James Hillson (York): Hagiographical Heraldry and the Plantagenets – St George, Edward the Confessor and the Arms of England circa 1259-1363

At the battle of Crecy in 1347 the English army fought as it had since Edward I under five banners: two were secular, the dragon standard and the royal arms, but the majority were hagiographical – the arms of Saints George, Edward the Confessor and Edmund the Martyr.  In both peace and war the later Plantagenet Kings persistently utilised the visual relationship between themselves and the heraldry of their peculiar patron saints in constructing royal identity.
This paper aims to demonstrate how the articulation of this relationship in Plantagenet decorative programmes reflected changing attitudes in the self-consciously projected image of royal power.  Through the prominent display of hagiographical arms in a royal context, the concepts associated with Plantagenet authority could be given a public and instantly recognisable visual reinforcement.  Focusing on the painted heraldic programmes of Westminster Abbey (1259-72), York Minster Nave (c. 1290-1300), St George’s Chapel, Windsor (c. 1347) and St Stephen’s Chapel, Westminster (1348-63), the paper will examine the shift from programmes which promote Edward the Confessor as the typological exemplar of sacred Kingship towards the growing cult of Saint George as England’s peculiar patron.  In so doing, it will explore the monarchy’s contrasting iconographic responses to both Edward I’s revival of Roman imperialism and the changing political situation following Edward III’s triumphant return from war in France in 1348.

Date:  1 July 2013
Place: International Medieval Congress, Leeds,Session 307 (Medieval Heraldry Revisited III: Beyond Worldly Bonds. The spiritual capacity of heraldry in the visual world of the late Middle Ages)

Cite the article as: Torsten Hiltmann, "James Hillson (York): Hagiographical Heraldry and the Plantagenets – St George, Edward the Confessor and the Arms of England circa 1259-1363", in: Heraldica nova. Medieval Heraldry in social and cultural-historical perspectives (blog on Hypotheses.org), published: 11/06/2013, Internet: http://heraldica.hypotheses.org/198.

Torsten Hiltmann

Torsten Hiltmann is Juniorprofessor for the High and Late Middle Ages and Auxiliary Sciences at the University of Münster. He is interested in new approaches to late medieval and early modern heraldry, the medieval notion of kingship and the methods and technologies of Digital Humanities. On hypotheses.org, he is maintaining, among others, the blog “Heraldica Nova”.

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