Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday 26 April 2013

Imperial memorabilia

A silver lock of Austrian emperor Franz Joseph's hair has sold for almost £9,000 at auction in Vienna.
A lock of Emperor Francis Joseph I of Austria's hair 
Image: ALEXANDER KLEIN/AFP/Getty Images/Daily Telegraph

Today's Daily Telegraph has a report about an auction sale in Vienna at which a lock of hair of the Emperor Francis Joseph sold for the equivalent of £8,900, and other mementos of the Emperor, such as a pair of cuff-links, were also snapped up, as indeed was a ring linked to the Corsican Ogre. The report can be seen here.

Wednesday 24 April 2013

St George Altarpiece

Fr Blake's post for yesterday, Dragon Slaying Glorious Martyr, featured the St George Altarpiece from Valencia of circa 1420 which is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum. I have posted before using the main painting of the saint as dragon slayer, but thought I would post the a picture of the whole composition as a further example of depictions of the story of the martyr saint:

The St George Altarpiece

Image:Victoria and Albert Museum

This large altarpiece is a fine example of the Valencian school during the International Gothic Style in the first quarter of the 15th century. It was traditionally attributed to the German painter established in Valencia, Andrès Marçal de Sas (ca.1393-1410) although this attribution is still subject to debate and leads to more cautiously call the artist responsible for this work 'Master of the Centenar' according to the provenance of the retable most likely executed for the chapel of the Confraternity of the Centenar de la Ploma.

The altarpiece illustrates the legend of the St George. It is composed of three superimposed central panels surmounted by the Holy Spirit and Christ enthroned flanked by two prophets. On each side are depicted ten scenes of the life of the saint, combining two different narrative cycles: the victory of St George against the dragon and the martyrdom of the saint. The predella panel illustrates ten scenes of the Passion of Christ.

St George slaying the dragon
Image: Victoria and Albert Museum

Relics of St George

Yesterday evening I went to Mass in the extraordinary Form at SS Gregory and Augustine here in Oxford to mark the Solemnity of St George. Following the celebration we were invited back to the altar rail to venerate a relic of St George, which we all did. This obviously gave a greater sense of immediacy to the celebration of the nation's patron saint, although it must be conceded that the reliquary was rather less splendid than this example from the Wittelsbach collection at the Residenz in Munich:

Picture: Statuette of St George

The Statuette of St George

Image: Residenz Munich
The statuette, made of gold, enamel, silver-gilt, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, opals, agate, chalcedony, rock crystal, other precious stones and  pearls, and standing 50 cm high, was made in Munich between 1586 and 1597 to house a relic of St George that Archbishop Ernst of Cologne sent in 1586 to his brother Duke Wilhelm V of Bavaria. The bearded face of the saint behind the movable visor is carved from boxwood and resembles that of the man who commissioned the statuette, Duke Wilhelm V.

In the seventeenth century, the statuette was displayed on important feast days on the altar of the Reiche Kapelle (Ornate Chapel) in the Munich Residenz.

From the foundation in 1726 of the Royal Military Order of Saint George for the Defence of the Faith and the Immaculate Conception the reliquary featured in the celebrations of the Order, which still exists and about which there is an online account here.

The Grand Master of the Order is the Bavarian Sovereign and Head of the House of Wittelsbach.

King Ludwig II of Bavaria

King Ludwig II in the robes of Grand Master of the Order

Image:bundesliga. the offside.com

Tuesday 23 April 2013

St George in art - dragon slaying and martyrdom

Over the centuries St George has been an immensely popular saint, and consequently many artists have received commissions to depict him. I have posted about some of these, and about devotion to him, in previous years in St George's Day, Hymn to St George, St George, St George and the Dragon and St George at Fordington.Here are a few more which caught my eye as I looked on the internet.

