2011 Theme- Greyhounds of the Renaissance
Greyhounds in Medieval and Renaissance Times
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start.
The game's afoot. –Shakespeare, Henry V
In Renaissance time many of us would be called Fewterers. The Fewterer was the keeper and handler of the greyhounds. Fewterers were well-respected peasants that managed the kennel for the wealthy that actually owned the dogs. Since only nobility and wealthy merchants could afford to own land they were the only ones that owned hunting dogs with the exception of poachers. The poachers favored the black, red and brindle dogs that were harder to see in the forest while the nobility liked the white dogs, pale fawns and parti colors that were easy to see from a distance while coursing. That is probably why the black, brindle and red colors are more common today.
In the middle ages, laws known as the Forest Laws, made owning a greyhound a crime for anyone but the nobility. Punishment varied from having hands cut off to death. Toes were cut off on dogs caught poaching to make them unable to run and hunt. Commoners did not own land so had no business owning a dog that could poach on the noble’s land.
Greyhounds were highly prized from the Middle Ages into the Renaissance times. For years in Wales, the punishment for killing a greyhound was the same as for killing a person – execution. Nobles enjoyed the company of their hounds so much that they would even bring them to church with them. Charlamange, King of France, banned the dogs from churches so the nobles stood outside with their dogs during mass but didn’t enter. The priests would have to go outside to bless the nobles, which started the custom of benediction in the Catholic church.
In 1304, the wife of Robert the Bruce was allowed to have 3 greyhounds and a servant in jail with her. When Jean III was looking for a husband for his neice and his successor, he let her greyhound Yoland pick the young man.
In Ireland greyhounds were considered semi rational beings, with rights and responsibilities given to them by law. They had more value than other dogs and some people.
In Renaissance times Queen Elizabeth abolished the Forest Laws so that more people were allowed to own greyhounds and the breed flourished. The sport of coursing, where two greyhounds chase a rabbit, became extremely popular at this time. Because of Queen Elizabeth’s fondness for the sport, coursing became known as the “Sport of Queens”. There are many paintings of greyhounds with their owners during renaissance times by Renaissance artists like Veronese, Uccello, Pisanello and Desportes. Shakespeare’s characters mention them in his plays. They are even mentioned in the King James Bible, which was done during this time period. Probably included because King James was a huge coursing fan.
Renaissance Coursing Rules: http://www.gulfcoastgreyhounds.org/course-rules.html
Playing the Part
If you have secretly wanted to dress as a queen, King, jester, pirate, monk or a wench this is your chance. We are encouraging BBH attendees to bring costumes and join in the fun. Many of our members will be in costume during the weekend. There will be Queens, Kings and Nobility to bow and curtsy to so we encourage you to play along with us. Members of a Renaissance re-enactment group will be joining us to entertain and looking for new recruits.
Tips for successfully dressing the part
Avoid synthetic fabrics. Stick with cotton, linen, wool, and silk or fabrics that look like them.
Fabrics were generally solids, stripes, or plaids. Ornate embroidery was common for upper class as well as woven brocades. Avoid brocade flowers, animals or scenes that look real though. They didn’t have that technology.
Avoid all prints as these were not available at the time.
Avoid crushed velvet
Avoid lace- they had lace but not the styles we have today.
They didn’t wear sunglasses or carry cell phones
Everyone wore hats or snoods, men and women. Straw hats, night cap style hats, and just a strip of fabric tied over your hair is fine. It was improper to be seen in public without a hat.
Shoes were simple fabric or leather mary jane style for women. Boots or a leather shoe for men.
Necklines were very low for women although every other part of the body was well covered.
For women the typical outfit consisted of a long sleeved chemise as the bottom layer. It looks a lot like old time night shirts gathered around the neck and bottom of the sleeves, a lot of fabric. White for upper class or off white if you are a peasant. Stay away from colors or lace for your chemise! No short sleeves even in hot weather. It was immodest to show your arms. The chemise can be blouse length or knee length. It doesn’t matter since it is covered by a skirt and only the top will show.
A corset was worn over the chemise and under the clothing by the upper class. Peasants can skip the corset! The corsets of the time were to make you have a flat chested look and were not the waist cinching corsets that were popular much later. No part of your corset should be visible so it doesn’t matter what type of material it is made of.
Hoop skirt. Upper class women wore hoop skirts. Peasants also get to skip this. There are some advantages to being poor. These are A shaped hoops not the bell shaped hoops that came into fashion later.
A bodice was worn over the corset and chemise. For a peasant stick with solid colored wool, cotton or linen. Higher class can use brocade, velvet or silks. In cold England sleeves were always attached to the bodice and a lady would never have just her chemise sleeves showing. In our warmer climate many people do skip the fancy sleeves and use the bodice more like a vest.
Underskirt – the underskirt usually was not the same color as the bodice. It peaked out from under the over skirt which was open in the front.
The over skirt was usually the same color and fabric as the bodice for the upperclass. A peasant can get by with wearing only one skirt and the bodice and skirt don’t need to match for a peasant.
Peasants wouldn’t have been able to afford jewelry so skip it unless you are upper class. The higher your position the more jewels and jewelry you would wear to show off your wealth. Diamonds as we know them were not available so skip them. Stick with precious and semi precious stones. A wealthy lady might wear rings on every finger. Pearls were extremely popular and would be used in jewelry and sewn onto clothes. Jewels were also sewed onto clothes of the nobles.
Dressing your hound
These dogs were extremely valuable – more valuable than a peasant. They would have fancy collars and even coats. The same fabrics rules would apply as with people above. There are many ornate brocade and embroidered martingale collars that are available that are perfect. Avoid nylon leashes. A simple leather leash is more suitable. When considering a coat remember that anything with a print is not period appropriate. You may be able to get away with a solid color fleece but a print fleece coat is obviously modern looking.
Renaissance Costuming Links
Look at photos of costumes from a local group that encourages greyhound adoption at Renaissance Faires – Hounds of East Fairhaven http://www.houndsofeastfairhaven.com/
Acting the Part
Any time someone of higher rank enters the room men bow and ladies curtsy. A peasant might throw themselves down on the floor to show they are unworthy. The noble may say “Recover” at which point you can rise and resume whatever you were doing. It is fun to teach your dog to bow as well. We will announce the BBH Royalty early in the week so we can all honor them during the week.
Talking the part
Get out a King James Bible or watch Monty Python movies. Pepper your speech with thee and thou. Refer to the restroom as a “Privy”. Instead of “No” say “Nay” . Instead of Yes say“Indeed” or “Aye”. Say “Good Day my Lady or my Lord” as a greeting instead of “Hi”. Goodbye would be “Fair Thee Well” or “Anon”. “Huzzah” was a common cheer of the time.
Link for more ideas for speaking
Now that you have a costume and have done a bit of research on the time consider being a part of history by performing in costume at the Carolina and Georgia Renaissance Festivals with the Hounds of East Fairhaven. This is a group that encourages greyhound adoption by performing with their hounds at Renaissance Festivals http://www.houndsofeastfairhaven.org/
Representatives will be at BBH looking for people that like to dress up and have fun with their greyhounds.