Vogel, Appendix 6) and cited in Henry’s accounts journal. This item was added in part to provide a link with the CF theme of Marco Polo’s travels along the Silk Road.
Vogel, Hans Ulrich; Marco Polo was in China: Evidence from Currencies, Salts and Revenues; Brill 2013

Account Journal
Henry kept records of his monthly accounts in small soft-bound journals. These covered his income and usual expenses such as food and laundry, giving questers clues to the possible location/identity of some of the items on the inventory.

Anno 49 Ed. III. Oct.
Fm Malypelys 120s
Westbury 40s
stabling et al 36s9d
Host. 1L
corselet repair 1s 4d
laundress 4d
candles 1/2doz 7d
ale 4gall. 4d
cod 20d apiece 120d
bacon side 15d
mutton side 15d
egges 2doz. 1d

Henry’s income was based on that of a man-at-arms, and was paid by the Calais Master of the Mint of the time, Bardet de Malepilys. Clearly Henry was also taking money off the Castle Warden, Thomas Fogg, on a regular basis (cards? dice?). The stabling costs for his horse may seem high, but that was for the whole summer. The costs are based on 14th-century estimates from Kenneth Hodges' helpful Luminarium entry, amongst others.

It also noted a large payment made to bankers in Avignon, along with exchange rates.

The banker Gugliarello Acciaoli acknowledges he has received 600 royal and 24 gro, to be paid to the bearer of the billet de change 8 marks of pure silver.
Luhi and Co, Avignon. Pay to Landuccio Bassadragi on November 20, 312 gold guldens. Iss. Oct. 12.

Another section recorded the items Henry had in pawn to various merchants and bankers. The document was based on actual pawn records (albeit 16th-century Venetian, the only ones I had available); where possible, the prices reflect recorded costs for the late 14th century. The pawn listing for the Quest gift item (buttons gifted by me) includes a traditional three-ball symbol; this symbol was to be displayed at the Faire Market to identify which merchant had that item.

Tucked in the back of the journal was a pawn redemption ticket from the Luhi bank (which was based in Avignon at this time), showing Thomas Fogg had paid his debt through redeeming an item Henry had in pawn. The ticket has a beeswax seal showing the three balls. The idea was that the questers had to show the pawn ticket to redeem the item at the Faire Market on St Anthony’s Day.

At Market, Sir Sebastian laid out his usual pewter wares alongside 20 gilt acorn buttons next to a Luhi & Co placard showing the three balls of a pawnbroker. Sebastian had a range of lines to deliver, depending on what the questers said:
Those buttons aren’t for sale – they’ve been redeemed for the owner, Sir Henry de Calvile.
You need to show me the redemption receipt before I hand them over.
These buttons were pawned for 18 shillings by Sir Henry. He needed a bit of ready cash at the time.
Thomas Fogg paid 25 shillings to redeem them – rumour hath it that the good Warden has been losing to Sir Henry at dice regularly this past year…
Sorry to hear that Sir Henry has died – he was a constant customer.

Mentioned in another account journal entry were the Italian bankers Bardi and Peruzzi. They were bankers to Edward III; the Compagnia dei Bardi had branches in Bruges and Avignon (though by the 1340s they had both actually gone bankrupt as Edward reneged on the 1.5 million florins they had loaned him!). A bill of exchange, citing yet another contemporaneous banker, was sewn into the journal. This had nothing to do with the Quest itself, but added more period touches to the accounts – charters, receipts, notes and even tally sticks were commonly attached to manorial rolls and other accounts.

Prices: Money
Prices & Wages in Medieval England
Medieval Prices
Medieval Dorset Estate Accounts Moshenskyi, Sergei; History of the Weksel: Bill of Exchange and Promissory Notes; XLibris 2008

The Brewer’s Letter and Note
One of the first proffered gifts was a spokeshave, with Mistress Rohesia (as Brewer) and Baron Michelet (as Cooper) operating together to provide a quest path from one to the other. The letter to Henry in the coffer, as penned by the scribe of the Guild, refers to the tools needed to make barrels.
Unto Henry de Calvile, knight, greeting and friendship Know that I have had from your man the tools needed to complete the cooperage requirit to house the Rhenish which should soon be ready for such and will return them by your man an the barrels come to us in good time God willing.

