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April Fool's Day

"Jesters do oft prove prophets."

~ King Lear, William Shakespeare, 1603-1606

Truth tellers have always donned a variety of disguises! And for good reason! Embrace your inner jokester or prankster (or heaven forbid, punster) with this festive tartan! Historically, the court jester held a permanent role within the households of noblemen or monarchs during the medieval and Renaissance periods, tasked with entertaining through songs, music, storytelling, and a repertoire that included acrobatics, juggling, comedic acts, magic, puns, impressions, and timely humor. They offered sly social and political commentary, navigating the delicate art of amusement. Traditionally, jesters are depicted wearing vividly colored attire and eccentric hats, adorned in a "motley" pattern of varied colors, often including the harlequin diamond motif, hence the term "motley fool." This unique dress allowed jesters to operate outside the restrictive sumptuary laws, granting them the freedom to speak more boldly. However, this freedom came with risks, as too sharp a wit in their jests could lead to dire consequences. Take a risk, April Fools! ❤️ 💜 💛 🃏 👑

The concept of a riotous merrymaker leading the revelries had a counterpart in an official court position, the Jester, whose appointment was perpetual.

Although a jester could be an itinerant performer who entertained common folk at fairs and market, the court jester or fool, was a special position, common in the medieval and Renaissance eras, who was a member of the household of a nobleman or a monarch, and employed to entertain him and his guests. 

In medieval times, jesters are believed to have worn brightly coloured clothes and eccentric hats in a motley pattern. They were often multi-talented, entertaining with song, music, and storytelling, but also could be skilled in acrobaticsjuggling, telling jokes, or entertain with puns, impressions, contemporary jokes, and magic tricks. 

King James VI of Scotland employed a jester called Archibald Armstrong. During his lifetime Armstrong was given great honours at court. He was eventually thrown out of the King's employment when he over-reached and insulted too many influential people. Even after his disgrace, books telling of his jests were sold in London streets. He held some influence at court still in the reign of Charles I and estates of land in IrelandAnne of Denmark had a Scottish jester called Tom Durie.


One Court Jester lives on in the word "tomfoolery."  Thomas Skelton was a court jester, of sorts, to Moncuster Castle in Britain in the 16th century. Known as Tom Fool, he was also a steward to the estate and a trusted servant to his master. He was also known to Shakespeare and thought to be model for the fool in King Lear.

For more on historical jesters, click the Twelfth Night merrymakers!

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