The trade of the Courtier (m.) and Courtesan (f.) is not a trade in the same sense as a craftsman working leather or wood or iron, a weaver spinning thread and making cloth, or a farmer out tilling his fields or tending to his flocks.
As borders stabilized, nations emerged and domestic clashes of arms became less frequent, in what was referred to later as “The Dark Ages,” the Church set about establishing the standards of civilized behavior by example and exhortation. The Church had a monopoly on education and thus on providing the clerks that performed the clerical tasks for all the various offices of medieval government and ruled the secretarial arm (Chancery) entirely. They were the ones responsible for scribing the books by which culture was spread. It used its uniquely influential position to soften the character of the ruling class, risen from violent origins, to lift society up out of the brutal depths of the Dark Ages. The manners and customs of the nobility should reflect their lofty place and responsibilities. They counseled the noble ladies to raise the bar for their violent noble men. Between the Church and the society of women, a path of refinement was defined, urbane and sophisticated, by which social discourse and interplay, the sophistication of high culture, was raised to an art form. Courtly Love was born and the Troubadors appointed as its official harbingers.
Society was given a kinder, gentler face that cut down on the friction that all too often resulted in the open hostility and bloodshed that ran rampant in darker times. Over time fine manners and “courtoisie” became expected, fed to the children of the noble class, and to those of the wealthy commons, also, along with their mothers’ milk.
The practices of Courtiers and Courtesans represent a way of life that puts in play the collected and distilled body of knowledge and social practices of the ruling noble class – and of those beneath them on the social ladder if they hoped to receive even a shred of respect from above. It is pursued for gain with great fervor – if more for gifts rather than mere coin, “filthy lucre” (although when the coin is sufficient in quantity it is never scorned).
Those who embark on this path as the primary focus for their Trade are usually of either common or no better than faded gentle blood, many of whom are intent on proving their worth to their “betters”, on finding a means of gaining their attention and earning their recognition. In the case of gentle blood, on raising themselves back up in rank to that from which their blood has fallen. Those called “gentlemen” are the sons of squires who never were knighted, the eldest siblings alone have the right to seek a patron to squire, and perhaps become knights and return the family name to prominence. The rest of whom are routinely left to languish.
When a Courtier carried the rank of knight but lived by service solely as a Courtier rather than by his sword, he was historically referred to as one of “Holy Mary’s knights” – essentially a knight in name only. This was especially true when they were spoken of by “military knights” – their brother knights who did live by their swords. The law even recognized that difference. When punished by the law, a military knight’s horse, armor and sword could not be distrained, taken from him, for those were the only means of his legitimately earning his keep without losing his noble rank.
The Courtier is primarily known for being practically obsessed with currying favor, with finding some suitable noble to take him into service. For them to be of the greatest amount of use to potential patrons, they are dedicated to learning their ways through the rabbit-warren of offices and egocentric officials that comprise the medieval bureaucratic government – but especially the court systems, from baronial up to the royal shire courts to the central royal courts, from lowly bailiffs to sheriffs to judges to high court magistrates. The nobles are a MOST litigious class, every family constantly monitoring and pursuing various great causes at law, some inherited and prosecuted down through multiple generations. Courtiers always keep a weather eye out for opportunities to aid their social superiors – wherever they may travel – to gain their attention by facilitating the timely drawing up and receipt of charters, writs, licenses, leaves, special dispensations, to obtain grants of land, wardships, or extend feudal rights and on and on, or gifts to help facilitate procuring the same, or aiding causes at law, especially laboring witnesses, or in the drafting of laws, all in order to prove their worthiness to receive gifts to support them in return, and ultimately steady patronage.
While noble patronage is the most common ultimate goal, it is very common for Courtiers to start out circulating in the company of wealthy craftsmen and merchants, especially the officers of the guilds, mayors and aldermen, even among the clergy and the lawyers working the various courts of law.
