Keeping up with the court

This account by the British diplomat and traveller, Sir John Malcolm, points to a society in which the upper echelons mimic the court they serve, creating their own mini-courts, even down to installing a household poet and jester.  Although this refers specifically to Persia, the same might be said of some European elites.

The princes, nobles, ministers, and high public officers of Persia, imitate the king in many of their usages. All the respect they pay to him they exact from their inferiors : each of them in his rank has what may be termed a petty court; the forms of which are regulated in nearly the same manner, and by officers bearing the same names, as those who attend the monarch. Every chief, or officer of elevated station in Persia, has his haram, his secretaries, his officers of ceremonies, his master of horse, and sometimes his poet and his jester; and in his house, all matters of ceremony are regulated with as strict an attention to punctilio as at the palace of the sovereign.

Note  the poet and jester being placed together – there is a recurring link between them, including Europe, in which they serve some of the same functions which could even be found in the same person.  Many jesters were skilled in versifying, ranging from ditties and doggerel to poetry.

Source: Sir John Malcolm (1769-1833), The History of Persia, from the Most Early Period to the Present Time, vol. 2 (London: J. Murray, 1815), p. 69

Image credit: A Court Scene; Page from a Manuscript of Habib al-Siyar of Khwandamir (1625), Iran, Qazvin or Isfahan; ink, opaque watercolor and gold on paper; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Nasli M. Heeramaneck Collection, gift of Joan Palevsky (M.73.5.445)


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