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Upper class life in the 15th century - why bother?

Posted: Fri Jan 23, 2009 2:12 pm
by jelayemprins
If you consider playing a member of the highest echelons of aristocracy, check out the exhibition in Bruges. If you are seriously interested in portraying the wealthier end of the re-enactment spectrum, this will surely make you give up and start jogging. Or buy a Premier League football team. It would be cheaper...

This is the next leg of the Exhibition tour, which started in Berne last summer. We spent a fab time over 10 days, with the Co St George [original and still the best] and with Griffs jousters. [phenomenal pas d'armes based on the legend of the Golden Fleece]

Its phenomenal.

I heartily recommend the hardback book accompanying the tour. My copy is in french, but should now be available in English. The book & exhibition feature:

Processional crosses, rock crystal and other such cups, chains of office, art [ Campin, van Eyck, Perus Christus, Marmion, Memling, Pacher, Reiser, David, van der Goes] , The Caesar Tapestry set, embroidery, fabrics, clothes, heraldry, arms and armour, artillery, Book of Hours, retables, the Great Seal of Antoine and the Secret seal of Charles, so much jewellery,including the golden hat, the Charles & St George reliquary, crowns, tableware [oh joy!] cutlery, thuribles, bronzes, enamels, ivory, gaming boards, purses, The Schilling Chronicles, documents etc.
Pause for breath...

Go. If you miss it you'll be sorry! That list doesn't do it justice btw.


Posted: Fri Jan 23, 2009 2:25 pm
by Phil the Grips
Stuff that'd make even the Beckhams wince at the cost to reproduce and balk at the gaudiness and vulgaity of it all!

Posted: Sat Jan 24, 2009 12:06 pm
by gregory23b
Jelly, is there an ISBN for the English version, need some inspiration for the making of certain items.

Posted: Sat Jan 24, 2009 12:36 pm
by Merlon.
no ISBN as I don't think ts on general sale but you can order an english edition via:- ... logus.html
Available from March 23rd 2009

Posted: Sat Jan 24, 2009 2:08 pm
by gregory23b
thanks Merlon

Posted: Sat Jan 24, 2009 7:55 pm
by lidimy
Iaaaaaaaan it's my biiiirthday soon!! :wink: :wink: :wink: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:


charles le temeraire

Posted: Sat Jan 24, 2009 9:15 pm
by jelayemprins
lidimy wrote:Iaaaaaaaan it's my biiiirthday soon!! :wink: :wink: :wink: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

Not sure what you're getting at Lidz.....

It aint exactly Goddesgoode, now is it?

Posted: Sat Jan 24, 2009 9:25 pm
by lidimy
Nope, just goode!

Posted: Sun Jan 25, 2009 3:43 pm
by Marcus Woodhouse
Then again, you don't really need all of that stuff in order to walk around dressed to the nines as if you belong to high society do you.
I mean all you do is look agast at anyone who asks you to show them your tent and then point out that you are a guest of the nearest abbot/baron/mayor or something like that.
Not everyone enjoyed being on campaign as much as Charles the Rash.

Posted: Sun Jan 25, 2009 6:55 pm
by behanner
I'm not sure its fair to call Charles the Bold and his court even on campaign just upper class. That is like saying Donald Trump or that guy who owns the Virgin companies over there to be just upper class. If one of them decided to portray Charles or Anthony, they could afford to do so. So it makes a huge difference how you define it. But I agree you should seek a portrayal within your means if you intend to do any well rounded portrayal. But if all your portraying is jousting or something quite narrow then you have more leeway.

The number #1 thing people don't calculate into their portrayal costs is servants. If people dedicate themselves they can afford a $50k harness and the clothes to go with being Charles the Bold even on a middleing income but finding the money and/or people to outfit your 200 retainers. I believe it is in the making of piece for the movie Elizabeth where there is a short discussion on having problems making Kate Blanchet look regal even once she had on all the clothing and jewels. The key is the servants or retainers. Having amazing clothing and jewels makes you look rich. Having 20 people behind you acting as though you are the Queen makes you regal.

Posted: Sun Jan 25, 2009 7:28 pm
by Jenn
Yup it's the servants that make all the difference - doors open, chairs appear if you wish to sit down, a drink at your elbow. And the real key is looking as though you expect it to happen!

Posted: Sun Jan 25, 2009 7:31 pm
by lidimy
I think I need to try this! :shock: sounds like great fun!

