Half way with the 17th century coif – almost.

Time to move the coif along on the frame. It’s taken me longer than I hoped to get to the half way stage and now I need to be careful about over tightening the linen as I don’t want to damage the stitching I’ve done already. I’ve also taken the opportunity to experiment with a grey thread for my plan if I have time to make it my own. Unfortunately, it only gains the depth of colour I want when it is used in satin stitch, so back to the drawing board.  

This will be the last post about my theory with regard to the flowers of the Mary garden – I’m curious as to how the bugs fit in to the story. I know that the cycle of life caterpillar, larva and moth or butterfly provides us with rebirth and resurrection but I’m not sure about the beetles. I do wonder if there’s a linked symbolism that perhaps explains why there are no bees, grasshoppers or snails.

The list of plants:

Borage– (which is about to appear on my canvas) – it was believed borage brings courage – so I can see why it might be an essential. However, back to the concept of the Mary Garden – it also goes by the name St Joseph’s Staff.

Carnation  – is one of the oldest known garden plants. The Romans were rather keen on them.  Pink ones are associated with motherly love. Apparently, they sprang from Mary’s tears as she watched Christ carry the cross. Red ones are symbolic of blood and if you’re Holbein you stick them in pictures as a symbol of betrothal or salvation thanks to Christ’s resurrection. The image below is the portrait of Simon George.

Columbine – see post on Granny’s bonnet. But also known as ‘Our Lady’s shoes’. According to a legend the flowers were said to have sprung up wherever Mary’s foot touched the ground on her way to visit her cousin Elizabeth

Daffodil – see post on daffodil.

Marigold – see post on marigold.

Roses – divine love, martyrdom – associated with Mary, sometimes called the mystical rose. I was thrown art the start of the project because the first thing I thought was Tudor rose, but then I’m not a catholic and I don’t live in the seventeenth century with a handy guidebook.

Strawberries – the leaf has three parts so might be associated with the Trinity – it’s also called the ‘Fruitful Virgin’.  Medieval art sometimes depicted Mary with strawberry plants (I feel a hunt for an example coming on at some point). In Norse mythology it was associated with the goddess Freya and was simply transferred into Christian culture.  Expanding the theme a little, it is also the emblem of righteous men – the fruit of good works.

Violet – humility, innocence, purity – sometimes known as ‘Our Lady’s Modesty.’  St Bernard described Mary as ‘the violet of humility.’ It can also refer to the passion of Christ.

I don’t think I’ve left anything off the list. I’m still looking for a book or journal article about secular embroidery linked to English Catholicism but am having no joy. I may expand the search into stump work which was popular during the same period. I have discovered a book entitled A Garden Catechism which details 100 plants in Christian tradition which I will be getting.  I think I may be hooked.  

A complete list, should you feel the urge, can be found here and Castle Bolton Garden has a very interesting online article as well:

Ferguson, George, Signs and Symbols in Christian Art (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Crows….in heraldry and their symbolism

Medieval bestiaries included birds and there are some examples that remain well known. Pelicans were thought to draw blood from their own breasts to feed their chicks – this translated as Christ’s sacrifice for the redemption of mankind. It’s a popular carving in churches. Doves haven’t changed very much and eagles were a symbol of resurrection because of its high flying.

Crows were devoted family birds and on occasion were described as an example of good parenting practise although they were also associated with death and war – something of a mixed message. The Twa Corbies was a popular medieval ballad and Shakespeare got in on the act as well -with crows and ravens as harbingers not only of death but also of defeat and planned murder. So I don’t think that the crow like bird on the unstitched coif is linked to any of those particular images – apart from the good parenting – I can’t imagine many women would want to associate themselves with war or defeat.

Ravens are, of course, rather important in the Tower of London as it is said that if they depart that England will fall. It derives from the idea of ravens keeping guard – making them much more benevolent than the ones that turn up in dreams and on battlefields.

