The HurdyGurdy was invented at the court of Alfonso el Sabio, Alphonse the Wise, king of the kingdom of Galicia.
The instrument was played by angels, noble ladies and even kings and monks.

See The Mynstrels Tale for the true legend of the invention of the Hurdy-Gurdy.

An early Hurdy-Gurdy, called the Symphonie, was so large, two kings were needed to play it!
By the end of the Middle Ages the Hurdy-Gurdy falls from respectability to become an instrument played by shepherds and itinerant beggars. Often, though not always, these hurdy-gurdy beggars were blind or lame.
By the 16th Century, the Hurdy-Gurdy is also one of the instruments favored by Old Mister Bones, seen here playing music for his Danse Macabre.
Even a satyric devil has a go at the crank while a blind beggar is lead by his dog, followed by taunting children.
By the 17th Century the lowly blind Hurdy-Gurdyman, his dog lying patiently at his feet, begins to be appreciated for his nobility of spirit, as seen in these paintings by George de la Tour.
Here is the legendary Hurdy-Gurdy Man Zannino Zalulo In Autumn of 1687, he walked and played Il Ballo di Brighella a wandering and demented dance melody from his native Bergamo.
Can you see he Hurdy-Gurdyin the water, near the fallen blind beggar?
Brothers playing Hurdy-Gurdy and fiddle.
The Hurdy-Gurdy Man grows old and dies poor.
The persistance of the Hurdy-Gurdy Man as Blind Beggar is remarkable.
Even monkeys can play!
By the end of the 17th Century the fortunes of the Hurdy-Gurdy Man, and the many Hurdy-Gurdy Ladies, begins to change. In France and other Lands, the Hurdy-Gurdy is played by nobles and fashionable young ladies.