Posted: Sun Jan 25, 2009 8:51 pm
by Marcus Woodhouse
As would I Lidi, but there are too many 15th century re-enactors who would either let it go to their head and start acting like they own the place and are in charge all the time (I've been in a group wher you were expected to call the leader "captain" off duty as well as on and give them preferential treatment at the ba, etc!) Or would tell you to go boil your head.
Re-enactemnt isn't just about dressing the right way, or having the right kit, it expects us to put ourselves into a mind frame that few people can put up with.
The past really is a foreign country with a langauge and customs of it's own. No amount of "right kit" can overcome that. That's why you can have individuals and groups that are spot on with their authenticity who still seem "make believe" (and of course it is all make believe). While other groups just seem to feel authentic, even if they use screws rather than nails and have disgusied there drawstring hose under coats and armour.
I want to be a bit of both.

Well maybe a bit more of the former if i'm honest.

Posted: Sun Jan 25, 2009 9:34 pm
by Jenn
During the day only -servants that is! (and besides they did say thank you) For medieval people of rank this was particuarly important as their servants were often of the same social rank or only slightly below -arrogance was never thought of as a virtue then or now.
Marcus I know what you mean but clothes do make a difference since you move right and somehow think a bit more like them if you're wearing the correct number of layers which you're not going to take off and therefore can't stand in the sun or in my case often tie your own shoe lace..

Posted: Sun Jan 25, 2009 10:56 pm
by lidimy
Weren't young gentlewoman type girls sent to serve as maids in the houses of close family to serve in order purely to gain an appreciation of how to run their own house/estate when married? Sounds like a great system (:

If members of a group aren't all working on an equal strata of society, then deference to rank I think can make a big impact on spectators as it's something there is little left of nowadays - even within the language itself. At least in French and German (among other languages I expect) they have retained their Sie/Vous system!

Umm slight tangent (: sorry.

Posted: Mon Jan 26, 2009 12:29 pm
by Marcus Woodhouse
Laces! My riding boots have buckles, Jenn.
I do my best to dress well and enjoy acting the complete tart Jenn. I think that I can put over a reasonable impression of someone on the make, even down to the "knightly" chain of office I've "bought" through my donations to a fighting order, but I point out to people that I am not a knight-I'm in the service of one, then I can go onto explain how good "he" looks compared to me!
It also helps that I portray an Italain which means I can dress above my station because, I have no station. In Italy, they respect my money, not my "title". I am but a humble citizen and sevant of the state, whose wealth and influence is there only to benifit my brothers.

Posted: Tue Jan 27, 2009 2:26 pm
by wulfenganck
lidimy wrote: If members of a group aren't all working on an equal strata of society, then deference to rank I think can make a big impact on spectators as it's something there is little left of nowadays - even within the language itself. At least in French and German (among other languages I expect) they have retained their Sie/Vous system!

Umm slight tangent (: sorry.
Just nitpicking, but to adress someone with "Sie" doesn't refer to equal or higher social rank nowadays, it's a formal adress for someone you're just getting acquainted with, meeting for the first time or with someone you share a solely professional/non-personal relationship. The adress "Du" is by far more personal, usually reserved for friends and relatives. It is considered rude to adress an adult you meet for the first time with "Du", doesn't matter if that would be a "noble" or a "peasant".....

Concerning the portayal of a higher ranked person, I'm with Jenn: it's the amount of servants and the standard of service they are providing that makes the difference. Nothing looks more pathetic, than a bunch of "knights" queuing at the fireside, waiting for the dinner handed out by exactly one poor "squire" and/or exactly one "kitchen maid"....You got to have both, the kit and the matching amount of company to confidentally portray a noble - or even a richer civilian.

But this may lead more to the question about the pro's and con's of roleplay in living history.
Reminds me partly of the "Mass and Re-Enactment" thread.
There is no exact answer to that, because I sometimes appreciate a sort of roleplaying a "medieval crowd", but it requires some talent/ability/interest/motivation or whatever for "acting". Some reenactors I know have tremendous kit - but are such lousy roleplayers that their "noble behaviour" spoils the portrayal way more, than any unauthentic detail ever could.

Posted: Tue Jan 27, 2009 2:36 pm
by Marcus Woodhouse
That was the point I wanted to get across.
Anyway anyone who wants to portray Charles the Rash or King Edward IV is always going to end up looking daft.
Most I could ever aspire to is a very minor member of what ever might pass as the local gentry. And even then it would be a poor portrayal because I can't ride, don't have horse, a house, servents, workers, falcons, etc,etc.
No i'll stick to being a well dressed merchant.

