Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Kings and Their Hawks

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Kings and Their Hawks

Article excerpt

Robin S. Oggins, The Kings and their Hawks (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2004). xvi + 251 pp. ISBN 0-300-10058-2. £25.00.

As Robin Oggins rightly observes, the distinction between hawking and falconry in the Middle Ages is vitally important, not only because of the different varieties of birds involved, but also because of the entirely different ways in which hawks and falcons were managed, and the implications that this had for the employment and rewarding of royal servants, costs to the exchequer, and sundry other matters. In this review, however, and in common with general modern usage, the term falconry serves for both arms of the sport. Oggins has previously written on many aspects of medieval falconry, from Anglo-Saxon times until the high Middle Ages, and this book seems to be a distillation, concentrated into only 138 pages (excluding notes), of his many years of research in historical records, practical manuals, visual and literary texts - any source, in fact, that treats medieval falconry in any way whatsoever. The book's great strength is undoubtedly its close reading of the royal English records, resulting in an unrivalled account of the nature, size, extent, operations, and costs of the royal falconry establishment from William I to Edward I. Indeed, so strong is the book's focus on this period that a subtitle to that effect could usefully have been added, as the sudden closing of the main account with Edward I comes as a surprise. Many fascinating details emerge, such as the extensive system of serjeanty tenantships by which English kings rewarded their falconry attendants, who these attendants were, how they served their royal masters, what status they had, and how whole dynasties of the same family filled similar roles under a succession of monarchs. …

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