The Influential Jester
(c. 1722, Saxony)
Here at Scribblewits, we’ve talked about female court jesters before. First there was Jane Foole of England, who had lots of shoes and expensive clothes. Then there was France’s Mathurine de Vallois, who helped fight off Henry IV’s would-be assassin.
And today we have Kathrine-Lisa, “the duly-appointed jokeress.”
There’s barely any information about her, but here’s what I’ve scraped together.
In 18th century Saxony, in the castle of Drehna, there was a curious little court belonging to a German widow, Duchess von Sachsen Weissenfels Dahme. (Say that three times fast.)
Her court jester, Katherine-Lisa, “appears to have been the most influential member of the duchess’ establishment.”
What does “influential” mean, exactly? Was Katherine-Lisa an influencer of her time? Did she promote questionable wellness products, model trendy petticoats, or perform courtly TikTok dances? Was the duchess’ castle the Hype House of its day??
Probably not. But I can dream.
It seems Duchess von Sachsen Weissenfels Dahme was a litigious woman. One of her lawsuits was against Lieutenant-Colonel Flemming, a military guy who had a band and would regularly entertain at court. (One of the musicians even had a BAGPIPE that looked like a WOLF with GLASS EYES? The 18th century. What a time to be alive, friends.)
Anyway. A feud broke out because the duchess’ huntsman shot a deer, and the lieutenant claimed it was on his property. Pissed off, the duchess cut down some trees on the disputed land. Even more pissed off, the lieutenant armed a bunch of his soldiers and kidnapped the duchess’ bailiff. That's when the duchess sued the lieutenant.
In a bid to quiet the turmoil, the lieutenant’s cousin came to town and took away all of the lieutenant’s soldiers and guns. But still the duchess was not satisfied! She demanded the lieutenant make a public apology, which he did. AND EVEN THAT WAS NOT ENOUGH.
The matter would not be considered settled until the court jester, Katherine-Lisa, was given a peace offering of a single “fat sheep.”
Truly, a woman of influence!
Katherine-Lisa is sometimes referred to as the last official court jestress, but I’ve spotted one in an Istanbul harem in the 1850s, so I hesitate to give her that title.