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Swords associated (one way or another) with Richard III….

Richard at Bosworth

The sword was a vital weapon in the medieval period (as can be seen in the hand-to-hand combat in the illustration of Bosworth above) and there would not have been a knight, lord, magnate or king who did not possess a minimum of one. Most would have had a number. We will never know how many swords Richard III possessed, but as far as I am concerned, there are five swords I associate with him…and one of these may have been made for his son. These swords are not all real weapons, some are from art. Only the first actual sword in the following list could have belonged to Richard himself, and of this, only part may remain of the original, as he presented it to the City of Gloucester in 1483.

Mourning Sword, Gloucester

Mourning Sword of Gloucester

This was on display at the recent Richard III Exhibition in Gloucester. Tradition says that it is Richard III’s own personal sword, given to the Mayor of Gloucester during Richard’s 1483 visit. The silver decoration is in the Elizabethan style, and says ‘Francisco me fecit’. A bladesmith of that name was working in Toledo in the 1570s, which means that these elements of the sword post-date Richard’s period. But if you look closely at the handle you will see there is an iron core beneath the silverwork. This may be what remains of the sword given by Richard. I am not sure why it is called the Mourning Sword, which we also described here.

Ceremonial Sword of State for the Prince of Wales

“Though the blade of the above sword was made in Germany, its pommel and hilt are English. Its ornamentation indicates it was meant for the Prince of Wales: its engraved hilt shows the Royal arms of England being held aloft by two angels above the arms of Wales and Cornwall; the opposite has the arms of the Earldoms of March and Chester. This double edged sword was thus not meant for battle, but would have been carried before the Prince during ceremonial processions, such as when he was invested with his title.” Two Princes also held the title of Earl of Chester in the late 15th century. Edward IV’s oldest son, also named Edward…and Richard III’s son Edward… The above photograph is from the British Museum and you can see some very detailed photographs of this ceremonial sword here.

 

Richard-III-Broken-Sword-235456-Society-of-Antiquaries-of-London

Broken Sword Portrait

Not my favourite Richard portrait by any means, and certainly not my favourite sword because, being broken, it bestows an entirely false impression of the man himself – “…A broken sword can be interpreted as symbolic of failure; in a regal portrait, as symbolic of prematurely ended reign by violence, battle, deposition and usurpation…” The only reason Richard “failed” was because he was betrayed, not because of any shortcomings on his part. Just think, a few more yards and he’d have extinguished Henry Tudor! If only he had! As for usurpation, well we all know who did that, and it wasn’t Richard!

Damage to Richard's sword - statue in Leicester

Sword held by Richard’s Statue in Leicester

From the Leicester Mercury. A council spokesman said: “We became aware of the damage to the Richard III statue early last week and are liaising with specialist companies to investigate the best way of repairing it. “The joint at the hilt of the sword has been bent. We do not yet know the extent or cause of the damage. A detailed survey will be carried out later this week, but it is likely that the damage will cost several thousand pounds to put right. “In the meantime, the statue will be fenced off as a safety precaution.” There will always be morons around who think such criminal damage is funny.

From Rous

My fifth and final sword is from Rous. As you see, the illustration depicts Richard in full armour, holding a sword that seems to be half his height in length. He may have been a slightly built man, but he was master of the sword (and every other weapon a knight needed to use). This little picture rather brings the fighting Richard to life for me.

Well, that’s five swords. Would anyone add more?

 

 

 

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Blacksmiths for Gods and Heroes: Tracing the Magical Blacksmith through Myth

Giaconda's Blog

thahgd2gku Hephaestus from an Attic red Kylix vase decoration.

Who Were the Legendary Smiths?:

The figure of the often deformed or maimed blacksmith who forges remarkable weaponry and armour for gods or heroes is a re-occurring archetype in myth across many cultures.

We have Hephaestus in Greek myth who becomes Vulcan in Latin literature and may have travelled with trade routes and language to other cultures or, indeed have been absorbed from other cultures into the Classical pantheon. Both are regularly depicted in art carrying the tools of their trade – the blacksmith’s hammer and tongs.

dia41_h600px.jpg Vulcan – God of fire and volcanoes as well as smith of the gods

Comparative parallels exist in the Ugarit craftsman and magician -god Kothar-wa-Khasis, who is identified from afar by his distinctive walk—possibly suggesting that he limped, and the Egyptian God, Ptah, described as a naked and deformed dwarf by Herodotus. He is…

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THE MOURNING SWORD ON DISPLAY AT SUDELEY CASTLE

Sudeley Castle certainly seems to be making the most of its Ricardian connections these days.The latest news is that they will temporarily have Gloucester’s ‘Mourning Sword’ on display up until October 20th.