When he is not shown as a standing, solitary figure the most usual image of St George is, of course, that of him slaying the dragon. More than the Renaissance and Baroque versions I particularly like the late medieval depictions of the event, such as this one:

Image of St George taken from the Book of Hours

An image of St George taken from a Book of Hours, Use of Sarum,
Pink Canopies Group, Bruges, circa 1390-1400, 197 x 123 mm, Sloane MS 2683, f. 14v
Copyright © The British Library Board

Here is one of 1432-5 by Roger van der Weyden, now in the National Gallery in Washington:

Fitxer:Rogier van der Weyden - Saint George and the Dragon, NGA, Washington.jpg

Image; ca.wikipedia

or this one, now in Chicago, by the fifteenth century Catalan artist Bernat Martorell and dated to 1434-5:


Image: Wikipedia

Part of the appeal of such paintings is the delight in details of contemporary life - hence I suppose my own interest as a historian of the period. Renaissance painters tended towards a more idealised style, sometimes with results they may not have entirely intended.

Thus this standing figure of the saint by Carlo Crivelli from 1472 is undoubtedly a beautiful painting, and expresses the concept of George as a pure and noble youth, but to modern eyes it does look, well, a little effete...:


Image: Wikipedia

There is something of both traditions, of the late medieval gothic and the classicised ideal, in this painting in the Accademia in Venice by Andrea Mantegna of circa 1460:

The story of St George's martyrdom itself has produced fewer pictures, perhaps because his Acta seems too fantastical. Here is one of him being dragged to his  execution, again by Martorell:

Image: Wikipedia
I was interested to find this following one online. It shows the saint being roasted in a brazen bull, then dragged through the streets, before being beheaded and buried:

File:16th-century unknown painters - Scenes from the Legend of St George - WGA23611.jpg

The martyrdom of St George
Unknown artist, Bruges 1500-1510, now in the

Image: Wikipedia

The martyrdom did attract later artists, but their more epic and florid style is one I tend to find less appealing, historically and artistically as well as devotionally.

Praying to St George

John Duke of Bedford, Regent of France, kneels in prayer before St George. The saint is shown wearing the mantle of a Knight of the Garter. The Garter can be seen below his left knee.

From the Bedford Book of Hours


This part of the manuscript can be dated to 1423-30. The Book of Hours is now in the British Library as Addnl.MS 18850. There is an online article about the Bedford Hours here.

The extremely useful biography of the Duke by Jenny Stratford from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography can be read here, and there is a shorter online account with some useful links here.

May St George pray for all those nations and foundations under his patronage.

Sunday 21 April 2013

Happy birthday Ma'am

Today is the birthday of Her Majesty The Queen and this post is simply to express my loyal and warm good wishes on the 87th anniversary of her birth.

As so often when sending birthday wishes to my own friends I find I have missed those of others, and this is true of two other recent birthdays of public figures I admire and respect, and who happen to share the same birthday on April 16th. So I would also wish to express my good wishes also to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who was 86 that day, and to Her Majesty the Queen of Denmark, who was 73.

Friday 19 April 2013

Duke Louis of Orleans - recovering a portrait

My attention has been drawn by a post on the Medieval Religion discussion group site to the latest edition of the online journal Pereginations: Journal of Medieval Art and Architecture. Vol. IV/No. 1 is now accessible at http://peregrinations.kenyon.edu

If you click and enter, and then scroll down the contents page you can find a lot of good things. The main features are on medieval cartography, both practical and symbolic.

Amongst recent discoveries reported upon are the remains of a model for the dome of Florence cathedral which had been found near the Duomo in Discovered: Scale Model of Florence Cathedral Dome, a report on a find of a piece of personal devotional jewellery from Essex in 16th-century Locket found by 3-year old on Display at the British Museum and coverage of a survey of Curses, Musical Scores, and Jonah: Archaeologists' Quest to Decipher Medieval Graffiti Scrawled of Norwich Cathedral

My eye was particularly taken by the discovery, under overpainting, by restorers at the Prado of a portrait of Duke Louis I of Orleans on a devotional painting. The Duke was the brother of King Charles VI, and his assassination in 1407 fuelled the downward spiral in internal French politics at the beginning of the fifteenth century. It can be read at Portrait of Louis I of Orléans Found in The Agony in the Garden.

As someone particularly interested in the period I have copied a picture of the recovered and restored figure of the Duke from the History Blog website to which the article is linked. It is reminder of what can be recovered by proper care and conservation.