The name of Courtesan is historically associated with “notorious” women who were unequaled in their graces, extraordinary women with mastery of social skills and at managing relationships of all sorts, with the ability to divert and entertain their patrons, indulging them in a wide variety of earthly pleasures. They entice and treat their suitors to flirtations, some innocent and sweet, some salacious or even approaching outrageous, to encourage their interest and fan the flames of ardor in those whose interest they reciprocate, all whilst hiding behind an unassailable façade of demure propriety. This a game they relish. In pursuit of the game, they repeatedly reinvent themselves and look for new pastimes, spectacles and entertainments to provide, in order to remain fresh, intriguing and desirable. Being a Connoisseur of cuisine, art, music or even a few such areas is one of the earmarks of a Courtesan who is serious about succeeding in her craft. Their goal is to stoke the desire of their suitors to such a degree that they are besotted, to the point of being willing to lavish upon them a variety of rich gifts, swiftly squirreled away to provide a comfortable retirement.
The Courtesan who has a sharp ear and sharper wit can wield as great an influence at Court as any man, if not more. The Courtesans make rules for themselves. Standard morality and rules for comportment do not bind them.
They are not above using the allure of their sex to manipulate the opposite sex, however, dangling the prospect doesn’t necessarily mean compromising the virtue. What a Courtesan does in private is her own business, tempting them with their sex to get information or even to compromise the virtue of one who is vulnerable whose cooperation is needed for political aims. Indeed, while the Courtesan may entertain more than one patron at a time, such was not always the case. Following this course, both sexes usually have their eye out for a canny and socially savvy mate with good connections and perhaps even royal favor to play the marriage game. Court is where all the most eligible and upwardly socially mobile widows, widowers, knights, soldiers of rank, and children of rank come to prowl for spouses. Many a dowager duchess or matriarch enjoys the habit of playing matchmaker for her kin and allies, and uses one or more courtesans or courtiers as her factors.
In France, the woman on her way up among the commoners in this trade was called a “lorette”, a social fixture among the bohemians, the brightest of writers, poets, artists, playwrights, players, musicians, and the like. All practitioners of this trade know well they will be judged by the company they keep. Courtesans were favored subjects for such great artists as Cellini, Tintoretto, Veronese, Titian, and Raphael.
To make the leap from “lorette” the Courtesan had to learn “graces” to allow her to blend with her superiors without offending their sensibilities, to develop a refined accent, wider vocabulary, dress her hair fashionably and to identify and wear the most current styles. She must move with grace and carry herself with dignity, learn to dance, to sing if she has the voice for it, to play an instrument, learn refined table manners, the proper social protocols and rules of precedence governing interactions within the class of nobles and with those between them and member of the common classes, especially for formal Court occasions. She must be able to read, have the classical education of the Trivium and Quadrivium to recognize references to classical culture.
Among the great ladies of Italy in the period of the game and into the Renaissance, on the other hand, the glittering prize they made of themselves allowed them to pick and choose the lovers they would lend their fame to, and there were no simple single assignations. Their reputations were not worth such cheap encounters unless, of course, the price was high enough to be considered a prize, a great compliment. The Courtesan is a leader in fashion and style. The eyes of the more conventional women look in envy upon them and mimic their fashions, the style of their accessories and jewels. The ambition of most Courtesans is great. It is commonly strong enough to push them to ply their skills to attract the attention of the greatest men of the realm until they find one with a soft enough heart to take them in marriage and change their lives on a more permanent and secure basis. Even to the point of seeking to attract the attention of a ruling monarch, or other of similar blood and/or standing.
At the top of their game, they can end up on the arm of a king, as Madame Pompadour in France, endowed with great wealth and extensive estates.
It is dangerous to aspire too high, however, as in the case of most of Henry VIII’s wives. But VERY few ever make it such exalted heights.
In Renaissance Venice out of a population of approximately 100,000 there were 10,000 Courtesans but, of those, only 210 were listed in a catalogue for visitors as Cortigiana Onesta, the finest among them, the most to be sought after.
HOWEVER, these are only the traditional roles of Courtiers and Courtesans.
