The Underclass, Underculture  & History From Below

Menestrellus (Little Servant) 

Rahere. Favourite jester to Henry I, and founder of the Priory of the Hospital of St. Bartholomew (Present day St. Bart's Hospital) in 1123.

The word 'Minstrel', deriving from the Anglo-Norman word 'menestrel' which in turn derives from the Latin 'menestrellus' and means 'little servant', initially covered a much broader array of duties than just playing an instrument and singing. Duties by entertainers such as fooling, singing, juggling, magic and dancing (which were usually only on occasion, at the King's great feasts - Christmas, All Saints Day etc... ) could also involve hunting to provide meat for the king, barbering, accompanying into battle, wafering, washing, keeping of the King's hounds and travelling to market to purchase livestock. It wasn't until the 16th century that the role of the Minstrel became more specialised and the term 'jester' was gradually becoming a more familiar term for a 'fool'. With the Restoration of Charles II the court jester and Minstrel died out with few exceptions, and on the the back of that decline came the rise of travelling theatre across Europe during the eighteenth century, known as Commedia dell'arte. Some aspects of which found its way across the Channel into the music hall and Punch & Judy tradition (of which the Commedia dell'arte stock character Pulcinella is an obvious influence).