Sunday, August 25, 2013

Oiled Caps, 1391

[The] cappes [wanted fulling and were oiled with grease that was rank..Therefore, it was ordered that the said] cappes [should be burnt in Chepe].

Memorials of London and London Life, ed. H. T. Riley (1868)

Saturday, August 24, 2013


I have been hatting, blocking the hats from felt blanks. From left to right a pilgrim's hat, a traveler's or pilgrim's hat, a brimless cap of a style often worn by clerics and scholars, and a "Robin Hood" hat. The hat on the left started a a capeline blank, the others as hood type blanks. The wool felt is floppier than I'd like for a broad brimmed hat, even when liberally treated with Kahl Hat Stiffener. I will try fur felt next.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Yet Another Modest Proposal to Improve SCA Heraldry

Modify the Administrative Handbook of the SCA College of Arms as follows:

II. E. By Society convention, all branch arms must include one or more laurel wreaths as an important element in the design; only branch arms may have laurel wreaths as an element. 


By Society convention, all branch arms may include one or more laurel wreaths as an important element in the design; only branch arms may have laurel wreaths as an element. 

Because the mandatory requirement is completely ahistorical and makes it much harder for a heraldic artist to design simple arms typical of the Middle Ages for a branch, and because laurel wreathes, I am reliably informed and well believe, are actually quite difficult to embroider or appliqué.

Change it now.

A Painter's Bill to the Earl of Warwick, 1437

Thes be the parcels that Will Seburgh Citizen and Peyntour of London hath delivered in the monthe of Juyli the xv yeer of the reign of Kyng Harry the sixt, to John Ray, Taillour, of the same Citee, for the use and stuff of my Lord of Warwyk.

Ferst, CCCC. Pencels bete with the Raggidde staffe of silver, pris the pece v. d.  8l.  06s. 00.
Item, for the peynting of two Paveys for my Lord, the one with a Gryfon stondying in my Lordis Colours rede, white and russet, pris of the Pavys, 00 06 08.
Item, for the other Pavys peyntid with blak and a Raggid staffe bete with silver occupying all the felde, pris 00 03 04.
Item, one Cote for my Lordis body, bete with fine gold, pris 01 10 00.
Item, other two Cotes for Herawdes, bete with dymy gold, pris the pece xx s. 02 00 00
Item, iii. Banners for Trumpetts bete with dymy gold, pris the pece xiii s. iiii d. 02 00 00.
Item, iiii. Spere shafts of reed, pris the pece xii d. 00 04 00.
Item, one grete Burdon peynted with reed 00 01 02.
Item, 1. nother Burdon ywrithyn with my Lordis Colours, reed, white, and russet, 00 02 66
Item, for a grete Stremour for the Ship of xl. yerdis length, and viii.yerdis in brede, with a grete Bere and Gryfon holding a Raggid staffe,  poudrid full of raggid staves; and for a grete Crosse of S. George, for the lymmyng and portraying, 01 06 08.
Item, a Gyton for the Shippe of viii. yerdis longe, poudrid full of raggid staves, for the lymmyng and workmanship 00 02 00.
Item, for xviii. grete Standards, entretaiilcd with the Raggid staffe, pris the pece viii d. 00 12 00.
Item, xviii. Standardis of worsted, entretallied with the Bere and a Cheyne, pris the pece xii d. 00 18 00.
Item, xvi. othir Standardis of worsted entretailled with the Raggid staffe, pris the pece xii d. 00 05 04.
Item, 3. Penons of Satyn cntreteyllcd with Raggid staves, for the lymmyng full of raggid staves, pris the pece ii s. 00 06 00.
Item, for the Cote armour bete for George by the commandement of my Lord, pris 00 06 08.

Dugdale, William. 1730. The antiquities of Warwickshire illustrated; from records, leiger-books, manuscripts, charters, evidences, tombes, and armes: beautified with maps, prospects, and portraictures. London: Printed for J. Osborn and T. Longman.

I see several interesting points.