There is a possibility my bird might be a heraldic image – corbie rampant regardant (standing upright looking back over its shoulder). A Complete Guide to Heraldry by Fox Davies identifies the raven as a significant bird. The Corbet family of the Welsh Marches have a raven on their coat of arms from the French Le Corbeau – it’s a canting allusion i.e. a pun. And the arms of the Yorkshire Creyke family is also a raven or crow as is the Korwin arms (think you can see the theme here). Unfortunately the Corbet ‘corbeau’ isn’t looking over its shoulder and the Creyke crest looks like an angry eagle with a hint of swan (probably a bad image I’m studying). The Isle of Anglesey has some very fine crows on its coat of arms and I love the raven on the arms of the episcopal see of Manchester (see below) but I don’t think that the bird on the unstitched coif is a heraldic bird although I did when I first saw it.

The next option is that it comes from an existing book of the period in much the same way that many of Mary Queen of Scots designs come from Gessner’s Icones Animalium, published in Zurich, 1560. The problem is that the coif dates to the seventeenth century by which time there was a wider range of printed material available for someone to use as inspiration for their own embroidery.

Of course, it might not be a corvid – it could be something else entirely?

Miller, Dean, Animals and Animal Symbols in World Culture

The Earldom of Richmond and the Dukes of Brittany

I’ve posted about Alan the Red before – and his brother, the originally named, Alan the Black. Alan the Black was the kind of baron no one wished to encounter during The Anarchy – he was heavily into ravaging and plunder, even going so far as assaulting the Archbishop of York in Ripon at the shrine of St Wilfred. In about 1145 he granted the town of Richmond its first known charter before going to Brittany where he died in 1146. So far, so good.

Alan was married to Bertha, a cousin of Conan III of Brittany and his heir. After Alan’s death, Bertha remarried to Eudo, Viscount Porhoët who became Duke of Brittany by right of his wife. Alan’s son by Bertha, Conan, became the new Earl of Richmond and well as inheriting of all Alan’s other estates. Obviously Conan should also have become Due of Brittany but he was a minor and Eudo took charge.

In time Conan took control of the honour of Richmond – supported by King Henry II and having crossed the Channel trounced his step-father and became Conan IV of Brittany as well. In 1160 he married Margaret of Scotland, a daughter of Henry Earl of Huntingdon.

A daughter, Constance was born from the union. She eventually married Henry II’s son Geoffrey but the betrothal was a childhood one. After Conan’s death Henry II held Richmond on behalf of his daughter-in-law and son as well as administering Brittany for the 9-year old.

Geoffrey became Duke of Brittany and Earl of Richmond by right of his wife in 1181 after the marriage was finally celebrated. The couple’s son Arthur would eventually disappear in King John’s custody. Their daughter, Eleanor, would remain in Plantagenet royal custody throughout her life – no one wanting her to take a husband who might attempt to claim the duchy of Brittany and the earldom of Richmond.

After Geoffrey’s death in 1186 in Paris, Constance married Randulf de Blundeville, Earl of Chester – who also acquired the Earldom of Richmond. It wasn’t a happy union. Randalf incarcerated Constance for a year. Richard the Lionheart used the excuse to take control of Richmond.

Constance was eventually freed from her unhappy union and married for a third time toGuy de Thouars- The duchess now bore two more children , Alice and Catherine.

After Constance’s death in 1201 – Richmond was divided. Part of it was handed to Robert de Beaumont, 4th Earl of Leicester in the first instance. He died in 1204. Ranulf de Blundeville regained that portion of the honour for a brief time.

Alice’s husband, Peter de Braine, acquired the southern portion of the honour and eventually reunited the earldom. Peter was the son of the Count of Dreux and the marriage to Alice had been arranged by King Philip Augustus of France. Peter became Duke of Brittany by right of his marriage to Alice, irrelevant of the fact that her elder half-sister was still alive. Peter is pictured at the start of this post (Meluzína, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons). In 1215 King John granted him the honour of Richmond in an attempt to build up an army – it was the time of the First Barons War. Philip took the honour but continued to fight on behalf of the French. Ultimately though Peter served whichever side best suited his own aspirations. It left swathes of Yorkshire outside England’s ultimate control – remember John lost his continental lands. Even so it was 1230 before the honour of Richmond was confiscated from Peter and the honour reverted to the Crown.

Peter received some support from Henry III’s brother, Richard of Cornwall, but Peter, who was also kicked out of Brittany, found it sensible to go off on Crusade in 1239 where he was captured and died after his release in about 1250.

So far so good. The Crown now held a large earldom and Henry III knew many men willing to take it on. Peter of Savoy, one of Eleanor of Provence’s uncles, was a man in search of an income and preferment. Eleanor relied on her uncle’s guidance and Henry wanted to please his queen. Peter of Savoy was promptly knighted and granted part of the honour of Richmond in 1240.

