Medieval Page Boys


Figure 1.--The medieval era was a popular subject of English pre-Raphaelite artists. Here is a depiction of a page boy by a pre-Raphaelite artist done in 1891, although we are not sure who the artist was here.

A medieval page was the first stage of chivalric knighthood. Boys and youths in medeieval Europe were used as attendants to persons of rank, usually nobel or royal. These boys were chosen from aristocratic or "good" families. The tradition began as boys serving knights as part of their military training and preparation for knighthood themselves. As these pages accompanied the knight they served, they were also present at court and thus had to learn refined manners as well as fighting skills. While the ages of the middle ages are perhaps best known to us today, the tradition os an ancient ones. There are records of pages in Roman, Persian, and other an ancient civiliazations. In medieval times the degree of page was the first stage of chivalric knighthood, preparatory to that of first esquire and then knight. In more recent times it is the latter function they served, being present at ceremonies to attend to royal personages at court. Boys in 18th century red jackets and white kneebreaches are often seen at important Bristish royal events accompanied the monarch, they are always boys from aristocratic families. Their selection was considered a great honor. The page boy hair cut comes from these pages, based on a hair style with bangs popular in the midieval era. I am not sure, however, when the term came into vogue.

Origins

While the ages of the middle ages are perhaps best known to us today, the tradition os an ancient ones. There are records of pages in Roman, Persian, and other an ancient civiliazations. It is thought that pages first appear in the Western world in Greece. Boys were trained at Pädagogien (nowadays old word for school of higher education) for serving duties. There were also pages in Rome. Iam not sure about republican rome, but they were certainly present in the imperial court. The role of the page may have been carroied over to medieval courts through the Byzantine court ehere pages were important in court ceremonies.

The Feudal System

After the fall of Rome, the Feudal system developed in Europe. The Feudalism was an economic, social, and economic system based apportionment of land in exchange for the provision of fealty and service. The system was based on the king granting land to his important noblemen who became barons. These land grants became heritary. The king also granted land to the Church. These nobels in exchange pledged loyally to the king and to provide soldiers and supplies in time of war. The great nobels in turn divied their fiefdom among lesser lords or knights who became his vassals. This system ws based on the laborof the lowest rung of the social order. Most Europeans were peasant farmers working on the land of a Feudal nobleman--the lor of the manner. They did not own their land, but allowed to work it in exchange for a hare of the crop and labor when required. As the Feudal system developed, the peasants or serfs became tied to th land, not allowed to leave it without permission of the lord of the manner. The Feudal system began to weaken in Western Europe by the 16th century, but persisted much longer in Eastern Europe. The serfs in Russia werenot legal freed until the 19th century and it was not until the Revolution in the20th century that the still essentially Feudal estates were broken up.

Chilvalric Knighthood

A medieval page was the first stage of chivalric knighthood. In medieval times the degree of page was the first stage of chivalric knighthood, preparatory to that of first squire and ulimately knight.

Terminolgy

Today we use the term page, but in medieval times the term 'varlet' or 'little vassal' was common.

Origins

These boys were chosen from aristocratic or "good" families.

Age

There was no definitive age for pages, but boys commonly began the process of learning to be a page at about 7 years of age. The pages generally served into their early teen years. At about 14 years the boys would take the next step which was beconing a squire. (This is the origin of the modern term 'esquire'.) Just as there was no precise age ti begin to be a page. There was no precise age for the transition from page to squire.

Leige Lord

At about age 7 years they were sent to the reigning leige lord and his court, commonly situated in a castle to serve as a page and learn to be a knight.

Duties

Once at court a page both had duties to perform as well as trained to become a knight. Page boys were assigned as attendants to persons of rank, usually nobel or royal. The tradition began as boys serving knights as part of their military training and preparation for knighthood themselves. As these pages accompanied the knight they served, they were also present at court and thus had to learn refined manners as well as fighting skills. Pages might be assigned to serve at table, care for clothes and even assist the individual they were assigned to in dressing. The page also performed services to the ladies of the court.

Training

Pages were noble boys that were trained from about 7-14 years of age to become knights. This process developed in medieval Europe after the fall of Rome. The medieval era lasted for about a millenium so the process of training changed over time. Boys were prepared at home to become pages. The training was at first in the early medieval era informal training at court. At first the nobility was largely illiterate. Often on the priests and monks were literate. Gradually the process evolved into what might be called more of an education. This gradually came to include reading and writing. There was a great deal to learn, including religion, courtly manners, riding, hunting, hawking and strategic games such as backgammon and chess. A page was also expected to acquire military skills essential to becoming a night. This included mastering weapons like lances and swords as well as the mace and other weapons. This also include horsemanship. A knight was a mounted warrior. The young page began by watching the knights and squires as well as the older pages. The younger pages would begin by practised sworddplay with wooden swords and shields. Threy would fight on piggyback introduced which was useful in learning the balance and skills need for mounted combat. Learning to use the lance was begun when the boys were older. Pages would attend persons of rank at tournaments. These were exciting occasions in the young pages. Later on there were special schools at courts to train them in the same way, many of them were either closed or became cadet schools by the end of the medieval period.

