Medieval Games

game piece

Medieval Valentine's Games

double heart

These were games commonly played on St. Valentine's Day. St. Valentine's Day was (as it still is) a celebration of love, a time when people would show their love and friendship for others. Since the holiday takes place at the end of winter, it was popular to hold fairs around this time, in anticipation of the coming spring (Diehl and Donnelly 7). Generally, Valentine's games were designed to match up couples. Not only was matchmaking in keeping with the theme of love, but it was traditional for people at a Valentine's feast to dine in couples. These couples did not necessarily have to be lovers, and could simply be friends (Cosman 34).

If you're considering these games for a Valentine's event, you may want to think about whether or not your guests will be coming as couples. It is difficult or impossible to predict who will be matched up with who in these games because they depend heavily on random chance and the choices of other players. If you have people already coming as couples, you may not want to split them up for a meal. Instead, you could use games like these to match up people who are by themselves with a dinner partner or to create temporary couples for other games or dances. In fact, you could use them to change partners at different points in an event so that people can talk to or play games with different partners. But, it would be best to allow people who really want to be together to stay together. You may also want to allow others a chance to pick their own partners at some point in the event or to move around freely at times so they can talk to anyone they want to talk to. If you like the basic concept of the games but want to make changes to suit your group, that's okay, too. It's your party, and you can play any way you want.

Lady Anne

This is a game that was played on St. Valentine's Day to pair people off into couples. The information about this game and the text of the rhymes that the players repeat comes from Madeleine Pelner Cosman's book, Medieval Holidays and Festivals, pp. 36-37. The person each player is paired with depends on random chance and the player's guessing ability. For a similar game without the matchmaking, see Hunt the Slipper.

The players sit in a circle, facing one another, as close together as they can. It helps to have them on chairs instead of on the floor. One person takes the role of the Lover and stands in the middle of the circle, holding a glove. The other players pass a small ball to each other behind their backs, out of sight of the Lover. The Lover says the following rhyme:

hand with glove

"Here we come a-piping
First in February, then in May.
My lady (or my good sir) sits upon the throne
Bright as a jewel I call my own.
Here is a glove to cover the hand
Of the best Valentine in all the land.
I choose but one, I choose from all,
I pray dear lady (or dear sir) yield me the ball!"

The Lover tries to guess who is holding the ball and offer that person the glove. If the Lover is wrong, the other player says:

"The ball is mine and none of thine.
And so, good morrow, Valentine!"

Then, the player takes the glove and becomes the new Lover. If the Lover's guess is right, the person holding the ball says:

"This ball is yours and none of mine.
I choose you as my Valentine!"

Then, the Lover leaves the circle with the player who had the ball (the Beloved). A new Lover is chosen, and the other players continue playing until everyone is paired off with a Valentine.

Lord William

Like Lady Anne, this game was played on St. Valentine's Day to match up couples. The rules and text of the rhyme also come from Cosman's Medieval Holidays and Festivals, p 37. Unlike Lady Anne, there is no guessing involved, but a lot is still left to chance. During the final phase, half of the players will be chosers and will select their final partner from the remaining half of the group. The person you will be paired with in the end depends on who is left for you to choose from and who is nearest to you when the rhyme ends. If you don't like the idea of the kiss on the cheek, you could substitute blowing a kiss instead or just skip that part.

The players sit in a circle, facing each other, with a Lover in the middle. The Lover walks around the inside of the circle as the other players say the following rhyme:

red heart

"Lord William was Lord David's son.
All the royal race is run.
Choose from the East,
Choose from the West,
Choose the one you love the best.
If she (or he) is not here to take her (or his) part,
Choose another with all your heart!"

The Lover chooses a Valentine from the other players when they finish the rhyme. They kiss each other's cheek and walk around the circle again while the others repeat the rhyme. At the end of the rhyme, each of the two Valentines chooses another Valentine. The process repeats until everyone has a Valentine.

Strategy: Although this is a very simple pairing up game with no winners or losers, I'd like to point out that being one of the last people chosen is actually a good sign. You see, if there's someone one of the choosing players really wants to be paired with in the end, that person should try to choose that someone in the final round of choosing. If that person is chosen any sooner, by anyone, he or she will end up as one of the choosers, not as an option for one of the other choosers to pick in the end.

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