Britain’s Falconry Heritage

From its earliest appearance in Britain, falconry has shaped our national art, literature and history and even, in many cases, our landscape and language.

The earliest British depiction of a falconer dates to around 675 AD and from medieval church and secular murals, Elizabethan and Jacobean portraits, through 18th century engravings and 19th century paintings to modern day falconer-artists, a strong tradition of the aesthetic pursuit of falconry, recognised in itself as an art, is evident in British artwork.

Our literature is full of references to falconry.  It features in Anglo-Saxon poetry, attained symbolic value as a metaphor for nobility, royalty, social hierarchies and courtly love throughout the Middle Ages and became immensely potent as a source of inspiration and analogy for Renaissance writers.  Shakespeare’s works are crammed with technical allusions, as are those of his contemporaries, whilst later authors such as Walter Scott used the sport to denote a sense of history.  Even to the present, falconers have contributed to British literature.

The sport’s linguistic impact on English is also highly significant.  Phrases such as “boozing,” “cadging/cad/codger” and “on the cadge,” “pulling the wool over” someone’s eyes and “queering one’s pitch” are just a few common phrases which originate in falconry, and some family and place names also owe their origins to the sport.