Nobody’s fool

‘Begging a fool’ refers to the practice of claiming wardship of someone considered too foolish to manage their own affairs.  When benign it could provide shelter and protection for a ‘natural’ fool.  However, it could also be a roundabout way to get your hands on someone’s property, in the guise of caring for them.  We have seen one case in which a wealthy landed nobleman was ‘begged for a fool’ and lost his lands.  Here, in a 17th century jest-book, we find another example of a young nobleman being begged for a fool but mustering sufficient wit to convince those questioning him that he deserved to keep his estate:

A foolish young Gentleman, son to a wise and well-reputed Knight, after his fathers decease, was begg’d for a foole, and summoned to the Court of Wards for his answer. When question was made to him, what hee could say for himselfe, why his Lands should not be taken from him, hee answered, Why may not I a foole, beget a wise man to inherit after me, as well as my Father being a wise man, begot me a foole?  His answere carried it, and the demeanes were confirmed to him and his heires, who are possessed of them unto this day.

Source: A Banquet of Jests (1640), ed. T.H. Jamieson (Edinburgh: William Paterson, 1872), pp. 22-23.

Image credit: Portrait of a Gentleman (18th century), in the manner of Pierre Mignard (1612-1695), oil on canvas, unsigned.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This