or page boy
is traditionally a young male attendant or servant
, but may also have been used for a messenger
at the service
of a nobleman.
During wedding ceremonies, a page boy
is often used as a symbolic attendant to carry the rings, a role comparable to the scattering of flower petals by flower girls
The origin of the term is uncertain, but it may come either from the Latin pagus
(servant), possibly linked to peasant
, or an earlier Greek word παῖς
= child).
The medieval page
In medieval times
, a page was an attendant to a nobleman, a knight
, a Governor or a Castellan
Until the age of about seven, sons of noble families would receive training in manners and basic literacy from their mothers or other female relatives. Upon reaching seven years of age, a boy would be sent to the castle, great house
or other estate of another noble family. This would match the age at which apprenticeships or servants' employment would be entered into by young males from lower social classes.
A young boy served as a page for about seven years, running messages, serving, cleaning clothing and weapons, and learning the basics of combat. He might be required to arm or dress the lord to whom he had been sent by his own family. Personal service of this nature was not considered as demeaning, in the context of shared noble status by page and lord. It was seen rather as a form of education in return for labour. While a page did not receive reimbursement other than clothing, accommodation and food, he could be rewarded for an exceptional act of service. In return for his work, the page would receive training in horse-riding, hunting, hawking
and combat – the essential skills required of adult men of his rank in medieval society.
Less physical training included schooling in the playing of musical instruments, the composition and singing of songs, and the learning of board games such as chess. The initial education received as a child in reading and writing would be continued to a level of modest competence under the tuition of a chaplain or other cleric,
and possibly from a grammar
master. They also learned courtly manners and, in attending to the needs of their master, a degree of temporary humility.
Medieval pages might accompany their lords to war. While their roles in battle were generally limited to secondary assistance and minor support functions, pages might expect to participate directly in siege situations. This could occur when a castle was under attack and crossbows
were available for use by pages among the defenders. The mechanical and long-range nature of these devices made them almost the only medieval weapon which could be employed effectively by a youth.
At age fourteen, the young noble could graduate to become a squire
, and by age 21, perhaps a knight himself. These boys were often the scions
of other great families who were sent to learn the ways of the manorial system by observation. Their residence in the house served as a goodwill gesture between the two families involved and helped them gain social and political contacts for their adult lives. A reference to this kind of page is found in the Christmas carol Good King Wenceslaus
: "Hither, page, and stand by me, if thou know'st it, telling..."
A page may also have shared the broad designation of quistroun
with various lower-status kitchen servants such as scullions or knaves.
The household page
Until the early 20th century, boys of humble background might gain a similar place in a great house. According to the International Butler Academy
, these pages were apprentice footmen
. Unlike the hall boys
, who did heavy work, these pages performed light odd-jobs and stood in attendance wearing livery
when guests were being received.
The decorative page
Painting of a page boy with silver collar, Dutch, 17th century.
During and following the Renaissance
, it became fashionable for black
boys and young men to be decorative pages, placed into fancy costumes and attending fashionable ladies
and lords. This custom lasted for several centuries and the "African page" became a staple accoutrement of baroque
The character is frequently illustrated in literature and film, particularly periodwork
While the traditional pages are rare in the modern private workforce, US television network NBC
's page program
is a notable example of contemporary workplace pages.
- ^ Luke, Harry (1949). Malta: An Account and an Appreciation. Harrap. p. 77.
- ^ Tuchman, Barbara W. A Distant Mirror - the Calamitous 14th Century. p. 52 & 62. ISBN 0-14-005407-3.
- ^ Chambers, David (1985). The English House. London: Guild Publishing. p. 34.
- ^ Page 27 BBC History Magazine July 2017
- ^ "quistroun - Middle English Compendium". quod.lib.umich.edu.
- ^ The Slave in European Art: From Renaissance Trophy to Abolitionist Emblem, ed Elizabeth McGrath and Jean Michel Massing, London (The Warburg Institute) and Turin 2012.
- ^ "Page Program". NBC. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
Last edited on 14 April 2021, at 07:48
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