I often wonder if readers view the medieval period as being dreary, too serious, full of deprivation. There is a lot of evidence that even for noble households times were certainly hard in the area of creature comforts.
After some research, however, I’ve found that the people in the middle ages knew how to have a good time. They did indeed work hard, but they could play hard when time permitted. In fact, they indulged in a variety of pastimes, some particular to the time, some that we ourselves enjoy today in 2014. Here’s a list, in no particular order, of some of the pastimes the nobles in my medieval romance might have played.
1. Board and card games. Most popular were backgammon, checkers, and chess. In Betrayal, Book 2 of Time Enough to Love, Alyse and Thomas while away some time playing chess.
2. Dancing. Dancing was a favorite court activity in the medieval period and later. Some of the dances mentioned in Betrothal are the carole, like a stately march, a lively hopping dance called the estampie, and a fast-paced dance called the farandole that wound all around the dance floor.
3. Minstrel entertainments. Wandering entertainers were welcomed at court. The oral tradition of storytelling was usually their stock-in-trade, though they often played music, juggle, and perform gymnastic feats as well. These minstrels would frequently perform at banquets for the nobility as their means of sole means of employment.
4. Hunting. One of the most prevalent pastimes of the medieval nobility, hunting was as much sport as it was means to feed the castle. Both men and women hunted during this period. Game hunted with bows included foxes, deer, rabbits, badgers, birds. Wild boars were hunted with spears. As is common today, dogs were used in the sport. And these dogs often had a better life than most people of the period, living in heated kennels. A noble often had dozens of hunting hounds--King Edward III took 60 pairs of dogs when he invaded France.
5. Hawking. Falconry, the sport of hunting with falcons or other predatory birds, was extremely popular. Again, men and women enjoyed this sport and castles employed a falconer who raised and trained the birds in a specific place called a mews.
6. Archery. Another pastime that was both fun and utilitarian. This popular sport was mandatory for men ages 15 to 60 as training for longbow defense in battle and actually mandated by law. But men loved this sport and archery contests flourished.
7. Gambling. Games of chance played with dice made of bone, wood, knucklebones, or small stones have been popular since ancient times. And the medieval period was no different. Dice games were portable, easy to arrange and played by all manner of men--everyone from the peasants to nobility to clergy indulged. Then as now gambling could become addictive. Games included odds or evens, hazards, Marlotta, Pair & Ace, and Triga. In Betrothal Thomas mentions “there is to be a game in Sir John Claymore’s apartment this evening.” That would have been a dice game.
8. Feasting. Who among us doesn’t like to eat? The nobles of the middle ages were no different and could afford to entertain a lavish number of people. Royal tables were loaded with dish after dish and feasting lasted long into the night. There were up to seven courses, although three was more usual. Each course had a combination of meat and fish, sweet and savory dishes. Often there were interludes--short plays--given between courses. The original dinner theatre! J
9. Pitching Quoits. The game from which it is said the game of horseshoes derived. Metal spikes were placed at a certain distance from each other. Then participants threw a metal disc to fall as close to the spike as possible. It eventually became more popular than archery.
10. Tournaments. Medieval tournaments were a version of War Games. They could be one of several different types of mock combat: pas de armes, melee, and jousting. Pas de armes was a tournament where one Knight took on all comers in hand-to-hand combat. A melee a pied was teams of knights fighting on foot; melee a cheval was teams fighting on horseback. Joust a plaisance was a series of elimination rounds over three days with one overall winner would be announced. The joust in Betrothal is a joust a plaisance.
I hope you enjoyed these pastimes and found some refreshingly familiar. Please leave me a comment telling me what your favorite medieval pastime would have been, leave your email address, and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Betrayal!
Okay, readers, here's where you come in ~ comment below for your chance to win a copy of Betrayal...and, for a limited time Betrothal, the first book in this series, is only 99 cents at Amazon!
After a night of passion with her betrothed, Sir Geoffrey Longford, Lady Alyse de Courcy is eagerly looking forward to her wedding. But when Geoffrey is forced to marry another, a heartbroken and possibly pregnant Alyse finds herself in her own private hell. She must either gamble with her reputation or marry someone she does not love.
