The Lord of Misrule was the master of
revelry during the feast of Twelfth Night, the last day of Christmas
festivities in merry England. He also had a place in the court on other
celebrations. Hi role was two-fold. In the court of medieval England
he was appointed by the king to play the part of a somewhat unruly master
of ceremonies of a lively celebration.
The Lord of Misrule was given a very real
power in that, all, even the king had to submit to his whims during his
reign. The wise Lord of Misrule did not overstep the bounds of his
position if he wished to retain the king’s favor. But within those
bounds he was king for a day.
The most familiar role the Lord of
Misrule played was that of jester. Dressed in his gaudy and elaborate
theatrical clothing he held court. He kept his subjects entertained with
riddles, pranks and pantomimes. His spontaneous outbursts and lively
antics kept his royal audience amused.
Among the commoners, the Lord of Misrule
presided over less orderly practices in the streets and sometimes took
control of a whole village.
The Lord of Misrule had counterparts in
pagan practices in other countries. The Romans gave one official absolute
power over feasting and merry-making and early Babylonians honored their
goddess by placing a household servant in the role of master during a five
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