Number

There were many pages at court, the number depending on the wealth of the noble. There was a 'pecking order' amongst the pages which was dependent on age.

Clothing

Our information on page clothing is limited at this time. Certain basic trends about medieval fashion have to be understood before discussing page costumes. When discussing page clothing it is important to remember that the medieval era lasted roughly 1,000 years. Fashion during the medieval era changed , but at a much much slower than fashion changes today. Also fashion was concept for the upper and small middle classes. The peasantry had little time or income for fashion. Also fashion for the aristocracy was a class more than a ntional concept. This meant that the arisorcracy throughout much of Europe were affected by the same fashion trends. There were variations from country to country, but they ere less important than the basic trends accrpted by the aristocracy throughout Europe. As European art was primitive during the early mediebal era, much of our information on page costimes come from the late medieval era.

Modern Era

Although generally seen as a medieval institution, the page has survived into modern times,

16th Century

Herzog Wilhelm IV of Bavaria in 1541 set on first instructions how his pages should be trained and his followers added a great deal to them. Duties at court, physical training, religious scientific education were important. When they left they got money and a place in court or military. At first the Pagerie was in charge of a königl. Oberstallmeister but since King Max Josef of Bavaria, it was in charge of a Oberstkämmerer. But the important place was called Pagenhofmeister (mainly dutiful officers) Then there were two Prefects one of them clerical, the other French. They looked for the dicipline and could call for punishment: I people weren’t allowed to eat beer and flavour dishes II not allowed to go to the theatre, III not allowed to go out on Sundays IV were put into Karzer with bread and water to eat only (called upon them by director only). Many teachers came from town, too. Page costumes consited of dark blue weapons mantle with silver sewn collar, silver buttons, a small sword on the left, dark blue military cap (after French style), grey mantle, silver buttoned. On courts duty: (like courts balls, New Yearscours, feast of St. George Order, Galadinners, masses at Christmas, Holy week, Easter, Corpus Christi etc the pages had a lit duty, which was started by a twelve stepped torch dance, which had to be held were accuartely.) bright blue Galauniform, rich silver sewery, Spitzenjabot?, white knee trousers, white stockings, black varnished shoes, a ships hat. On holiday the pages went on 2- 4 weeks journeys to North Italy, to Vienna, Budapest, Rhine, Mosel, Black Forest, Lace of Costance etc. Because everyone had to write an essay about the trip one had to be very attentive to know every thing. Pagerie was attended from 5th to 9th grade. Most of the pages became military men and official at court or servants, some ingenieurs, doctors and diplomats, fewer clerics. A few artists, too. There have been meetings held since 1883 of “Old pages” to remember the good times. The Pagerie was closed on November 8, 1918 in the aftermath of World War I and his now a part of a school. [Von Waldenfels]

17th century

A fascinating view of royal pages in the 17th century is left to us in a notable work by Le Brun of French king Louis XIV and the royal pages.

18th century

In more recent times it is the latter function they served, being present at ceremonies to attend to royal personages at court. Boys in 18th century red jackets and white kneebreaches are often seen at important Bristish royal events accompanied the monarch, they are always boys from aristocratic families. Their selection was considered a great honor. The page boy hair cut comes from these pages, based on a hair style with bangs popular in the midieval era. I am not sure, however, when the term came into vogue.

19th century

Since 1825, pages had to go to higher schools in town (expect for PE and French which was better there) which added a lot to their copmetiveness. Classes were held in French, English, Italian, Old languages, maths, music, freehand and architecture drawing, geometry, military service, stenography, PE, exercieren?, shoot with small calibers, dancing, riding, fence, swimming. School day started at 5 o’clock in the morning and ended at 8 o clock in the evening. At 9 o’ clock everyone had to sleep. On Sundays pages could go from 9 o’clock to 11 o clock into town. Higher classes were allowed to go to the theatre twice a month. Since 1825 there were 25 boys allowed to be pages. Often, the newbies (4th graders) were treated rather roughly by the older boys to teach them the new rules. But soon friendship would endeavour among them.

Sources

Von Waldenfels, Otto Freiherr. Die Edelknaben der Churfürstlich und königlich bayerischen Pagerie von 1799-1918. The author provides a genealogy of all pages from 1799-1918, pp.9-16.







HBC





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Created: February 22, 2004
Last updated: 3:46 AM 11/7/2010