Calves' Head Club

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Calves Head Club was a club established in derision of the memory of Charles I of England shortly after his death. Its chief meeting was held on each 30 January, the anniversary of the king's execution.[1]

The dishes served were a cod's head to represent Charles Stuart; a pike representing tyranny; a boar's head representing the king preying on his subjects; and calves' heads representing Charles I and his supporters. On the table an axe held the place of honour. After the banquet a copy of the Eikon Basilike was burnt, and a toast was made "To those worthy patriots who killed the tyrant". After the Restoration, the club met secretly. The first mention of it is in a tract reprinted in the Harleian Miscellany entitled "The Secret History of the Calves Head Club". The club survived till 1734, when the diners were mobbed owing to the popular ill-feeling which their outrages on good taste provoked, and the riot which ensued put a final stop to the meetings.[1]

1 February 1735 Thursday in the evening a disorder of a very particular nature happened in Suffolk-street: ’Tis said that several young gentlemen of distinction having met at a house there, call’d themselves the Calf’s-Head Club; and about seven o’clock a bonfire being lit up before the door, just when it was in the height, they brought a calf’s-head to the window dress’d in a napkin-cap, and after some Huzza’s, threw it into the fire: The mob were entertained with strong-beer, and for some time halloo’d as well as the best; but taking a disgust at some healths which were proposed, grew so outrageous, that they broke all the windows, forc’d themselves into the house, and would probably have pull’d it down, had not the Guards been sent for to prevent further mischief. The damage done within and without the house, is computed at some hundred pounds. The Guards were posted all night in the street, for the security of the neighbourhood.

— Weekly Oracle.[2]


  1. ^ a b  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Calves' Head Club". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  2. ^ Rictor Norton in 'Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports: A Sourcebook'

Further reading[edit]

  • Hunt, Leigh, ed. (1834). ""Monthly supplement to London Journal and the Feinting Machine, July 31, 1835."". Leigh Hunt's London journal, Volumes 1-2. C. Knight. p. 241. 
  • Orihel, Michelle, '“Treacherous Memories” of Regicide: The Calves‐Head Club in the Age of Anne,' Historian, 73,3 (2011), 435–462.