Feather Balancing from Rye – 1

Excerpt from the book 40 Humourous British Traditions. Is British humour your cup of tea? Britain has many well documented, yet strange traditions. This book describes 40 more traditions in a similar vein, all of which are less well known. Get ready for interesting characters, thought-provoking ideas, and strange events – all of which are fiction!

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The Feather Balancing contest has been held in Rye every September 7th since 1673 and was originally begun to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the visit of Elizabeth I to the town. The contest was created because of the local fable that one of the Queen’s peacock feathers blew off her costume and was picked up by a local farmer Walter de Groote, who went down on one knee and returned the feather back to Elizabeth. She remarked how wonderful it was that de Groote could balance the feather on the end of his finger. De Groote replied that he could balance a feather on other parts of his anatomy too “if she wulde like to watche.”

De Groote was detained in the Tower of London for 25 years for his impertinence and was lucky to escape with his head. It was rumoured that the ravens kept away from his cell as de Groote would take any opportunity to steal feathers from them to practice his art.

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