What’s A Dame To Do?

I’m incredibly intrigued by this Boke of St Albans.  As I mentioned in my previous post, it was written in 1486.  It’s a text, in three chapters, on Hawking, Hunting and Heraldry.  But, amazingly, it was written by a woman!  A Dame Julyans (“Juliana”) Barnes, whose title “Dame” did not, at the time, actually denote nobility in the 15th century, rather it was to say “Mistress” or “Mrs”.

But how strange for us to think of a 15th century “Mrs. Barnes” being a widely-published authoress in such masculine subjects!  But she had no few contemporary authoresses who wrote on many subjects from hunting to politics and so forth, so it’s really just our own projected misconceptions about the time period which make us think so!

It’s intrigued me, and now I’m thinking how it would be to incorporate into The Falconer’s Apprentice the storyline of a woman like our “Dame” who challenges such preconceptions of ours.  A hawking, hunting, politically-aware ordinary woman of the fictional middle ages!

But even apart from the authoress, this is a really interesting text especially for a modern falconer.  The practices it calls for are those we would immediately call inhumane or barbaric – such as the practice of sewing the eyelids shut of a newly-trapped young bird; peculiar – such as getting rid of lice by wrapping a hawk in a hot cloth to draw the beasties out; or outright bizzare – such as promoting “mewing” (moulting) in a hawk by giving “chickens which have been fed on wheat soaked in broth of vipers”.

I have to note, however, that reading the 19th century part of the text is giving me a headache.  Not because of the language or anything, but because it’s a manuscript which uses those antique f’s as s’s, and in my mind the whole thing is being read aloud with a lisp!!!

One response to “What’s A Dame To Do?

  1. I love this dame character already! It’s unexpected and awesome. The sewing of the eyelids, however, I would not miss. I mean, miff.

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