Gradually, new tastes emerge.  Farce and off-colour jokes continue to amuse only the vulgar.  All those who pride themselves on having good taste demand more refined entertainments.  However, during the reign of Louis XIV, a few wits gave themselves the mission of correcting abuses and reforming fashionable language, by ridiculing it.

The members of the new company, forseeing that they would be criticised and called empty-headed (literally “light-headed” in French) thought it appropriate to take a lead skullcap as their emblem.  This led them to be known as the Regiment de la calotte (the Skullcap Regiment).

Here is how this new company was born.  It resembled the Mad Mother Company in that it was composed only of persons of quality, occupying the highest dignities of the kingdom.

Toward the end of the reign of Louis XIV, Mr de Torsac, Exempt from the Bodyguards, Mr Aimont, Cloak-Bearer to the King, and other officers, having made multiple jokes about a violent headache suffered by one of them, offer to provide the patient with a lead skullcap.  The conversation becoming heated, they decide to create a regiment, composed exclusively of people distinguished by the extravagance of their discourse or by their actions.  They name it the Skullcap Regiment, in memory of the lead skullcap.

The joke is taken so far as to have standards made and medals minted in the name of this institution, while the best wits put into verse the certificates which the regiment distributes to all those who have done something blatantly stupid.

To be received into the regiment, one must first prove one’s quality.  Villains are not admitted.  Then, custom requires that a speech in verse, detailing all of his faults, be delivered by the candidate, in front of the assembly.

The Skullcap Regiment had only a fleeting existence.  Its scoffing, innocent in the beginning, will become an intolerable mockery, and order has to be restored.

The Skullcappers go to join the Fools, the Mad Mothers and the Cornards in the nether regions of oblivion.

Advertisements