Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Whiggery in the Hunt

Hunting was quite the popular sport among the gentry in 18th century. There was nothing the boys loved more than racing around on horses in the woods with a pack of hounds. Then of course you could have a party afterward. There was also the hunting lodge which would allow for a more masculine decor to counter-balance the main house's feminine interiors. See, there was just so many fun aspects of the sport! France preferred the stag hunt, but England was becoming quite enamored with something that would come to be quintessentially English, the fox hunt.

As you probably well know, the fox hunt wasn't merely going out in the woods with a gun, oh no. You got all dressed up in your riding gear, got a bunch of buddies together with suitable mounts, collected your multitudes of baying dogs, and set out into the woods. Once the dogs caught the scent of a fox, or quarry, the hunt was on its way.

The people who became the most fond of foxhunting tended to be the more conservative crowd. The Whig party was quick to point this out, painting fox hunters as stuffy Tories who amused themselves with these trivial activities because they were rich men with nothing constructive to do. As historian Jane Ridley puts it, "The Whig caricature stuck. Country gentleman equals Tory equals fox hunting equals stupid is an association of ideas which still persists." Well, as with the typical Whig-Tory fight, the Tories had their own spunky comeback. They began referring to the quarry as "Charlie," named after the one any only, Charles James Fox. Fitting, no?

The Tories got the last laugh, though. To this day in English fox hunting, the fox is referred to as "Charlie."

6 comments:

nightsmusic said...

Such a beautiful creature, that fox. We have them come through the yard occasionally. My dogs just watch them come and go.

Stupid dogs...

Ms. Lucy said...

Haha! What an entertaining post! I didn't know that it was favoured by the 'other side';) Thanks!

Heather Carroll said...

@nightmusic, They are such a rare sight for me! I nearly drive off the road every time I get a glimpse of them.

@Lucy, Ha! The "other side," love it

Bearded Lady said...

awwwwww he's a cutie. We have tons of foxes in our area. I always think they are so adorable until I see one carrying a small creature in his mouth (sometimes a poor cat.) They are good hunters too!

Rosel said...

When we banned the 'sport' it was, of course, the Tories who opposed the ban the most. 8)

Heather Carroll said...

@BL, Oo yes, a cat could be somewhat traumatizing!

@Rosel, Ha! Some things just never change, do they?