Greetings to all from Ryan Brigantia, Principal Herald of the Kingdom of the East.
We have recently discovered that the “Ask a Herald” link on the EK homepage was not properly forwarding requests. We are working to retreive any requests which may have been backlogged at this time. I know you have been patient in awaiting responses to your inquiries but I must ask for a little more time.
Filed under: Announcements, Heraldry
From Ryan Mac Whyte, War Herald for the Kingdom of the East for Pennsic XLIV.
Greetings and every good thing to all to whom these letters come.
As we approach the coming campaign to… um… become closer to our fair friends of the Midrealm by acquiring lands adjacent to their lands, the Kingdom’s eyes turn Westward.
In just over a month the War Arrow shall be broken and the Horn shall sound. The populace of the known world shall gather on the field of Pennsic to bear witness.
In order to facilitate Opening Ceremonies an organizational meeting of the Kingdom War Heralds will be held in EK Royal at 4pm on Saturday August 1st. Following the War Heralds’ meeting at 5pm will be a organizational meeting for all those East Kingdom Territorial Heralds who will be leading their Provinces, Baronies, and Shires in opening ceremonies. I am STRONGLY encouraging all groups who wish to be represented in the procession to send a representative to this meeting. As the principal participants of the War are changing this year the ceremony will be unlike any before it.
Opening Ceremonies will be starting at 9am on Sunday August 2nd. The Royal procession will be stepping off from EK Royal at approximately 8:45am. I am asking that all groups be present and ready to go at 8:30am.
Filed under: Announcements, Heraldry, Pennsic
Greetings all, Recommendations to be considered for the first polling of Brennan & Caoilfhionn will be accepted through the end of Sunday 7/12. Recommendations received after that time will be considered for the 2nd polling. Please remember that you need not be a member of an order to recommend someone you consider deserving. If you know someone you feel strongly about, please recommend them via http://surveys.eastkingdom.org/index.php/945932/lang-en Thank you, and we look forward to hearing from you. In Service to the East, Brennan and Caoilfhionn
Filed under: Announcements
Æthelmearc Sings At Pennsic
I will return to my article series after Pennsic, but since we are now truly in the season to prepare for War, I wanted to remind everyone (or maybe tell you, if you didn’t know), that Æthelmearc traditionally sings on our way to Opening Ceremonies (and if there’s time, while we’re waiting). Anyone who is marching with a barony or group for Opening Ceremonies, or anyone else who just wants to participate with the kingdom, is encouraged to come and sing with us!
“But I don’t know any Æthelmearc songs!” you cry.
Well, have we got a deal for you! It so happens that the Æthelmearc College of Bards has many of our kingdom songs available at the College website:
Each of the songs has two links: one for a downloadable version of sheet music, and one for a downloadable mp3 of the song.
One caveat about the sheet music: most of these songs feature a lot of variation in the melody and rhythm from one verse to the next, depending on the demands of the lyrics and the singer’s individual preferences. This is not choral singing; the music is meant to be sung freely, so the notes on the page are more of a guide to the melody than an iron-clad representation of it. It’s certainly enough to get everyone going, though!
If you want a copy of the songbook… the 2007 edition (which is the last update we can find) is there for your printing pleasure:
There’s also a lyric sheet which has Her Ladyship Silence’s updates to songs like Sylvan March (where groups have come and gone since I wrote it):
The lyric sheet is designed to be folded to fit into a pocket or pouch or you can download either copy to your portable pocket girdle book (i.e., your phone or tablet) and carry the songs with you that way.
After Pennsic, there will be a new version of the songbook. No, really. There will also probably be an article on the difficulty of herding bards who are even harder to herd than cats….
Meanwhile, if the Songs of Æthelmearc are not enough for you, and you are desperate for more bardic advice, I recommend the excellent series of blog posts on the seven bardic sins written by Master Brendan the Bard.
Here’s the first in the series:
Finally, I encourage everyone who will be attending Pennsic to find at least one performance, bardic circle, exhibition, or performance competition to attend. There is immense talent on the Pennsic stages, which can easily inspire and impress. There are also a complete catalog of bardic classes, including performance workshops, and the annual Bardic Collegium which offers discussion of the state of the bardic arts and tips and tales about performers’ efforts to grow and shape the community of performers within the SCA. Check out the Pennsic University for more details, and the Performing Arts schedule to find concerts, exhibitions, competitions, and other activities which will surely please and amaze.
Of particular note, Æthelmearc has been invited to participate this year in the inter-kingdom exhibition, which previously has been limited to the East and the Midrealm. More details to come, but the exhibition will be on Saturday, August 1, beginning at 5:00 PM. Come and support our Kingdom’s performers as they showcase their skills.
See you at the War!
Ever in Service,
Gwendolyn the Graceful, Brehyres
A&S Research Paper #1. ‘A smoke of cameryke, wrought with blake worke’: An overview of monochromatic embroidery in Early Modern England during the reign of Elizabeth I
Greetings, and welcome to the East Kingdom Gazette’s new feature: A&S Research Papers! Our first article comes to us from Mistress Amy Webbe, of the Shire of Barren Sands, who is presenting her article on monochromatic embroidery. The paper was presented initially to the East Kingdom Embroiderer’s Guild, the Keepers of Athena’s Thimble. Thank you, Mistress Amy, for starting off the new feature so well! (Prospective future contributors, please check out our original Call for Papers.)
