chapter  11
22 Pages

"METE AND 'DRINKE"

LOVE of good cheer was a marked characteristic of our ancestors in the Middle Ages: great events were celebrated by banquets, and feasting played an important part both in public and private life. The high estimation in which "mete and drinke" were held may be seen by the custom of sending gifts of food to friends and patrons,-the University of Cambridge often presented great men like the Earl of Oxford and the Bishop of Ely with fish, wine, sugar and comfits, and towns treated those whose favour they wished to gain in the same way. The highest nobles in the land did not disdain to give or receive such presents either from equals or inferiors. It was not considered in the least undignified for the King and Queen to accept smiliar tributes from their subjects: when Magaret of Anjou went to Coventry to see the Corpus Christi plays, the Mayor and his brethren gave her three hundred loaves of fine bread', a pipe of red wine, a dozen capons, a dozen " grete fat pykes" and other dainties. Norwich sent the King twenty-four herring pies as part of the fee farm of the city. Loyalty was sometimes rewarded by grants of food or wine; thus Henry IV annually bestowed four does, six bucks, and two casks of wine upon the town of Cirencester, for service in capturing the

.Earls of Kent and Salisbury;when they rebelled against him. Justices were often entertained very liberally when they were on circuit,-a swan and a peacock were amongst the items of a breakfast prepared for them at Norwich in July, 1448; they had their own cook with them, and he helped in the kitchen. Reconciliations at " love-days" were always celebrated by wine-drinking, and sometimes by ·feasting as well. Private individuals adopted the curious plan of sending out dinners, and dining with the persons to whom they had been sent, when they wished to pay anyone a great compliment: the Mayor and Mayoress of Norwich treated Margaret Paston in this way, and she was very gratified.