Your Courtier or Courtesan character is by NO means bound solely to either focus described. Those are only publicly acknowledged stereotypes taken from the period and provided for use as archetypes. There may be any number of Courtiers playing the same games preferred by the majority of Courtesans. The Courtier is just as well suited to stepping into the social arena to tease, entice and entertain the nobles and make of himself a figure so dashing and desirable his suitors lavish on him sufficient gifts to secure him a comfortable retirement. There is ample opportunity for a sharp-minded good-looking and stylish Courtier to be cultivated for public life by some dowager Dame or Contessa who is content to retire to her holdings, tired of the marriage game but still wishing to be able to exert her influence through him as proxy, especially if she have no immediate family to carry on for her.
In the same vein, the Courtesan certainly also has the requisite knowledge of the members of the noble class, the courts and the offices and officers of the law and government to step in fearlessly and exert her influence, her charms, and make herself of service on her patron’s behalf, or to set forth as a factor, agent or other intermediary – “[man] of affairs”.
Your character may shift or swing from one priority to the other, as desired, and as often as desired.
People change, goals change.
In the end, the terms Courtier and Courtesan are really only used to distinguish the male from the female among these would-be mavens of society.
This “trade” encompasses all the higher standards of social skills among the ruling class, and those who follow this path stand as shining examples. However, the Church failed to realize that when they changed to rules of the game so would be more “civilized” that they were simply providing the weapons and means of much more dangerous battle to the nobles, who are by definition warriors and hunters, battle confined to the social arena and therefore largely bloodless, but in consequences just as deadly, if not more so, for the repercussions could touch everyone of one’s family and friends – attaint by association.
The Courtier/Courtesan’s training provides the chief tools and the medium by which the games of influence are played: superficial beauty, the finest in art and artifice for public display, style, panache, a mask of easy, unflappable grace, of self-possession and perfect aplomb, nimble wits, a quick and clever tongue, humor that cuts like a knife – or better – like a razor, so sharp the pain is delayed in being realized. While goals and motivation can vary widely, the skills of this “trade” define the board and the ground rules for the games of influence and power, the tools and the rules, the protocols and social precedence by which the different classes and the stations that make them up must interact, of who yields to whom, when and to what degree. Those who had the knack, turned the rules and standards and practices of the new kinder, gentler society to their own purposes, to suit their own nature, instead.
At best, the nobility and those who aspire to keeping their company cultivate these skills first and foremost to protect themselves. More often than not, the social skills perfected by those who follow this way of life are used simply to mask pureblood predators.
Courtiers and Courtesans are drilled in the intricacies of the family tress of the great families of the realm, the Byzantine tangle that family connections can become when the ties of both blood and marriage are considered, over and over until committed to memory, as a matter of simple survival.
Life amid the society of the wealthy and influential, whether noble or not, can be brutal, even cut-throat, regardless of how great one’s class or station. The masks of smiles, of gentle social graces and manners, commonly hide many Vices, and an almost complete lack of sympathy, much less compassion, for those stepped upon in the climb to achieve a view from the top of the heap.
The primary medium with which Courtiers and Courtesans work, regardless of their goals, is people. Cultivating personal relationships is paramount, and monitoring or even prying into the relationships of others, gathering and even brokering information. They are experts in manipulation and the practice of reading the quiet, subtle hints the words, demeanors and body language of those around them give away of their true selves, their secrets, allowing the Courtier/Courtesan to gently purloin them, so they can be brought to bear in order to seal alliances, secure certain favors when needed, sell to the highest bidder or even to procure regular income by simple blackmail, if they believe they are in a position to do so with impunity.
Their knowledge of the true powers and players in their locale gives them the freedom to maneuver about and chart courses safely through the shadowed waters of tangled relationships that make up the upper crust of medieval society – not just the lofty royal households or court that stand above all, nor the various strata of noble households and courts, but the halls of the wealthy churchmen and commoners alike, who perforce are bound to ape their betters’ ways, the wealthy members of the great guilds and their prominent and influential officers, the esteemed officers and officials of the distinguished chartered towns, the royal shire courts, the central royal courts and all their distinguished officers and officials.
Beyond the ties of blood and marriage, the Courtier/Courtesan must also maintain an intimate level of knowledge of the often layered and seemingly conflicting bonds of homage and fealty between lords and vassals, as well as the intricasies of the offices of the medieval bureaucracy, not to mention how all these relationships influence the decisions of those in power when choosing the officers of the bureaucracy.