The Brewer was set to grumble about Sir Henry being a man fond of his French wine and his French women. If the questers mentioned the letter, then they were told that: the gear is with the cooper as he’s still busy sorting out the barrels; the Brewer then provided a note to take to the Cooper.

When players got to the Cooper, if they didn't have the note, they were told: More than my job's worth innit? That’s Sir Henry’s gear, how do I know you’re legit? I’ve been dealing with the brewers over this order. You want me to hand over somefing, you gotta have some notification that it's all right with the brewers or they’ll have my hide.

Production of the note produced the spokeshave; like other collected items, they were told to keep it for the Half-Circle denouement.

The note was based on a letter from Margaret de Lacy to Sir Robert de Vere (1245-1266), asking her cousin to return a knife that had been lent so she could send it off to her father (Moriarty, pg 113), with additional material from a 1479 letter from John Fawne to the Prior of Christ Church (Moriarty, pg 115). It has the symbol of the Brewers’ Guild with an R for the scribe drawn across the folds.
Reference: Moriarty, Catherine (ed); The Voice of the Middle Ages in Personal Letters 100-1500; Lennard, 1989

Merchant’s Correspondence
Richard de Westbury was a wool merchant operating out of Southampton in the 1370s. His correspondence with Henry relating to a certain shipment was a chance to provide some time-delayed information which would help identify the city of Calais, as well as allowing a late item to be added to the inventory.

So interpreting the correspondence, the safe passage from Henry had been sent to England for Richard to bring goods over, as his short note on it indicates (also explaining why Henry had the safe conduct in his papers). The Order to the Collectors of Customs is based on one issued in 1370 and, being a letter patent, no seal is used to close the item. Richard uses a hemp tie and green sealing wax for his correspondence.

A follow-up letter explains more, with it pointing to the map to be provided a few days into the Quest, sent “to the inn known to us both” (ie Canterbury Faire's coffee house, the Mangy Mong). I added an additional interaction at the Mong, allowing an explanation for why an inventory item had been left there, as I was concerned that people would try to use the map as a “treasure” map for the site itself.

The map was left out conspicuously on the Mong bench, with the length of wool on a shelf behind the bar. The Mong staff were given the following lines:
That was left by Richard Westbury’s man today, though he seemed in a bit of a hurry.
Yes, I know Westbury, he’s a merchant from Southampton. Comes here all the time trading stuff. What kinda stuff? Well mostly wool, what else do you get out of England?
Takes a lot of French wine back; good stuff mind. Though I think his load was late this time round – his man was cursing about a lack of barrels so sounds like the cooper’s been drinking his stock.

If the questers sought further information, or tried bribery, then they were to be told that Westbury's man left something else behind:
Dunno why he was in such a rush, but he went and left more behind than he meant to. I think he was destined for the city.
Tell you what, if you can tell me what goods he had and promise to take them to the rightful owner, I'll let you take it off my hands instead of cluttering up the place.


Westbury’s map of Calais is based on a number of depictions. Braun and Hogenberg drew the city for their map, included in the 1598 work Civites Orbis Terrarum. Although that was a much later work, it was possible to rework it to show the old citadel town with its Notre Dame Cathedral (referenced in Henry's will), market square and 13th-century donjon, using other images and descriptions of the town prior to later construction. Calais has had a lot of variations in the spelling of its name: Caletum (Braun & Hogenberg), Calesium (Hoefnagel), Cales, Calys (Minot). These usages were scattered amongst various documents as a clue towards identifying Calais as a place of importance for our foundling, Hugh de Calais.

The general map of England and France was based closely on that of the 1375 Catalan Atlas (also used for the Faire T-shirt logo that year, as it included images from Marco Polo’s travels). It has been simplified to make the town names more legible and to provide a few more clues as to the important points in the Quest. The rhumb lines run from the compass and from the town of Calais.

I drew the map, scanned it, then treated the paper with an aging process, soaking and baking it in red wine vinegar, then illuminated it with coloured ink (yes, England really was that pink in the original, though possibly that was due to aging). The map was stored it in a balsamic vinegar-treated “leather” case. I could have made an actual leather case, but the vinegar treatment produces something reasonably close to parchment leather and is a lot lighter so unlikely to crush or damage other items.

