The ori­gin of April Fool’s Day

Are you on red alert for pranks and fa­ke news to­day? It’s just an ex­ten­sion of a cen­tu­ries-old tra­di­tion to en­ter­tain and trick - or is it?

La Jornada (Canada) - - ENGLISH SECTION - April Fool. -TROYMEDIA

On April Fool’s Day, we’re on red alert for pranks, hoa­xes and fa­ke news - and it’s been going on for cen­tu­ries, from an era when court jes­ters we­re com­mon.

With no TV, mo­vies or In­ter­net, jes­ters, jo­kers or fools we­re the en­ter­tai­ners of Me­die­val and Re­nais­san­ce ti­mes. They of­ten star­ted out as tra­ve­lling per­for­mers who, with mins­trels, en­ter­tai­ned at fairs and mar­kets.

The fools who gai­ned grea­test pro­mi­nen­ce we­re tho­se who en­ter­tai­ned mo­narchs and no­ble­men, as part of the hou­sehold staff.

Being a court jes­ter was the ca­reer pin­na­cle for the quick-wit­ted and ta­len­ted few. They could ri­se abo­ve the sim­ple no­ma­dic exis­ten­ce, en­ter­tai­ning pea­sants li­ving in filth, di­sea­se and po­verty.

Their new li­fe was to en­ter­tain a cap­ti­ve au­dien­ce, and en­joy sta­bi­lity, shel­ter and mo­re to eat in one meal than ot­hers had in a week.

No doubt ever­yo­ne wan­ted to be a court jes­ter but the supply of fools al­ways ex­cee­ded the de­mand.

The­re we­re no em­ploy­ment agen­cies or

Monster.com. To get the at­ten­tion of po­ten­tial em­plo­yers, jes­ters would ta­ke any op­por­tu­nity to per­form in front of the wealthy

- not un­li­ke what the pa­pa­raz­zi do to ce­le­bri­ties to­day.

Ex­cept you can’t behead a pa­pa­raz­zo, li­ke what Henry

VIII did to one fool on New

Year’s Eve 1544. Des­pi­te being war­ned, this fool pus­hed the mo­narch too far just out­si­de the

Pa­la­ce of Whi­tehall, in Lon­don.

That night, even the king’s per­so­nal jes­ter, Will Som­mers, couldn’t amu­se the angry mo­narch. Ac­cor­ding to Som­mer’s diary and sto­ries pas­sed down over the cen­tu­ries, the eve­ning was ma­rred by drun­ken rants by Henry. The king even th­rea­te­ned to cast away the ships of fools or behead them all.

Som­mers had been in ser­vi­ce to the king for years and had be­co­me his friend and con­fi­dan­te. At the risk of his job, and per­haps his li­fe, he tried to con­vin­ce the king that se­rial exe­cu­tion of fools wasn’t a good idea.

Co­ming from a fa­mily of fools, per­haps Som­mers ma­de the ap­peal for sel­fish reasons. He at­tem­pted to con­vin­ce the king that he nee­ded to laugh, that all peo­ple need to laugh in tough ti­mes. Henry had just bu­ried yet anot­her wi­fe, Cat­he­ri­ne of Ara­gon, so his tem­per- ament was cer­tainly sus­pect.

Fai­ling to ma­ke an im­pres­sion, Som­mers then re­min­ded the king of how they first met and how he had ma­de a li­fe-chan­ging im­pres­sion on his ma­jesty. That ma­de Henry smi­le.

With the ten­sion go­ne, Som­mers con­fes­sed he had con­cerns about his own health. He sug­ges­ted that Henry au­di­tion ot­her fools in search of a re­pla­ce­ment, ins­tead for wai­ting for his de­mi­se - eit­her by na­tu­ral cau­ses or behea­ding (the ul­ti­ma­te job dis­mis­sal). If the King so wis­hed, Som­mers could arran­ge a trial per­for­man­ce at his ma­jesty’s plea­su­re to “ap­prai­se the en­ter­tai­ner’s me­rit.”

Henry put Som­mers in char­ge of the au­di­tions and re­ques­ted they ta­ke pla­ce im­me­dia­tely upon his re­turn from a trip to Ver­sai­lles - on April 1. The event was an overw­hel­ming suc­cess. Henry had ne­ver laug­hed so hard - and he found a suc­ces­sor to Som­mers. As a re­sult, he de-creed April 1 to be the “an­nual Night of Fools.” The king would only en­joy a few of the­se sin­ce he died in 1547, th­ree years la­ter.

Som­mers outli­ved his mas­ter, in turn en­ter­tai­ning Elizabeth I un­til his death in 1560. And the Day of Fools tra­di­tion li­ved on, alt­hough it gai­ned a new na­me in 1582, when it be­ca­me known as April Fool’s Day. The na­me was chan­ged to con­form with the Gre­go­rian ca­len­dar in­tro­du­ced by Po­pe Gre­gory XIII that year.

Over ti­me, April Fool’s Day has evol­ved.

Now, peo­ple work hard in search of mo­re crea­ti­ve ways to get ot­hers to be­lie­ve so­met­hing that’s not really true - li­ke this story.

Greg Ga­zin, The Gad­get Guy and Gad­get Greg, is a syn­di­ca­ted ve­te­ran tech co­lum­nist, small bu­si­ness and tech­no­logy spea­ker, blog­ger, pod­cas­ter and aut­hor.

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