katherine kerr of the Hermitage, her site

A Foxy (A)Faire

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My lord Bartholomew Baskin had a problem – he had a hankering for a baronial coronet but wasn’t sure how to go about getting one. He greatly admired the artisanship of Master Edward Braythwayte, but that good man preferred to barter his skills, and Bartholomew’s strengths were in intangibles like politicking and people wrangling. Then he hit upon an idea and thus the Foxy (A)Faire was developed.

It started off as an offer to swap coronets for changing the name of Canterbury Faire's Half-Circle Theatre to the Master Braythwayte Theatre, but that didn’t seem nearly enough, so things grew from there….

We had some time to prepare, as we needed Master Braythwayte’s presence at Faire, and the time came finally in AS48. In the meantime, there was a lot of reading and research to be done, as we’d decided upon a fox theme for our various efforts, based on the Good Master’s arms (as represented in the standards I had made for him some years back in exchange for a knife).

I’d long wanted to do a version of the Reynard story, but couldn’t think up a good way to adapt it suitably. Not a problem, as there’s a lot of fox material, period and otherwise, so off we went.

Opening Court

The first salvo came at opening court, when the following proclamation, based on the Acts for the Punishment of Vagabonds (often termed the Poor Law) of 1572, was read:

Whereas all the parts of the Realm of Lochac be presently exceedingly pestered with rogues, vagabonds and sturdy beggars, by means whereof daily happens in the same realm fleering and leering, tippling, tittering and other great outrages, to the high displeasure of Almighty God and to the great annoy of the common weal....
As for the full expressing what person and persons shall be intended to be rogues, vagabonds and sturdy beggars it is now declared that all and every such persons shall be those idle persons using crafty or unlawful games of cards or dice; and some of them feigning themselves to have knowledge in physiognomy, palmistry or other abused sciences whereby they bear the people in hand they can tell their destinies, death and fortunes and such other like fantastical imaginations; and all jugglers, singers and petty chapmen which shall wander abroad without license of two Justices of the Peace; and all scholars of the universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Canterbury that go about begging not being authorised under the seal of the said universities; and those purveying fine comestibles without recourse to a license from the Guild of Comestibles, Viands and Petit Four Purveyors; and all fencers, bearwards, minstrels and common players of interludes at unlicensed theatres not belonging to any baron of this realm, or to any other honourable person of greater degree, shall be deemed rogues, vagabonds and sturdy beggars.

Aside: I'd primed various people to stand when they heard something which described them, so by the end of this list we had most of the populace standing up – collegians and students, dancers, fencers, singers, the Mangy Mong staff, Half-Circle Theatre performers and Uncle Tom Cobbley and all. The next bit made them really nervous:

All and every person and persons adjudged as such shall be taken and grievously whipped and burned through the gristle of the right ear with a hot iron which judgement shall presently be executed - except that some honest person of suitable degree will of his charity be contented presently to take such offender or offenders into his service.....

That was Master Edward's cue to stand up and promise to take us all into his service on his honour and be bound to see that we rogues, vagabonds and sturdy beggars become productive citizens of the Realm. Hah! Fat chance!

The Fox Populi Broadside

Master Edward and the Fox Populi broadside

When Opening Court finished, we handed out copies of the Fox Populi broadside, which proclaimed in large friendly letters a la News of the World:


Other newsy tidbits in the scurrilous broadside included:

POPE SPEAKS IN TONGUES. Found in Sistine Chapel chanting: Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur...
KILLER WHEEL OF FORTUNE: Investigation into tragedy continues.
Ultimate Survivor: Magellan Cruise ends with 18 crew alive out of 237; 1 ship gets to final pit stop

(If you’d like to read it for yourself, here’s the PDF, sized for A4.)

X Brought to You by Master Edward Braythwayte

Notices started appearing around the place recognising the vast spread of Master Braythwayte’s patronage. The Mangy Mongol’s sign had a small strip appended to it so that it read "Their Excellencies – and Master Edward Braythwayte’s – Mangy Mongol". The bell towers proclaimed "Bells brought to you by Master Edward Braythwayte"; (Bartholomew organises the bells to ring on the hour each Faire). The corridor where the meal queue forms had a series of riddles posted on the walls stating “brought to you by Master Edward Braythwayte”.

By the time we were finished, his patronage would be well established….

Master Edward and his lovely Lady Elizabeth were, of course, to be considered the El Primo Padrones of the Banco di Don Julio and each received very special Padrone baggies with lots of goodies – virtually every style of gift I’d produced for previous Padrones, their arms painted on their baggies and, for Lady Elizabeth, a special bespoke book requested by Master Edward (see more on Lady Elizabeth’s Book of Physic here)

Braythwayte Master Theatre

I usually post up a set of playbills around the Faire environs advertising the Half-Circle Theatre. This year we had the usual playbills only there was an “Under New Management” notice apparently stuck over the previous sponsor’s name, followed by this:

By license of the Crown to shewe, publishe, exercise & occupy to their best comoditie within theire usuall howse called the Half-Circle Theatre or other places within the liberties of Canterbury Faire provided that the Comedies, Tragadies, Enterludes, &c. be approv’d by their Master as are fitt to yield honest recreation and no example of evil, and that the same be not showen in the tyme of comen prayer, up-pon the Sabbath, or in tyme of greate plague in the Baronie.