Posted: Wed Jan 28, 2009 5:24 pm
by Fair Lady Aside
I prefer to call him Charles the Industrious. ;)

I don't think most courts at that time had the GNP of Burgundy. Though you should see the catalog for the Bohemian artifacts from the 14th century. Same :shock: factor as the Burgundian court; crystal decanters, sword scabbards covered in silk velvet wrapped in gilt silver and gems, amethyst goblets and bows, etc...

Even talking about Charles' father, Philip the Good...

100 crowns for a sallet for page...
black silk velvet trappers with gold and silver embroidery. Pity it rained and ruined them...but hey...they can easily be replaced. Right? No worries.

I agree that there's no one that does this that can do it at that level and pull it off with all the splendour. It would be a pale imitation.

Citing my own example: I've worked hard to obtain some objects that elevate the visual of my portrayal slightly:

Silk tablet woven belt with gilded silver buckle
silk hennin with goldwork and pearls with a silk veil
However, the fabric of the dress while giving the impression of a noble, falls way short of the mark. The velvet on the collar isnt silk, the fabric of the dress is more of a 19th century foliate pattern.

(Note: the dress and items I'm talking about are not the same as my profile pic)

Also, if one is portraying a peer, it's hard to get others who want to play subordinates. Everyone wishes to be "equal".

Posted: Tue Feb 03, 2009 1:43 pm
by Hraefn
Not just a medieval ting, it's a 'nother 'nactorism. People go for glamour or romance rather'n bog standard so you ends up with loads of tinnys and relatively few archery types lots of nobs and no servants. WWII more Paras than standard PBI or more ss than Wermacht, 18thC more Jacobites than redcoats.....hell more military than civilian in most periods but it is just a hobby and a bit of escapism for us so thats if you're presenting it as education then you at least should point out the imbalance....well thats my thinking anyway.

Posted: Tue Feb 03, 2009 8:28 pm
by gregory23b
We must also get away from the notion that servant meant servile, servitude was an honour and part of many nobles' upbringing and education, even at lower levels kids were palmed off to other parts of the family to learn how to behave.

Anyone lower than the king is a servant, the Duke of Norfolk is servant to the king, but he is not servile or put upon.

Unfortunately we might get carried away with the 'generi-slave' and rather than see hired help, retainers, maids, etc as valuable members of staff, we go the way of Baldrick.

takes skill to be a good servant, after all the servant is the one that does things.

Posted: Tue Feb 03, 2009 8:40 pm
by Marcus Woodhouse
I'd also say that it takes some skill to play the person giving orders.

As you have pointed out Jorge, it is by no means meant to be demeaning, and the honour ties went both ways, just as a man/woman of means should be afforded good worship, so he/she had an obligation to further and provide for those beneath him, in a way to be of "service" to them in return.

Posted: Wed Feb 04, 2009 10:02 am
by Allan Harley
Interesting thread - tell me more

Posted: Wed Feb 04, 2009 1:57 pm
by Marcus Woodhouse
I will but only when you get the consent forms and new kit guide out to us. The year is getting on now.
I'd cheerfully follow you around as your henchman Allan, but I'm hoping to be dressed to kill this season and I don't want to make you look dowdy. 8)

Posted: Wed Feb 04, 2009 2:34 pm
by Jenn
Spoilsport Marcus - Henchmen were exempt from sumptary laws in the later 15th cent so you could probably be rather splendid if you liked

Posted: Wed Feb 04, 2009 3:29 pm
by Allan Harley
Latest version of all documents are with groups representatives now
Expect to be widespread before end of month.

Kit guide is ongoing
When you can outponce me, I'll become a Nun

Next set of ponce is on its way

Posted: Wed Feb 04, 2009 4:54 pm
by Marcus Woodhouse
Then i shall say only this, "Peace be with you... sister."

Posted: Wed Feb 04, 2009 5:46 pm
by Allan Harley
Can't be a nun - its habit forming - :oops:

Posted: Wed Feb 04, 2009 5:48 pm
by Marcus Woodhouse
Aye right and with youse they'd be some right dirty habits and all. :lol:

Posted: Thu Feb 05, 2009 9:56 am
by Marcus Woodhouse
I've sent you a couple of PM messages Allan. Hope it might be of help.