1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Misrule, Lord of

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MISRULE, LORD OF, in medieval times the master of the Christmas revels. Probably J. G. Frazer (Golden Bough III.) is right in suggesting that the lord or abbot of misrule is the successor of the king of the ancient Saturnalia, who personated Saturn and suffered martyrdom at the end of the revels. Compare, too, the burlesque figure at the carnival, which is finally destroyed. Stow (Survey) writes: "In the feast of Christmas there was in the King's House, wheresoever he lodged, a Lord of Misrule or Master of merry disports, and the like had ye in the house of every nobleman of honour or good worship, were he spiritual or temporal." The mayor and sheriffs of London also had Lords of Misrule. These mock-monarchs began their reign on Allhallows Eve, and misruled till Candlemas. In Scotland they were known as "Abbots of Unreason," and in 1555 a special act suppressing them was passed. In Tudor times their reign was marked by much display and expense. In Henry VIII.'s reign an order for a fool's coat is signed by six of the Privy Council. By an Act of Common Council (1555) the city expenses of the Lords of Misrule were severely curtailed. Machyn speaks of a Lord of Misrule who in 1561 rode through London followed by a hundred gentlemen on horseback hung with gold chains (see also Revels, Master of).