Fans of "Game of Thrones", of course, remember the scene of the death of King Robert Baratheon. The ruler of the Seven Kingdoms proudly stomps through the woods with a spear and a flask of wine. In this company, he encounters death from the tusks of a wild boar. So any unimportant feudal lord could hunt, but not the king. The royal hunt in England and France quickly became a real ritual. Monarch simply could not afford to wander alone through the woods, in search of game. The king usually went on a hunt together with the whole court, and the event itself became not so much a jaunt as a political event. Louis XI, the man who raised France from its knees after the Hundred Years War, did not like hunting. He preferred to sit in the gloomy castle of Plessis de Tours and decide on the fate of the country. Louis was obsessed with security issues, saw conspiracies everywhere, and could order an arrest based solely on his own fears. However, this king was forced to go hunting to entertain the court, and at the same time watch over those who could come under suspicion. However, first things first.
Almost immediately after the Norman conquest of England, a concept completely new to its inhabitants appeared in this country. Speech about the royal forest. This is a whole set of complex rules, according to which, vast territories were transferred to the personal property of the monarch under the hunt. The royal forest included not only forests, but also fields, meadows, rivers, swamps, wastelands. In a word, any territories where game could have appeared.
Map of the royal forests in England of the XIV century
Sometimes in England it happened that villages and small towns were included in the area of the Royal Forest. For the local population, this meant a disaster. As a rule, they were forcibly evicted from their homes. The law clearly established for the king the right to hunt deer, fallow deer, roe deer and wild boar. These animals were under the protection of the monarch. Protection, in this case, means the exclusive right of the king to kill them. A commoner or even a feudal lord who killed a deer in a protected forest could easily pay for it with his head. Killing game, in this case, meant, in fact, the theft of the most august property.
The punishment for unauthorized hunting in the royal forest, at times, turned out to be stricter than the punishment for the attempt on human life. There was a special procedure. If a deer’s carcass was found in the Royal Forest, residents of four neighboring villages had to investigate, find the culprit and detain him until the next session of the royal court. If the perpetrator was not found, then the blame fell on the residents, who had to pay huge fines. There is nothing surprising in the fact that people who were completely innocent of poaching were often brought to court. However, the feudal lords, too, loved to hunt, and therefore the kings had to make concessions. Some of them were even spelled out in the Magna Carta. In the end, the barons were allowed to hunt foxes, martens, rabbits, pheasants, partridges and hares without special permission.
Hunting for wild boar. Engraving from a 14th century hunting book
The royal forest required special infrastructure. Hunting could last a week, therefore, the monarch needs temporary housing. So, in England, one after another, hunting lodges began to appear. Just do not think that these are fragile huts. The house, often, had the appearance of two-storey mansions with comfortable rooms. In addition, there was usually equipped with a special room for royal advisers, so that his majesty could rule the country without interrupting your favorite fun.
Already in the XI-th century in England was established a special position - the keeper of the royal forest, he is the chief forester. This is not a gloomy forester, who wanders through the thickets, setting snares and chopping off the undergrowth. This is a prominent aristocrat, a connoisseur of hunting, in the submission of which could be up to a thousand people. He watched the royal forest, punished poachers and looked after the animals. In the days of the hunt, all the rough work went on his shoulders. The keeper of the forest was obliged to make a game. His people took a deer or a boar (depending on royal requirements) and drove him into the established zone. In the end, the court can not be worn throughout England in pursuit of a deer. However, human laws are not written to wild animals. A deer and a boar do not care who attacks him, a hungry rogue or a king, and therefore even the most skilled hunters could not guarantee the monarch’s complete safety.
In France, the man who held a position similar to the English Keeper of the Forest, was called the Royal Hunters. Although not quite the same. The hunter was in charge of hunting. He did not care about the safety of the forest, but only sought out game, pounded it and made sure that the victim did not leave the fenced area.
