By Elska á Fjárfelli
One of the more romantic sights of the Middle Ages is that of nobles riding horses, sporting birds of prey on their wrists to hunt small prey (anyone who has seen Ladyhawke knows exactly what I mean). The sport of falconry, or hawking, could be found throughout Europe but was reserved for those in power. Depending on their rank, different nobles were allowed to sport different species of birds:
An Eagle for an Emperor, a Gyrfalcon for a King; a Peregrine for a Prince, a Saker for a Knight, a Merlin for a Lady; a Goshawk for a Yeoman, a Sparrowhawk for a Priest, a Musket for a Holy water Clerk, a Kestrel for a Knave.” Selected from the Boke of St. Albans, 1486, and a Harleian manuscript – (1)
Falconry was a popular sport and status symbol among the nobles of medieval Europe, the Middle East, and Mongolian Empire. In this sport, the nobility would – supposedly – hunt small wild animals in their natural habitat with the use of a trained bird of prey. It is the common conception that falconry was largely restricted to the noble classes because of the commitment of time, money, and space. (2)(3) But what if there is another, more ominous, reason?
While at first this might be a bit far-fetched, the recent discovery that birds are not real sheds a different light on this nobility-only restricted “hobby.” Instead of hunting for small game – a suspicious activity for those in power with access to the best of the best foodstuffs anyway – what if instead the nobility were using their falcon-drones to keep a close eye on their subjects? We now know birds are not real; they are, in fact, drone replicas installed by the government to spy on their citizens, and thus this would be a viable conclusion.
The Birds Aren’t Real movement, started by Peter McIndoe from Memphis, US, posits that “birds don’t exist and are really drone replicas installed by the U.S. government to spy on Americans.” Hundreds of thousands of young people have joined the movement, wearing Birds Aren’t Real T-shirts, swarming rallies and spreading the slogan. (5)
Technology has come a long way for modern people to not realize this at once – modern bird-drones are so well done they are nearly indistinguishable from real animals. Really, it makes much more sense that homing pigeons are computer guided; of course, they do not find their way home by themselves, flying rats that they are! But back in medieval times, bird-drones were still in development – often, hoods or caps were used to hide any glitches in the software otherwise visible in their optical lenses.
Fortunately for this paper, even though the medieval government, like it’s modern counterpart, did its best to hide any and all evidence of fake birds and falcon-drones (falcrones? faldrones?), one Viking age warrior saw through the ruse and went medieval to bring down an early prototype with his spear. (6) Thanks to him, we now have proof, literally written in stone (7) as was the custom of recording history at the time (8), that falcon-drones are real! And birds are not. Or are they?!
Happy April Fool’s day!
- A Kestrel for a Knave (2015) by Medieval manuscripts blog of the British Library
- An approued treatise of hawkes and hawking (1619) by Edmund Bert
- Lathams Falconry: Or, The Faulcons Lure, and Cure (1633) by Simon Latham
- Fig 1 – Wikimedia Commons
- Birds Aren’t Real, or Are They? Inside a Gen Z Conspiracy Theory (2021) by Taylor Lorenz for The New York Times
- Middle Ages Reenactor Spears Drone Out Of The Sky – Unmanned Anachronistic Vehicle (2016) by Kelsey D. Atherton in Popular Science
- Fig 2 – Image Gallery
- The Viking-Age Rune-Stones: Custom and Commemoration in Early Medieval Scandinavia (2003) by Birgit Sawyer, published by Oxford University Press
Many “thank yous” go out to everyone who submitted something for the April Fool’s “Fake Research – Real Writing” challenge. Thank you for taking the time to read, and enjoy, each and every one of these articles. Aunt Æthel and I were most amused to read the creative thoughts of our artisans. We will judge all of the articles after they have been all posted on the Æthelmearc Gazette, and then announce the winner who will have the rights to brag about their win for the next year to anyone who would listen. – Caleb