Traditional Drama Research Group
The website of the Traditional Drama Research Group

The most distinguished sword used in a mummers' play

Issue: 
Traditional Drama Forum - No.12

Article type: 
News articles

Peter Robson of Dorset sent us this very interesting extract recently.

Woodyates

"It is accepted as a historical fact that during his flight after the battle Monmouth put on shepherd’s clothes at Woodyates Inn (gone now) that stood near the main road over Cranborne Chase. Here he left his sword. Now, certain biographers of Monmouth, for instance George Roberts and Alan Fea, have stated that in 1847, on Christmas Eve, Woodyates’ villagers with blackened faces were performing at the inn the old Mummers’ Play that features memorably in The Return of the Native. A visitor’s attention was attracted to the old sword used by St.George in the play; he bought it for eighteen pence. When cleaned and polished it revealed itself as a beautiful weapon made by the great Andrea Ferraro. Its silver guard and hilt were richly chased and ornamented with royal emblems, rose and crown and Prince of Wales feathers and with the heads of King Charles I and Queen Henrietta. It was a sword given by Charles I to his son Charles II who gave it to his illegitimate son the Duke of Monmouth."

Berta Lawrence (1986) Thomas Hardy and the Duke of Monmouth
Thomas Hardy Journal, Oct.1986, Vol.2, No.3, pp.56-58, [p.58]

Peter added, ‘It must be the most distinguished sword used in a mummers' play. There is no other record of a play at Woodyates. The Christmas Eve date is pretty standard for Dorset, but the black faces are unusual…I do not know of a picture, and the sword has disappeared. I seem to remember reading, somewhere, that the mummers found it in the thatch of the pub's roof, where it had been thrust by the fleeing Monmouth, but this may be speculation.

Can anybody add to our knowledge?