That was taken from the license allegedly issued by Their Majesties Alfar and Angharat, based on the Royal Patent granted to Shakespeare’s acting troupe by James I in 1603 (and very similar to one Elizabeth had granted within period):

To all Baronages, Peers, Sheriefs, Bayliffs, Constables, and all other our officers & ministers & al subjects greeting.
Knowe ye that we, of o’ esp’iall grace, certen knowledge & mere motion do by these prnits doo license and aucthorize, o’ loving subjects Bartholomew Baskin, Katherine Kerr, and their associates within the Companie of the Half-Circle Theater, servantes to our trustie and welbeloved Master Edward Braythwayte, freely to use and exercise the facultie of playeng Comedies, Tragedies, Histories, Enter-ludes, Moralls, Stage plaies, musickal items, Instruments & such other like as they have alredy used and studied, or hereafter shall use and studye, aswell for the recreation of o’ loving subjects, as for o’ solace and pleasure, when we shall thinke good to se them, to shewe, publishe, exercise and occupy to their best comoditie within theire now usuall howse called the Half-Circle Theatre or other convenient places within the liberties and fredoms of Canterbury Faire, willing and commaunding yow and every of yow, as ye tender o’ pleasure, to p’mit and suffer them herin withoot any letts, hinderances, or molestac’ons and to allowe them such Courtesies as hathe bene given to men of their place and qualitie, provided that the saide Comedies, Tragadies, Enterludes, &c. be approv’d by the aforesaid Master as a proper person to consider and allow such Acts only as are fitt to yield honest recreation and no example of evil, and that the same be not showen in the tyme of comen prayer, upon the Sabbath-day, or in the tyme of greate and comen plague in the Baronie wherein Canterbury Faire is to be found. In witnes_y whereof, &c.

The theatre wings displayed the standards of Master Edward and Lady Elizabeth Braythwayte (produced by me as part of the exchange); they were given special seating at the front side of the stage, as per Elizabethan theatre tradition, and their Padrone sweetmeats came in a special box. The stagelight covers also had Braythwayte Master Theatre notices on them.

We had prepped a series of fox-themed presentations scattered throughout the theatre’s usual eclectic line-up, starting off with a Lochac favourite, The Foxy Song, sung by Lady Melisande.

There were three short fox plays, based on Jeremy de Merstone’s Reynard the Fox series: The Fox and the Ham, the Fox and the Cheese, the Fox and the Fish (see the adaptation here). His Excellency Oswyn Carolus made a brilliant fox, complete with an orange coat with foxy fur (an ancient one belonging to my mother) and Bartholomew and I made up most of the parts. Even a quick relocation up to the Hall when the rain looked to be setting in didn’t deter us too much.

Now it’s become something of a tradition for the Half-Circle Theatre to be closed down by the authorities, citing some of the dreadful charges Stubbes made against the Elizabethan theatre world. More recently this has provided a chance to put the more filky, non-period items at the end, providing very good reason to close the thing down. So we thought we’d take advantage of this.

The finale section began, innocently enough, with the reading of a 14th-century poem by Dafydd ap Gwilim, called Y Llwynog, or The Fox (via the lovely paraphrase by Giles Watson; listen to his reading of it here.)

We did take a small liberty with the poem. It ends with:

Elusive fiend,
fleet of foot,
Who fools his foes,
leaves them faint

To which we added:

Leaves them asking:
What of the sound that no-one knows
What does the fox say?

At which point the audience started to groan as the Faire children danced in from both wings with origami fox puppets on their hands, and everyone went into the by-now-expected chorus:


Oswyn flung himself about as energetically as the original chaps (if you somehow missed this YouTube sensation, the original video is here). At the final What does the fox say? the kids backed off and Lord Raffe, Bartholomew and I bounced on with Foxy a la Wayne’s World, complete with manic grins, hip pumps and all, and suitable chaos ensued.

At this point, clearly Master Braythwayte’s attempt to make us civilised members of the Realm had failed. He rose and renounced us; when we protested that we were performing under his auspices, he brandished the license and ripped it to pieces…and thus the Braythwayte Master Theatre closed….


The next day, another notice appeared on the posting pole…Not actually period, I know, but it seemed appropriate. We think that Master Edward felt reasonably pleased with our various activities on his behalf. Certainly we felt we had to really lift our game once he started sending us images of the coronets he was working on….

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