He who finds the bean in his serving becomes King for the rest of the night, and she (we hope) who finds the pea is declared Queen, and they hold sway over the rest of the festivities. Robert Herrick (1591-1674), a disciple of Ben Jonson, writes of the practise in his ‘Twelfe Night, or King and Queene’:
Now, now the mirth comesAn alternative tradition was to secret a penny in the cake, and he who found it was designated King and blessed all the rafters and beams at the festival site.
With the cake full of plums,
Where Beane's the King of the sport here
Besides we must know,
The Pea also
Must revell, as Queene, in the Court here.
Begin then to chuse,
(This night as ye use)
Who shall for the present delight here,
Be a King by the lot,
And who shall not
Be Twelfe-day Queene for the night here.
Which knowne, let us make
Joy-sops with the cake;
And let not a man then be seen here,
Who unurg'd will not drinke
To the base from the brink
A health to the King and Queene here.
Next crowne the bowle full
With gentle lambs-wooll;
Adde sugar, nutmeg and ginger,
With store of ale too;
And thus ye must doe
To make the wassaile a swinger.
Give then to the King
And Queene wassailing;
And though with ale ye be whet here;
Yet part ye from hence,
As free from offence,
As when ye innocent met here.
First served: Twelfth Night 1995
Last modified: © February 1995