Today’s objects of desire are a little bit of a misnomer, as what is broadly imagined to be the Gallic poultry in question simply didn’t exist in practical terms at the time that Mirth Without Mischief was published. In the first instance, for some 150 years or so, the rather generic name of ‘french hens’ has been applied to just one breed – the Faverolles - which was not formally catalogued until 1860. This, of course, is some eighty years after the publication of our source book which first set out the lyrics of the song.
What is far more likely to have been inferred by the name as used in The Twelve Days of Christmas is a type of hen which was simply unknown to the lyricist in question. The long-standing enmity between England and France which, by this point in time, had endured for some eight hundred years, had resulted in anything which was considered to be in anyway suspicious, unknowable or untrustworthy to be termed as ‘French’, with no regard at all being given to the thusly belittled entity ever having been remotely near France whatsoever.
A collection of three domesticated fowl is also – outwardly - a rather curious thing to be included in gift-list for one’s beloved, at Christmas or any other time of year, but a little digging through the lexicon of 18th century French folk tales does throw up a character by the name of “Pollacco – le poulet d’amour” – the chicken of love. It may not be conclusive, but it’s worth remembering that the Georgian’s had an abiding love of crude word-play and smutty allusion – witness the range of Worcester porcelain decorated with milkmaids and ploughmen with all the ribaldry that was intended to suggest. It’s entirely within the realms of possibility that anything hinting at ‘cocks and hens’ would have prompted much sniggering and many knowing winks, and been considered very fair game indeed for the songsmiths of the time.
So, perhaps the appearance of ‘French hens’ is not quite the mystery it was as first glance, and fully merited inclusion in a list of potential ‘romantic gifts’, all we have to do now is find some for you. This, for once, is quite straight forward, as we had a signed Delvaux Paris carafe, dating to around 1930, which is decorated with what can only be described as French hens. The company produced their own glass and ceramics, and decorated them with the intention of supplying Parisian cafes,, bars and restaurants.
Carafes for dispensing water were an integral part of French café society, as they were used to dilute ‘pastis’ which was the successor to absinthe, filling the craving for aniseed-flavoured liquor after ‘the green fairy’ was banned for visiting the same chronic, nationwide malaise as the gin craze had done to the UK in the 18th century (and later) .

As you're here, why not take advantage of our Christmas Sale – select anything you want on the entire store, and use the code TWELVEDAYS in the shopping cart to get 12% off the marked price – the promotion runs until January 6th, so take your time and browse through the very many items we have listed.

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