Nepotism is rife and, beyond that, it really IS all about who you know.
Once their training is complete, they continue to assiduously update and maintain their store of personal information. Who knows what tomorrow brings? Forewarned is fore-armed. Knowing who is patron to whom, who is serving whom, and who is tied to whom by oath, blood and/or marriage can make the difference between success or simple survival, irredeemable embarrassment, loss of face, a drubbing for failing to show proper deference or respect … or worse.
The lion’s share of the knowledge and skills expected of the best of the nobility are encompassed by the Finishing School bundle listed on the trade roster, which reflects how intrinsic these skills have become over time to the upper crust of society as the medieval era continues. IF your character is a child of the wealthy commons or any of the entire social class of nobles, this trade provides the social context for whatever other trades you require for your character. It provides a glimpse into the world in which your character grew up, illustrates what it must have consisted of. In many ways it can be considered a survival kit to enable your character to make his way safely through interactions with all sorts of distinguished persons, with name and reputation intact. With sufficient skill and opportunity it is the means to high social advancement – perhaps the highest.
The Courtesan/Courtier’s skills are geared to determining how best to seek and find the best matches for their career objectives, whether it be clients they might profit best and most reliably from in any sort of exchange of goods and/or services, or the most advantageous and compatible for long-term patron(s). But more importantly, how to approach them, sincerely, through proper channels, easily and naturally without coming across as needy, demanding, too familiar, or too calculating and contrived.
Connoisseur † (1
Jewels & Plate
Literatus & Scrivener OR
The Courtier trade is home to some of the most out-going characters, second perhaps only to the Troubadors and other entertainers. It assumes you have a rather out-going nature, or the ability to pretend it during roleplay on your character’s behalf.
Charm, beauty, cheek, brilliance, presence, gaiety and grace are the hallmarks of both the Courtier and Courtesan. Crowing cockerels and glittering coquettes, they are daring – even scandalous – always making a spectacle, but always with a the sense of timing and a feeling for propriety that lets them know just where to draw the line. These are figures of fantasy for the common and lower classes, dealing in dramatic gossip. They seek to distract the public and keep them entertained, determined to worry only if the gossip about them stops. The women of this trade have the capacity to create for themselves a freedom equal to that of any man, for all practical purposes, in both behavior and speech. Slightly rebellious, risqué and even out-right naughty, but with a definite but sometimes elusive air of sophistication, carnal knowledge most would shun used to tease and thrill, most often subtly, but sometimes not.
The brightest of social fixtures, sometimes consummate household managers, often skilled at managing finances, Courtiers and Courtesans alike are most often considered ornaments for the entourages of the wealthy and noble, notably displayed at their sides at Court.
Those that also take the time and trouble to make themselves otherwise additionally valuable may go far, indeed.
This trade is a natural pairing with the Alchemist (Simple or True), Astrologer, Physicker or Lawyer, or Knight (Warrior) who commonly interact in the higher social circles which can be fraught with so many dangers to their names and reputations. It is beyond valuable for any (Courtier) character involved with the noble or royal courts, law courts or any of the myriad offices within the labyrinthine halls of bureaucratic medieval government, who may find themselves called to Court at any time for any number of reasons, to have one of these other trades to have a skill set for which they might be officially recognized and even installed as a fixture at court to provide those services.
They are always cautiously testing the waters to discover the best steps to take in approaching and enlisting those that can best aid them in their work, for altering or adding to those in their personal networks to achieve the greatest degree of influence and the swiftest and truest sources of news.
Although possessed of as many different long-term goals as there are practitioners, both aspects of this trade are traditionally plied with an eye for financial security – not just in the present for the practitioner him/herself alone, but for those members of his/her family to whom he/she is close, as well.
They toil ceaselessly to please their patrons, or whosoever of rank will show them a kind face and income of lands or on rare occasions the lands themselves, rents or ownership of houses, a closet full of jewels and jewelry and expensive furs in return.