Devices are often "bete"which I take as decorated with gold or silver leaf. Silver leaf tarnishes, but these heraldic displays were relatively ephemeral.

The thrifty earl specified fine gold for his own coat armor, but less pure alloy for his heralds and musicians.

The St. George cross was much less universal than it would become on Tudor ensigns.

The flags were often entretailled.  I take this to mean decorated with cloth cutouts sewn down as apppliqués or glued down as Cennini suggests.  In either case, further decoration by a painter was required.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Flags in Medieval England

There were four main types used on land: standards, banners, pennons, guidons and pencels. Ships also used streamers.

I will offer some definitions that are not inconsistent with medieval use, but since medieval definitions were not consistent, they will not agree with all medieval use.

Banners were rectangular or square. The others were triangular.

Standards and guidons had a split end. Pennons and pencels  had a single end, pointed or rounded.

Standards were usually the largest flags and pencels the smallest, sized to be born on a lance without impeding its use as a weapon

One or more badges could be displayed on all of the above. Almost always, arms were only displayed on banners, pennons and pencels. The one exception that I know of included the arms of the Count of Nassau on an escutcheon among other emblems painted on a standard captured at Grandson in 1476.

14th century banners ranged from 60-90% of the height in breadth, with three feet high and two broad being a fairly typical proportion and size, judging from the iconography.  They evolved to square proportions under the Tudors.

Six feet seems to be a good length for a pennon.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Painted Banner

Recognize the arms of this worthy individual? Hint: his name starts with H, and they are canting arms. The tube sewn for the staff on the viewer's left, when flat as photographed here, makes this look less centered than it does in use. Modern acrylic fabric paint was used.

Whales Are Mammals, But This Is Ridiculous

"....the Skywhale balloon, referred to in some parts as Hindenboob-”

Monday, August 12, 2013

SCA Heraldic Registration: the Enemy of Recreating Medieval Heraldry Well

The Society for Creative Anachronism has a process for registering heraldry. If you complete it, nobody else can register the same arms, or the same badge, within the Society. Nor can they register arms that have less than two clear differences from registered armory.

This works poorly, and leads to bad results.

The chief problem is that they have accepted two late medieval innovations: the lamentable decision of Richard II in Scrope vs. Grosvenor in 1390  that a single clear difference between arms of unrelated families was insufficient, and the 1417 decision of Henry V that all arms in England most be granted by a competent authority. The Society goes even beyond this, idly supposing that arms registered in any kingdom must be free of conflict with arms in any other Society kingdom.

To understand the folly of this, it is important to understand the practice in England before 1390. The vast majority of arms were simply assumed by the bearer. They picked a design they liked and had it painted it on their shield. They didn't pick the same design of anyone they knew about, but in even a small country like England people from different regions could have the same design for generations before it posed a problem. And if they were somewhat similar, then only a fool would confuse azure a bend or with azure a bend or with a bordure argent. Even vision-challenged Sir Nigel Loring could tell the difference from long crossbow cast.

And of course, they didn't worry about conflicting with arms from different kingdoms. Not their problem.

So, if you look at the armory of England before 1400, most arms were pretty simple.Most of the time  you had an ordinary, or a single charge, or three charges 2 & 1, or a field treatment.  And almost all tinctures were argent, or, azure, gules or sable. Maybe you had a bordure in addition.

And this simple vocabulary was entirely sufficient, because you didn't require two by-Our-Lady clear differences, and a certain amount of duplication within a single kingdom was tolerated, because they often didn't meet.

Getting truly simple arms registered in the SCA is a real challenge. I've done it: azure, three sandglasses or. But even that is a bit of a cheat, since I chose an unusual but documented charge.

And that's my advice to you, if you want to beat the system. Pick a mundane, recognizable medieval object, put one or three on a field, and explore field and charge tinctures till you get one that isn't taken. Don't try a sexy mythological beast or a weapon. They've almost certainly all been grabbed. Pegasi  and unicorns have been done to death, but you might try fishhooks.

But even if everyone follows my advice you still get armory that isn't very medieval. Because ordinaries, common charges and simple field treatments are still very difficult to register.

