10 Extinct Job Titles

Court Jester
This early 15th century drawing shows a king with his jester. Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

When you think about court jesters, they're kind of, well, funny. Can you imagine President Barack Obama employing a silly man to jump around and make him laugh when he's feeling down? Yet in medieval times, jesters did just that. (Obama might have to make do with Comedy Central instead).

Jesters, also known as buffoons, clowns and fools, were likely employed before the Middle Ages, although they're most often linked with that time frame. Back then, their job was to make sure the king and the members of his court weren't too stressed, and that they regularly amused. To achieve this goal, jesters performed some tricks and acrobatics, as well as told jokes. They dressed in a goofy fashion, donning tight pants with the legs made of different colored cloth, a ragtag coat and a hat resembling donkey ears or else with little bells attached. Jesters satirized anyone and everyone. While they were typically male, some women became jesters to queens [sources: Newman, Cotswalds].

Jesters were usually well-educated and considered beloved family members. They often wielded a fair amount of power in the court and were some of the few people who could openly criticize and mock the nobility of the period [source: Newman]. The last court jester in Europe was apparently Dicky Pearce, fool to the Earl of Suffolk. Pearce died in 1728 and was buried in the earl's family churchyard [source: Cotswalds].