Monday, April 2, 2012

How Did Medieval Nobles Entertain Themselves?

It seems that a life of leisure was led by the nobles, and for some it was, although they did have many duties they needed to attend to as well.  Nobles were in charge of vast holdings, which housed hundreds if not thousands of people. Their were crops, animals, taxes, disputes, duties to their king or overlord, and more that they had to keep up with. When it was time to take a break, there were plenty of things they enjoyed doing. I try to incorporate many of these activities in my own work. Between all that heart-wrenching conflict, I have to let my characters have some fun!

What did they do for fun?

When there wasn’t a huge celebration, or entertainments going on, nobles still did things for fun, just like we do.  Has your power ever gone out?  What did you do for fun?  Believe it or not, what they did for fun is a lot like what we do today for fun, without the technology and electricity.

Here’s a list of some things they might do:

  • Read quietly or aloud
  • Write – poetry, theology, philosophy
  • Art – painting, drawing, sculpting
  • Sewing – tapestries, embroidery
  • Music – playing, singing, listening, dancing
  • Gardening (flowers, herbs, picking fruit and berries)
  • Walking
  • Horseback riding
  • Mock fights (men – unless you have a feisty woman J)
  • Hunting – there were a lot of types of hunting.  Hunting was done on horseback with either/both hounds and hawks (falcons too).  They would hunt deer (stag), wild boar, fox, and any other wild animal that caught their fancy.  Women hunted too.  Hunting was a dangerous and exhilarating sport.  If you recall, Henry VIII injured his leg quite badly in a fall while hunting.
  • Talking
  • Playing cards (triomphe, piquet, vingt-et-un)
  • Playing board games (chess, checkers, draughts, dice, backgammon, tabula)
  • Watch or participate in a play
  • Outdoor games:  Bocce, Bowling games, Tennis, In France/Italy a form of football was played called la Soule
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Bobbing for apples
  • Wrestling
  • Treasure hunts
  • Christmas Game – “King of the Bean” a bean was baked into a bread or cake, whoever found it was king of the holiday feast
  • Riddling – making up riddles people had to figure out (popular among knights as well—kept their wits sharp which was just as important as keeping their bodies in shape.)
  • Puzzles
  • Gambling
  • Blind Man’s Bluff
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  1. That is a nice list. Thanks for posting, Eliza!

  2. Hey, I liked this post! Always wondered what they did for fun.

  3. Great information, Eliza. Amazing how many forms of entertainment are the same for modern people.

  4. I agree with Stephanie--we do much of the same, today. Athough now we often have a tendency to expect others to entertain us--movies, TV, radio, or we run to the corner store or library to pick up a book to read. Back then, people had to rely on themselves (and each other ;0) more. Back then, the traveling minstrel or troup was a bright spot, too. Bet their board games were interesting!

    Thanks for a super--and thought-provoking--post, Eliza.

  5. This was a very fun and informative post.

  6. Great list, Eliza, thanks. This should prove useful to me! :)

  7. Is it sad or good that a lot of those things on the list - reading, writing, poetry, board games, talking - I do in my leisure time, LOL! Great post :)

  8. I have always enjoyed learning about medieval times. Such a fascinating time in history. The crazy thing is I still do many of those things and encourage my children to do the same. Nothing like going fishing down at the lake where I can read a good book while I wait for the fishys.


  9. What wonderful information. Thank you!

  10. Sounds like fun back then. Maybe we should give up tv

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