Lady Matilda Answers Reader Questions


It’s that time of year again, darlings. The nativity of Christ, the incense, the chanting, the sermons. But celebrating the birth of our saviour doesn’t have to be all off-key singing and rambling moral lessons!

This month, Lady Matilda answers questions her loyal readers have posed, and our theme is Christmas. So pour yourself a mug of spiced wine, tell your minstrel to play something quiet, and cozy up to Lady Matilda.

Dear Lady Matilda,

My rush merchant is an imbecile and failed to deliver my full order. I am now faced with a mildew-ridden, grossly stained, and rather limp, carpeting. The plaster is even showing through in places, particularly in the feasting hall, and I just don’t know how I will be able to maintain a semblance of comfort in the coming year, never mind entertain during the holidays. Whatever shall I do?

Your faithful servant,
Lord Allan of Pringle

Dear Lord Allan,

My dear boy, surely your serfs have reeds you can use? Why, their feet are used to the cold and they’re sure to be happy to help their lord. One simply mustn’t skimp on one’s reeds, especially during the holidays when all manner of people will drop in, many unexpectedly.

Note: This is where cultivating a friendship with the bishop pays off: his grace always has an abundance of fine reeds.


(I originally had an artist’s rendition of the incident mentioned below, but my editors felt it was too realistic for our readers, so here’s a delightful picture of a cute little rat, sweethearts of the sewers!)

Dear Lady Matilda,

Last week during a dinner party Lady Agatha’s bubo burst, right in the middle of the fish course! As you might imagine, the event positively ruined the ambiance and, while polite, I could tell by the speed with which my guests finished their meals and departed that they were distressed.

Next week I’m hosting Christmas dinner for the local pardoner and I’d really like to avoid another similar incident. Please help!

Yours faithfully,
Lady Edith of Peebles

My Dear Lady Edith,

How unfortunate for you to have suffered so! Thank goodness no one of consequence was in attendance. And the holidays are right around the corner. This is a time to share with your fellow townspeople, not only your hospitality and good taste but also your wisdom.

A burst bubo is an awkward situation to be sure but you must remember that your guest is as embarrassed as you when this happens. Put them at ease with a joke or amusing anecdote, give them a rub down with vinegar and rose water, and provide a live plucked chicken for them to hold against the bubo. Send them on their way with your reputation for providing superior entertainment and sage advice intact.


Dear Lady Matilda,

Last year over the holidays my husband gained quite a bit of weight. So much so, in fact, that we had to have an entirely new set of armour made. But any mention of his weight by myself or our children was met with anger and denial. How can I remind him to watch what he eats this season without hurting his feelings?

Yours gratefully,
Mrs Aline McKlean, Islay, Scotland

(PS I’ve included a picture of my love, in his younger days when we were courting. Wasn’t he handsome!)

Dearest Aline,

First of all, let me reassure you that many wives are in this very situation, especially at this time of year, so there is no need for any shame on your part. You’re only being a good wife, looking after your husband. The bishop would be proud.

A few suggestions I’ve personally found very helpful:

– slim down using plague – even a mild dose of the pestilence does wonders for one’s weight. I suggest a pleasant stroll through a quarantined village or hamlet to enhance your chances of catching the disease – make a day of it!

– he’s a knight, tell him to man up – he IS, after all, a servant of the king, and rightly so, as he’s proven himself. If he can’t handle a bit of helpful, loving advice from his own dear lady, one wonders at his fitness for membership to this noble brotherhood!

– remind him of last year, and the expense of armour – any sensible lord will know the value of a mark and will do anything to avoid excess expenditure.


Dear Lady Matilda,

I had bee skeps installed on my land a few years ago and have enjoyed great success. Lately, however, strange men have appeared on my land to preach to the bees. These uninvited men frighten my wife and stop the hens from laying, never mind angering my best wolf hounds. They also disturb the bees, and I need that honey for a Christmas gift for the sheriff. What should I do?

Yours truly,
Sir William Porquet, Montgomery, Wales

Dear Sir William,

This is a more common problem than one might believe! Anyone with bees is in constant danger of these men appearing suddenly and disrupting the hives. And the holiday season sees a higher than usual number of incidences of bee-preaching.

My only advice is to send your burliest servant to have a quiet ‘word’ with the preacher, to suggest to him that, perhaps, the neighbour’s bees are more in need of his services. Send him on his way with a friendly but firm pat on the back and a hearty chug from the wassail cup. Your bees will be back to normal and supplying the sheriff in no time!


Dear Lady Matilda,

I’m a young man and am just starting out in life. I’m courting a young seamstress with a view to making her my wife. What gifts would you suggest I give her this Christmas, so she’ll see I’m truly the man for her?

Yours in hope,
Edward deVeaux, London

Dear Master deVeaux,

I applaud your desire to impress this young woman, your efforts will surely not go unrewarded! And you’ve come to the right place!

A few popular gifts this season:

– a live plucked chicken for her bubos
– perfume: popular scents: garlic, vinegar, & oregano – prevent the plague AND smell good doing it!
– a delightful plague charm
– jewellery – you can never go wrong! A simple ring or pendant will remind her of you each time she looks at it


That’s it for now, darlings! Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@LadyMatilda_) for more helpful advice on living and loving during the Black Death. From our manor to yours, good wishes and health for the season and for the new year, here’s to a productive 1349!


Copyright © 2019 Kelly Evans

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