A reputed connoisseur of women, Thomas, Lord Braeton, has dallied with many ladies of King Edward’s court, although he has favored none. However, as Geoffrey’s best friend, Thomas has sworn to serve and protect Alyse, an oath now sorely tested when he agrees to marry her—in name only—to guard her reputation. Yet, as they grow closer, and Thomas discovers Alyse’s sweet but spirited nature, he comes to desire a marriage in truth. Can he overcome her memory of Geoffrey or is Thomas doomed to burn with passion for a woman he can never possess?
If you would like to purchase the first part of the trilogy, Betrothal, it is available at Amazon Smashwords
“Geoffrey bade me give you this.” From beneath his cloak, Thomas withdrew a small purse, opened it and presented Alyse with a single sprig of lavender. “He picked it this morning ere I left and warned me not to crush it.”
Tears started at the sight of the bit of lavender. She wiped them carefully before she took the sweet-smelling flower from him. Raising the little plant to her nose, she inhaled its familiar scent. And remembered their interlude in the rose bower.
Thomas chuckled. “You and Geoffrey are certainly well matched. He did the self-same thing before he handed it to me.”
Alyse smiled with pleasure at the image his words conjured. “Thank you, Thomas. You are more than kind to have carried these messages from my lord.”
Thomas lifted her hand to his lips. “I am, as always, yours to command, my lady.” He kissed it, barely skimming the surface of her flesh.
It tickled, and she suppressed a giggle. “Will you take your rest now? You must be tired with your double journey in so short a space of time.”
Thomas stretched, the lines on his face making his weariness even more apparent. “Nay, I am off to attend the king. His Majesty will desire my report on how Sir Roland fares.” He smiled kindly. “However, should you have need of me, lady, you have but to summon me. I am at your service until Geoffrey’s return.” With a dashing bow, Thomas spun on his heel, his cloak swirling ’round him.
Alyse watched him go, savoring the words from her betrothed as she once again lifted the sprig of lavender to her nose. A token from her beloved she would cherish until his return. With a sigh for that day to come quickly, she pushed the door to the princess’s chamber open.
She tried to slip in quietly, hoping to be unobserved. Of course, everyone turned their gaze to the door the moment she entered. Alyse sped inside and crossed to the princess, immediately sinking into a low curtsy. She waited, fearing the displeasure of the young woman who had only ever shown her kindness.
Princess Joanna paused before bidding her to rise. “Well, Lady Alyse, you were overlong at your prayers this morning, were you not?”
Alyse stood and nodded, unease sweeping through her.
The princess gave Alyse an eager look. “Are you doing penance for some...indiscretion?”
Her heart leaped into her throat. Guilt over her tryst with Geoffrey on the night of the tournament made her drop her gaze to her hands.
Lord, did she know? Did everyone?
Alyse fidgeted with the edge of her sleeve. She opened her mouth to deny the allegation—what else could she do with her reputation at stake?—when Anne spoke up. “Aye, Your Highness, she should have been on her knees all morning.”
Shivers of dread coursed through her. Anne had seen her that night. She knew.
Alyse gaped at her chamber mate, her mouth bone dry. How much would she tell?
The disagreeable girl continued to stare at her, arching her neck, a triumphant smirk on her face.
Eyes wide, Princess Joanna looked from Anne to her before leaning forward. “Is this true, Lady Alyse? What dire transgression have you committed?”
All About Jenna:
Jenna Jaxon is a multi-published author of historical and contemporary romance. Her historical romance, Only Scandal Will Do, the first in a series of five interconnecting novels, was released in July 2012. Her contemporary works include Hog Wild, Almost Perfect, and 7 Days of Seduction. She is a PAN member of Romance Writers of America as well as a member of Chesapeake Romance Writers. Her medieval romance, Time Enough to Love, is being published as a series of three novellas. The first book, Betrothal, released on April 19th. The second novella, Betrayal, will release at the end of January.
Jenna has been reading and writing historical romance since she was a teenager. A romantic herself, she has always loved a dark side to the genre, a twist, suspense, a surprise. She tries to incorporate all of these elements into her own stories. She lives in Virginia with her family and a small menagerie of pets. When not reading or writing, she indulges her passion for the theatre, working with local theatres as a director. She often feels she is directing her characters on their own private stage.
She has equated her writing to an addiction to chocolate because once she starts she just can’t stop.
Find Jenna online at:
Other Books by Jenna Jaxon:
Only Scandal Will Do--Historical Romance
7 Days of Seduction--Contemporary Erotic Romance
Almost Perfect--Contemporary Erotic Romance
Hog Wild--Contemporary Erotic Romance