‘A smoke of cameryke, wrought with blake worke’: An overview of monochromatic embroidery in Early Modern England during the reign of Elizabeth I
A woman’s coif, circa 1600, accession number 1996.51. Image from the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Abstract: Monochromatic embroidery in counted forms was prevalent throughout the medieval Islamic world. Subsequent contact with southern European cultures introduced this form into mainland Europe, where it spread throughout Christendom. The arrival of the Reformation in England 1534, and the accession of Elizabeth I in 1558 allowed this art form to develop in uniquely English ways, establishing a unique aesthetic specific to the time and place. This paper will examine the aesthetics and techniques of monochromatic embroidery during the 16th century, focusing primarily on England, where this style of embroidery enjoyed its heyday.
1. Historical Overview of Monochrome Embroidery
Monochrome embroidery, that is, embroidery using only one color of thread, is likely to be as old as needlework itself. It is easy to imagine our ancestors with leftover dye, and using it on a bit of thread that could then be used on an undyed garment, embellishing their clothing with something small. In “the Old World”, the earliest extant pieces that feature this sort of singlecolored thread, on an undyed or white ground, are found in what was considered “the Islamic World”. Islamic tradition cautions against the representation of living things, believing the power to create life is unique to God. Islamic embroidery, therefore, is often restricted to geometric patterns, and these are sometimes worked in a single color, and in double running or pattern darning stitches, such as fragment EA1984.168 at the Ashmolean Museum. Fragment of an embroidered Islamic textile, Mamluk period (1250-1517), accession number EA1984.168. Image from the collections of the Ashmolean Museum.
Textile fragment 27.168.8 from the Metropolitan Museum of Art contains some simple stepped and geometric figures that closely resemble what we may identify as “modern” blackwork. Fragment of an embroidered Islamic textile, 13th or 14th century, accession number 27.168.8. Image from the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
In contrast, extant European embroidery of the same time period is frequently ecclesiastical in nature, depicting many religious icons and figures, and polychromatic. What survives from prior to the Renaissance is a collection of altar cloths, copes, chasubles, miters—all items that would have been used and preserved in churches. English embroidery in particular had a famous period of embroidery, known throughout Europe as “Opus Angelicanum”, or “English Work”. This was characterized by the skillful use of color and shading, used particularly to denote people.
Monochromatic embroidery in Europe is mainly unknown from extant examples at this point in time, although a passage from Chaucer is frequently cited to show evidence of a history of English “blackwork”. A common translation reads:
Her smock was white and embroidered on the collar, inside and outside, in front and in back, with coalblack silk; and of the same black silk were the strings of her white hood, and she wore a broad band of silk, wrapped high about her hair. (NeCastro, 2011.)
However, this raises more questions than it answers. It has been posited that this statement is “proof” of a history of regular monochrome work existing in England prior to the 16th century, but one must ask the following questions with regards to the Chaucer reference: Are there pictorial examples or extant pieces to coincide with this reference? Is a 14th century smock of the same construction as a 16th, with a separate collar? What would the “collar” of the smock refer to? Are the “strings” on her hood perhaps ribbon, and the decoration on her “smock” ribbon as well? An alternate translation from the Liberius.org site reads:
White was her smock, embroidered all before/And even behind, her collar round about,/Of Coalblack silk, on both sides, in and out;/The strings of the white cap upon her head/Were, like her collar, black silk worked with thread.
This gives a slightly different interpretation, that may seem more plausible—that of these garments being made of black silk that was then embroidered. This also fits with the characterization of the Miller’s Wife as being a creature of fantastic taste and conspicuous consumption.
The end of the feudal system in Europe allowed workers to have more time and more money; workers could specialize in trades, and it is likely that this, combined with a more earthly focus after the Black Death, created an environment in which personal decoration was more accepted. The introduction of printed papers also meant patterns and images could be shared and traded, and this may also have contributed to a development of the culture of embroidery, particularly in the area of black on white embroidery, which may be an attempt to mimic woodcut illustrations. The influence of the Reformation also likely played a part, which we will consider later.
Although popular history holds that Catherine of Aragon brought the fashion for “blackwork” with her from Spain, there are no known extant pieces said to be the work of Catherine herself, and even her portraiture does not reflect this embroidery in great quantities. Some Spanish portraits hint at a bit of black decoration around the neckline, but this is not definitive, due to a lack of extant examples. Also, pieces housed in Spanish museums are frequently labeled as being of Italian origin. It seems as equally likely that Italian contact with the Islamic world may have been the connection, as many existing pieces share characteristics with each other, regardless of provenance. This may be expected under the universality of “Christendom”, as headed by the Pope in Rome. Henry VIII himself was even named a defender of the faith, a “fidei defensor”, by Pope Leo X, in 1521, and one could argue that this relationship accounts for the apparent similarities between European pieces in the first half of the 16th century.
A note on black dye: Prior to the discovery of the “New World”, black dye was often obtained from oak galls, which contained large quantities of tannin. However, this dye was extremely acidic, and would often eat away at fibers; many of the extant pieces we have today from England have disintegrating black silk needlework due to the dye being used. This was well known, and the Doge of Venice even went so far as to ban their use on wool fabrics. (Smith, 2009). This problem was solved somewhat by using a “provisional” natural dye as the base—first woad, then indigo, and later logwood. Logwood was under Spanish control as an import from the New World, and this may account for the reports of the higher quality of Spanish silk being much desired.