Part II to follow.

Morris, David, The Honour of Richmond (York:2000) – an informative and carefully researched text which explains the lineage of the men and women who held the honour of Richmond as well as the political shenanigans that saw them gain or lose a region long important to the stability of the realm.

Coifs as headwear and An Unstitched Coif project

So, as if I haven’t got enough to keep me out of mischief I’m very excited to have been accepted as part of the ‘Unstitched coif’ project. The goal is to embroider a blackwork coif as part of Toni Buckby’s Phd project at Sheffield Hallam University in association with the V and A. She is collecting the experience of stitching from 140 volunteers. The coif I’ll be stitching is a version of this unworked coif in the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A accession number T.844-1974 in case the link breaks, image quoted from their website). Hopefully you should be able to follow the link for more information about the original if you wish. There is evidence that someone started seed stitching the coif but didn’t like their work and unpicked it.

At least they started! My work is on the frame but I’m having a minor panic as I’ve never worked such fine fabric – the linen for the project is 74 count and comes from Italy. Unpicking will not be an option. I don’t think I shall opt for seed stitching (the red hood further down the blood makes use of seed stitching). I prefer the geometric diaper patterns of the earlier Tudor period but the flowers and insects are quite small so I shall have to pick my patterns carefully so that they show to best effect. Modern blackwork embroidery uses a shading technique by adding threads into to make a more dense pattern as it progresses which would also be tricky to add into this design. I am lucky enough to be using some silk thread of different thicknesses that I was given several years ago which might lend itself to toning. I am also rather partial to layering patterns in different colours but again don’t think this is the occasion for it.

As many of you know I love blackwork embroidery and have been doing it for many years although on one occasion I did have something of a disaster when I decided to stitch a medieval knight and his lady from a copy of The People’s Friend. All went swimmingly until it was pointed out to me that I had managed to create a pattern of swastikas. Now, while I realise that in other parts of the world its meaning is rather better than in Europe, once they’d been pointed out to me – all I could see was the unfortunate pattern and it wasn’t as though I could remove the design or even amend it to hide what I’d created.

Back to the history of the coif as head gear. Men, women and children all wore coifs and all classes of people wore them. On the plus side they helped keep you warm – isn’t there a saying about heat being lost through lack of head gear? Respectable women kept their hair covered. Practically, it also meant that their hair stayed clean for longer. Coifs were the underwear of the hat world – or if you want to be a bit more precise – a foundation layer. The shape and method of securing the coif depended on the fashion of the period.

Some women wore a triangular cloth under their coif to pull their hair back from their forehead, hence the alternate name forehead cloth, and to keep it covered – this was worn in a manner similar to a head scarf tied at the back of the neck or under the chin. Then the coif was worn over the top of the ‘cross-cloth’ as it was sometimes called. Evidence from wills suggests that respectable women owned a lot of head linen whether they were called cross-cloths, quarters, kerchiefs or headrails. It makes sense as an undecorated triangular cloth was easier to wash than the more ornate and expensive outer layers of headwear. Having said that, forehead cloths were often made to match the coif that sat on top of the cloth – and the one pictured on the left is covered with gold spangles.

The coif was a close fitting cap made of a light fabric such as linen. Originally it would have had strings to tie under the chin but by the Tudor period the strings were disappearing and more likely to be secured by being tied around the woman’s hair which was tied in a low bun at the back of her head. Coifs might be plain, decorated with lace or embroidered. Wealthy women wore forehead cloths and coifs made from more expensive fabrics such as silk and the embroidery might have been more ornate. In 1562 Queen Elizabeth received three cloths and a coif made with cambric and netted with gold.

At the beginning of the Tudor period coifs were worn by women under the heavy gable hoods and French hoods that were fashionable at the time. They were also worn indoors, in private, without the additional heavy headgear and at night time as part of the night attire – think warmth and hair less likely to be tangled. By the seventeenth century women wore a coif indoors and put their hat on top of the confection before going out.