Laundry Ticket and Proclamation
While there is some general academic discussion regarding the role of the laundress in medieval life (eg Rawcliffe), there’s not a lot on how they went about accounting for the items and identifying who they belonged to. I based the general concept on how I’d seen laundry orders identified in Peru using colourful alpaca wool tags, with some other period additions predicated on assuming a lack of literacy on the part of the laundress.

That is, I presumed each laundry order would be identified by wool of a specific colour attached to each item on the line; the number of items was identified on the laundry ticket by the number of bits of wool attached. Each ticket was in the form of an indenture with the owner holding one part and the laundress the matching piece, thus preventing misidentification or theft. The list of laundry charges, based on period costings, clearly was written by a professional scribe for the laundress to advertise her services to the literate eg Shirts iiid, Small linens id each, Woollen hose vd, Brushings iid, if velvet iid extra).

The laundry item was one of the first to be developed, thanks to the prompt offer of a shirt from Mistress Miriam Galbraith. It also gave me a chance to allow for any additional sewn items that might come in late which would not necessarily be specifically identified in the inventory accompanying the will. As it was, I had various clues scattered about as to the nature of the items – references to laundry charges in the accounts journal, a comment about table linens going missing, a fine linen shirt and hosen made of baumwoole (the period German term for cotton) listed in the inventory.

A number of items were pegged to a clothesline strung between the artisans' shelters at Coppergate. This meant Mistress Miriam could keep an eye on them and act the part of laundress should any questers approach.

I also made up a proclamation based on one promulgated in Leicester in 1461 (Rawcliffe), and set it in secretary hand for posting on the Market Cross:
To alle personnes who this present proclamation sall see or hear know that those women takeing up the worke of laundresses, whose presence oft seemes disruptif and morally questionabble, as welle as constituting a sourse of congestion, spillige and dirt, sall be requirit to undertake their tasks at a designayted washeing plaice outside the commons such that no woman is to wasshe no clothes ne cause none other corripcion at common wellys or in the hye strete in payne of imprisonment.

The idea was to direct those who read it to an area near the Commons at Faire, from whence they might spot the washing line and figure out how to convince the Laundress to hand over the items.

I wrote some potentially useful ad lib chatter for the Laundress to deliver:
Sir Henry was a good man, always paid on time – fourpence every week in advance regular as clockwork unless he'd been off to battle or merchanting in foreign parts or summat.
I'm a bit worried as I seem to be missing his table linens. Wonder where they got to.
He was a bit short on braies last week. Wonder what he'd been up to (snigger).
Have you heard about the proclamation they have on the Market Cross – says some scurrilous things about poor honest washerwomen only trying make a decent living.
Oh no, them things belong to the Bishop, you can't have those.

The first lot of questers to spot the washing promptly absconded with the lot! When they brought them to me, I asked if they'd spoken to the Laundress and bade them return the clothing and seek out the good lady.

Ref: Rawcliffe, Carol; Urban Bodies: Communal Health in Late Medieval English Towns and Cities; Boydell Press, 2013

Letter from a Leatherworker
Master William de Wyke had hoped to be able to make a pair of shoes as a gift, but as this was likely to prove difficult for him, I made sure that the matching document didn't actually identify the nature of the item which Henry had apparently commissioned from a leatherworker.

The letter, in secretary hand, noted that the item would be ready for collection by Epiphany (January 6), adding that a fire had meant it needed to be collected from within the Commons. This was a pointer to the area where the item could be found, hopefully by matching one of the attached leather samples with something on display (ie a batch of leather goods hanging in the Artisans’ area). In the end, the item turned out to be a document roll.

Illuminated Manuscript
This was just a bit of "filler", using the words of Laurence Minot, a 14th-century English poet who wrote on Edward III's seige of Calais. I liked the fact that the poem mentioned “cardinales with hattes rede”, Calys and “Philip the Valas”, tying in nicely with other parts of the Quest. I matched the text to an illustration from Froissarts Chronicles, which looked appropriate.

Cardinales with hattes rede
war fro Calays wele thre myle;
thai toke thaire counsail in that stede
how thai might sir Edward bigile.
Thai lended thare bot litill while,
till Franche men to grante thaire grace.
Philip the Valas was funden a file.

Book of Days Extract
A number of the documents included dates which provided clues or way points for the questers so it was necessary to provide an extract for the month of January from a Book of Days, noting the various religious and saints’ days for the month. This extract was based on an earlier period-style printed version I had produced, but reset to use a font more appropriate for the 14th century.