St Agnes and Duke Louis I of Orleans
Image: Pereginations/The History Blog/Prado

King Henry V and Lady Thatcher

I am currently re-reading Keith Dockray's The Warrior King: the Life of Henry V. This  is a useful contribution to Henrician studies, with an emphasis on the historiography of the King and the nature of the contemporary and near- contemporary sources. The author is perhaps not as much an enthusiastic partisan for the King as some other biographers have been, and it is very much a political biography. He has a strong sense that we see Henry through the prism of his own propaganda as received by both friend and foe, and perhaps he does not give enough weight to the points that both the King and his contemporaries were mentally constrained by the times in which they lived, thinking and acting as men of their times faced by situations as they understood them.

Thinking on these lines began to lead me to think about the similarities with Lady Thatcher who has dominated the news media in the days since her death, and the numerous articles assessing her and her legacy. Here too the debate is formulated by her advocacy of her political position over the years.

Cartoonists not infrequently depicted her as Boadicea, Joan of Arc or Queen Elizabeth I, and these were not inapposite choices for a woman political leader, but I began to see that she had not a little in common with the perception of the victor of Agincourt.

That notion was reinforced particularly by the images of her coffin lying in the chapel of St Mary Undercroft at Westminster, which is one of the surviving parts of the Palace of Westminster which the King would have known.

One cannot push the similarities too far of course, but iron as an adjective was used for King Henry V by several contemporary writers, and the Soviet nickname of the Iron Lady became a badge of honour for Margaret Thatcher.

Both were conviction politicians, but ones who, on the whole, combined taht with prudence and preparedness. Both had luck - be it at Agincourt, internal French faction and Montereau, or Michael Foot, Neil Kinnock, Labour infighting and the SDP, not to mention Arthur Scargill. Both knew how to use that luck and to seize the opportunity to achieve what they wanted. Both could, and did, catch the  mood of the country. The technical skill of the Falklands campaign would have, no doubt, have attracted the approval of the Lancastrian King, who would have had the same fixity of purpose in asserting the claim to sovereignty. Both won the respect of many of their opponents as formidable and committed champions of their cause. Both were perhaps unique in their times by reason of their personality, abilities and achievements.

Thursday 18 April 2013

The funeral of Lady Thatcher

I was not able to watch the funeral of Lady Thatcher on television, so I have been dependent on pictures and reports in the papers and on the internet. Talking today to a friend who is an Anglican clergyman, and indeed a former Royal Navy chaplain, who had watched the service, we agreed that it displayed the best of British state ceremonial, carried out impeccably, with a dignified Anglican liturgy.

As a former Anglican, who can certainly still appreciate the dignity of such occasions and their appeal to a disciplined sense of tradition rooted in shared, if not always expressed, beliefs I would have expected nothing other. It is the type of liturgy St Paul's does well on such occasions. The pity is the disjunction between politicians at prayer in church and politicians in action in Parliament.

I was interested to see posts from Fr Tim Finigan, with Thoughts on the Funeral Service for Baroness Thatcher , and from Fr Ray Blake with Mrs T and the Fannon , which, with the comments upon them, drew attention to these points from the viewpoint of Catholic priests with a genuine concern for liturgical excellence and its importance in the life of the faithful. They made me realise how my Anglican background makes me expect such things in away that many Catholics in this country would not.

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Late return of a Lacock library book

Lacock Abbey was a house of Augustinian canonesses in Wiltshire. Dedicated to St Mary and St Bernard it was founded in 1229 by the widowed Ela Countess of Salisbury. At the dissolution it became a  private house which incorporates much of the monastic buildings. Since 1944 it has belonged to the National Trust and is open to the public.

There is an online introduction to its history here and the VCH Wiltshire account of the medieval abbey can be read be read here.

There are only two manuscripts surviving from the medieval library of Lacock Abbey and they made up Lots 11 and 12 at a recent Christie's sale.

The descriptions from the Christie's catalogue:
Lot 11
William Brito or Guillaume Le Breton (mid-13th century)
Expositiones Vocabulorum Biblie, in Latin
Decorated Manuscript on Vellum
Estimate: £30,000 - 40,000
Lot 12
Treatises In Anglo-Norman Verse: opening with Walter of Bibbesworth (c.1219-c.1270), Le tretiz, with interlineations and side-notes in Middle English
Decorated Manuscript on Vellum
England, probably first half 14th century
Estimate: £90,000 - 120,000

The Expositiones Vocabulorum Biblie was bought by the National Trust and is now on display at the abbey, as can be seen in a BBC report which can be seen here.

