The prior’s monkey


Detail from a full border of a monkey looking at itself in a mirror, from the Isabella Breviary, Southern Netherlands (Bruges), late 1480s and before 1497, British Library, Additional 18851, f. 270 - See more at Monkeys in the Margins

Detail from a full border of a monkey looking at itself in a mirror, from the Isabella Breviary, Southern Netherlands (Bruges), late 1480s and before 1497, British Library, Additional 18851, f. 270 – See more at Monkeys in the Margins

Records of Early English Drama North-East presents its latest Flower of the Month – an intriguing find from the archives of the region. This month’s Flower relates to Durham Priory, and its leader’s pet entertainer.

The prior of Durham Priory was, for much of the medieval period, a very powerful religous figure who guided the monastery with the piety and seriousness required by the Benedictine Rule. However, this doesn’t mean that he didn’t enjoy a bit of fun. Some of the records relating to the Priory show that priors employed professional fools or jesters, for instance.

When around 1357 one particular prior suffered the death of his fool, instead of a human replacement he recruited a quite different form of entertainer. Head over to the REED North-east blog, where John McKinnell gives the full story of what he subsequently acquired.

(While there may be few fools – or indeed monkeys – in Durham today, a show in summer 2016 will recreate one of the city’s most lavish medieval spectacles, featuring dancing dragons, boy bishops, and dances with death. If you are from the Durham area, and would like to take part in this unique event, auditions will be held on 11th and 12th June. See this page for more details.)

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