ADVANTAGES

Year by year, as the Christmas festival came round, it was royally celebrated wherever the Court happened to be, even though the king had to pledge his plate and jewels with the citizens of London to replenish his exchequer. But Henry's Royal Christmases did not allay the growing disaffection of his subjects on account of his showing too much favour to foreigners; and some of the barons who attended the Royal Christmas at Westminster in 1241, left in high dudgeon, because the place of honour at the banquet was occupied by the papal legate, then about to leave England, "to the sorrow of no man but the king." In 1252, Henry gave in marriage his beautiful daughter Margaret, to Alexander, King of the Scots, and held his Christmas at the same time. The city of York was the scene of the regal festivities. The marriage took place on Christmas Day, the bridegroom and many of his nobles receiving knighthood at the hands of the English king. Henry seems to have conciliated the English barons for a time, for most of them were present at the marriage festivities, and he counted a thousand knights in his train; while Alexander brought sixty splendidly-attired Scottish knights with him. That the banqueting was on no mean scale is evident from the fact that six hundred fat oxen were slaughtered for the occasion, the gift of the Archbishop of York, who also subscribed four thousand marks (£2,700) towards the expenses. The consumption of meats and drinks at such feasts was enormous. An extant order of Henry's, addressed to his keeper of wines, directs him to deliver two tuns of white and one of red wine, to make garhiofilac and claret 'as usual,' for the king at Christmas; and upon another occasion the Sheriffs of Gloucestershire and Sussex were called upon to supply part of the necessary provisions; the first named being directed to get twenty salmon, and make pies of them; while the latter was instructed to send ten peacocks, ten brawns with their heads, and other things. And all this provision was necessary, for while Henry feasted the rich, he did not forget the poor. When he kept his Christmas at Winchester in 1248, he ordered his treasurer to fill Westminster Hall with poor people, and feast them there for a week. Twenty years afterwards, he kept his Royal Christmas in London for fifteen days, opening a fair meantime at Westminster, and forbidding any shop to be opened in London as long as the festival lasted. This prohibition of business naturally displeased the citizens of London, but the king would not withdraw his prohibition until they agreed to make him a present of two thousand pounds, upon the receipt of which the prohibition was withdrawn.

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