We read of a celebrated oak at Norwood near London, which bore mistletoe, “which some people cut for the gain of selling it to the apothecaries of London, leaving a branch of it to sprout out; but they proved unfortunate after it, for one of them fell lame, and others lost an eye. At length, in the year 1678, a certain man, notwithstanding he was warned against it, upon the account of what the others had suffered, adventured to cut the tree down, and he soon after broke his leg.”—Camden.
Mr. Brand, however, thinks that mistletoe was never put up in churches but by mistake or ignorance of the sextons: it being a heathenish and profane plant, and therefore assigned to the kitchen. Mr. Brand made many diligent inquiries after the truth of this point. He learnt at Bath that it never came into churches there. An old Sexton at Teddington told him that mistletoe was once put up in the church there, but was by the clergyman immediately ordered to be taken away.
Why was the boar’s head formerly a prime dish at Christmas?
Because fresh meats were then seldom eaten, and brawn was considered a great delicacy. Holinshed says, that “in the year 1170, upon the day of the young prince’s coronation, King Henry I. served his sonne at table as server, bringing up the boar’s head with trumpets before it, according to the manner.” For this ceremony there was a special carol. Dugdale also tells us, that “at the inns of court, during Christmas, the usual dish at the first course at dinner was a large bore’s head, upon a silver platter, with minstralsaye.” In one of the carols we read that the boar’s head is “the rarest dish in all the londe, and that it has been provided in honour of the king of bliss.”
* * * * *
THE RIVER SCHELDT.
In all former times, and centuries before the labour of Napoleon had added so immensely to its importance, the Scheldt had been the centre of the most important preparations for the invasion of England, and the spot on which military genius always fixed from whence to prepare a descent on this island. An immense expedition, rendered futile by the weakness and vacillation of the French monarch, was assembled in it in the fourteenth century; and sixty thousand men on the shore of the Scheldt awaited only the signal of Charles VI. to set sail for the shore of Kent. The greatest naval victory ever gained by the English arms was that at Sluys, 1340, when Philip of France lost 30,000 men and 230 ships of war in an engagement off the Flemish coast with Edward III., a triumph greater, though less noticed in history, than either that of Cressy or Poictiers. When the great Duke of Parma was commissioned by Philip II. of Spain to take steps for the invasion of England, he assembled the forces of the Low Countries at Antwerp; and the Spanish armada, had it proved successful, was to have wafted over that