Claire Barnes

Claire Barnes



Medieval horses might be adorned with harness pendants & other decorations, often brightly enamelled. Thousands have been found in recent decades, due to metal detectors - sometimes by roadsides, lost while travelling, & near known tournament sites.

The identities most commonly proclaimed on the heraldic pendants found in England include names resonant at Clare Castle, their horses & messengers frequently mentioned in the records: the king, his family, & those of Clare, Bohun, Despenser, Valence & Warenne.

Current knowledge on armorial harness pendants has been marshalled by Prof Sir John Baker: Relevant to the #LadyofClare: grandmother Eleanor of Castile; great friend Marie de St Pol, Countess of Pembroke; & another cousin Margery Badlesmere, Lady Roos.

Here's a Suffolk find, & a detail of that image from the Trinity Apocalypse, commissioned perhaps by Eleanor of Castile. Arms of rebellious young Gilbert de Clare, the Red Earl, are depicted among the army of the Beast... but Gilbert later became her son-in-law.

Some horses wore bells. Perhaps ringtones were a topic for comparison in the stables? Many different designs have been found: including some associated with the Red Earl's sister Margaret - she of the spectacular Iranian blue textile with griffin.

Sir Robert de Bures was the Red Earl's steward & lived until 1331; his son Sir Andrew served the #LadyofClare. This pendant was found near the Suffolk coast; a similar one at Little Cornard, 5 miles south of Acton where Robert's magnificent brass remains.

This pendant with the Zouche bezants (gold coins/roundels) represents Eleanor de Clare & her second husband William la Zouche, between their 1329 marriage & her death in 1337. Double-sided... visually striking, like her stunning windows at Tewkesbury.

This harness stud bears the arms of Elizabeth de Burgh, #LadyofClare, as shown on her last personal seal which she used from 1353: the chevrons of Clare impaling the cross of de Burgh, inside a border gouttée (with droplets). These are now the arms of Clare College, Cambridge.

The shield below has the same arms the other way round, with de Burgh in 'first place' on the dexter side. The octagonal pendant has those arms without the border.

We know the final design, so can guess at the order in which these three were rolled out, as Elizabeth #LadyofClare proclaimed her identity in evolving ways - a de Burgh wife/widow, adding a prominent new design element of gouttes, & later re-emphasizing her Clare lineage.

On decorative items, the heraldic charges could be combined in different ways. On the harness fitting below left, gouttes (droplets) are the central feature, with Clare chevrons & Burgh cross on the outside. How about the lozenge gouttée - were gouttes used standalone as a badge?

It seems quite likely. The adoption of simple personal badges was a trend, & fragments of opaque dark glass with gold drops were found at Clare Castle in 2013, with size & spacing suggesting standalone use for a window border. New excavations this month!

The lozenge gouttée was found on the route between Clare/London & Elizabeth's Dorset HQ at Cranborne - a road often ridden by Clare officials. Within hours of the 1326 invasion, a messenger left Clare Castle "in haste to Cranborne" to alert & summon counsellors.

Thanks to Professor Sir John Baker for info & photos of the fittings related to the Lady of Clare, advance glimpses of a forthcoming chapter 'Heraldic Insights from Small Metal Artefacts 1250-1350' for "Heralds and Heraldry in the Middle Ages", ed. N. L. Ramsay.

Also studying harness decorations: @AHRC_Warhorse Time for more horse pictures. Going out unadorned seems to have been excusable in some circumstances:

While European horses wore harness pendants, & the #LadyofClare was buying 'tartarin' cloth for the vestment 'striped with gold' that she later bequeathed @ClareCollege ... Nestorian crosses were spreading along the Silk Road. How far? Qn for talk 24Sep?

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