The vernacular manuscript was bought by the Antiquarian booksellers Bernard Quaritch Ltd.

Thursday 11 April 2013

Cross Neith - Y Groes Naid

In my last post I referred to the Cross Neith, and thought I would edit together the entry on Wikipedia - which knows nothing of its history after 1283 -  and some archive articles on the excellent website of St George's Chapel at Windsorto give an account of this once famous and treasured relic.

The Cross of Neith or Cross Gneth (Welsh:Y Groes Naid or Y Groes Nawdd) was a relic believed to be a fragment of the True Cross which had been kept at Aberconwy by the kings and princes of Gwynnedd, members of the Aberffraw dynasty who established the Principality of Wales They believed it afforded them and their people divine protection. Aberconwy had a Cistercian abbey, whose remains are thought to be incorporated in the present parish church of Conway which replaced it as part of King Edward I's series of new towns and castles, and the monks were transferred to a new site at Maenan, further up the river Conwy. With them they took the stone coffin and bones of Prince Llywelyn the Great - the coffin can still be seen in the church at Llanwrst.

The origins of the Cross Gneth, also known as the Croes Naid, remain obscure. It was a reliquary containing a piece of wood believed to be from the True Cross on which Christ had died. It may have derived its name from a priest, Neotus, who supposedly brought the piece of the True Cross to Wales. It is not known when it first arrived in Gwynedd or how the Princes had inherited it, but it is possible that it was brought back from Rome by king Hywel Dda following his pilgrimage in about 928. According to tradition it was handed down from prince to prince until the time of Llywelyn the Last and his brother Dafydd.

Following the complete defeat of Gwynedd and the subjugation of the Principality, following the death of Llywelyn in 1282 and the execution of Dafydd in 1283, this holy relic was taken by the English along with the other spiritual and temporal artefacts, such as Llywelyn's coronet, of the Principality.

The Alms Roll of 1283 records that a cleric named Huw ab Ithel presented this "part of the most holy wood of the True Cross" to King Edward I at Aberconwy. It then accompanied the king as he finished his campaign in north Wales before being brought to London and carried through the streets at the head of a procession in May 1285 which included the King, the Queen, their children, magnates of the realm and fourteen bishops.

The relic was first taken to Westminster Abbey. King Edward I regarded the relic as his own personal property, taking it with him on triumphal progresses through England, Wales and Scotland. During the reign of his son, King Edward II, it was lodged for safety in the Tower of London, where it remained until 1352, when it was given by King Edward III to his newly founded College at Windsor. This was soon after the foundation of the Order of the Garter in 1348. It was to prove an excellent source of income for the Dean and Canons, who benefited both from its prestige (it was accounted the ‘chief treasure’ of St George’s Chapel) and from offerings from the constant stream of pilgrims who came to Windsor to pray before the famous relic, and it remained the focus for pilgrimage and devotion for over two centuries.

In the easternmost bay of the south aisle of the choir of the present chapel is a carved and painted boss which represents King Edward IV and Richard Beauchamp, Bishop of Salisbury 1450-81and also Dean of Windsor 1477-81, kneeling on either side of a Celtic cross which stands on a small mound: this then is the ‘Cross Gneth’ or ‘Croes Naid’.

This beautifully carved and brightly coloured roof boss, to be found in the easternmost bay of the South Quire Aisle, depicts one of St George’s Chapel’s most famous relics, the Cross Gneth. Kneeling on either side of this Celtic cross are King Edward IV and Richard Beauchamp, Bishop of Salisbury, 1450-1481, Dean of Windsor, 1478-1481, and Chancellor of the Order of the Garter, 1475-1481.

Image: St George's Chapel Windsor

In addition, one of the carved angels surrounding the east window holds a Celtic cross and a further coloured boss in the Nave also depicts a Celtic cross.

