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* Her majesty," says a courtier, in a letter dated the 12th of September, 1600—when she had just entered the seventyseventh year of her
-“ is well and excellently disposed to hunting, for every second day she is on horseback, and continues the sport long.” When she visited Lord Monte. cute at Cowdrey, in Sussex, we are told that “ Her highness tooke horse and rode into the park at eight o'clock in the morning, where was a delicate bowre prepared, under the which were her highnesses musicians placed ; and a crossbow by a nymph, with a sweet song, was delivered into her hands, to shoote at the deere : about some thirty in number were put into a paddock, of which number she killed three or four, and the Countess of Kildare one."*
Fitzstephen, who wrote in the reign of Henry II., says that the Londoners delighted themselves with hawks and hounds, for they had the liberty of hunting in Middlesex, Hertfordshire, all Chilton, and in Kent to the waters of Grey : but towards the close of the sixteenth century these exercises seem to have been discontinued, not for want of taste for the amusement, says Stow, but of leisure to pursue it. Strype, however, so late as the reign of George I., reckons among the modern amusements of the Londoners “Riding on horseback and hunting with my lord mayor's hounds, when the common bunt goes out.”+ Of these venatorial glories of the citizens nothing more remains but the Easter Monday stag-hunt in Epping Forest, and the civic officer who still retains the functionless name of Mr. Common Hunt.
According to the ancient books of the practice of sportsmen, the seasons for hunting were as follows: The time of grace begins at Midsummer, and lasteth to Holyrood-day (14th of September). The fox may be hunted from the Nativity to the Annunciation of our Lady (25th of March); the roebuck from Easter to Michaelmas; the roe from Michaelmas to Candlemas (2d of February); the hare from Michaelmas to Midsummer; the wolf, as well as the fox, and the bear, from the Nativity to the Purification of our Lady (2d of February).
The birds and animals that were specifically interdicted as game varied according to the caprice of the legislators,
* Nichols's Progresses, vol. ii.
In Scotland the last act of the prohibitory kind before the accession of James to the English crown is found in 1690, It is remarkably minute, and describes by name nineteen sorts of game, which are neither to be bought nor sold, on penalty of one hundred pounds. It closes with a limitation as to the time of beginning “to eat moor poute, or partridge poute.”
Field Sports :—Hawking, Archery.
HA thousand vassals muster'd round,
With horse and hawk, and horn and hound;
As hawking can never have been adopted from necessity, or in self-defence, like hunting, it is of course much less ancient. Many ages would doubtless elapse before it was discovered that this species of bird could be trained to pursue and catch game, and the practice therefore does not lay claim to any very remote antiquity. Pliny alludes to something of the sort as having prevailed in Thrace, but his meaning is too obscure to allow us to decide that it was hawking, according to modern notions of that pastime. Where it was first exercised is not exactly known, nor at what precise era it came into vogue ; but it is mentioned by a Latin writer of the fourth century, and is affirmed by some to have been borrowed by the Romans from the Britons, as early as the reign of Vespasian. About the middle of the eighth century, Boniface, Archbishop of Mons, who was
himself a native of England, presented to Ethelbert, King of Kent, one hawk and two falcons; and a king of the Mercians requested the same Boniface to send him two falcons that had been trained to kill cranes; so that at this period the art must have been better understood in France than in England. Harold, afterward King of England, is painted going on a most important embassy with a hawk on his hand, and a dog under his arm ; and even females of distinction were occasionally thus represented, as we know from an ancient sculpture in the church of Milton Abbas, in Dorsetshire, where the consort of King Athelstan appears with a falcon in her fist tearing a bird. The Welsh had a saying in very early times, that you may know a gentleman by his hawk, horse, and greyhound. Alfred the Great, who is commended for his proficiency in this, as in all other fashionable amusements, is said to have written a treatise upon the subject, which, however, has not come down to us; from various other sources, nevertheless, we are enabled to assert, that the pastime continued to be in high favour to the end of the Saxon era.
