Happy Shrove Tuesday!


Today is Shrove Tuesday, the last of the three days of Shrovetide and the last chance to enjoy yourself before Lent, which was a period of fasting (no meat, eggs, cheese or sex) in Tudor times.

As I said in my post yesterday, Shrove Tuesday was marked with court celebrations and entertainment such as jousting, plays, music and masques. In 1522, there was a special Shrovetide pageant, “The Château Vert”, which took place at York Place in London. Anne Boleyn played the part of Perseverance in this pageant and this was the first time that she was mentioned in the court records following her return from France, where she had been serving Queen Claude. Click here to read more about the Chateau Vert pageant.

A special joust also took place on Shrove Tuesday 1522. Henry VIII rode out with the motto Elle mon Coeur a navera, or “She has wounded my Heart”, and a picture of a wounded heart embroidered on the trappings of his horse. Although historians often connect this event to the start of Henry VIII’s relationship with Mary Boleyn, Anne Boleyn’s sister, there is no way of knowing which lady had wounded the King’s heart. Four years later, at the Shrovetide joust as Greenwich Palace, Henry VIII’s team wore cloth of gold and silver richly embroidered with a man’s heart in a press, surrounded by flames and bearing the motto Declare ie nose, Declare I dare not, and the theme of the Shrovetide celebrations was unrequited love. Was Henry in love with Anne Boleyn? Click here to read more.

Shrove Tuesday is often known as Pancake Day in the UK. Pancakes were a way of using up eggs before Lent so it became traditional to cook and eat them on Shrove Tuesday. In some places, people didn’t just cook and eat them, they had fun with them by having pancake races. The traditional pancake race of Olney in Buckinghamshire is said to date back to 1445. The story behind the tradition is that a housewife was busy making pancakes when the church bells rang for the service. The lady was in such a rush to get to the service that she allegedly ran to church with her frying pan and pancake, tossing the pancake as she went!

Here is a video report of last year’s Olney Pancake race:

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4 thoughts on “Happy Shrove Tuesday!”
  1. Oh to be in Venice now that masquerada is here! Wish we had this tradition on and around this time of year, before penitential Lent. I LOVE the masks and the costumes and the dancing in San Marco Square and….it rather fills that gap between gorgeous christmas and glorious spring! I feel our Shrovetide festivities let us down – no theatre, no magic – what do you think?

    1. Try visiting the mayhem that is the Ashbourne Shrovetide Football here in Derbyshire. There are all kinds of Shrovetide Celebrations in the UK if you know where to look.

  2. I’m quite looking forward to Ostara. The Lesser Banishing Ritual of The Chocolate Rabbit is one of the highlights, even if I’m not give anymore. I’m a teenager and I always participate in it but I do love going outside and picking the flowers.

  3. When I was a kid and teen we lived not far from here and our house backed onto the large fields at the back, to which each house has unique access and next door as head of the committee organised events on main holidays. On Shrove Tuesday we had pancake races, tosses and eating competitions. This stopped when the couple moved because nobody else could be bothered to carry on organising things. We just don’t know how to enjoy things as communities anymore. When you think of Madi Grais in Brazil, Good Friday Reeanactments of the Crucifixion, Holy Parades, etc, we just don’t do holidays or celebrate any more. I know we can’t do everything, but the odd pancake race doesn’t take much effort.

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