Decadent Peacocks

Peacock garden 2Christina here. As some of you will have seen from our last newsletter, Wench Nicola and I recently visited Newark Park, a lovely Tudor hunting lodge in the wilds of Gloucestershire. It had a beautiful, sprawling garden, and apart from the amazing views, one of the best things about it were the resident peacocks. Those majestic birds always look like they own a place, strutting around and uttering their mournful cries every so often. It occurred to me that when describing a historical setting in a book, adding peacocks to the background immediately conveys a sense of luxury and decadence. They are not really useful birds (although perhaps they can be – more about that in a moment), just decorative and therefore an indulgence. If an author wants to demonstrate the fact that the hero/heroine is very rich, dotting their lawns with peacocks would be a good way to go about it. And who wouldn’t want some? They are truly stunning.

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PeacockSpring is advancing which means that in villages and stately homes across the length and breadth of the British Isles the mournful cry of the peacock will start to ring out, followed by various news stories about how bad-tempered and/or exhausted peacocks have been causing havoc. Last year there was Kevin, a mischievous peacock causing mayhem in a Derbyshire village, then we heard about Henry the peacock who was so tired of being the only male in a flock of peahens (exhausting work!) that he flew away for some rest.

The peacock is a familiar sight at many of our stately homes in the UK. This one was displaying Peacock 1 for us at Corsham Court in Wiltshire when we visited. The peacock is a native bird to India and was probably introduced into Britain by the Romans. It has many sacred connotations. The name derives from the Old English and the earliest example of it referred to in writing comes from 1300: “Foure and xxti wild ges and a poucock.” In the 14th century Chaucer first used the word to describe ostentatious people who strutted about and it still carries this meaning to this day. In art a peacock feather in a painting was used as a symbol of pride and vanity.

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