In France hawking seems to have been prosecuted with more ardour, and sustained with still greater state and ceremony than in England. From the capitularies of the eighth and ninth centuries we learn that the grand fauconnier was an officer of great eminence; his annual salary was 4000 florins, he was attended by fifty gentlemen and fifty assistant falconers, was allowed to keep three hundred hawks, licensed every vender of those birds, and received a tax upon all that were sold. We have recorded the number of hounds that our Edward III. carried with him when he invaded France, and we may now add, on the same authority (Froissart), that he had besides thirty falconers on horseback, who had charge of his hawks; and that
every day he either hunted or went to the river to hawk, as his fancy inclined him. From the frequent mention of hawking by the waterside, in the writers of the middle ages, we may conclude that the pursuit of aquatic fowl afforded the most diversion. Falconry appears to have been carried to great perfection, and to have been extensively pursued in the different countries of Europe about the twelfth century, when it was the favourite amusement not only of kings and nobles, but of ladies of distinction, and of the clergy, who
attached themselves to it not less zealously than they had done to hunting, although it was equally included in the prohibiting canons of the church.* For several ages no person of rank was represented without the hawk upon his hand, as an indisputable criterion of station and dignity; the bird of prey, no inappropriate emblem of nobility in the feudal ages, was never suffered to be long absent from the wrist. În travelling, in visiting, in affairs of business, or of pleasure, the hawk remained still perched upon the hand, which it stamped with distinction. A German writer of the fifteenth century severely reprobates the indecency of his countrymen in bringing their hawks and hounds into the churches, and interrupting Divine service. The passage is thus translated by, Alexander Barclay :
Into the church then comes another sotte,
The whole church is troubled by their outrage. To part with the hawk, indeed, even in circumstances of the utmost extremity, was deemed highly ignominious. By the ancient laws and capitularies of France, a knight was forbidden to give up his sword and his hawk, even as the price of his ransom. These two articles were too sacred to be surrendered, although the liberty of their owner depended upon them. Another
proof of the high estimate attached to the bird of prey is the singular punishment denounced against those who should dare to steal one: Si quis acceptorem alienum involare præsumpserit, aut sex uncias carnis acceptor ipse super testones comedat, aut certè, si noluerit, sex solidos illi cujus acceptor est, cogatur exsolvere, mulcta autem nomine solidos duos.
*“In the reign of Edward III. the Bishop of Ely excommunicated certain persons for stealing a hawk that was sitting upon her perch in the cloisters of Bermondsey, in Southwark; but this piece of sacrilege was committed during Divine service in the choir, and the hawk was the property of the bishop."-Strutt, vol. i. p. 34.
In the fields and open country hawking was followed on horseback; and on foot when in the woods and coverts. In the latter case it was usual for the sportsman to have a stout pole with him to assist him in leaping over rivulets and ditches; and we learn from Hall, that Henry VIII., pursuing his hawk on foot, at Hitchen, in Hertfordshire, was plunged into a deep slough by the breaking of his pole, and would have been stifled but for the prompt assistance of one of his attendants.
How highly these birds were appreciated may be gathered not only from the severity of the laws to which we have briefly alluded, but from the prices occasionally recorded to have been given for them. At the commencement of the seventeenth century, a goshawk and tassel-hawk were sold for 100 marks, a large sum in those days. It is further said that in the reign of James I. Sir Thomas Monson gave 10001. for a cast of hawks. Nor would money always command these precious birds. Federigo, the hero of Boccacio's ninth novel, although he had spent all his substance, refused to part with his favourite hawk; and when his mistress is importuned by his son to beg it of him, she replies, “How can I send or go to ask for this hawk, which I hear is the very best of the kind, and what alone maintains him in the world? Or how can I offer to take away from a gentleman all the pleasure he has in life?" The author doubtless intended to impress us with the most exalted notion of Federigo's gallantry and devotion to his mistress, when, in his inability to purchase other viands, he makes him kill and dress this favourite hawk for her entertainment, a sacrifice for which he is represented as not being inadequately remunerated by the lady's hand and fortune. In the book of St. Alban's, the sort of birds assigned to the different ranks of persons are placed in the following order:
The eagle, the vulture, and the merloun for an emperor.