Below the boss with its depiction of the Cross, the King and the Bishop there are two recesses opposite one another. Below the one on the north side of the aisle is carved an inscription, with the letters delineated in black. It reads as follows:

Who leyde this booke here The Reverend Fader in god Richard Beauchamp Bisschop of this Diocyse of Sarysbury and wherfor to this entent that Preestis and ministers of goddis chirche may here haue the occupacion therof seyyng therin theyr divine servyse and for alle othir that lystyn to sey therby ther devocyon  askyth he any sp’uall mede  yee asmoche as oure lord lyst to reward hym for his good entent praying euery man w’os dute or devocion is eased by thys booke they woll sey for hym this commune Oryson Dne Ihu xpe: knelyng in the presence of this holy Crosse for the wyche the Reverend Fadir in god above seyd hathe grauntid of the treasure of the Chirche to eu’y man xl days of pardun

Who laid this book here? – The Reverend Father in God Richard Beauchamp, Bishop of this Diocese of Salisbury.
And for what? – For this purpose: that priests and ministers of God’s church may use it, saying by it their divine service, and for everyone else who wishes to use it to say their prayers.
Does he ask for any spiritual gift? – Yes, as much as Our Lord wishes to reward him for his good intention, beseeching every man whose duty or prayers are eased by this book to say for him this common prayer: Domine Jesu Christe, kneeling in the presence of this holy cross, for which the Reverend Father in God named above has granted from the treasure of the Church to every man 40 days’ pardon.

The book which would once have lain in the recess was probably a copy of the Sarum Porthos, or Breviary – a liturgical book containing prayers, hymns, psalms and readings according to the Sarum Use, the variant of the Catholic liturgy most widely used in medieval England. A case containing a modern day prayer book now stands in the recess. The ‘Holy Cross’ referred to in the inscription is the Cross Gneth, which is thought to have been displayed in the other recess, and from which its size can be estimated.

The ‘treasure of the church’ is the Treasury of Merit accumulated by Christ and the good works of Catholics, by means of which indulgences may be granted to individuals to reduce the punishment they will experience in Purgatory. In this case, praying before the Cross Gneth  - ‘knelying in the presence of this holy Crosse’ - would earn the amount of pardon equivalent to that gained by forty days of penance.

On the construction of the new St George’s Chapel in the fifteenth century, the boss was installed (in about 1480) as part of the vaulting above the altar and shrine dedicated to the Cross Gneth, which was to be moved there from the old Chapel to the east. What better way could the King, who commissioned the new Chapel, and the Bishop of Salisbury who as Master and Surveyor of the Chapel oversaw its construction, be celebrated in stone, or draw attention to devotion to the Cross?

Listed in the 1534 inventory of the treasures of the Chapel made during the reign of King Henry VIII the Cross remained at Windsor until 1552 when it was confiscated by King Edward VI’s Commissioners, along with the other relics and treasures belonging to the Chapel, and which seem to have ended up in the Tower of London ‘awaiting the King’s further instructions’.

In recent years some Welsh Nationalists have agitated for the return of the Cross. For that, alas, there can be little hope - such a reliquary was, no doubt, less durable than the Stone of Scone has proved itself to be.

In 1963 the post of Wales Herald Extraordinary was established and in 1967 he was assigned a badge, which shows the Cross Gneth encircled by a thirteenth century crown.

The Cross in the badge of Wales Herald Extraordinary

Image: Wikipedia

Tuesday 9 April 2013

The death of King Edward IV

530 years ago, on April 9th 1483, King Edward IV died. Barely 41 his death was sudden and unexpected. The cause of his death has been attributed to, amongst other things, pneumonia, thyphoid and appendictis. It was to prove a disaster for his immediate family and for the House of York - three months later his son had been dethroned and replaced by the deceased King's brother as King Richard III. Little more than two years later he was defeated and killed at Bosworth, and it was the marriage of Elizabeth of York, eldest daughter of King Edward IV, to King Henry VII which ensured that descendents of both branches of the plantagents would occupy the throne.
As King Edward he had been a man determined, indeed ruthless, in fighting to hold on to, or regain, the crown he had to seized in 1461, and was an effective soldier up to his victory at the battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. Therafter he tended towards enjoying the pleasures of success, notably those of the flesh, putting on weight and increasingly engaged with his wife's family the Woodvilles, a family who were far from popular, and noticeably rapacious even by fifteenth century standards. I have posted about them in Woodvilles and Boleyns and in  Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth Woodville.