Beginning in the 16th century, we begin to see monochromatic embroidery represented in art. The paintings of Hans Holbein contains several images that seem to reference a geometric, “pixelated” style of embroidery. The Hans Holbein painting Darmstadt Madonna features a figure wearing a dress that many would argue reflects monochrome embroidery done in a simple linear stitch. And indeed, it does certainly appear to be so. However, almost no extant pieces exist from Germany at this time, so one cannot state that unequivocally, no matter how talented we presume the artist. Paintings of Jane Seymour done by him and attributed to his workshop show at least two different styles of what appear to be embroidered ruffles, although only one really represents this strictly geometric style. The archaeological record only minimally reflects this: Smock 2003.76 at Platt Hall of the Manchester City Galleries, dating from the mid 16thcentury England, does use what appears to be a double running stitch for the border of its neckline and down the sleeves, but this is supplemented by use of detached buttonhole embroidery. Shirt T. 112-1972 at the Victoria and Albert Museum also uses geometric styles and seems to imitate the styles common in Italian fashion of the time. Embroidered English man’s shirt, ca. 1560, museum number T.112-1972. Image from the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
A portrait of a young Mary I by Master John hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in London features what appears to be geometric red embroidery on the white linen clothing. Portrait of Mary I, 1544, Item NPG 428 in the Primary Collection. Image from the collections of the National Portrait Gallery.
German modelbuchs from the time also feature geometric borders, that seem to be similar to painted examples.
It goes without saying that all art is influenced by the culture around it, and as that culture changes, so does the art reflect that change. Embroidery is no different, and following Henry’s break with Rome in the 1530s, we begin to see an “Anglicanization” of culture. Art and architecture both simplify. This is immediately obvious with the iconoclasm of the Churches; although the Church of England retained some simplified versions of ornament. Gone are the embroidered chasubles of the Bishops; in its place are simple white garments. The effort embroiderers may have spent glorifying the church now is spent glorifying themselves, and by the end of Elizabeth’s first decade of rule, in 1568, many aesthetics are becoming unique to the island, continually shunning anything Popish, be it embroidery, or Princes. As the reign continues, increased sumptuary laws sought to control the appearance of luxury, influenced, no doubt, by the Puritan element and their disdain of the sin of “pride” (Kirtio, 2012). This contrasts with embroidery on the Continent, which retains many of the geometric influences, and even expands into additional forms of counted embroidery, such as voided work.
So what, then, does this monochrome embroidery created during the reign of Elizabeth I look like?
In the simplest terms, the style of Elizabethan monochromatic embroidery reflects the flowers of the English countryside, and the animals in an English garden.
Many familiar flowers and fruits are represented. One can find roses; pansies and violas; pea pods; strawberries; pears; grapes; gillyflowers (carnations); cornflowers; borage; honeysuckle; foxgloves; columbines; lilies; pomegranates. The skill of the embroiderer, however, does mean that some motifs are more challenging than others to decipher. Additionally, all manner of small animal can be found peeking out amongst the leaves of the embroidery, and even some more fanciful creatures have been depicted. One can spot bees; worms/caterpillars; fish; birds; butterflies and dragonflies; small mammals and household pets; and even the occasional phoenix or tiger.
The fascination with the natural world, be it flowers, insects and all manner of mammal and bird, is prominently displayed in most of these pieces. Many of the flowers featured would have been commonly found in the Elizabethan household’s kitchen garden, and it is easy to see that inspiration for many of the floral motifs used in these embroideries could have easily been found by looking out the kitchen window; however, images would also have been widely found in modelbuchs and “herbals”, such as Thomas Trevelyon’s “Miscellany”, which offered pictures of more exotic plants and animals, both old world and new.
In general, monochromatic embroidery during the reign of Elizabeth I, and continuing under James I, can be classified into several design “families”, based on final presentation: curved vines; lozenge patterns, diapered, and bands. It is important to recognize that many of these embroiderers were working “in a vacuum” in a sense. They would see what was becoming popular and fashionable, and replicate it as best they can. It seems unlikely they would have been engaging in a systematic study of the proper execution of these items—they would have been mimicking the styles within the limitations of their own skill and knowledge. (Please note the term limitation is used only in the sense of a narrow field of focus, and not as a disparagement of skill or execution.) The artistic expression of each embroiderer must also be taken into consideration—each individual will have a skill level and preference that is unique, and this must be considered when attempting to “classify” styles of monochrome embroidery. In the absence of widespread print or digital media, each embroiderer would need to determine for herself the best way for her to communicate the style.
Curving bands are some of the common layouts, and often this vinework is done in a metal thread, which contrasts nicely with the black embroidery, but one can easily find examples of curving vinework done only in the same black thread, although often with more elaborate stitching. It is interesting to note that these appear to be worked in two ways: in some extant pieces, it is very easy to see that the motifs were drawn on first, and the vines worked around them; on others, the regularity of the vines seems to suggest they formed the outline of the embroidery, and motifs added later. These curving designs usually terminate in a single flower or group of flowers; animal motifs are interspersed among the curves, and designs are often supplemented with little curlicues coming off of the main vine.
Lozenge designs are also quite common. This is when the embroidery is broken into a grid. As with the curving vines, this grid may be worked with either metal or silk threads. The motifs are then worked into the voids in the grid. This grid may leave rhombus and diamond shaped voids; hexagonal voids are seen in at least one example (Nightcap 198-1900 at the Victoria and Albert Museum); and some are simply constructed on a squared grid. The void in the grid is filled with one image large image, often a flower, but occasionally a bird or mammal.
Diapered items also appear quite regularly, with the term “diapered” referring to the pattern consisting of repeats of small, identical figures. These repeats can be of one single design repeating, or a pattern of designs repeating. For instance, Coif and Forehead cloth 2003.63/2 at Platt Hall shows a simple flower and leaf design that is executed precisely throughout both pieces. In contrast, Coif and Forehead cloth 2003.64/2, also at Platt Hall, feature a more elaborate repeat—a three-armed strawberry bush with gold metal thread cinquefoils is alternated with small bees, also enhanced with metal thread. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has an even more fanciful coif that features stylized fish interspersed with crescent moons. Several of the embroidered jackets we have are done in this diapered style, although at least one, at the Bath Fashion Museum, could be argued to have a lozenge design (1.03.137).
