This post was originally published on internationalroutier.wordpress.com on November 3, 2011. This one’s at the front of the queue because who doesn’t like a good prayer book riot?
I do love a good prayer book riot, although this one seems to have been more animated than the protests I saw in the mid-1970s about the replacement of this very same prayer book with one in (shock, horror) the modern vernacular. The argument centred on rewording of the Lord’s Prayer and to a callow youth, seemed to be that if early modern language was good enough for Our Lord, it should be good enough for us. But I digress…
The riot is reputed to have begun when Jenny Geddes, a market-woman or street-seller, threw her stool straight at the Minister’s head. Some sources describe it as a “fald stool”, while others claim that it was a larger, three-legged stool similar to a milking, penance or cricket stool. The most common household bible of the time, the Geneva of blessed memory, famously translated as “tyrant” the word that the King James edition would later translate as “king” and in the marginal notes completely denies the authority of bishops. Then along comes young king Chuck and archbishop Laud and inflicts what was seen as novo-catholicism on the unsuspecting protestants1. No wonder they threw things.
The stool would have been slightly narrower and taller than it appears in the photograph, due to a combination of 400 years of stretch in the fabric and distortion from the wide-angle lens.
The Scottish National Museum purportedly has Jenny Geddes’ stool, regardless of the provenance, it is a good example of a folding stool of the first half of the seventeenth century and is such a functional form that examples can still be purchased at your local camping store. Constructed from two simple “H” frames with a top rail on each, with a fabric seat nailed in place and with dowelled mortice and tenon joints throughout, this would make an ideal project for home or at a talking bee. If there’s interest, I’ll come up with some suggested dimensions in a future post.
1 Marginal note to Acts 5:28 “It is the property of tyrants to set out their own commandments as right and reason, be they ever so wicked”