Certain Items Mislaid
Henry had a letter referring to some items of “gear” that he had left behind when a lady's husband returned home unexpectedly. These were to include things mentioned in the inventory and gifted by various peoples: garters (provided by Mistress Amalie), points (Mistress Leta) with aglets (Master William de Cameron), a belt (Mistress Montjoye). These were intended as the kind of things which may be missed when one has to depart a house in a hurry....

The letter notes that these would be left at the CF Market Cross but didn’t state a date or time; a market wallet (hand-sewn by Mistress Aliena de Savigny) provided a suitable receptacle for holding these. The letter's romantically red ink is rose-scented, which I purchased in Florence from the Il Papiro paper and calligraphy merchants, and entirely appropriate for the nature of this correspondence.

The Cardinal’s Summons
It was surprisingly easy to identify a suitable man of the church to look after the foundling – Simon Langham seemed to fit the bill nicely. There’s no historical record as to what Simon Langham actually did between 1339, when he become a Benedictine monk at Westminster Abbey, and 1346, when he started studies at Oxford. So perhaps he was in Brittany, attending to the troops, befriending Henry and arranging the care for Henry's natural-born child as he travelled back to England through the Pale of Calais.

Langham had the interesting distinction of becoming Archbishop of Canterbury on two separate occasions (!), as well as Chancellor and Treasurer of England, but his appointment as Cardinal saw him fall out with Edward III, so he shifted to the Continent. From 1368 to his death in 1376, he was based in Avignon, where Pope Gregory XI was residing.

The wording of the summons is based on some 1295 examples of Edward calling the three estates to Parliament, with a subtle reference to the soon-to-be acclamation of Hugh as a Laurel. The mark is based on a cardinal's sign being the hat and cords associated with the princes of the Church.

To Henry de Calvile, knight, greeting. Knowing of the travail you are experiencing and because we wish to have a consultation and meeting with you, we command you, strictly enjoining you in the fidelity and love in which you are bound to us, that on St Wulstan’s day next following Cathedra Petri, you be present in person at the environs of the Great Hall at sext to break bread with us and consider, ordain and provide, along with us, a future for your heir who had come into his majority and is acclaimed for his virtues. Written on the feast day of St Genevieve in Avignon.

Nico was an immediate thought to play the helpful Cardinal, instrumental in the rearing of the foundling. I told him to think of Cardinal Richlieu from the Three Musketeers (the Charlton Heston role), which seemed to appeal to him.

The Cardinal’s role in the Quest was to provide some of the most obvious clues as to the identity of the foundling, depending on what the questers asked, and so had to come towards the end of the quest period, hence the precise dating of his appearance: St Wulstan’s Day is the 19th of January, as marked in the page extracted from a Book of Days; sext being midday. I made a notice about the Faire bells being rung on the half-hour this year, slipping in the info that that would be ringing the hours including tierce, sext, nones and vespers spelling out when those were. One of the questers noted that she read that notice a couple of times while waiting in the lunch queue before she clicked as to its import.

Thus Cardinal Langham was to lurk in the Great Hall around lunchtime, wearing a red velvet zucchetto, which I made, and sash (a borrowed baronial officer's one), and black robes, identifying himself as a Prince of the Church.

The Cardinal had a pouch (made by Mistress Rowan Perigrynne) to hand over, containing the monies saved for the foundling (coins made and gifted by Master Brian di Caffa), as well as a couple of additional hints to drop as to the foundling’s identity if needed. He was allowed to be bribed or flattered into dropping more hints about the identity, but with the immediate serious injunction to keep such matters privy until the man himself may be told of his heritage, as it may be a bit of a shock.

Such as:
Well yes, I know about Sir Henry’s heir; I’ve kept an eye on him all these years and it was clear he would make his father proud one day. Can’t possibly tell you who it is as the good gentle has yet to be told. I hope to see him on St Sebastian’s Eve (Thursday evening). How ironic that Henry and his heir should become notable men in the same town and yet not know each other.
I witnessed private vows of betrothal between Henry and Aaliz, but Henry was sent to Brest before this could be publicly announced and Aaliz died in childbirth before his return. So the babe was a natural born son but legitimate as far as the Church is concerned.