Bands are stripes of design that run at least the half-width of the garment. Many of the extant smocks and shirts we have of English (and even Italian) design use bands in lieu of “broader” embellishment. These bands may incorporate curving vinework within the confines of the band, or use a geometric pattern within the confines of the band. This does not seem to be a common design aesthetic for headgear (although there is at least one example), and this may be due to the three dimensional nature of the pieces altering the layout of the of the design.
There are other consistencies throughout the fashions of monochromatic pieces during this time. One of the most unusual for the modern eye to grasp is the sheer density of the designs. While a modern eye may see white space as a necessity to “set off” the image, the Elizabethan eye seemed to see white space as a blank to be filled. The design even travels off of the edge of the piece, being worked right up to the margins. This is done both with embroidery and with metal accents. Spangles, or “oes”, small disks of metal, are frequently applied to the garments worn on the head and jackets; metal bobbin lace was often applied as well, even after an item has been elaborately worked.
Fills stitches can also be considered as closing up the white spaces; geometric patterns can be used for effect to create a variety of densities; stitches like detached buttonhole and trellis may fill in a shape completely, and seed and speckling stitches give a variety of shading to a piece, which may mimic the woodcut template from a Miscellany. Once again, it is important to remember that stitches may vary within a given household, or “shop”. The difference between a seed and a speckle may be merely in the hands of the embroiderer carrying out the work.
Many stitches can be used to execute monochromatic embroidery. We frequently see stem stitches being used in outlines, but one can also find buttonhole and blanket stitch; ceylon stitch can be used for vinework; back stitch and/or double running appear both as outline stitches and fills. Speckle and seed stitches are just two of the many ways of filling a figure. As previously mentioned, even denser stitches like trellis and buttonhole variants are seen.
A note on “Spanish work”: John L. Nevinson points out that Spanish work and black embroidery are distinctly identified on the registry of New Years Gifts. Two items from 1577 show the difference:
“By Fowlke Grevell, a smocke of camerick wrought abowte the coller and the sleves of Spanysshe worke of roses and tres, and a night coyf with a forehed clothe of the same worke.”
“By Julio, a cushyn cloth and a pillowbere of cameryk wrought with black worke of silke.”
Whatever “Spanish work” is, it seems distinct enough in the minds of the records keeper to be listed separately.
A note on double running: Many of the extant pieces that appear to be double running are in fact a back stitch, as a glimpse at the reverse shows. (Coif 2003.63/2, Platt Hall). While double running pieces do exist, they are by no means in the majority of extant pieces, and it is interesting to consider how this stitch came to be so closely associated with “blackwork”. Joan Edwards points out that prior to the 1950s, double running was not considered a “blackwork” stitch. Mrs. Archibald Christie counts it among canvas work stitches; Louisa Pesel includes it in “Far Eastern” stitches; and Mary Thomas associates it with Assisi and Romanian work. Jane Zimmerman points out that double running only became known as the “Holbein Stitch” in the 1800s, and the term was popularized by the Royal School of Needlework only in the 20th century. It seems likely that the 20th century association of double running and blackwork, due in part to its revival in the 1960s and 1970s, is responsible for this.
It is possible that artists each put their own “spin” on monochrome embroidery. Hans Holbein, Hans Eworth, George Gower, Lucas Horenbout, Master John, and Cornelis Ketel, all represent monochrome embroidery differently from each other in paintings. Now, it is possible that since, for example, Holbein painted the wealthy elite, that all of their clothing may have been embroidered by the same group of embroiderers who did the same thing. The artist may be accurately reflecting the work as done in an individual household or shop. However, different artists seems to interpret monochrome embroidery different across their paintings. The works of Hans Eworth show a blackwork which matches the rest of his paintings, and yet, is different than that of George Gower, and different again from Hans Holbein.
Linen (processed from the flax plant Linum usitatissimum )is the primary ground for this embroidery, and the thread itself is mostly silk (from the silkmoth Bombyx mori) . There are some examples of monochrome jackets worked in wool, and this may be due to several factors: wool is less expensive, and a jacket would require many more yards than a coif; perhaps wool is thought to be more durable; and it is possible that, due to Elizabeth I’s emphasis on the English wool market, that it was a matter of patriotism and access. The silk thread used appears to be both flat silk (unreeled), and spun silk. It is unknown if the appearance of flat or spun may be artifacts of the stitches and the embroidering—some of the stitches could put a twist in the thread during their execution; likewise, some stitching may untwist or give the spun silk a flattened appearance. It is probably likely that both were used, depending on access and the needs of the embroiderer at the time. Once again, there was no “how-to” manual, and individual households made decisions that met their needs.
While there certainly were professional embroiderers in late 16th century England, George Wingfield Digby points out that coifs and nightcaps are most likely the work of private hands, as these items were “intimate”, being mostly worn at home and in the presence of family members (although not slept in, since that would destroy the fine embroidery). The line between professional and “amateur” is a blurry one; Digby chooses to use the term “domestic”, rather than amateur, because the skill level between the paid embroiderer and the private lady can be so hard to distinguish. Elizabeth I’s ladies-in-waiting were known for their skills in needlework and embroidery, and Elizabeth herself often embroidered gifts as a young woman.
