Hunting, Hawking and the Early Tudor Gentleman: James Williams Considers Hunting as the Ideal Pastime for the Nobility in the Sixteenth Century

By Williams, James | History Today, August 2003 | Go to article overview

Hunting, Hawking and the Early Tudor Gentleman: James Williams Considers Hunting as the Ideal Pastime for the Nobility in the Sixteenth Century


Williams, James, History Today


'By God's Body I would rather that my son should hang than study literature. It behoves the sons of gentlemen to blow horn calls correctly, to hunt skilfully, to train a hawk well and carry it elegantly. But the study of literature should be left to clodhoppers.'

WHEN, IN 1517, A NOW anonymous gentleman expressed this view to Richard Pace, the great humanist may have been exasperated, but certainly not surprised. It was a familiar Sentiment in early Tudor England: despite the protests of a few humanists such as Desiderius Erasmus and Sir Thomas More, hunting was deemed by most to be not only a symbol of knighthood, but an activity that marked out the true gentleman. But what was it about hunting and hawking that made them appropriate pastimes for the early Tudor gentleman, and why did they retain this position?

For most commentators who referred to hunting and hawking in their written work, field sports were thoroughly moral occupations. In the immense body of chivalric literature produced during the early sixteenth century, hunting is always associated with ideal models of kingship and knighthood. Malory's tales of King Arthur, and popular chivalric tales about such heroes as Bevis of Hamptoun and Oliver of Castile, feature hunting as a worthy activity.

Field sports provided a moral means of escape. For Henry VIII, hunting provided a chance to escape from the cares of politics with a few friends:

   Pastime with good company
   I love and shall until I die
   Grudge to lust, but none deny
   So God be pleased, thus live will I
   For my pastance,
   Hunt, sing and dance,
   My heart is set,
   All goodly sport
   For my comfort:
   Who shall me let?

For others, such as the poet Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, hunting was associated with a nostalgic, lost happiness. When he was imprisoned in Windsor Castle for striking the Earl of Hertfordshire, he wrote wistfully of how, as a companion to the King's illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, 'With cry of hounds and merry blasts between/Where we did chase the fearful hart a force.' The poet Thomas Wyatt associated hunting with the quiet life, far from the cares of politics. He warned his friend, John Pointz, against following a political career:

   This maketh me at home to hounte
   and hawke
   And in fowle weder at my booke to
   sitt.
   In frost and snowe then with my bow
   to stalke;
   No man doeth marke where so I ride
   or goo;
   In lusty lees at libertie I walke,
   And of these newes I fele nor wele
   nor woo.

As an enjoyable recreation, then, hunting provided an essential contrast to a gentleman's daily business, and he had notable and ancient support in this. Pliny, for example, had argued that hunting provided the gentleman with a necessary change from his usual work.

Morally, hunting was justified as a means of avoiding idleness. A rather sanctimonious young Henry VIII announced that hunting was a means to avoid 'Idlenes the ground of all vyce and to exercise that thing that shalbe honorable and to the bodye healthfull and profitable.' The courtier and humanist educational writer Sir Thomas Elyot writes of Xenophon's Doctrine of Cyrus, that Cyrus 'and other ancient kings of Persia used this manner in all their hunting', and he provides a description of the role of the hunt in the upbringing of the Persian nobleman. Idleness, in this case referred to as sloth, is one of the chief ills thereby corrected by this ideal Persian king:

   He [the king] then with most
   diligence set others forward,
   beholding who hunte valiently, and
   reforming them whom he saw
   negligent or slothful.

In practical terms, hunting was justified primarily in terms of its value as a training for warfare which was still regarded as the gentleman's principal role. For Ramon Lull, in a book that Caxton brought to the early Tudor reading public, 'Knightes ougt to hunte at hertes, at bores and other wyld bestes, for in doynge these thynges the knyghtes exercyse them to armes. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Hunting, Hawking and the Early Tudor Gentleman: James Williams Considers Hunting as the Ideal Pastime for the Nobility in the Sixteenth Century
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.