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Funerary badge of the Black Prince

 

Length: 13.00 cm
Width: 8.60 cm

M&ME OA 100

Room 40: Medieval Europe

    Funerary badge of the Black Prince

    England, around AD 1376

    A national hero ascended

    This lead badge is of a type that would have been worn at the funeral of the Black Prince in 1376. The Black Prince, Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales (1330-1376), was buried at Canterbury Cathedral, close to the shrine of St Thomas Becket (?1118-70). Badges commemorating the funeral may well have been produced at Canterbury, where pilgrim souvenirs were regularly manufactured. However, the very high quality of this badge, in terms of execution and design, could indicate the involvement of a court craftsman.

    What does the badge depict? The Black Prince is represented in the centre of the badge, kneeling before the Holy Trinity. Behind him an angel holds his leopard-crested helm, while another angel emerges from clouds, supporting the Prince's arms on a shield. The whole scene is encircled by a buckled garter which is inscribed with the words hony soyt ke mal y pense ('shame on he who thinks evil of it').

    What is the significance of the garter and its inscription? The garter was the emblem of the Order of the Garter, founded in 1348 by Edward III to strengthen the allegiance of powerful magnates by promoting the virtues of knighthood and nobility. The Black Prince was a founder member. The inscription is essentially a challenge to those who might be opposed to the English claim on the French throne - the issue surrounding many of the Black Prince's military campaigns.

    J. Alexander and P. Binski, Age of chivalry: art in Planta (Royal Academy, London, 1987)

    J. Robinson, Masterpieces: Medieval Art (London, British Museum Press, 2008)

    B. Spencer, Pilgrim souvenirs and secular (London, Stationery Office, 1998)

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    On display: Room 40: Medieval Europe

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