Above all, these folk collect jewels and jewelry, strings of pearls, glittering diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds, rings brooches, bracelets, necklaces, pins, fobs and baubles. Indeed, the Courtesan’s education is not complete without sufficient knowledge to judge the quality and value of gems and jewelry, to be able to discern a topaz from a canary diamond. A concentrated form of wealth, these are easily carried should they fall afoul of some authority. What riches they have left when it is time for them to bow out of public life or change the role in it to one more passive must stand as their inheritance.
So long as they are able to navigate the dangerous political waters and steer clear of any taint of disloyalty or acts that displease the Crown or the great nobles (sometimes a highly challenging endeavor), some Courtiers and Courtesans may come to rival their benefactors in wealth over time.
Agents and factors, servants and messengers, Courtiers live by the generosity and sufferance of their patrons, whether nobles or wealthy craftsmen and merchants, mayors and aldermen, currying their favor, even fighting on their behalf, the iron fist in the patron’s velvet glove, and working to aid them in their various causes in return for gifts and sustenance.
If they can cultivate the right influences, their knowledge of households and government and how they are to function can land them a place in the staff of some high noble, or even one of the offices in the government, or the enormous royal household itself.
Naturally, royal appointments are highly coveted, due to the fact that the Crown is usually generous enough to provide a living for faithful service on retirement. But favor can have a short shelf-life, and the Courtier or Courtesan must play hard and tirelessly to accumulate the fruit of their labors against the day when their looks fade and/or their favor should fade.
Like a setting for a jewel, the home of a Courtier or Courtesan (primary residence if more than one) must be in a major town (chief shire town or nation’s capital) furnished in the style to which his patrons are accustomed if he wants to be considered as a place for them to gather, Walls covered in frescoes and gilded, sculptured ornaments of wood and plaster, paintings by the foremost artists, wood trims and embellishments carved by the finest craftsmen, accents of gilt or silver leaf, marble, crystal, and onyx, every room perfectly crafted for the stunning furnishings carefully chosen of the finest woods, aumbries displaying plate, tapestries, even imported carpets, the house is the Courtier’s or Courtesan’s showplace. Especially when gifted a home suitable to the rank of the benefactors, the Courtesan must be prepared to play hostess, the skills of household management are highly valued, presence and a strong personality capable of leadership both marks of distinction.
The Courtier is likely often lodge at a benefactor’s residence, dining at his/her table, unless business takes him/her away.
As they are magnets for social life, the Courtiers and Courtesans own homes should be offered to the brightest local stars of learning, or art, writing, poetry, and the like to as they like to entertain his patrons, and insofar as their patrons are willing to entertain them, seek to cultivate the patrons’ relationships with these cultural luminaries. Such persons of wit and learning provide a proper setting to draw attention to the nobleman patron’s own, adding luster to his reputation. Lady Margaret Beaufort was such a patron. Her great education and patronage of the forward-thinking scholars who heralded the Renaissance had a great impact on Henry VIII, her grandson.
Among those Courtesans who attain the wealth and property to stand on their own, some continue to play the field but only for sport, hunting nobles like game. The greater the rank of the conquest and the stiffer his or her moral fiber, the better a test of skill. In the end, however, it is the player who determines the nature of the Courtier’s or Courtesan’s career, the direction it takes. Whether to indulge in the pleasures of the flesh or merely dangle the promise of those delights for gain, and how fervently they seek and serve patrons socially, how many contacts they cultivate among learned society and/or in the courts and government are all up to each individual player.
The PC must be careful that he properly screen any who would retain his services, seek his company. If they seek him or her, they must do so through the proper channels, seeking suitable intermediaries to arrange an introduction, or at least to securing and forwarding a letter of introduction to smooth the way. In any event the potential client’s identity, social rank, financial resources and encumbrances, ties of blood and marriage, all must be determined and verified before a decision can be made whether to pursue any sort of association would be politically advisable. That is the usual procedure when a stranger approaches seeking an association of some sort.
The character’s own contacts with which he begins play are all assumed to have gone through this screening process already, and the strongest associations among them being the oldest and most reliable, in the same manner that the only true and trusted friends of any monarch are those made prior to his achieving the Crown, those from childhood being the most highly valued. Clients brought by the character’s social circle or network of contacts should be relied on first, for his people will perform the first level of screening for him.