Security issues were still acute. Firearms on the hunt almost did not use even after his appearance. They went to the beast with a spear, dagger, and spear, extremely rarely, with an arquebus. The duel of the king with a spear and a boar with fangs is a battle of almost equal rivals. In the novel by Dumas the father of "Queen Margot" quite likely the scene of the hunt of Charles IX, who almost died in a fight with a wild boar, is described. Karl IX, in fact, was an avid hunter. It seems the killing of animals was the only occupation that really fascinated him. Karl even compiled several canine hunt allowances. Three times he was on the verge of death. One time, almost like Dumas, a wild boar ripped the ruler of France’s foot. In England, long before Charles IX, who lived in the middle of the 16th century, the hunt killed the two sons of William the Conqueror. Curiously, both died in the same forest, however, with a difference of 25 years. New Forest was a bad place, in fact, the first place on the map of England, allocated for the royal hunting grounds.
Death of Wilhelm II while hunting
Richard of Normandy, the second son of Wilhelm, died here in 1075. The young prince fell, apparently, in an unequal battle with the boar. In 1100, in the same ill-fated New Forest, the third son of the Conqueror William II Rufus found his death, who at that time held the English throne. His death is full of unexplained mysteries. It is officially considered that the accident was the cause of everything. Knight Walter Tyrrell, accompanying the king, aiming at a deer, hit the king with an arrow. Two things remain inexplicable: why did Tyrrell accidentally hit the king two times? And why the brother of Wilhelm Heinrich I took the yard out of the forest, without even starting the search for his most august relative. Ten years later, in the same New Forest, one of the great-nephews of the Conqueror, who had fallen on the horn of the deer he had killed, was killed. The death of William II on the hunt had serious political consequences. In England, civil war broke out between his brothers. This is the only case when the king fell victim to hunting, but it often happened that the monarchs got injured on it. The English king Edward II fell from a horse during a hunt and apparently broke his right arm. The ruler of France, Charles VII, almost lost his life when a deer ripped up the belly of his horse. The wounded Duke of Burgundy Charles the Bold was rescued from death by the faithful hounds. And the main threat to the royal hunt was always not its individual victims, but packs of wild wolves. It was a real misfortune for Medieval Europe. Wolves ruthlessly exterminated the game in the royal forests, and sometimes ate hunters. Already the English king Henry I allowed the feudal lords to hunt wolves. Later, the royal court even appointed a small reward for the wolf's head. In the 12th century, a whole state of rangers was established, whose task was to exterminate dangerous flocks. As a result, by the middle of the 15th century, these animals disappeared from the English forests. Even earlier, this fate befell a boar. Wild boar - the most dangerous of the animals that lived in European forests. In many ways, therefore, the kings preferred to hunt more harmless deer. The exception was avid hunters Edward I and his grandson Edward III. By the end of the reign of the last boar in the Royal Forest is almost gone.
She was sometimes called a noble hunt. The fact is that this occupation required careful preparation and hard work. Under Henry III, the last king of France from the Valois dynasty, the royal falconer occupied such a high position at court that he was considered a person particularly close to the monarch. And this is despite the fact that Henry III did not like hunting. What can not be said about his older brother Charles IX, of whom we have already spoken above, as well as about his son-in-law, Henry IV. The first Bourbon in the French throne was a big fan of falconry. In his reign, there were a lot of birds at the court, and a special court was even cleared for their needs. However, by the beginning of the XVIIth century, this fun began to go out of fashion. Falcons, and less often hawks, were bred for hunting birds. For example, on a heron.
The German Emperor Frederick II loved falconry so much that chroniclers placed falcons on prints of the monarch.
The process of training a falcon to the hand could take up to several years. Experts, despite the popularity of this type of hunting, was not so much. The English king Henry VIII invited two falconers from Italy to the court, his contemporary Francis I allocated money from the treasury to write a special book on the breeding of hunting birds. There was one more minus. The absence of an element of risk. The Falcon, theoretically, could have died in a battle with a particularly brave heron, but the hunter who remained on the ground did not risk anything. Absolute security was, nevertheless, less attractive to kings than the pursuit of a wild beast, which could well have ended in the death of a hunter. The process of finding prey could also be too exhausting. The falcon, of course, returned to his master, but his victims had to be searched for several hours, carefully combing the terrain. By the beginning of the 18th century, the art of falconry was almost forgotten in Europe.