So don't. If you can't register a good, medieval design, all that SCA registration does is stop other people from registering a similar design. If you have a good medieval design you love, then display, and let those that dispute you take you to court of chivalry.

Interestingly, registered Society heraldry does show significant similarity with another system that followed similar constraints: Tudor heraldry. I don't much care for it, but I can see how it ended up where it did.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Pavilion Project: Part X

Two notes:

If you are building a pavilion with sloping walls and a valance, making the valance a truncated cone rather than a cylinder will be more complex, but will interact with the walls much more amicably.

For a pavilion like mine, with separate walls and roof, channels for the hoop, and an inner and outer valance, setup and takedown go much more smoothly if, before you mate or unmate the final segments, you flip the outer and inner valances onto the roof all around the roof. This reduces constriction of the channels, and gives you more working room for mating or unmating the final joints.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Flags and Rank in 16th Century England


 An Emperor's Banner shulde be five foote longe, and of the same breadth. A Kinges Banner of five foote.
A Princes and a Dukes Banner four foot.
A Marquess, an Erles, a Viscounts, a Barons, and a Bannerets Banner shulde be but three foote square, and so is the old forme. Some hold that the Banner of a Banneret shulde be but two feet square, and so was the old forme. But nowe because their worshipp and power is increased, they have it of three foote. The usual Banner for the estates last above-named is elle longe and yard broade.

A Banner serveth for a Knight of the Garter, a Bannerett, a Baron, a Viscount, an Earle, a Marquisse, a Duke, a Prince. Place under a Banner an hundred men.

Standards.—The great standard to be sette before the Kings pavilion or tent, not to be borne in battel, to be of the length of two yards. (sic., but 11 was probably intended)
The Kings Standard to be borne, to be of the length of eight or nine yardes.
The Dukes Standard to be borne, to be slitte at the ende and seven yardes longe.
The Erles Standard six yards longe.
The Barons Standard five yards longe.
The Bannerets Standard four yards and a halfe longe.
The Knightes Standarde four yardes longe.

And every Standard and Guydhome to have in the chiefe the Crosse of St. George, to be slitte at the ende, and to conteyne the crest or supporter, with the poesy, worde, and devise of the owner. Place under the Standard an hundred men.

Pennon A pennon must be two and a halfe yardes longe.made rounde at the ende, and conteyneth the armes of the owner, and serveth for the conduct of an hundred men. Every knight may have his pennon, if he be chiefe captaine, and in itt sett his armes; and if he be made a Banneret by the King or the Lieutenant, shall make a slitte in the end of the pennon, and the heraldes shall raze it owte; and when a Knight is made a Bannerett, the heraldes shall bringe him to his tente, and receive for their fees three pounds, eleven shillings, and fourpence, for every bachelor knight, and the trumpettes twenty shillings.

Note that an Esquire shall not have his arms displayed in the field, but hee may weare his cote.

GUYDON.—A Guydhome must be two yards and a halfe, or three yardes longe, and therin shall no armes be putt, but only the mans crest cognizance and devyce, and from that, from his standard and streamer a man may flee, but not from his banner or pennon bearinge his armes. Place under the Guydhome fifty men, by the conduct of an esquire or a gentleman.

Pencells.—Pencills or Flagges for horsemen must be a yarde and a halfe longe with the crosse of St George, the creast, or worde.

Streamer.—A streamer shall stand in the toppe of a shippe, or in the forecastle, and therein be putt no armes, but a mans conceit or device, and may be of the lengthe of twenty, thirty, forty, or sixty yardes, and it is slitte as well as a guydhome or standarde, and that may a gentleman or any other have or beare.

It is used to make the breadth of a banner less than the length; but there is no rule that holdeth therewith'.

 Harleian MS 2358


The Standard to be sett before the Kings pavillion or tente, and not to be borne in battayle, to be in lengthe eleven yards.
The Kinges Standard to be borne, in lengthe eight or nine yards.
A Dukes Standard to be borne, and to be in lengthe seven yards di'.
A Marquesse Standard to be in length six yards di'.
An Earles Standard to be in lengthe six yards.
A Viscounts Standard to be in length five yards di'.
A Barons Standard to be in length five yards.
A Banneretts Standard to be in lengthe four yards di'.
A Knights Standard to be in length four yards.

