The Socio-Political Significance of Bunting in 15th Century Europe

by Clachan Shanda

15th century Europe, or, ‘Europe’, as it was known at the time, was a hotbed of political and social upheaval. As the artistic population, supported by wealthy bankers, began the process of dragging medieval society out of the dark ages and towards the renaissance, so to the world of science and geography began to illuminate Western thought and understanding. Christopher Columbus took Spanish colonisation to The Americas, and Whiskey was invented in Scotland. For Europe’s many Bunters* too then, there came new opportunities for change and growth.

Prior to the 15th Century the application of bunting was almost non-existent in the lives of the majority of the populace. Indeed, certain historians make a direct correlation between the term “dark ages” and the fact that there was less bunting. Had bunting been allowed the significant position that it now keeps in modern social gatherings, “the ages would have been far less dark.”°

Whether this is true it is impossible to categorically determine, but it is important not to overlook the fact that there are historical records from the 1300s of French bunters being whipped and lynched with their own handiwork. One manuscript recovered from a 600-year-old monastery in Toulouse describes the scene at a Noble’s daughter’s fifth birthday party:

“And the children, having torn the string of triangles from whence it hung atop the ramparts of the residence, thence forth proceeded to lay upon’t most humble of souls in God’s creation, our bless’ed Bunter, and thence did rip his fingers from his hands and toes from his feet and tie them as a bunting to his intestines which hung about the garden in lengths of dips and troughs.”

It is clear from this account (which has been verified by UNESCO), that pre 15th Century the world’s bunters had suffered immeasurable oppression at the hands of the aristocracy. What is less clear however, is how then the tradition survived at all through this period which spanned nearly 300 years. One historian, Professor Nick Knack-Paddywack posits the following theory in his book ‘Bunting Bunting Bunting’

“Bunting survived because it has the power to do so. Bunting is the truth and the light. It is more than you or I, it is more than Earth or Sky, it is the icing on a pie. To follow bunting is to never die.”

Personally I find this explanation to be somewhat overly sanguine and simplistic. I find a more probable reason for the resurgence of bunting to be the increase of gold in to Europe from recently occupied countries in The Americas. This Spanish gold brought great wealth to the continent and where there is wealth there are parties and where there are parties there is bunting.

*Those who bunt†
†Verb – to make bunting
°Georgio Portozelli – ‘History’s Worst Parties’

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