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Historical and Antiquarian Magazine.
ON THE BANNERS USED IN THE ENGLISH ARMY FROM THE
CONQUEST TO THE REIGN OF HENRY THE EIGHTI.
“ With all their banners bravely spread,
And all their armour flashing high;
It would be difficult to name a subject more intimately connected with all that is chivalrous in English history than an account of the Banners which were borne in the field under our early monarchs; and the mind must indeed be callous to national glory that is not interested in all that relates to those ensigns under which the victories of Poictiers, of Cressy, and of Agincourt were gained. Whilst innumerable essays and dissertations have been written upon pieces of brass or stone, this point of antiquarian research has never received the attention that it deserves. The following remarks, which have been deduced from undoubted sources, are therefore submitted with the hope that they will throw some light upon a curious, if not important, part of historical investigations ; and if they have no other merit, they will perhaps serve as the outlines of a picture which ought long since to have been completed.
That a standard, or ensign, was borne in the armies of all nations from the most distant era, is a fact which is too well established both by sacred and profane history to admit of the slightest doubt; but these observations will be confined to the Banners used in the English army from the Conquest to the death of Henry the Eighth. Until the latter part of the reign of Edward the First, materials for the inquiry are extremely scanty; and
almost all which will be here said on it before that time has been taken from Dr. Meyrick's admirable work on ancient armour.
Banners, in the present acceptation of the term, are coeval with the introduction of heraldry, or armorial bearings; and which may perhaps be safely stated to have been adopted in this country about the twelfth century: a question which will be partially elucidated.
William the Conqueror is represented on his great seal with a lance in his right hand, to which a small pennon is attached'; and which Dr. Meyrick considers was then called a “ gonfanon." “ It differs,” that learned writer observes, “ from a banner in this respect, that instead of being square, and fastened to a tronsure bar, the gonfanon, though of the same figure, was fixed in a frame made to turn like a modern ship's vane, with two or three streamers or tails. The object of the gonfanon was principally to render great people more conspicuous to their followers, and to terrify the horses of their adversaries : hence the gonfanon became a mark of dignity." From the Bayeux Tapestry it would appear that a kind of standard was borne near the person of the commander in chief; and which is described by the writers of the period as a gonfanon. Wace says, “ Li Barons ourent gonfanons, The Barons had gonfanons,
Li Chevaliers ourent penons." The Knights had pennons. The pennon was a sort of streamer; but the Conqueror's gonfanon, as depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry, has three tails, and is charged with a cross?. Though the other gonfanons are variously coloured, they resemble each other in shape, of which a copy is given in the plate 3. William's is always painted Argent a cross Or, within a bordure Azure; and the same charge also occurs on the mast of his ship, though in a square form, of which a representation is also given 4. According to William of Malmsbury, the standard of the Conqueror, at the battle of Hastings, was in the form of a fighting man, wrought with gold and precious stones in a costly manner; and which he afterwards sent to the Pope 5. The gonfanon attached to the lance of
i See Plate No. 5.
2 See Plate No. 4. s See Plate No. 3.
4 See Plate No. 2. 5“ Vexillum illud post victoriam Papæ misit Willielmus, quod erat in hominis pugnantis figura, auro, et lapidibus arte sumptuosa contexum.”—Lib. iii. p. 101. At the Battle of the Standard in 1138, the standard used by the English, we are told, consisted of the mast of a ship fixed upon a wheeled carriage, at the top of which was placed a silver pix, containing a consecrated wafer; and under were hung three banners, one dedicated to St. Peter, another to St. John of Beverley, and the third to St. Wilfred of Rippon.
William Rufus on his great seal is simply swallow-tailed ? : that of King Stephen differed slightly in the form from both, and was charged with a cross”. Henry Duke of Normandy's pennon is shown on the plate, which also contains drawings of two other pennons used about the same period". As, after that time, the kings of England and other great personages are always represented with a sword instead of a lance in their right hands, no farther information is to be gleaned from their seals. Upon the adoption of armorial ensigns, there is ample evidence to show that the pennon or gonfanon was charged with the arms of the bearer : hence the precise period when Heraldry was introduced is so intimately connected with the subject, that some remarks on the point are indispensable. Montfaucon presents an example of arms on a shield on a monument in 1109; but the tomb of Geoffrey Mandeville, Earl of Essex, in the Temple Church, who died in 1148, is perhaps the earliest instance which exists of the use of armorial bearings in this country. No arms appear on the seals of our monarchs until the reign of Richard the First; and it was only on his second seal that the present ensigns of England were introduced. The great barons were not long before they imitated the seals of their sovereign. Saier de Quincy, Earl of Winchester, who died in 1219, and Richard de Monifichet, the last person of which name flourished in the reign of John and in the commencement of that of his successor, are represented on horseback, holding in their right hands a shield with their arms, and in their left a lance with a pennon similarly charged. The pennon of the earl is shown in the plates, and which contained the coat he used, Or a fess Gules and a label of eleven points Azure; whilst that of Montfichet appears charged with three chevronels, his arms being Gules three chevronels Or.
