By Danielle Trynoski
Are you a medieval knight going on a blind date? Maybe you’re the heir to the kingdom yet still suffer from shyness and anxiety when you’re faced with a fair maiden? Here are five tips for a successful blind date that will surely convince her to hand over a favor or two!
DO ask about her bliaut or wimple. She probably spent hours agonizing over the fabric (silk, satin, linen?) and color (brown, purple, yellow?). If it’s embroidered, you’ll be able to pick up some great hints about her family and her interests. You think those are the same thing? Think again. While the hare might mean peace or fertility on her family crest, maybe she once rescued a young one and healed its leg before her father’s hounds brought it in for supper. Use her accessories to strike up a conversation.
DON’T ask her about her dowry or worse, the state of her father’s coffers. Leave the business talk for another day. For all you know, your own father might already have the contractual marriage matters all worked out with the clerks and her father. You might already be betrothed or married even though you’ve just met; you know how your father works! Questions about her family’s estates, products, tithes, trade connections, or market sales are sure to bore her. Besides, she’s a young noblewoman and shouldn’t be concerned with such matters. Keep the conversation light and uncomplicated; leave the heavy lifting for the professionals. That’s why they’re servants anyway.
DO impress her with your superb trestle table manners. Carefully cut your meat and poultry, showing off the fine filigree and gilt-work on your knife handle by angling your hand just so. Pass on the vegetables; after all, those are peasant dishes and you are far above that. Comment intelligently on the fineness of the milled flour in the trencher so she can recognize the excellent product of your mills. Think up a cracking good joke about the saltpeter, especially if it’s a finely formed mystical creature. If you have fine wines, ask her how it feels on her palate and if she prefers a Rhenish or a Rhone blend. Again, these comments draw her attention to the wealth of your estate. At the end of the meal, make a loud public announcement proclaiming your wish to give the used trenchers to the poor beggars outside the hall. She’s sure to be overwhelmed and impressed by your Christian charity. And speaking of Christian virtues…
DON’T talk about the fringe group of Huguenots hiding out in the woods. If she’s been properly raised as your father assures you, then she will likely be shocked to hear that your estate might be hosting heretics. Religion can be a very touchy subject and it’s best to avoid it all together. Make sure to start a conversation about your friend the Archbishop, and that one time when you guys did that one thing on that one Crusade. You could even discover a common interest if you have the same favorite saint’s day! How great would it be to have your second date be attending a service at the cathedral or your family chapel?
DO ask her if she’ll hold your stirrup when you go out on your next hunt. It’s a sure-fire way to show her that you’re interested so that you won’t play the will-she-ask-her-clerk-to-write-a-message-or-should-I-write-first waiting game of uncertainty after your date. Not only is it a huge honor for her, but she’ll be able to see how well you sit and ride compared to your companions, and smell your horse’s sweat and saliva! Before you mount up, you could even covertly brush up against her and whisper a sweet poem into her ear. It’s an ideal situation in which you can really get to know each other!
Now, my fine sir, I truly hope that your concerns are somewhat easier to bear. Upon meeting your lady, maintaining a good character and a courteous manner will ensure that any evening is sure to be delightful to all parties.
Top Image: ‘The Feast of Dives’ by the Master of James IV of Scotland; from The Spinola Hours (Latin), c. 1510-1520. Photo by D. Trynoski at the J. Paul Getty Museum