A note on cultural significance: As we have discussed earlier, the Reformation in England directs energies away from ecclesiastical decoration, and concentrates more of self-decoration. Attempts to flout sumptuary laws and “rise into place” were often accentuated by elaborate embroidered items, showcasing the flamboyant in an attempt to gain Royal favour. Items embroidered with black silk appear in the New Year’s Gifts Records as early as 1561. In every year on record during her reign subsequent, there are always many embroidered items, including “black silk” and “black worke” embroidered items. Lisa M. Klein points out that the value of these embroidered pieces may not be based solely on their intrinsic and monetary value. She argues that gifts of needlework are often a part of a complex social exchange, in which exceptional embroidered items (either done by or paid for by the giver) are given with the hope of a return favor from the Queen. The giving of these high-end luxury items may place an obligation upon the Queen that she would feel compelled to repay, although this was not always the case. Klein observes that this “shows women as active participants in cultural exchange, using their material objects to forge alliances…subjects as well as the queen were able to manipulate the occasions of gift-giving to promote self-interested social relations” (Klein, 1997). Elizabeth I herself is known to have embroidered gifts of book covers for her father Henry VIII and his wife, Queen Catherine Parr, and it is therefore likely that Elizabeth would have understood the subtle messages involved in exchanging embroidered gifts.
Seemingly simple, the art of monochromatic embroidery as expressed by the English embroiderers during the reign of Elizabeth was surprisingly diverse and complex. From it’s humble geometric origins in the Islamic empire, “blackwork” crossed a continent and found a new home on the plain shores of small island. Under a Virgin Queen, it grew into a magnificent form of art, worn by the top tiers of society, showcasing a new “purely English” identity. It would be outshone in the coming centuries by polychromatic masterpieces, but for a brief time, monochrome embroidery took center stage as the pinnacle of a craftsperson’s skill.
At the Clothworkers’ Centre of the Victoria and Albert Museum:
At Platt Hall, Manchester City Galleries (the Gallery of Costume collection is not currently available online:
Arnold, J. (1988). Queen Elizabeth’s wardrobe unlock’d . Leeds: W. S. Maney and Son, Ltd.
Arnold, J. (2008). Patterns of Fashion 4: The cut and construction of linen shirts, smocks, neckwear, headwear, and accessories for men and women c. 1540-1660. London: MacMillan.
Beck, T. (1974). Gardens in Elizabethan embroidery. Garden History, 3 (1), 44-56.
Brooks, M. M. (2004). English embroideries of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in the collection of the Ashmolean Museum. London: Jonathan Horne Publications.
Carey, J. (2012). Elizabethan stitches: A guide to historic English needlework . Devon: Carey Company.
Digby, G. W. (1963). Elizabethan embroidery. London: Farber and Farber.
Edwards, J. (1980). The second of Joan Edwards’ small books on the history of embroidery: Blackwork. Surrey: Bayford Books.
Hentschell, R. (2008). The culture of cloth in Early Modern England: Textual constructions of a national identity. Hampshire: Ashgate Publishing Limited.
Jaster, M. R. (2006). ‘Clothing themselves in acres': Apparel and impoverishment in medieval and early modern England. Medieval Clothing and Textiles, 2, 91100.
Kirtio, L. (2012). ‘The inordinate excess in apparel’: Sumptuary legislation in Tudor England. Constellations, 3 (1).
Klein, L. M. (1997). Your humble handmaiden: Elizabethan gifts of needlework. Renaissance Quarterly, 50 (2), 459493.
Morrall, A., & Watts, M. (eds). (2008). English embroidery from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1580-1700: ‘Twixt art and nature. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Nevinson, John L. (1938). Catalogue of English domestic embroidery of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office.
Nevinson, J. L. (1940). English domestic embroidery patterns of the 16th and 17th centuries. The Twenty-eighth volume of the Walpole Society, 28 (1), 114.
Nunn-Weinberg, D. (2006). The matron goes to the masque: The dual identity of the English embroidered jacket. Medieval Clothing and Textiles, 2, 151174.
Quinton, R. (2013). Seventeenth-century costume . London: Unicorn Press Ltd.
Reynolds, A. (2013). In fine style. London: Royal Collection Trust.
Smith, G. (2009). The chemistry of historically important black inks, paints, and dyes. Chemistry Education in New Zealand, 12-15.
Victoria and Albert Museum. (1953). Elizabethan Embroidery. London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.
Wace, A. J. B. (1933). English embroideries belonging to Sir John Carew Pole. The Twenty-first volume of the Walpole Society, 21 (1), 4366.
Filed under: A&S Research Papers Tagged: a&s, Arts and Sciences, Embroidery
Recent news for medievalists, including the restoration of a 15th-century manuscript, and the discovery of a Norman castle. And check out the great video from the people behind Just for Laughs Gags:
[View the story "What's being found, what's being restored - Medieval News Roundup" on Storify]
Ludus duodecim scriptorium or XII scripta was a popular Roman game played with dice on a 12-square gameboard. Recently, two game pieces, believed to have been used for XII scripta were discovered during a dig in Kibyra, in the southern Turkish province of Burdur’s Gölhisar district.. (photo)
It’s a card and there’s a picture of a baseball team on it, but it’s not a baseball card in the classic sense. It’s not a trade card, printed by a business to promote a product. It’s not part of a series depicting multiple players and teams. It is a precursor and a very important one because not only does the card feature the Brooklyn Atlantics, baseball’s first champion team, but it dates to 1859 or 1860 making it the only team card known to have been printed before the Civil War. It’s one of a kind, as far as we know, and unlike the 1865 Brooklyn Atlantics card that sold at auction in 2013 for $92,000, it has an impeccable ownership history.
The 1860 Brooklyn Atlantics team card is a carte de visite (CDV), a studio photograph affixed to card stock to be handed out as a calling card. The technology to print multiple copies of photographs at comparatively cost was developed in France in the 1850s, and calling cards with photographs depicting their owners soon followed, as did collectible ones featuring celebrities, military and political figures. Photography studios would take the pictures and produce the cartes. The Atlantics CDV was produced by the Farach & Lalumia Studio at 336 Fulton Street, Brooklyn.
