John Speller's Web Pages The Queen's College Boar's Head Carol

John Speller's Web Pages - Boar's Head Carols

The Queen's College Boar's Head Carol
At Queen's College annually at 5 p.m. on Christmas Day a boar's head is brought in procession from the kitchen to the Hall, and the celebrated old English carol is sung by a Precentor; the chorus in Latin is sung by the choir.

This version, as performed at the Queen's College in Oxford since at least the sixteenth century, is the most famous of the boar's head carols. Mention of being in Reginensi atrio makes this version specific to the Queen's College, but variant versions were used in other places. The following is found in the Commonplace Book of Richard Hill, c. 1536, Balliol College Library MS 354, which used the following text:

Capus apri refero,
Resonens laudes Domino.


The boris hed in hones I brynge,
With garlondes gay and byrdes syngyne;
I pray you all, helpe me to synge,
Qui estes in convivio.

The boris hede, I understone,
Ys cheff servyce in all this londe;
Whersoever it may be fonde,
Servitur cum sinapio.

The boris hede, I dare well say,
Anon after the xv th. [(sic.) ? xii th.] Day
He taketh his leve and goth away,
Exivit tunc de patria.

[Balliol College, Oxford, MS. 354, XVI cent.]

Another variant version is preserved in a single leaf from a book preserved in the Bodleian Library, the colophon of which reads: "Thus endeth the Christmasse carolles, newely inprinted at Londō, in the fletestrete, at the sygne of the sonne, by Wynkyn de Worde. The yere of our lorde M.D.xxi."

While the ceremony was generally held at Christmas in Oxford, St. John's College in Cambridge observed it on their patronal festival, St. John the Baptist's Day, December 27th.
Bringing in the Boar's Head at The Queen's College, Oxford, from the "Illustrated London News," 24 December 1846
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