16th July 1439. Kissing Ban.
When the gorse is out of flower, kissing is out of season: old saying.
A Proclamation of Henry VI Today banned kissing after an outbreak of pestilence, suggesting in the 15th century they knew of the danger of passing disease through saliva.
In practice the ban might have been to protect the King and Court against spreading ‘small specks of plague’ as knights were expected to kiss the king on the mouth. Not surprisingly with such an edict difficult to control, it quickly dissolved into mere ‘lip-service’!
Kissing had its origins in Christianity as the New Testament tells us: ‘Greet one another with a holy kiss’. However the Reformed Church in the 16thc considered this too much and substituted the handshake.
The Kiss of Judas has come down in Christian tradition as synonymous with treachery and betrayal to be recorded in art down the centuries. One remarkable example being discovered at St. Mary’s, Grafton Regis in Northants.
Remarkable in that it survived the later Protestant, Puritan iconoclasts who objected to images of any kind.
Cunningly the picture (see below) was hidden by its being turned to face the wall, whilst an improving Biblical text was then written on the other side, no doubt pleasing the god-fearing, but oblivious Protestants.
Dendrochronology has discovered that the wood of the painting (from the Baltic), was after 1432, with the painting c 1460.
A related coat-of-arms of the Belgrave Family of Leicestershire suggests their previous possession of the work, which now reposes, after conservation, in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
It doesn’t take much imagination to see a parallel between Christian iconoclasts up to the 17thc and their modern extreme Muslim counterparts in Iraq,
Chris. Titmus/Hamilton Kerr institute. 3,12,2015. Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge/Pic Image.
William Fielding. Strange Customs of Courtship and Marriage. 1942.