This whole process becomes more critical when the character does decide to bestow his personal favors, which is neither a real requirement nor any indication of the true nature of the character’s skills. For his own reputation the character should always make such concessions as part of a larger relationship of some duration. Despite opening up a whole new set of opportunities to tap the rich and bored and their profligate sons as clients, that is the gray area where lies the danger of the character painting himself as a simple prostitute. This opens the door to politics of a more daring or desperate sort. It can certainly lead to more murky and dangerous waters.
Social Circles & Networking
It is the Courtier’s trade to gather information and put together in his head a picture of the society in which he lives, the “big picture” as it were, to decipher the puzzle of relationships both personal and professional. He will have a nodding acquaintance with all the local figures in his home “country”, his native shire, who are their men, the major members of their factions, their general interests, prerogatives, and goals, their relationships with the government and the Crown, and who their rivals or enemies are. On the more social side, the Courtier has access to all the public talk, so can determine reputation readily: who is the best dressed and who the worst; who has been crossed by whom and over what; who is the most gentle spirit and who the most harsh; who the most correct and fastidious in manners and who the sloppiest, who is the best for a tumble and the worst, and so on.
The character will have this information not only for the upper crust of his native country (shire), but for the shires surrounding. This will extend as well to the station to which he was born, if he is not of the noble class, to the social circle of which his parents are a part, His knowledge of the rest of the kingdom can be filled in as he travels about on his various errands, as desired. His skills are aimed at easing his way into the stream of society no matter the corner of the kingdom he finds himself. With the judicious application of some grace and kindness, the Courtier can quickly get a run down on all the local gossip and, from there, trade news and cultivate contacts to fill in any gaps in his knowledge of the locals, who to speak to in order to get any information he desires.
In game terms, the character has a social circle in which he was raised, of which his parents are a part, and one also for this trade, as well as a network of professional associates, factors, acquaintances and even friends he has cultivated in various positions and households, gracious colleagues, clerks in government, the best of tailors and seamstresses, perfumers, wig makers, mask makers and the like patronized by those he wishes to serve. Direct subordinates, personal secretaries and servants of those he wishes to be able to approach are most commonly cultivated to provide news and access at need.
The character may use his information network to catch wind of local events and keep abreast of new developments and persons of interest, as he makes his interests known to his people. It will also be of use for sending and receiving messages and as a source of information against which to bounce his questions, even anonymously, as desired.
Each of your Couriter’s social circles and the network of informers may consist of up to [(CHM) + (BTY att. mod.) + (TR)] members, and may be increased as his TR rises through his efforts during play.
As your character progresses in TR is going to want to bring new candidates into his network/social circle. These he must seek out and recruit through his own efforts during play, and vet for trustworthiness by his own skills. Whether he is able to win a NPC to his cause is to be determined by how well he plies his skills.
To maintain his friendships and associations, whether their services are needed or not, the character must contact every one of these one way or another no less than once every season, around the major holidays of the seasons (spring sowing, midsummer, harvest, midwinter) will be expected. The longer the character neglects of the people in his circle. the more they will come to believe they have been dispensed with or forgotten and require the relationship to be reestablished with conciliatory words and gifts to continue the relationship. Otherwise the character must seek a replacement.
Through his own social circle and his agents and their social circles, the character can pick up rumors and gossip as they circulate, send out requests for specific pieces of information or send messages anywhere within town or its immediate environs, effectively extend the reach of his “Seek News” skill throughout the town in which he resides and beyond.
So long as he maintains a connection, by correspondence or otherwise, with his agents at home and has established a means of verification so both ends will be assured of the provenance, the Courtier can keep abreast of events at home and receive continued intelligence while exploring other areas, no matter the distance.
If unable to secure a reliable means of communication, if he is gone more than a full season (three months), the character must take the time to re-acclimate to his surroundings when he returns (GM’s discretion).
The character must pay close attention to the allegiances of those he is friendly with and those of his contacts. The tides of fortune, of favor and disgrace, can make old contacts invaluable or destroy the Courtier socially if the tie is not severed. Disfavor can be contagious. The ire of the monarch is never worth the risk.