(Lurid digression time! Twenty-five years after the Atlantics had their picture taken by him and his partner, John Farach made the news when his brother Carmel was found stabbed twice, a small wound to the chest and the fatal one in his back, by a sword cane on Staten Island in 1884. Suspicion alighted on Carmel’s boon companion Antonio Flaccomio but he was released when the coroner declared the death suicide, as one does with backstabbings. Two years later Flaccomio confessed to John Farach that he had killed his brother during a duel. Farach didn’t buy it — his brother was left-handed, the sword cane was found in his right hand — and he told Flaccomio never to set foot in Brooklyn again or he’d kill him.
Two years after that on October 14th, 1888, Flaccomio was stabbed in the heart with a stiletto in front of Cooper Union in Manhattan and died. Farach was at first suspected of killing him in a vendetta, but the police soon refocused their attention on “the powerful secret Sicilian society known as ‘the Mafia’” who were thought to have ordered the hit because Flaccomio killed Carmel Farach without authorization or because he snitched out their counterfeiting operation to the cops. One Vincenzo Quartararo was arrested on the testimony of three supposed witnesses which was contradicted by other witnesses. The trial concluded with a hung jury, nine for acquittal, three for murder in the first, with the three holdouts insisting that Quartararo had to be guilty because he was Italian and Italians were always guilty of whatever crimes they were arrested for.)
The Brooklyn Atlantics club was established in 1855 and in 1857 would become one of the founding members of the National Association of Base Ball Players, the first official governing body of American baseball. The first year the NABBP teams played a full season, 1859, the Atlantics won the pennant. They won again in 1860. They won again in 1861. The early roster included Richard “Dickey” Pearce, pioneer of the shortstop position and inventor of the bunt, and outfielder Archibald McMahon.
It was McMahon who kept this 1860 carte de visite of America’s first baseball champions. There’s a newspaper clipping from 1859 affixed to the back of the CDV that lists the nine players, probably pasted by McMahon himself. From him it passed to his brother John, and it was so treasured a memento that it got a mention in John’s 1928 obituary: “He also was an ardent baseball fan and had a picture in his home of the original Atlantics team, of which his brother, Archibald McMahon, was a member.” It has remained with John’s descendants ever since.
The card is being offered by western Massachusetts resident and New York native Florence Sasso, 75, the great grand-niece-in-law of Archibald McMahon, one of the players on The Brooklyn Atlantics. The card, which was given to Sasso by her mother, the late Mildred Sasso, spent the decades with various family members before ending up with Sasso’s mother, who kept it in a secret compartment in a piece of furniture the family inherited from an uncle.
Once the card was given to Sasso, she moved it from place to place — often from safekeeping in the pages of a book into another book — until she realized that the card, aside from being a link to her family history, could be quite valuable. Without children to pass it on to, Sasso has decided the time has come for a new caretaker for the artifact.
There are only two other currently known Brooklyn Atlantic team CDVs, both produced by Williamson Studios in Brooklyn. One of them is in the Library of Congress where photographer Charles H. Williamson registered the prototype for copyright purposes in 1865. The other, the one auctioned off in 2013, is not identical — there are slight changes in the subjects’ postures — but it’s from the same photo shoot. There are some notable problems with the CDV sold in 2013. The photograph has been affixed to the card stock in a sloppy way. The adhesive shows through the photograph and the edges of the picture are rough making them stand out sharply from the card. It’s amateurish for studio work. There is concern among some experts that the photograph might have been recently glued to the backing of another Williamson CDV and indeed the first appraisers, Lelands auction house, declared it a fake and decline to accept it for consignment.
The reason could be more sinister than mere forgery: to disguise the evidence of an infamous theft. In the 1970s, more than 100 rare 19th century baseball images from the A. G. Spalding Baseball Collection in the New York Public Library’s Fifth Avenue Branch were stolen, along with a trove of documents and other pieces from the collection. Every once in a while suspicious items appear on the market, and according to a 1921 inventory, the NYPL collection had an 1865 Williamson Atlantics CDV with the exact same lineup in the same positions as the one sold in 2013. The NYPL stamps the back of their cards, so anyone trying to sell it would have had to replace the backing with an unmarked Williamson card. Peter Nash lays out the issues with the CDV here and here.
The auction house insisted this pearl of great price was discovered by a picker in a moldy old photograph album in someone’s garage in Maine, not that that obviates the possibility that it was stolen from the NYPL before winding up in a box of junk in a Maine garage. Whatever the truth of it, this $92,000 CDV has problems of condition, consistency and provenance. The 1860 CDV, on the other hand, could not be on more solid ground if you’d designed it in a time lab. The estimated price is $50,000+ and bids have already reached $22,000. The sale will take place on July 30th-31st at Heritage Auctions’ Platinum Night Sports auction in Chicago.
Greetings to the Families of the East Kingdom,
Due to the child protection laws going into effect in Pennsylvania on July 1st, all formal youth activities in the state of PA must cease until the SCA makes a definitive ruling on how this law effects our youth activities. Family activities with parental supervision may still occur in PA. I will make a more specific ruling about Pennsic in the coming days. Please contact me with any questions.
Baroness Leonete D’Angely
Filed under: Youth Activities
Greetings Unto the East Kingdom,
Youth Play and Combat
If the youths are old enough to be in any of the youth divisions and are conducting sword fighting at an SCA event – a cornerstone of which is sword fighting – then it needs to comply with the requirements of youth combat regardless of whether the weapons are constructed at home or commercially constructed. This includes proper armor, technique, safety and a youth marshal. The youth marshal shall then determine if the “nerf” sword complies with standards for the appropriate division before any contact between youths.
