- In the medieval universities, a servant of a 'nation' or faculty (each of which companies elected two, an upper and a lower, termed the esquire bedel and the yeoman bedel, terms showing the classes from which they were chosen), whose duties were to apportion the 'schools' or lecture-rooms and the chapters of the colleges and halls, to cry the days and hours of the lectures, to publish and carry out the decrees of the company, to march before the rector, dean, or proctor with a silver mace on occasions of ceremony.
Salaried officers of the company were a secretary, a bookkeeper, a husband (or as we would say, an accountant), and a bedel or messenger.
If man be but a bedel [herald, crier] he shall rowt [Shout] like a lion the first day; and a prince's charetter [charioteer] shall be a full braver [finer, more showy] man than the prince his master.
From a notice of the year 1432 it transpires that the bedels received one-twelfth of all fines inflicted for misdemeanours; and, in 1434, prior to the admission of inceptors, the Chancellor announced that each inceptor would be required to pay the ordinary fee of thirty shillings and a pair of buckskin gloves for each bedel, or, in lieu of gloves, five shillings to be divided among the bedels.
'Bedel' has the alternate spelling of 'beadle' and comes from the Old English 'bydel,' meaning herald or messenger.