A helpful guide to Pembroke Life

(adapted from the original Statues and Ordinances of Pembroke College, Issued and Ordained in the Year of our Lord 1347 after Earnest and Mature Deliberation)

Negotiating the host of rules and expectations that make up Cambridge Life is a daunting labour as old as Pembroke College itself. Though they have withered over time into a more tentative set of technicalities, the College’s Statues and Ordinances were once the go-to reference for how its members were expected to behave. Adapted from that original set of rules, here are some humble suggestions which the very first Valencians might have been wise to follow. Perhaps there’s a case that this ancient wisdom is still the best.

DO speak Latin, at all times, everywhere. It was the responsibility of the Dean of Chapel to ensure that this rule be observed, even in public places. That went for the Fellows too, though only at the dinner table, and they were allowed to break it had they invited non-Latinist guests.

DO get a haircut with the College Barber. By the Ss&Os he was required to Diligently and Honestly provide his services for the most reasonable price he was able, and had to swear an oath promising to do just that.

DO be French. When electing fellows, preference was given to citizens of the Kingdom of France, presumably a relic of the Foundress’ French ancestry. Admittedly this didn’t apply to the students, who were usually sourced from parishes linked to the College, but if you’re looking to stay beyond the usual three years a little French blood might come in handy.

DO report your DoS if they drink too much. The Warden (equivalent to today’s Master) was keen to know whether any of the Fellows had become a drunkard, and all members of College had to swear to pass on any rumours they had heard. In addition to straight-up drinking, this could be about a fellow who frequented Taverns or Improper Shows, or kept Notoriously Vicious Company.

DO show up for Disputations. These were a weekly affair in which members of the College debated (in Latin, of course) a pressing issue in Theology or the Liberal Arts. Luckily this process is now considered a less essential aspect of the Cambridge education, and attendance at the Union is no longer compulsory.

DON’T spread the College Secrets. That is, apart from when they ought to be spread. You’ll learn soon enough.

DON’T prowl about by night. Being a nocturnus grassator, as is the original Latin, will lead to your reproval by the Warden, and expulsion from the College altogether should you fail to abstain thereafter. Equally forbidden is being addicted to the games of Dice or Painted Cards, or being caught in any act of fornication.

DON’T converse uselessly in the Chapel. It was another responsibility of the Dean to prevent Useless Conversation during services, in addition to Garrulous Talking and Other Vanities. Disputations were also banned; keep those for Fridays.

DON’T provoke the Fellows to anger. You’d think this one was a matter of common decency, but the College took it so seriously that they could take away your monetary allowance for a month. As a lowly Junior Scholar that allowance would include four shillings and fourpence each year for clothing, but as a Fellow you’d get twenty each quarter for the purchase of Gowns and Other Necessary Purposes.

If you’re as interested as you should be in the treasure-trove of Pembroke Secrets that is the source, a digitized copy of Early Cambridge University and College Statutes, in the English Language may be found on archive.org.