Yours in Service,
Filed under: Youth Activities
Greetings Unto the East Kingdom,
Pennsylvania Child Protective Act
In the event that legal guidance is not provided that indicates what, if any, provisions of SCA and East Kingdom laws needs to be changed to bring us in full compliance with Pennsylvania law is not given before July 1, 2015, I am left with no alternative but to suspend all activities under the office of the Earl Marshal of the East Kingdom that allows participation by anyone under the age of 18 in the state of Pennsylvania and to bar any East Kingdom marshal from participating, as a marshal, in the state of Pennsylvania where anyone under the age of 18 is allowed to participate in any marshal activities.
The sanctions faced for failure to comply with Pennsylvania law include civil and criminal prosecution. Anyone who supervises or comes into regular contact with persons under the age of 18 are subject to these sanctions. This affects all marshals as well as all chivalry. It is imperative that this issue be resolved immediately, considering that provisions of the law are already in effect.
Yours in Service,
Filed under: Pennsic, Youth Activities
The Crowns of Æthelmarc have decided to elevate John the Pell to the Order of the Pelican. Those of you who would witness this please note:
The ceremony will occur at Pennsic, on Monday of War week, at the East Kingdom battlefield pavilion. Timing is 20 minutes after the ending of the Heavy Weapons Castle Battle, but not before 12:15. There will be a tea time reception immediately after.
Anyone wishing to assist or contribute to the reception please contact Lady Cristina (Donna) 607 591 0999.
A recent exhibition at the British Museum on the 14th century Ming Dynasty was accompanied by an exhibit book, Ming: 50 years that changed China. One chapter, by curator Jessica Harrison-Hall, Courts: palaces, people and objects, showcased dining in the royal circles.
On June 30th, 1859, French acrobat Charles Blondin was the first person to walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope. Born Jean François Gravelet in 1824, Blondin began his career as performer of acrobatic stunts when he was five years old. Orphaned at age nine, he continued in his chosen career, constantly challenging himself to develop new stunts until he grew from child prodigy into one of the greatest funambulist in France. In 1851 he was invited to join the Ravel Troupe, a sort of acrobatic-ballet-pantomime Menudo with a revolving door of members drawn from some of the most prominent French and Italian performing families, on their tour of the United States.
In 1855 the Ravel Troupe was booked by café owner, caterer and theatrical impresario William Niblo to play Niblo’s Garden theater on Broadway in New York City. Always popular, the Ravel Troupe got rave reviews and had their booking extended, ultimately performing more than 300 shows from 1857 to 1859. Blondin, however, didn’t stay put. He formed a splinter troupe (this happened all the time with the Ravel groups; it wasn’t rancorous; everyone got more work that way) with one of Ravel’s lead acrobats, Julian Martinetti, and they toured the country as the Martinetti-Blondin troupe. Blondin was reviewed glowingly in the press as “the bold and fearless Mons. Blondin.” In a six degrees of separation coincidence, at Crisp’s Gaiety in New Orleans in November 1857, the Martinetti-Blondin troupe shared billing with “the popular young native tragedian, Mr. Edwin Booth.”
After almost eight years on the road with the Ravels, Blondin’s troupe disbanded in late 1858 in Cincinnati. According to his 1862 biography by George Linnaeus Banks, the night of the troupe’s farewell dinner Blondin dreamed that he crossed “the boiling flood” of Niagara Falls “on a silken line as delicate as a thread of gossamer” to the wild acclaim of throngs of spectators. Never one to shy away from a seemingly insane proposition, Blondin went to Niagara to see if he could make his dream come true. He realized it wouldn’t work in the winter because the ice formed by the mist would make the line slippery and brittle.
Undeterred, Blondin returned to Niagara in spring of 1859 and began to plan his crossing. He and his manager Harry Colcord struggled to get the permits to string the rope. Blondin wanted it strung across Horseshoe Falls where all the drama is, but landowners protested that the mist would soak the hemp rope and make it too slick. In the end Blondin strung his cable from the trunk of an oak tree in White’s Pleasure Grounds on the American side across Niagara Gorge to a rock in front of the Clifton House on the Canadian side, near to where the Rainbow Bridge is today. The rope was 1,100 feet long and just 3.25 inches in diameter. It was poised 160 feet above the Niagara River with a slight sag in the middle 50 feet where it was impossible to attach the guy lines that kept the rest of the cable from swaying too vigorously. It took Blondin and Colcord almost five months to get the cable and lines strung.
At 5:00 PM on June 30th, Charles Blondin gripped his 26-feet-long ash balancing pole and walked across the tightrope from the United States to Canada. He sat down in the middle, looked around like he hadn’t a care in the world, then stood back up and kept walking. He stopped again to lay down on his back, did a back somersault and then traipsed with a gait described by one spectator as akin to that of a “barnyard cock” to the other side. The whole crossing had taken him five minutes.
Twenty minutes later, Blondin started the return trip. This time he had a Daguerreotype apparatus strapped to his back which he duly deployed 200 feet into his crossing. He tied his balancing pole to the rope, set up the camera and took a picture of the crowd waiting for him on the American side. Then he strapped the camera back onto his back and finished the crossing. That one took 23 minutes.
As soon as he was done, still basking in the acclaim of the stupefied audience of 25,000, Blondin announced he’d attempt another Niagara tightrope walk on the Fourth of July. He accomplished that one too, without a balancing pole, doing flips and tricks and the return crossing wearing a bag over his head. Blondin would make many more crossings, each with different and increasingly daring stunts. He walked it backwards, did flips all the way across, crossed at night, pushed a wheelbarrow across the rope and strapped a stove to his back so he could make an omelette midway through the crossing which he didn’t even eat himself. He lowered it on a rope to the passengers on the Maid of the Mist. He carried Henry Colcord on his back several times.
