HOLIDAYS & FEAST DAYS
was an extremely popular pursuit amongst noble women who could
afford the cost and upkeep of birds and the staff to care for
them. Falconry was not a sport for the income-challenged.
The image detail at above, shows a woman with her bird of prey
and hawking glove. It comes from the Holkham Bible of 1325-1335.
Some hawking illustrations, like the German manuscript Manesse
Codex from 1300-1320, shown at left, also show women on horseback
riding while out hawking. her glove is easy to see and it would
have protected her
hand from the sharp talons of her bird.
Other images, such as the image from the English illuminated manuscript,
the Taymouth Hours, dated between 1325 and 1340, show a
slightly less genteel and more graphis image of a woman with her
bird and it's prey, showing her success in the field.
The little hawking bell can be seen attached to the leg of the
bird, and although it looks like the lady is not wearing a glove,
it is certain that she is doing so.
Hawking was a passtime which came with its own specialised dress
accessories. The lady and lord who hawked both wore a sturdy leather
clove, often easily seen with a wider cuff and usually white.
A hawking pouch would have been employed, but we do not see pictures
of these. There are extent pouches, but it is unable to be determined
who owned them. There would have been no difference between one
used by a woman or a man.
bells were attached to the legs of hawking birds and a leather
hood was used the same as hawkers use today.
Types of birds used for hawking include many different types of
raptors- falcons, peregrins, etc and of these, according to the
14th century falconing manual, the Boke of St Albans, the
one considered most suitable for a lady to own and use would be
a female Merlin.
The Boke of St Albans is an English manuscript whose
author is not known. It dates to 1486 and was printed in the town
of St Albans. The book provides a list of the falconry Laws of
Ownership which determine who can own what kind of bird. Whether
this was adhered to with any kind of obedience or whether, like
the clothing sumptuary laws, it was roundly ignored can only be
The birds are listed in order of importance of the social rank
of the owner:
Gyr Falcon, either male or female
- Prince- Peregrine Falcon
- Duke- Rock Falcon, belonging
to the Peregrin falcon family
- Earl- Tiercel Peregrine
- Baron- Bastarde Hawk
- Knight- Saker
- Squire- Lanner
- Lady- Merlin, female only
- Yeoman- Goshawk or Hobby
- Priest- Sparrowhawk, female
- Holy water Clerk- Sparrowhawk,
- Knaves- Kestrel
- Servants- Kestrel
- Children- Kestrel
The most surprising of these
is that servants are listed as being potential bird-owners. Perhaps
these refer to the bird handlers themselves who operated the falconing
mews and cared for the birds of their lords and ladies.