Particularly well-playing questers were permitted to be told that the foundling had just been recognised as Master of his trade (Hugh's elevation had happened by that point).

The Denouement

By the time the Half-Circle Theatre rolled round, the questers had coalesced into two teams, one of which had found almost all of the items on the inventory; the other had concentrated on the identity of the foundling and identified him first.

One of the truly amusing things was that the identification process for both teams seemed entirely logical to them, and completely left-field to me – a combination of guesswork, mis-reading and alternative interpretation produced the correct result!

Thus one read the name tag’s mention of “my mother gave me no father’s name” as meaning that the foundling did not have a surname as such, but possibly a placename; the wording was taken from one of the period tags and wasn’t intended to be any such pointer. However, such reasoning did point to Hugh de Calais!

The mention of the Captain was taken to mean that a port city or sailors were involved, which identified Calais early on for one group. But that reference was to the Captain of the Calais garrison, nothing to do with anything maritime....

We finished the Half-Circle Theatre with this announcement:

As the final item of business at this gathering, we turn to the Last Will and Testament of the late Sir Henry Calvile, the collection of his far-flung inventory of goods, and the identification of the heir to his worldly goods. Firstly to the inventory. If you have them, please bring forward the following items:

  • A hand-stitched linen market wallet from the exacting needle of Mistress Aliena de Savigny
  • Garters, from the exquisite loom of Mistress Amalie von Brisache
  • A fine belt, joyfully made by Mistress Elayne Montjoye
  • A set of points, woven by Mistress Leta von Goslar with aglets crafted by Master William de Cameron
  • Table linens, with Sir Henry’s initials embroidered by Mistress katherine kerr
  • A shirt, finely made by Mistress Miriam Galbraith
  • A pair of hose, gifted by Master Bartholomew Baskin
  • A document roll, crafted by the hands of Master William de Wyk
  • A set of gilded acorn buttons, donated by Mistress kerr
  • A purse beautifully made by Mistress Rowan Perigrynne, filled with coins struck by Master Brian di Caffa
  • A spokeshave gifted by Baron Michelet
  • A leather punch from Mistress Rohesia le Serjant
  • A sample of Persian spices from the lands of the East in a box of teak
  • Two ells of English wool
  • A penner from Mistress Rowan, accompanied by quills from Master Iarnulfr
  • A coffer carefully crafted by Master Edward Braythwayte, with all the documentary contents therein by Mistress katherine.
Thus we have collected all the items of the inventory.

Photo supplied by Hugh de Calais

As for the Quest for the Heir. As many of you will know by now, some 33 years ago, when he was but a lad, Sir Henry had a son by a Breton girl, who sadly died in giving birth. Sir Henry’s friend Simon Langham, now Cardinal Langham, took the babe and left him in the keeping of Cistercian monks in Avignon. There he grew into a strong and healthy young man, recently recognised as a master in his trade, but unaware of his heritage. Unbeknownst to father and son alike, they both came to reside in the same city, but sadly never met.

Photo supplied by Hugh de Calais

Many of you puzzled over the items in the coffer, piecing together the information that would identify Sir Henry’s heir, quizzing the Cardinal, the Magister, even Sir Henry’s innocent Laundress, amongst others. Some of you found out when the foundling was born, to whom; how he was described; in what city he dwelt, and slowly the clues fell into place.

I then called upon the team who had made the first correct identification to fetch the foundling forth to receive his inheritance and all these items so lovingly crafted and carefully collected.

Hugh told me later that he, like everyone else, was looking around the audience expecting to see some further theatricals -- perhaps multiple heirs duelling over the loot. When the questers took him by the arms and propelled him to the stage, he was dumbstruck, even more so when it dawned on him that we were utterly serious about him receiving his inheritance, gifts of affection and respect from friends and Laurels. He said: I've never been quite so overwhelmed in my life

And in closing the Quest and the Theatre: For Master Hugh de Calais, born on St David’s Day AS 18 known as the year 1376 the 49th year of Edward III’s reign, resident of Calais, member of the Company of the Staple, recently admitted to the Order of the Laurel and now recognised as heir to Sir Henry de Calvile, late of the parish of Calais; great-nephew to Sir Hugh de Calveley, Captain of the Calais garrison, three cheers. Hip Hip Huzzah!

Other peerage elevation entertainments here.

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