OOTGROOT, FLANDERS—A peasant wedding in the Flemish town of Ootgroot degenerated into a drunken melee Friday, leaving several dead and the town's butter churn overturned.
The wedding, described by observers as "coarse" and "picaresque," was quelled by the dawn of the Sabbath, but not before several in the wedding party perished and swine ran amok in the cornfield.
"Not since the Inquisition have I witnessed such unbridled carnage," said Boort der Dyck, local magistrate and owner of a fine yearling ass.
The wedding of Margrethe, daughter of Jan the Beekeeper, and Pieter, an apprentice harness-maker, happened to fall on the Feast of St. Anthony, patron saint of swineherds and bell-ringers. It is believed that this may have intensified the drunken revelry amongst guests. A great sheep's-bladder of cider was brought up from Antwerp for the occasion, and pipers were engaged to make merry music.
According to reports, vows were scarcely finished when the peasants began to fight over the cauldron of swill that served as the wedding repast. The abundance of cider and the pipers' ever-present melodies soon drove the peasants into a frenzy of mad whirling, gluttony and prankish behavior.
"Mies the Swineherd ripped his codpiece dancing about," said Grete, wife of Franck the Butcher. "And Joost the Dullard tied a bell to Puss' tail and dropped her in the well."
Delirious from the increasing mayhem, wedding patrons urinated out the windows of their thatched hovels, smashed earthenware jugs and whacked blind beggars with gourds.
The already-explosive situation soon deteriorated when a brawl broke out between members of the bride's and groom's families over the ownership of a pheasant.
"Pieter's clan argued that it now belonged to them because it was part of Margrethe's dowry, which Margrethe's family denied," Grete said. "Soon both parties were drubbing each other with their great meaty fists, which they scarcely felt because they were so full of the cider."
So disturbed was Erasmus van Ghent, burgomaster of Ootgroot, that he called upon a local garrison of Spanish mercenaries to put down the chaos. Witnesses report that the Spaniards took to their work with relish, impaling many with pikes, severing codpieces and setting huts ablaze. Within minutes of the Spaniards' arrival, the peasants scattered to parts unknown, and a relieved van Ghent rewarded the garrison with guilders and sacks of saltpeter.
"Plague take these sinners, and their ungodly ways," van Ghent said. "Such coarse, loutish behavior on the part of the lower classes is not to be tolerated."
Holy Roman Emperor Charles V could not be reached for comment.