This was the subject of the lecture organised by The Australian Heraldry Society on Friday evening, 14 September.  The Carmichael Room at the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts – opened to double length – was nicely crowded.  Pre-lecture talk among the Ricardians present buzzed with the news from Leicester of course but, as soon as speaker Robyn Boyer began to talk, we were deep in a world of colourful pageantry and display.  Robyn is a medieval history enthusiast, with degrees of Bachelor of Visual Arts and Bachelor of Arts with Honours in History, currently working towards in PhD in medieval political philosophy at the University of Queensland.  We were definitely in safe hands.

What a fascinating world was opened up.  The information given was accompanied by a wonderful selection of illustrations that included men’s armorial and heraldic garments such as part of the Black Prince’s armour displayed in Canterbury Cathedral near his tomb, and the picture of Edward III formally granting Aquitaine to his eldest son.  Women’s heraldic garments were mainly shown on funeral monuments and effigies and from illuminated manuscripts such as the Luttrell Psalter, as well as garments and textiles that are still in existence.  The quality, colour and detail of the latter was striking.

Chivalry and nobility were all-important in the tapestry of medieval courtly life – although the heraldic motifs, even complete heraldic arms on some costume illustrations are suspect.  A fallacy perhaps in contrast to the fashionable formality in most portraits.

The variety was enormous.  Splendid heraldic horse cloths glowing with colour and design, sideless surcoats that appeared on ceremonial occasions  indicating rank if not royalty.  Brass rubbings showed great design detail as well as a surprising flow of fabric.

Ricardians welcomed the familiar portrait of Queen Anne Neville, sumptuous in her coronation robes, and the interesting brass funeral effigy from 1485 of William Catesby and his wife, Margaret Scrope, at Ashby St Legers in Northamptonshire.

It was an inspiring evening that swept us all along in a world of brilliant colour and rich textures, showing the personalities who wore them from Alfonso, King of Spain to Margaret Ferrers, wife of the 4th Earl of Warwick, from Charles IV and his bride Marie de Luxemburg to Mary, Queen of Scots and Francis of Lorraine.


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