This sword was given to the city by Richard while he was on his first progress in 1483. He also gave them his cap of maintenance, which unfortunately  no longer exists. The sword has been refashioned several times in its long history but appears to retain at least part of its original core.

The right to have a sword carried before the mayor is specially conferred upon the city of Gloucester by  Richard’s charter, dated 2nd September, 1483.

http://www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/archives/article/117081/Richards-Gift-to-Gloucester

Sudeley is also worth visiting because it is believed Richard stayed there prior to Tewkesbury, and later built the now-ruined great hall, which must have been a real eye-catcher when complete. Besides the sword, the Richard III collection contains  a spur  from Tewkesbury Field, and Sudeley’s own version of a reconstruction of Richard’s face.

As additional interest for medievalists, nearby Hailes Abbey is worth a visit while in the area;  I have no evidence Richard ever visited it, but it contained an important relic, the Holy Blood of Hailes, which I am sure  would have interested him. (The ruined abbey was the burial site of Richard of Cornwall, brother of  Henry III, his wife Sanchia of Provence and his murdered son, Henry of Almain.)

 

mourningsword

A sword made for Richard’s son….?

Prince of Wales sword

The following is taken from an item in one of the Mortimer History Society newsletters. It was by a member, Stefan Zachary, and concerns a sword of state in the British Museum.

Prince of Wales sword - 3Prince of Wales sword - 2

 

Mortimer Heraldry on a Sword of State 

This sword is dated c1460-70 and it is said to be a ceremonial sword of the Prince of Wales. On one side of the hilt is the English Royal coat of arms and also those of Wales, Cornwall and St George. On the other side are the arms of Mortimer quartered with de Burgh. This quartering was first used by Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March (d1398) as his mother was Philippa de Burgh, Countess of Ulster.

The title ‘Prince of Wales’ was first used by an English monarch by Edward I, who gave it to his son and heir, the future Edward II. So, given the age of the sword, it is possible that it was made for Edward, Lancastrian son and heir of Henry VI. Or, that the Yorkist Edward IV gave this sword of state to his son Edward (later Edward V) in 1470. In 1472 King Edward IV set up a council to advise and assist his young son in performing his duties and this council blossomed into the Council of Wales and the Marches, based in Ludlow, that survived until 1689.

The other possible recipient of this fine sword was yet another Edward, the son of Richard III, created Prince of Wales in 1483. Only he and Edward V, among these heirs, were of Mortimer descent.

Parallel lives – and deaths?

Many of the facts about Anne Boleyn are well known nowadays. As the second “wife” of Henry VIII, she was beheaded for treason by adultery in 1536. Their marriage was annulled shortly before her execution but it was quite possibly bigamous anyway and invalid by affinity in that Henry had previously slept with her sister. Anne’s last request was that a swordsman be brought from Calais for the purpose and he seems to have obtained a work permit. She left Henry a daughter.

Fifteen centuries earlier, Messallina (1) was the third wife of the emperor Claudius until she too was beheaded, in 48 AD to be precise, for treason by adultery, leaving him a son and a daughter. The facts are rather more confused by the further passage of time and the sources appear to be very partial but the accusations against Messallina are more convincing. Suetonius (2) records that “… it turned out that she was not only guilty of other disgraceful crimes but had gone so far as to commit bigamy with Gaius Silius and even sign a marriage contract before witnesses so Claudius had her executed …”. Graves (3) goes into rather more detail, describing a mock divorce, a “marriage” to Silius, an attempted escape and a surrender to a group of soldiers in the Gardens of Lucullus. He also implies that Claudius’ freedman Narcissus ordered the execution, with or without the emperor’s endorsement.

In the years between these deaths, and more certainly from 400 onwards, executions by decapitation were carried out more crudely, usually with an axe. Anne Boleyn’s special request was the only prominent use of a more humane implement in the British kingdoms, except the Halifax Gibbet (c.1280-1650) and Scottish Maiden (c.1550-1710).

(1) I use this spelling because her father’s name, from which hers was derived, was Marcus Valerius Messalla Barbatus.
(2) The Twelve Caesars, Penguin Classics edition, p.203, note 26.
(3) Claudius the God. A modern novelist wouldn’t normally have such an exalted status but Graves accessed many contemporaneus sources and indeed translated (2) above.

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