Everie Standard and Guydon to have in the cheife the crosse of St. George, the beast or crest with his devyse and word, and to be slitt at the end.

A Guidon to be in lengthe two yards and a half, or three.

A Pennon of Armes round att the end, and to be in length two yardes.

The Kinges Banner to be in lengthe two yards di', and in bredthe two yards.
A Banner of a Knight of the Garter to be sett up at Wyndeser, two yardes, slete two yards, and one yard and three quarters broade.

 A Banneroll to be in length one ell, in breath one yard.

 Lansdowne MS 255, f. 431.

These both appear to be 16th century, judging by the square banner proportions. Earlier practice was less systematic and restrictive. For example, the squires that served as judges in King René's tournament book displayed banners; perhaps the office of tournament judge was considered of such dignity that you were entitled to display a banner while you held it. Surviving 15th century Burgundian standards did not consistently display the national badge next to the pole.

Also, from reading the above you might well assume that knights bachelor formed the bottom edge of the Tudor standard owning class. You would be wrong. This Tudor record of standards and other armory shows that a substantial number of standards pertained to men below knightly rank: courtiers, politicians, poets, soldiers, wealthy landowners and squires that married well. But I repeat myself.

The book contains about three times as many standards as banners.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Painting Cloth in the Middle Ages

Flags, coat armor and caparisons were often painted in the Middle Ages, and Cennino Cennini had much useful advice on painting cloth. Both silk and linen was used for surviving flags, and the Earl of Wawick owned standards of worsted. Cennini also described how to paint velvet, and woolen cloth for jousts or tournaments.  Cennini generally sized the cloth where it would be painted, which is essential to protect the cloth if oil based paint or mordant for gilding is used.

Modern acrylic fabric paint can be applied to cloth directly, but has a gloss that is somewhat different from oil paint over size or tempera.

My most recent flag project was a silk pennoncel, with three gold sandglasses on a blue field. Fabric paint was the lowest layer of the sandglasses,  with gold leaf burnished atop that with gum arabic.

Using resist and dyes to paint silk seems to have been unknown in Europe before the 19th century.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Pavilion Project: Part IX

Two views of the channel that holds the hoop and the inner valance below it. The first was taken with the tent dry. The second shows how much the canvas shrinks when damp with the morning dew.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Pavilion Project: Part VIII

From top to bottom: 1 & 2 show the pavilion closed and open. 3 shows how channels are sewn to the bottom of the roof for the sectional hoop, with gaps between each panel to feed in the hoop sections. Below that is the inner valance, which neatly covers where the wall is joined to the roof with toggles. 4 shows how one panel of the hoop channel opens and closes with hooks and eyes, to allow the final two sections of the hoop to be manhandled into position if necessary. 5 & 6 show the interior of the tent as set up. The rug is eight feet in diameter and woven from jute, with a tarp cut to a slightly smaller diameter circle beneath. 7 shows the roof and center pole with walls and hoop removed, and suggests one possible reason why the word pavilion was used both for this kind of tent and the medieval umbrella. The hoop segments are on the rug behind the pole.

The pavilion is about 8'10" in diameter at the shoulder, and the walls and roof are each composed of 20 panels, about 16" wide from center of seam to center of seam at the shoulder. Loops on the roof and toggles on the wall are sewn at every seam and halfway between them. The doors close with toggles rather than ties, which seems to be a more convenient alternative. The hoop is composed of eight segments, with each join a skarf joint between two steel bands.

Fabric loops at the bottom of the wall for stakes seems to have been a design that came in with the sewing machine. This pavilion ties the wall to stakes with cords: this approach is often seen in medieval art, and allows a more flexible response to uneven ground.

The roof panels are cut with one edge on the warp and the bias edge cut with a slight concave curve.

For more on this project, look here.