MEDIEVAL WOMAN SITEMAP THE BOOKTHE BLOG ARTIFACT COLLECTION TUTORIALS TALKS NOTICEBOARD

A WOMAN'S LIFE

RECREATION

HOLIDAYS & FEAST DAYS

BOARD GAMES

MUSIC

EMBROIDERY

PET KEEPING

READING

DANCING

HORSE RIDING

HAWKING

HUNTING

Hawking

Hawking 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 accoutrements
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.

Birds
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 guessed at.

The birds are listed in order of importance of the social rank of the owner:

  • King- Gyr Falcon, either male or female
  • Prince- Peregrine Falcon
  • Duke- Rock Falcon, belonging to the Peregrin falcon family
  • Earl- Tiercel Peregrine Falcon
  • Baron- Bastarde Hawk
  • Knight- Saker
  • Squire- Lanner
  • Lady- Merlin, female only
  • Yeoman- Goshawk or Hobby
  • Priest- Sparrowhawk, female only
  • Holy water Clerk- Sparrowhawk, male
  • 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.

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