In these years the King appears to have become rather more like his grandson King Henry VIII at a similar age both in physique and temperament.

File:Edward IV Plantagenet.jpg

 King Edward IV
A portrait of circa 1520 from an original of 1470-75

Image: Wikipedia
In recent years there has been some discussion as to his legitimacy as can be seen in this online biography and in, for example, these blog posts, Was King Edward IV illegitimate?, Edward IV: A Question of Legitimacy, Was Edward IV illigitimate? and Was King Edward IV Illegitimate? (1442) What should be remembered is that it is not King Edward's legitimacy or otherwise which might affect the present line of succession - that derives from King Henry VII, and the Beaufort claim, legitimated, not from Elizabeth of York.


King Edward IV

Canterbury Cathedral glass of circa 1482


Canterbury Cathedral's Stained Glass

King Edward IV and Queen Elizabeth Woodville

Canterbury Cathedral
Image: Sacred Destinations

Caxton and Rivers presenting book to King Edward IV

Antony Earl Rivers and William Caxton presenting a book to King Edward IV,
Queen Elizabeth and Edward Prince of Wales, later King Edward V.
The figures between the King and Earl Rivers may be the Duke of Buckingham and Cardinal Bourchier of Canterbury.

Image: Luminarium.org

King Edward IV was buried in St George's Chapel Windsor - what is left of his tomb can still be seen there.

The tomb of King Edward IV in St George's Chapel Windsor

Image: St George's Windsor/Unofficial Royalty

He had initiated the rebuilding of the chapel a few years earlier, and it remains as his legacy, although not completed until 1528 by his grandson. Within the chapel he concentrated on its relic collection - not only those of St George, but also those of John Schorne and the ancient Welsh treasure of the Cross Neith:

King Edward IV and Bishop Richard Beauchamp of Salisbury (d.1481)
kneel before the Cross Neith (Groes Gnedd)
Boss in the south choir aisle St George's Chapel Windsor

Image: St George's Windsor

The Coronation of King Henry V

Rather like many modern journalists on such occasions the chroniclers who recorded the coronation of King Henry V on April 9th 1413, six centuries ago, tended to remark on the less important if more obvious features. There were two in 1413 - the weather and the food. A snow storm swept across the country. A century and a half later John Foxe the Protestant martyrologist wrote of "the ninth day of April,  called then Passion Sunday, which was an exceeding stormy day, and so tempestuous, that many did wonder at the portent thereof." The contemporary chronicler Adam of Usk wrote that the day was  "...marked by unprecedented storms, with driving snow which covered the country's mountains, burying men and animals and houses and, astonishingly, even inundating the valleys and fenlands, creating great danger and much loss of life."

According to Thomas Walsingham, the monk-chronicler of St Albans, abbey people were undecided as to whether it was a good or bad omen. Some took it to be a sign of impending austerity, but others, in his view more sensibly, saw it as a positive sign, the cold and snowwould bring an end to difficult times and usher in a new era of hope and prosperity, and citing the Song of Songs, with the concept of winter now being past and the rain over and gone. To them this was the beginning of a spring.

The Coronation was held on Passion Sunday, and as a result the banquet afterwards in Westminster Hall was one with Lenten fare, so all the dishes were of fish rather than meat.

In fact we know rather less about this  coronation than about some others of the period, but the saliant features are clear.

File:King Henry V from NPG.jpg

King Henry V


The King had arrived in London two days earlier, on April 7th, was met by many lords and knights as well as clergy and citizens in procession and took up residence at the Tower. There he was met by fifty or so candidates for knighthood who waited upon him at table at a feast that evening. The following day, having attended Mass, they rode in splendid array to the royal lodgings where they waited upon the King who dubbed them and as Knights of the Bath, escorted him through the city that day to Westminster ready for the coronation. There he was received in procession and escorted to his palace to prepare in prayer for his anointing.

The officiant at the coronation was the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Arundel, who had crowned the king's father in 1399.

