4 and 20 Blackbirds

4 and 20 Blackbirds

February 17, 1454 - It was a lavish party on this day that may have inspired a popular nursery rhyme.

Duke of Burgundy, also known as Philip the Good, loved to put on a big party. He was the mastermind behind the Order of the Golden Fleece, which was basically a group of monarchs who could meet and agree on matters of common interest or to settle disputes. It was modeled after the military round tables of the crusades, but in reality this group's main function was to organize extravagant events and tournaments.

One of the legendary parties thrown by Philip the Good was an impressive banquet called The Feast of the Pheasant. During the feast, the guests were entertained with a series of live acts including an elephant, a horse that rode backwards and an orchestra of 24 musicians who performed inside a giant pie.

At some point during the celebration, the Order of the Golden Fleece took an oath to wage a crusade against the Turks who had seized Constantinople. It was a promise they would not keep, but the party was one they would never forget. Some say this decadent display and its empty promise are satirized in the Mother Goose nursery rhyme, Sing a Song of Sixpence:

Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye.
Four and twenty blackbirds,
Baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened,
The birds began to sing;
Wasn't that a dainty dish,
To set before the king?
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