The third and last part of this overview of the offices of the early-modern German court covers religion, culture and government.
For Part One go here, and for Part Two go here.
The court’s religious community could either consist of the narrower court itself, in which case religious ceremony took place in the Hofkapelle [court chapel] or Hofkirche [court church] or it might include the wider community that surrounded the court, in which case the Hofkirche also formed its own parish. The church was under the authority of the Hofprediger [court preacher], who was responsible for services as well as the moral condition of the court. Occasionally, court churches were also monastic or conventual churches.
Music was extremely important at court. It was under the authority of the Kapell– or Konzertmeister and both smaller and larger orchestras provided music at mealtimes, chamber music and music for religious services. Trumpeters in particular took part in virtually every court occasion. Apart from the actual musicians, vocalists etc, there were also technical personnel, such as instrument makers, copyists etc.
From the end of the Middle Ages, court poets (Hofdichter) were common in England and France, but only occasionally appeared in German courts.
From the late 17th and then in 18th centuries, the name Hofmeister described the tutor of the sons of high aristocrats. These teachers had graduated from the philosophical or theological faculties of the universities, travelled with the court on its journeys and often attained high office.
Part One last week concentrated on the various aristocratic offices at court. This installment deals mainly with the commoners and domestics, including those responsible for hunting and military display. [For Part 3 go here.]
The office of Hofküchenmeister [Master of the Kitchen] was one of the few to be reserved for commoners, because it was seen as inappropriate for aristocrats to have anything to do with anything to do with economics. Even so, the kitchen [Hofküche] was the most important office to do with the support of the court.
The Hofküchenmeister was in charge of the Küchenschreiber [Comptroller of the Kitchen], who recorded everything that went in and out of the kitchen on a daily basis and was responsible for the accounts. Whatever additional stuff needed to be got from the market was financed by the Küchenmeister, who had his own budget for that. Every morning the dining plan was discussed with the staff of Mund-, Leib-, Kavaliers-, Bei– and Unterköche [senior, personal, knights’, assistant and sous-chefs respectively; sing. -koch] for the different tables. For specialty dishes, specialists like a Hofzuckerbäcker [confectioner] or Pastetenkoch [pastry cook, pie-maker] were available. Other specialist services were carried out by a Brat- und Backmeister [Master Baker], Hofmetzger [Court Butcher], Zehrgeber [to be honest I’m not sure about this one – I think it means ‘provisioner’, maybe someone responsible for provisioning the court on the move] or Geflügelwart [Master of the Poultry]. Lesser kitchen personnel included Küchenjungen [kitchen boys; sing. Junge], Küchenweiber [Kitchen girls; sing. –weib], Mägde [maids; sing. Magd] and Knechte [scullions; sing. Knecht].
These are a bunch of notes I put together for a friend who was working on a court supplement for WFRP. Although the supplement hasn’t, as far as I know, yet materialised, I thought I’d put these up here to help anyone wanting to reconstruct a convincing aristocratic court in the Empire. There’s quite a lot of it, so I’ll divide it into three posts. The information is taken and translated almost entirely from Rainer A. Müller, Der Fürstenhof in der frühen Neuzeit (Munich, 1995).
For Part Two go here, and for Part Three go here.
Ideally the court consisted of two groups of people, each of which undertook different functions even though the functions often overlapped in one person. One group, the Hofstaat [princely household] was entrusted with the personal care of the prince and his family. The other constituted the offices of state, such as the Hofrat/Geheimrat [both meaning Privy Council]. But the two areas were not separated in the patrimonial early modern state – Hofdienst [service at court] meant largely the same thing as Staatsdienst [state service]. The Hof [court] was at the same time centre of government and the prince’s household. Work in the central administration was couple to service to the prince and administrators had the additional status of being a personal servant of the prince.
The medieval court was dominated by the quattuor officia principalia [Four Principle Offices] of the Marschall [Lord High Marshal or Earl Marshal], Kaemmerer [Lord High Chamberlain], Truchsess [Lord High Steward/Seneschal] and Mundschenk [Cup-Bearer/Butler], but in the later Middle Ages and 16C, the importance of these offices varied greatly, with some becoming key and others losing in importance. But later the hierarchy became much more fixed, with the idea of places of honour (particularly the different statuses in seating positions at feasts) being extended to the administrative hierarchy.
Recently, my attention was brought to a fantastic book from the Wellcome Library: the Compendium rarissimum totius Artis Magicae sistematisatae per celeberrimos Artis hujus Magistros [A Very Rare Compendium of the Whole Art of Magic, Systematised by the Most Famous Masters of this Art].
One page allegedly depicts the signs for various demons:
Compendium rarissimum, fol. 2r
The familiar symbol at the top right? That’s for Astaroth, a Duke of Hell. It doesn’t match up with the older sixteenth- and seventeenth-century traditions, though.
The book claims to be from 1057, but is actually from c.1775. This sort of pseudo-scientific magic and demonology is a creation of the Renaissance and an emphasis on rationality and systematisation; in fact, the very next page has symbols for the elements, demonstrating that up to the Enlightenment, there wasn’t much difference between science, magic and demonology.
But by the time this book appeared, it was already out of date. The great witch trials were long over, and the author’s dating his work back to 1057 is a bit of pseudo-medieval sensationalism. The first page tells the prospective reader: “Noli me tangere [Don’t touch me]”, which to me sounds more like an advertisement than any real warning (and would to any self-respecting PC too!). Certainly, the lavish illustration makes the whole thing look more like a scandalous coffee-table book than anything intending to be practical.
And where’s this Lord of Change? I’ve put him after the break because he’s very slightly NSFW:
It seems I have once again managed to “get into the zone” for writing things for WFRP. These things are more or less writing themselves with the help of official sourcebooks. I intend to post my progress on this “Bitter Moors Supplement” as I write them (leaving some tidbits to be published only in the final document). I must warn you, though – these writings are still work-in-progress so some things might chance and there hasn’t been any kind of proof-reading on them.
But if you are interested, please, read on!