  Thomas Arundel (1353–1414) illuminated initial

Archbishop Thomas Arundel

Image: oxforddnb.com

It is possible, indeed probable, that the oil used to anoint the King was the same as usedfor his father and his son, that supply believed to have been delivered by the Virgin Mary to St Thomas Becket, left by him in France, rediscovered and brought back in its ampulla by Edward Prince of Wales, and treasured by his son King Richard II.

Early fifteenth centuries ceremonies did not always go with the smoothness one would expect of such an occasion today - Adam of Usk recorded that during the Mass the King dropped one of his obligatory noble son the floor, and both he himself and those who were present had to search carefully to find it before it could be offered up.

Within weeks Henry was to return to the abbey when he attended divine service in the church on Ascension Day and Whitsunday of 1413, and resumed funding of the rebuilding of the nave of the church that summer.

The closest contemporary depictions of the coronation are from the King's chantry which was built from 1438 onwards and completed about 1450. Its sculpture is an important record of contemporary ceremonial dress for the peers who are also represented. The scheme includes two Coronation groups, perhaps representing the acclamation and the homage:


The Coronation of King Henry V from his chantry chapel at Westminster

Image: Project Gutenburg text of E.H. Pearce William de Colchester Abbot of Westmisnter SPCK 1915

 In each of which the Abbot of Westminster, William Colchester, is represented as standing, in cope and mitre, on the King's left hand, Thomas Arundel, the Archbishop of Canterbury, being on the King's right hand. The other carving has the King holding the orb and flanked by the Archbishop and Abbot:

Coronation of Henry V 

The other carving of the Coronation
Above the canopy can be seen the King's badges of the antelope and the swan

Image:Corbis images

In the carving of the coronation the King is shown wearing an arched crown. This is significant. When in 1399 his father had been crowned with St Edward's crown Froissart noted that it was arched - something he clearly saw as noteworthy. The sttae crown worn by the effigy of King Henry IV at Canterbury looks to be identical, allowing that is for artistic licence between a sculptor and a painter, to that worn by King Richard II circa 1390 ;


King Henry IV

The head of the effigy on his tomb in Canterbury Cathedral

Image: anglophile.ru

King Richard II

The Westminster portrait of circa 1390

 Image: Wikuipedia

This appears very similar to the crown dated to 1370-80 and which was part of the dowry of King Henry IV's daughter Blanche when she married the future Elector Palatine Louis III, son of King Rupert I,  in 1402, and which can now be seen in the Munich schatzkammer. It was on display in London in 1987-8 at the Age of Chivalry exhibition.

File:Schatzkammer Residenz Muenchen crown of an english queen 1370.jpg

The crown of Blanche of Lancaster

Image: Wikipedia

However from the reign of King Henry V it appears to have become usual to depict  him and his successors wearing a crown with arches, and indeed that the actual crown did have arches long before Tudor assertions that England was an Empire, and hence the current designation of the Imperial State Crown.


King Henry V

St Cuthbert Window York Minster circa 1440

Image: Gordon Plumb on Flickr


King Henry V - an illumination of 1451-80

Image: Luminarium

The crown destroyed in 1649 and known as the King's Imperial Crown or the ' Harry Crown' has recently been reconstructed by the Historic Royal Palaces Agency and is on display at Hampton Court. Like Sir Roy Strong in his  piece about the crown in his book Lost Treasures of Britain, the HRPA attribute the crown to the reign of King Henry VII, but with no certain date. I have long thought it possible, if not probable, that the 'Harry Crown' was made for King Henry V, if not actually for his coronation, but at least during his reign. In style it has some resemblance to the Crown of St Wenceslaus in Bohemia, which dates from the mid to later fourteenth century and the reign of the Emperor Charles IV (1346-1378). That does not, of course, preclude the possibility that it may have been modified under subsequent monarchs

There is an online article from the HRPA about the making of the reproduction here, and there is more about it in this post, Henry VIII's Crown.

The reconstructed Harry Crown
Image:Lord Belmont in Northern Ireland blog 

The crown as depicted on the important but sadly damaged statue of King Henry VI from All Souls in Oxford, and probably of 1437-43, appears remarkably similar, as may be seen from this, the only image I can find on the internet:


King Henry VI - statue at All Souls Oxford 

Image; Amazon

The portrait of  King Edward IV in the Royal window at Canterbury cathedral - for which see the following post - also looks to show a very similar crown.