The Courtier/Courtesan player must be aware that gifts are the grease that helps the wheels of society to turn. It is the medieval way of life. Gifts of robes, and shoes are commonly included as a perquisite of employment. The use of the gift must be subtle, as well. It cannot offered as payment direct for the need of the moment, The gift is sent ahead or offered first, and a need is expressed. If the magnitude is not great, it may be agreed to immediately. If it is greater, it may need another gift and an inquiry as to whether any progress had been made following it. It is also appropriate to send a gift in consideration when a bit of information is forwarded through the social circle or network without a request. Even more to the point, this whole process known as “laboring” for one’s causes is even more important when the character is approaching his superiors, especially a patron, to get aid to accomplish some goal, get a grant, gain an office, a dispensation, a license. Good beer and ale, fine wine, good fresh fish, game, sugared violets, sweetmeats, candied ginger, imported citrus fruits, and the like are all fine gifts usual for moving a cause along. Jewelry is nice but unless the character can afford to impress with something at least as nice as the recipient could or would buy for himself, the clothing will at least get used. Small things like plain rings of silver or gilt are good for common folk especially those of a station that does not afford much of that sort of luxury. Here, though the character must be careful. Gifts of jewelry from a man to a woman may be deemed inappropriate by her family, and most definitely by her husband, if she be married. Lengths of good cloth or clothing already made up, especially hoods, cloaks, robes or hats, shoes, or gloves are much more useful gifts, but here again, if the character wants the recipient to appreciate it, it must be of a quality worthy of his station, something he would take pride in wearing. The point is that the recipient be made glad to cooperate. The character should be ready, willing and able to “make good cheer” for his “good lord” if his attendance is requested in laboring for some cause. Rendering service for service is all part of the game. The character will be expected to make seasonal gifts and notes for holiday cheer for all those in his social circle and network, in whatever form seems most appropriate, no less than twice a year.
To maintain his public image, the Courtier/Courtesan must keep current with fashions (which change slowly, only a detail here or there every three to five years) and maintain his wardrobe. Most also practice a beauty regimen and every one of them better versed in the use of cosmetics than any other to enhancing appearance.
In maintenance of his image, the character is expected to debut a new garment twice a year – tunic and hose, robe/gown, mantle/hood, made of the best fabric he can afford and the sumptuary laws allow. The character should always wait until he has a suitable occasion to premier his new finery, some great Revel like Midsummer or Midwinter where he makes the greatest impression.
Only the nouveau riche in the towns go on parade about the streets to show off their best clothing, especially for morning mass, without waiting for a suitable social event – “always overdressed for the wrong occasions.”
Cloaks are the most seldom replaced, due to their great cost as a result of the great yardage of fabric in them.
Two or three short years of being stewed and scrubbed in harsh lye soap wears the fabric down and fades colors. The best of those surviving can be maintained for casual wear around the house if no company is expected. To receive company in such clothing is disrespectful, likely to result in any number of cruel japes by his social competitors should it become known, diminishing reputation. Otherwise, old garments should be passed to family members who are not as well off, or failing that, to household officers, or failing that, to those in his social circle or network who would benefit from them, or to his favorite religious foundation to distribute to the needy. Preference should always be shown to blood relatives over staff in such cases, in any event, unless the character has a distinct reason not to do so (Bad Blood, etc.).
Of accessories such as fans, purses, gloves, slippers/shoes/boots, hats, coats, cloaks and the like which see only occasional or seasonal use, styles change only very slowly, much more slowly than garments, and they generally weather the use better. The Courtier is expected to acquire and maintain a selection of these objects in various color schemes and motifs to compliment his wardrobe.
The slippers of the sort worn by the upper crust and the wealthy and the Courtiers and Courtesans who regularly share their company and copy their styles as much as they can, are made of fine, heavy cloth but they are still only cloth and need replacing on a monthly basis due to the swift accumulation of wear. Hard-soled shoes and boots last far longer, given proper care, so that they may have to be given away when a newer style comes into fashion, or saved and bequeathed in one’s estate. To protect their fine shoes and to keep the hems of full-length garments from dragging in the muck of the streets, pantofles are commonly worn over good shoes and slippers.