The medieval period is a vast swath of time covering a myriad of different cultures and fashions. However, just like how there are some common threads (puns) between the suits of the roaring 20s and the business dress of the Covid 20s, there are some must have necessary elements of medieval dress every living history or reenactment impression should consider incorporating to be considered complete.
Responding to the challenge of Matt Blazek, Executive Director of History Live North East and The Agincourt Soldier I talk about my favorite living history item, the one thing out of my collection which I love above all others. As part of the rules I have extended this challenge along to Ben and Reece of Pursuing the Knightly Arts!
All links are sound with very few updates required to keep it all current. Nothing was sent to the morgue in any of the lists this month, and since it was empty, there were no resurrections to speak of. On the 27th I updated the cosmetics of my heraldry which required a scouring of the website for instances of the old image for update. As far as I can tell I got to all of it. There was a bit of fiddling to get the og:image and site token correct, with much gnashing of teeth and rending of shirts as I repeatedly scraped the Facebook debugger and uploaded the site repeatedly on different screens in different browsers in a variety of cog and incognito. I’m certain there is something I have missed, but as far as I can tell there are no errors which leave empty gaps or image errors.
As most of you are aware, as the Turnip of Terror, the turnip has been a central facet of my arms, heraldry, and iconography for this project and for my living history pursuits. I am a self-taught graphic artist doing what I can with access to tools I have no training or true understanding of. Now and then I try to make cosmetic improvements. However, outside of looks, there are also times when further study of the period brings to light possible errors in our kit we have to fix. In this instance, it is my “digital soft kit” which is getting both an aesthetic and an authenticity upgrade.
Something occurred to me during unrelated study, and it is the general shape of the heraldry I have been using is inconsistent with the geographic location I want to portray. It has been so long now I cannot remember where I swiped the shape of my escutcheon (the shield part of the coat of arms) from, but it is not the only shape out there. These shapes can be informed by historical record though, and if you’ll notice, the general outline of my arms are fairly consistent with the images found in the Beyeren Armorial of the early 15th Century. They both have a flat top with mostly perpendicular sides and a rounded bottom coming to very unpronounced point. Mine was a bit angular on the corners, but it worked.
The problem, or at least what I found to be a problem, was when I realized rolls of arms with escutcheons of this shape are from Holland, Germany, and France. When I take a look at English rolls of arms, such as the Segar’s Rolls and the Dering Roll I notice a subtle but pronounced difference in shape. Instead of a round bottom, these arms all follow a sharper angle along the side and end at a pronounced point at the bottom.
So I set about changing the lines of my heraldry to match. I also took this opportunity to do a couple upgrades, such as giving it a contrasting border of silver so when it is against a back background (which happens frequently) it has some contrast and it doesn’t become a floating turnip with a gold bar above it. There is something to keep in mind with heraldry, which is something my friend Trevor graciously pointed out:
The thing about arms is that the “blazon” is just a written description that informs the artist. After that, it’s artistic license.
Which means the “quibble” over shape is both completely legitimate and simultaneously unnecessary. The blazon could be given to an artist who draws it on whatever escutcheon they fancy. While I may prefer the chief to be proportionally 20% the height of the arms and the turnip to be scaled to 75% of the same, there is no way in historical blazon to specify any of this. As long as it isn’t half the arms tall the chief can be a quarter to a third of the top, and the turnip may be as big as the artist is willing to paint or cartoon that day. But, for my own purposes and for the purposes of keeping my impression, all parts of my impression, grounded in coherency and cohesiveness of time and place this was an essential change. For those who know, it is an immediate visual clue informing the viewer vital details about me, as the bearer of these arms… and in many ways this is an essential function of heraldry, which made it an essential change. I hope you like it! It will take some time to find and replace every instance of it throughout the website and across the internet. Trying to fix every instance of something on the internet may not be possible, but I’ll give it a shot.
Also, while I was digging through my files to get to the original pieces I assembled my heraldry from I found a folder of all the prototypes I went through when I was deciding what I wanted my arms to look like. Now seems a good time to share them, for posterity’s sake.
I had the distinct pleasure of being a guest on The Greenwood Podcast, the audio outlet for the 13th century living history group The Company of Little Dunmow. Considering our isolation with the pandemic, Little Dunmow was unique in how it was predominantly an internet based group who affiliated with each other and met at events prior to the lock downs. We talk about unit cohesion in the digital age, handling distance and lock down, gatekeeping, and other topics.
My daughter and I adventure through making and trying a period medieval recipe for Barley Water. We caught it all on tape, plus our genuine reaction to the first taste of the final product. We used the recipe from Kiriel’s Kitchen, translated and interpreted from the 14th century book Le Ménagier de Paris, a home care and cooking guide for the medieval house wife. Barley water, or A Sweet Tisane as it is called in the book, is a restorative beverage designed to help convalesce the infirm.
You asked and we answered! This commemorative episode for our first dozen is a Q and A. It was a delight to hear from the audience and get a chance to respond. Thank you everyone who submitted questions. Enjoy, this one is for you!
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