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This is a rare Tudor period silver hawking whistle, dating the 16th - 17th century. It is intact and still blows a strong high pitch whistle, very similar to a hawks screech.
Hawking or falconry whistles from the Medieval and Tudor period are excessively rare with only four other examples in silver listed on the online PAS reports. None are gilded or comparable in refinement to our example. Examples have also been found made of pewter or brass, but silver however gives the best sound. They are also referred to as a short buson-type whistle or as a whistle pendant, (see the portrait of Sir Nicholas Bacon, 1579, by an unknown artist, in the National Portrait Gallery). Being worn as jewellery, sewn onto your garments, they could also be used to summon servants and hounds. In the case of falconry, the bird is whistled off after removing the hood and slipping the jessie that held the bird to the wrist.
Birds of prey were used originally in Medieval times to capture quarry, goshawks were trained to catch hare, rabbits and pheasants, gyrfalcons caught rook and heron. During the reign of Edward III, when at war with France, the King took with him 30 falconers. Gyrfalcons and peregrines were reserved for the nobility with Henry VIII a principal advocate of falconry; there is an important gold hawking whistle in the Victoria and Albert Museum given by Henry VII to Anne Boleyn. Grand hunting parties were hosted by Kings and Lords, and hawking became an essential element of personal and national prestige, with retained falconers accompanied their masters, and the ‘Master of the Mews’ position reserved for the King’s best falconer. Around 1600, falconry reached its zenith and was regarded as the proper sport for a gentleman. By the 17th century, the success of firearms eventually superseded the demand for falconry as a hunting tool.
A rare object in excellent condition. see also lot 282 DNW sale for a similar but decorated example.
OBJECT: Hawking whistle
DATE: c. 1550 - 1650 A.D.
SIZE: 41mm x 13mm x 3mm
WEIGHT: 2.43 grams
PROVENANCE: Ex. Private Collection, Gloucestershire.