So that’s what they were – and unsurprisingly there’re many examples in museums around the country as well as depicted in portraits of the period. The embellishment on the coifs is reflective of the style of embroidery that was popular at the time. The one featured here is from the seventeenth century and can be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The Tudor Tailor: Reconstructing Sixteenth Century Dress.

de Courtais, Georgine, Women’s Hats, Headdresses and Hairstyles.

Getting the Katherines and Catherines right

There are no prizes for spotting that I mentioned Herny’s last queen in my previous post. Blame the brain cell going on holiday. It’s Katherine of Aragon who died in 1536. She was his longest surviving wife but only provided him with a living daughter Mary. By 1525 Henry had gone off her and in 1531 following Henry’s failure to have the marriage annulled she was banished from court.

I can only apologise the brain fog that clearly descended.

The Throckmorton Plot

The Throckmorton Plot of 1583 was named after Sir Francis Throckmorton. He was the cousin of Bess Throckmorton, a lady-in-waiting who married Sir Walter Raleigh, demonstrating that families can arrive at very different religious viewpoints. Francis’ father John Throckmorton was a prominent Catholic during the reign of Queen Mary. It should be noted though that John conformed outwardly to the change in faith after Mary’s death even though his sons were raised as Catholics. Bess Throckmorton’s father Nicholas was raised in the household of Catherine Parr and had leanings towards the reformation as a consequence. He was also part of Edward VI’s circle as well as a friend of Elizabeth from her childhood.

It was planned that the Spanish would back a French invasion led by the Duke of Guise. Having subdued the heretic protestants and killed Elizabeth the plan was to put Mary Queen of Scots on the throne. Guise was not popular in Protestant Europe. He played a leading role in the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of 1572 – which Sir Francis Walsingham (pictured at the start of the post) witnesses as he was in Paris at the time.

In 1579 Nicholas Throckmorton was suspended from the office of Chief Justice of Chester and fined. His beliefs had become a problem. He died the following year. But Francis now began to be involved in Catholic conspiracies against Elizabeth when he journeyed to France in 1580 with his brother Thomas and were recruited by the Catholic exiles Charles Paget and Thomas Morgan.

The latter was the Earl of Shrewsbury’s secretary and had made contact with Mary Queen of Scots who was in the earl’s custody. Morgan acted as the Scottish queen’s go between until 1572 when he was sent to the Tower for three years before going to France. He continued to correspond secretly with the queen. Throckmorton was not the only English Catholic that Morgan was involved with. He would be involved with the Babington plot in 1585.

When Francis returned to London from Paris he carried messages to Mary and to Bernadino Mendoza, Philip II’s ambassador in London. All the messages passed through the French embassy which was headed by Michelle de Castelnau.

One of Walsingham’s spies in the French embassy alerted him to Throckmorton’s involvement. Francis was arrested in November 1583 along with a list of Mary’s Catholic supporters and a letter to Mary that he was in the process of encoding. Nor was he alone in the Tower. Another man, George More, was also arrested but he arrived at an agreement with Walsingham and was released. Throckmorton, who wasn’t really a key player, was racked until he provided names and admitted that Mary was involved.

Mendoza could not be arrested because he had diplomatic immunity but in January 1584 he was invited to leave England. There would be no more Spanish Ambassadors in England during Elizabeth’s reign. Throckmorton was put on trial in May and execution on 10 July 1584. He was the only one of the plotters to be executed. His brother Thomas who was also involved managed to escape.

In many respects the plot was as inept as the earlier plans to topple Elizabeth and restore Catholicism. However, the 1571 Treason Act made it illegal to deny that Elizabeth was queen of England and since the 1570s trained Jesuit priests had been arriving in England encouraging the Catholic population to hold firm to their beliefs. In 1581 it had become more difficult for Catholics not to attend church on a Sunday. If they persisted the recusants, as they were called, could be fined £20 per month and imprisoned.

Mary’s imprisonment became ever more restrictive. She was sent to Chartley in Staffordshire. Walsingham and William Cecil drew up the Bond of Association. All its signatories agreed that if anyone attempt to usurp the throne or to assassinate the queen that they should be executed as should anyone who benefitted from the queen’s death i.e. Mary Queen of Scots. Mary signed the bond even though it was effectively her own death warrant.

Francis Throckmorton’s execution on 10 July 1584 coincided with the murder of William of Orange, the leader of the Dutch Protestants. He was assassinated by a Catholic. In part the Bond of Association was a response to the murder of the Dutch leader.