A still earlier instance remains, however, to be mentioned. In a collection of drawings of ancient seals? is one of Waleran de Bellomont, who was created Earl of Worcester in 1144, and died in 1166. Upon one side he is represented on horseback, holding in his right hand a shield Checky, and in his left a lance with a pennon of four tails, the upper being Checky8, and the legend *“ Sigillum Gualerani Comitis Wigornie.” On the reverse he also appears mounted, and has a shield in his left hand similarly charged, but his right supports a sword : the legend
See Plate No. 6. 2 See Plate No. 9. See No. 10. 4 See Nos. 8 and 11. Nearly all three pennons have been copied from the seals engraved either in Sandford's “ Genealogical History," or in the first volume of the authorized edition of the “ Statutes of the Realm.” 5 See Plate No. 13.
6 See Plate No. 12. 7 In the Lansdown MS. 203. 8 See Plate No. 7.
being “ Sigillum Gualerani Comitis Mellenti, the title of his earldom in Normandy. Without multiplying authorities, sufficient has perhaps been said to establish the fact, that armorial bearings were used in England in the reign of Henry the Second ; and that as the pennon was charged with them, it is obvious that they were borne as banners in the field. That the pennon of the sovereign was similarly marked can scarcely be doubted, but we have no account of any thing like a national standard ; nor indeed does it appear that the square banner was then used. It was however in all probability introduced in the reign of Henry the Third; for, though no evidence on the point has been discovered with respect to this country, we find that Otho Count of Gueldres is depicted on his seal, in 1247, holding a square banner charged with his arms, a lion rampant'; and in the window of the cathedral of Notre Dame de Chartres is a representation of Simon de Montfort, who was Earl of Leicester from 12:36 to 1265, on horseback, in which his shield appears, Gules a lion rampant double queued Argent, and he holds in his right hand a banner, per pale dancette Gules and Argent?. From the seals engraved in De Wree's * Sceaux de Comptes de Flandres," it appears that William Count of Flanders, in 1127, bore a split pennon on his lance, and Philip, his successor, a square one; whilst the Count Baldwin, in 1193, carried one with three tails. All these were however very different from the pennon used by Philip Marquis of Namur in 1944, an idea of which can only be conveyed by the pencil ?..
About the same period, the pennon of Ferdinand the Third, King of Castile, from 1216 to 1252, as painted in the windows of the cathedral of Notre Dame de Chartres, contained a castle ; but its form resembled the pennon of the Duke of Normandy. A modern writer* asserts, though without referring to his authority in a sufficiently accurate manner, that Henry the Third", in the 28th year of his reign, commanded Edward Fitz Odo to make a dragon in manner of a standard or ensign, of red samite, and embroidered with gold, his eyes of sapphire, and his tongue to appear continually moving; and to place it in the abbey church of Westminster. A few words are consequently neces
Sceaua des Comptes de Flandres, p. 78. 2 Engraved in Willemin's Monumens Français inedits; a work which, whilst it is an honour to his country, is a disgrace to our own; that, with a Society of Antiquaries possessing a revenue of nearly 30001. per annum, we have produced nothing which can even be compared to it in utility.
3 See Plate No. 20.
5 Sandford also says, that a dragon was borne before Henry the Third at the battle of Lewes.
sary on the subject of a dragon having been borne as an ensign by early English monarchs. Matthew of Westminster asserts, that in the battle between Edmund Ironside and Canute, “ Regius locus fuit inter draconum et standardum :” thus the dragon, if used on that occasion, was clearly not the standard. If the Bayeux Tapestry can be relied on, the statement of Matthew of Westminster is powerfully corroborated; for we there repeatedly find a dragon on a pole occur near the person of Harold; and in the instance which has been copied on the plate', the words “ Hic Harold” are placed over it. Amongst the ensigns displayed by Edward the Third at Cressy, according to Barnes, in his “ History of Edward the Third,” but whose statement is not supported by contemporary writers”, was a burning dragon, to show that the French were to receive little mercy. “It was,” he says, “ of red silk, adorned and beaten with very broad and fair lilies of gold, and bordered about with gold and vermilion." In many of the illuminations of MSS. in the fifteenth century, which will be more fully noticed, a gold dragon on a red pennon is often introduced as one of the ensigns in the French armies ; but until the reign of Henry the Sixth, upon one of whose coins a banner occurs charged with a demi-dragon, no other evidence is to be found of that imaginary animal having ever been used as one of the national or royal ensigns, than the authorities which have been cited.
Of the Banners borne in armies in the reign of Edward the First we have valuable and minute information. At that era, at least, Heraldry was reduced to a science; and two contemporary MSS. on the subject still exist. The one is an heraldic poem describing the siege of Carlaverock Castle in June 1300, in which the arms of every banneret of the English army are accurately blazoned ; and many curious passages illustrative of the object of this inquiry will be copied from it. At the same time that they show what banners were then used, we may infer that the like practice prevailed at an earlier period; for in one instance it is expressly said, that a certain thing was done agreeably to the accustomed usage.
At the commencement, the Poet observes, “ La ont meinte riche garnement There were many rich capaBrode sur cendeaus et samis risons embroidered on silks and Meint beau penon en lance mis satins; many a beautiful pennon Meint baniere desploie.”
fixed to a lance; and many a ban
ner displayed. It is thus manifest, that besides the pennon ,on the lance,
See Plate No. 1.