This extract from the State Papers of Elizabeth I (r. 1558-1603) provides a curious, passing reference to an anonymous jester in the French entourage, notable for being ‘richly dressed’ including a gold chain worth 700-800 crowns, and with, it appears, a daily change of clothing.
Likening the jester to one ‘Briskel’ also gives us what seems to be the name of a jester at the English court, one I haven’t seen elsewhere. It isn’t unusual in Europe for the existence of a jester to be brought to light through references in the court records, particularly among court accounts, but also, as we see here, among more general state papers. This is a mine of information which is far from having been exhausted.
Here are diverse noblewomen who came with the Queen; they go soberly apparelled, but the demoiselles go more richly than the great dames of the French. The Lords go plainly, without lace or embroidery. There is a jester among them (such as Briskel is), who wears a chain of gold worth 700 or 800 crowns; is richly dressed, and every day in change.
Source: ‘Elizabeth: June 1565, 16-30’, 19 June 1565, ‘Journal of Affairs in France’, in Calendar of State Papers Foreign: Elizabeth, vol. 7 (1564-1565), Joseph Stevenson, ed. (London, 1870), pp. 394-401. Accessed at British History Online.
Image credit: chain set with precious stones, c. 1600, Poland or Germany; courtesy Toruń Regional Museum, public domain