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We’re all familiar with the stereotypical image of court jesters, what with their multi-pointed hats and juggling routines and generally making an ass of themselves to the delight of far more important people. Their beloved likeness has even found a home on the face of our playing cards, albeit the two that are only used in like, two games.
But the thing with jesters is that they weren’t just “fools” -- they were entertainers in a more general sense. Some were poets or singers, and some would just hang around and provide jokes for comic relief. Others ramped up their awesome so hard that they found their way to the pages of history. And holy crap were they incredible.
Jeffrey Hudson Shot And Killed A Heckler In A Duel
There weren’t a lot of employment opportunities for people in the 1600s if you were barely three feet tall. And perhaps this wasn’t the chief concern of one Jeffrey Hudson, who sometimes found himself popping out of pies and fighting turkeys. Yet it was entirely because of his diminutive stature that he found himself in service of King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria.
While Hudson was, in fact, relegated to the role of the court’s jester, that was not his only duty. He was actually a captain in the cavalry, served as the queen’s page, and was even tasked with fetching Henrietta Maria’s midwife when it was time to give birth. Unfortunately, the ship was confiscated en route and the midwife didn’t make it in time. But still, that’s a fairly hefty responsibility to give to the local clown.
On top of all that, he was a trusted member of the court. Not everyone respected this, though, and he still had to endure an enormous amount of ridicule simply because of his height. Inevitably, Hudson grew tired of the short jokes, and ended up challenging one heckler to a mock duel.
That is the look of a man who is mentally putting air quotes around “mock”.
Probably the most ingenious part of this plan wasn’t that it was a mock duel -- it was a mock, mock duel. Meaning while Hudson’s adversary had brought a sort of squirt gun to the battle, the jester brought real guns. Actual, “I will shoot you in the head while galloping on horseback,” sort of guns. Which is precisely what he did, because in the 17th century, making fun of someone’s height sometimes goes too far, and it’s punishable by death.
Well, not really, but still ... holy crap. Accounts vary as to Hudson’s fate, but as a result of murdering someone in cold blood he was either 1) exiled, then captured and enslaved for a number of years, or 2) just arrested and died in prison. Either way, you may want to think about the repercussions of your wanton slinging of callous insults going forward, sort of like a PSA against road rage antics or Twitter feuds.
Archibald Armstrong Went From Jester To Political Adviser To Pissing Off A Bishop
Sometimes, being abrasive and having a giant ego will, in and of itself, find you your place in the world. We don’t recommend it, as history will probably just remember you as being a giant douche.
For one Archibald Armstrong, however, that was entirely his M.O. Originally brought on as a jester in the traditional sense, he eventually developed a taste for politics and used satire to basically rip everyone around him a new one. He had no filter, and using his near immunity from punishment regarding the things he said, man, did he ever let loose. Apparently being the local prankster carried some perks.
Specifically, perks in the form of awesome capes.
His love of the political side of things did catch the eye of the king, however, and once he was sent to help facilitate negotiations regarding the proposed marriage of Prince Charles of Great Britain to Maria Anna of Spain. By all accounts, he was absolutely loved while in Spain, despite his being kind of a jackass. Unfortunately, the marriage plans fell apart, and we’re sure it has nothing to do with the fact that he had a hard time understanding what the King of Spain was even saying.
Regardless, while working your way up from slapstick buffoon to trusted political adviser is an impressive feat for someone in the early 1600s, his biting rhetoric eventually got him in trouble. He ended up insulting an archbishop that resulted in him being ousted from the court. But he took that opportunity to retire comfortably, enjoying the money he’d made taking bribes from people in exchange for an audience with the king, and collecting on old debts.
So let that be a lesson, kids. Being a jerk isn’t a new invention to get ahead in life -- it’s always kind of been that way.
Perkeo Of Heidelberg Could Drink His Weight In Booze
We all have that friend who’s the life of the party. The one who drinks superhuman amounts of booze and still somehow manages to be hilarious and not terrible. He will absolutely kill a fifth of whiskey with you, then go on to charm the crowd while your vomit enjoys a date with the bushes.
That’s what Perkeo was known for: drinking. A lot. One author even admits he has forgotten the number of bottles Perkeo was claimed to have put down on any given day, though by many accounts we presume the answer to be “all of them.” He was even put in charge of looking after the largest wine barrel in the world at the time, which historians claim was most often empty. Which is likely true, because Perkeo would probably just “have a little sip” until the damn thing was dry.
And then it was monkey time, baby!
As a dwarven jester, he set out to make the best of the cards he was dealt. And for him, the best thing was to get schnockered and make the people around him laugh. While that may sound pretty mundane for a court fool, his legacy is felt throughout the city to this day. His likeness is everywhere, from storefronts to beer mugs, and according to some, his impact is more important than many.
“Judging by the evidences of his popularity that survive on all sides Mr Malt declared that he was probably worth more to the town in attracting residents and investors than half-a-dozen patron saints ...”
Whoa. Certainly it’s not glamorous to celebrate a drinking habit, but what many locals admire about Perkeo was that he accepted who he was and made the best of it. He was a self-made man. Hell yeah, dude. Jesus liked wine, so we hope the afterlife is real and you’re drinking him under the table.
Chicot Was So Good On The Battlefield, He Captured A Count
It takes a brave court jester to mock the king -- but that’s exactly what this guy did, and much to the delight of His Majesty, Henri III of France. In fact, quite often, the court fool known as Chicot would imitate the king himself, with the crown taking on the role of jester while everybody else just played along with the game. In any other setting, Chicot would have been exiled at best; put to death at worst. But everyone was having fun, so whatever, we guess.
The truth is, the king trusted Chicot so much that he would sometimes fence with the jester. He often let him wander outside of the court (unheard of at the time) and even let him have random sparring battles with other bored souls. He even helped himself to the king’s toiletries, because why not? Hell, sometimes they even slept in the same room.
“Did you hear the one about the guard who got his ass kicked by a comedian?”
But that aforementioned weapons training paid off. During the Siege of Rouen, Chicot’s swordsmanship landed him a prisoner who happened to be the Count of Chaligny. And again, because history from hundreds of years ago wasn’t saved with accuracy in the cloud, we’re left to wonder which story is true: Did Chicot let the Count go? Maybe it’s the boring one about how Chicot eventually succumbed to his injuries from battle. Perhaps the true tale is the one where the Count, finding out he’d been bested by a jester, bonked Chicot on the head with the hilt of his sword so hard that he died 24 hours later.
What we do know is that Chicot was awesome, quick witted, sharp tongued and formidable with the blade. And maybe that’s what we all should aspire to be. Or not. Please don’t fight people with swords.
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