Elizabeth had stated that she did not wish ‘to make windows into men’s souls’. Her way had been a middle way but the Catholic plots and threats to her life and realm which had gradually escalated meant that men like Walsingham were increasingly convinced that Mary had to die.

The coat of arms for Bristol

Coat of arms for Bristol

Having managed to completely take leave of my senses I gave Bristol Derbyshire’s axe wielding dragon crest in error yesterday – it was swiftly remedied but I decided to have a closer look at the city’s coat of arms.

Sinister – is left, dexter is right.

So starting at the bottom we have the motto: Virtue et Industria – so virtue and industry.

The lovely green clumps of grass above the motto form the compartment.

The two unicorns (or with sable manes) are supporters holding the shield, then there’s a helm, a torse which is still not a horse despite the spell check’s best efforts anchoring the mantling into place and then the crest.

In heraldic terms the crest is ‘issuant from clouds two arms embowed and interlaced in saltire proper the dexter hand holding a serpent vert and the sinister holding a pair of scales or.’ The symbolism behind the serpent is wisdom and the scales are justice – so good governance comes from wisdom and justice.

And that leaves us with the arms which were licensed in 1569. There’s a fortified harbour and a ship – which more or less sums up what Bristol was famous for at the time given the wool trade and the commerce between England and Ireland. It also traded with Iceland and with Gascony. In 1497 John Cabot set off to North America and Bristol’s port became a focus for trade with the Americas. It was one of the ports associated with the slave trade. George III signed the act banning the slave trade on 25 March 1807 but it was only in 1833 that slavery was abolished within the British Empire and even then it was a gradual process.

Something a bit different

The team at Pen and Sword are all lovely. At the moment I’m in the capable hands of Lucy May who is working on marketing The Son that Elizabeth I Never Had. On Wednesday I’m going to Radio Derby to talk about the book.

Listen here https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/live:bbc_radio_derby

to me doing Lunch With Ian Skye on BBC Radio Derby on Wednesday 17th August 12-1.

Getting to grips with a coat of arms – and summer quiz 2…crests

The Armorial Register -composition of arms

The shield is only part of a coat of arms – often the shield is at the bottom of a ‘stack’ – there may be a helm above the shield followed by a crest and a motto. The coil or wreath between the helm and the crest even has its own name – a torse – not a horse as the spell check insists that I actually mean. Fabric draped from the torse down around the helm is called mantling – mantling can be subdued or full on drapery with twiddly bits – see left.

Just to confuse matters the motto, placed on a scroll, can either go at the top of the coat of arms or at the bottom beneath the shield. The latter tends to occur if the arms is being held by two supporters – one on either side of the arms as in the lion and unicorn supporting the royal arms. The other thing that might appear beneath the shield is a ribbon or collar from which decorations may be hung – no not Christmas decorations! – medals and suchlike.

The images on the shield are called charges- I will be coming back to them.

Crests can sometimes appear on the torse above the shield without the helm just to help identify the owner. Crests often appear on retinue badges or in Scotland on clan badges. So how did that all come about? In the medieval period, the thirteenth century, it was acceptable to wear an actual crest made from a light wood or even boiled leather on top of the helmet usually for tournaments and jousts rather than real warfare – not sure how long that phase lasted as it sounds fairly silly to me – but that’s just me opinion. The mantle had a more practical use – it helped keep the sun off the back of the armour and was kept in place by the torse – so at least the knight wouldn’t fry.

This week’s quiz is to identify the crests belonging to towns, cities or counties – one or two have cropped the edges just to make it that little bit more tricky but it wasn’t a deliberate act on my part! The Telegraph had a competition to guess the coats of arms of 25 cities quite recently – I’m not a subscriber so that was as far as I got. Instead here are 12 crests for you to identify – some will be easier than others. Answers next week.

Very excited – Robert Dudley has arrived…

I know – it’s completely shameless! So delighted when the postman came with my author’s copies that I may have completed a little happy dance confirming to the postman that I was very happy to receive the parcel which has tracked itself with assorted emails during the last forty-eight hours.

Now back to Anne and Isabel Neville – I have not yet got my feet in a bucket of cold water or nor is the fan wafting iced air in my direction courtesy of a tray of ice placed at its base but I have provided additional water for the birds and our resident hedgehog.