His Niagara Falls exploits made him internationally famous and quite wealthy. His name became synonymous with walking a tightrope, a metaphor that became painfully apt for a divided country soon after his first crossing. Abraham Lincoln was repeatedly depicted in editorial cartoons as Blondin. In 1860, when Lincoln was running for president, Vanity Fair put “Mr. Abraham Blondin De Lave Lincoln” in pantaloons and tights crossing a breaking rail with a black baby in a carpetbag. Harper’s Weekly cartoon depicted him carrying a slave — the Republican party’s position on slavery — across a tightrope with the Constitution as his balancing pole.
Lincoln embraced the comparison himself, utilizing it in response to his critics during the 1864 election.
Gentlemen, suppose all the property you were worth was in gold, and you had put it in the hands of Blondin to carry across the Niagara River on a rope, would you shake the cable, or keep shouting out to him — “Blondin, stand up a little straighter–Blondin, stoop a little more–go a little faster–lean a little more to the north–lean a little more to the south?” No, you would hold your breath as well as your tongue, and keep your hands off until he was safe over. The Government are carrying an immense weight. Untold treasures are in their hands. They are doing the very best they can. Don’t badger them. Keep silence, and we’ll get you safe across.
Frank Leslie’s Budget of Fun of September 1st, 1864, published a cartoon of the scene, with Lincoln carrying two men on his back this time (Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles on Lincoln’s shoulders and War Secretary Edwin Stanton on Welles’s shoulders), pushing a wheelbarrow filled with money, Columbia and the American flag while all around him people talk smack.
As for Blondin, he would go on to perform all over the world, drawing amazed and horrified crowds everywhere he went. He retired briefly in the late 1870s, but went back on the stage in 1880 and continued to walk, cycle, push lions in wheelbarrows over the tightrope until his final performance in 1896. He died just a few months later in February of 1897 at the age of 72 from diabetes.
The first King and Queen of the new Kingdom of Avacal were crowned on Saturday, June 27th, A.S. L, in the Shire of Bitter End (located in central Alberta, Canada).
The SCA’s newest Kingdom is comprised of the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta, Northwest Territories, Yukon Territory, and the eastern portion of British Columbia.
This video of the crowning of King Albrecht and Queen Nasheeta was posted to YouTube by Ryan Schriml.
And this photo of a good omen was provided by a friend of today’s East Kingdom Gazette Editor:
Filed under: Tidings Tagged: Avacal
This is a recurring series by Mistress Alys Mackyntoich on whether certain names currently can be documented to period based on existing evidence. There are a lot of names that people think are medieval, but actually aren’t, and others which people think are modern, but in fact are found in the SCA’s period. If you would like to suggest a name, send an email to the Gazette.
Period or not… Gemstone Names
I was asked by an East Kingdom Gazette reader whether “gemstone” names were used in period. Broad questions like this are always somewhat hard to answer, because different cultures adopted different naming styles at different time period. What I can say is that, in some times and places, parents named their children after gemstones.
Some examples of gemstone names are below. Note that these are only examples. Not finding a particular time period or culture among these examples does not mean that additional research by a specialist in that language will not turn up evidence of a particular gemstone name.
The names Ruby and Sapphire are found as female names in late period England. Pearle appears in late-period England as a male name.
The Italian word for “emerald” is found in records as a male name, Smeraldo, and as a female name, Smeralda.
Interestingly, “diamond” seems to be the most popular gemstone for period names. There are 13th and 14th century English examples of Diamanda as a female given name. Diamond appears as a male given name in 16th century England. Diamante is found as a female given name in 16th century Germany and 13th century Italy.
 Ruby [no surname]; Female; Marriage; 16 May 1581; Saint Andrew, Plymouth, Devon, England; Batch: M00183-1 (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N2ST-Y8J).
 Sapphire Hill; Female; Marriage; 26 Jun 1638; Morval, Cornwall, England; Batch: M05293-1 (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N2LL-XXY); Sapphira Norkin; Female; Burial; 12 Oct 1635; St. Dunstan, Stepney, Middlesex, England; Batch: B02857-4 (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JCV2-13P).
 Pearle Neale; Male; Marriage; 25 Jul 1621; Saint Andrew By The Wardrobe, London, London, England; Batch: M02232-1 (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NK7B-JZB).
 Names in 15th Century Florence and her Dominions: the Condado by Julia Smith (SCA: Juliana de Luna) (http://www.s-gabriel.org/names/juliana/condado/mensalpha.html).
 Late Period Italian Women’s Names: Florence by Julia smith (SCA: Juliana de Luna) (http://medievalscotland.org/jes/Nuns/Florence.shtml).
 Diamanda is found in Feminine Given Names in A Dictionary of English Surnames by Brian Scott (SCA: Talan Gwynek) (http://heraldry.sca.org/names/reaneyAG.html) dated to 1221 and 1349.
 Diamond Diamonde; Male; Christening; 08 Aug 1563; Stoke by Nayland, Suffolk, England; Batch: C06314-2 (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NB4D-QR6).
 Diamante Garniche; Female; Christening; 05 Apr 1573; Evangelisch, Frankenthal, Pfalz, Bavaria; Batch: K98429-2 (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NK7M-1P2).
 Feminine Given Names from Thirteenth Century Perugia by Josh Mittleman (Arval Benicoeur) (http://www.s-gabriel.org/names/arval/perugia/perugiaFemAlpha.html).
Filed under: Heraldry Tagged: names
In June of 2014, Mike and Mary Hudd of Bincknoll Cottage, Bincknoll, Wiltshire, were doing some landscaping in their garden, employing a machine to pull out the roots of a fallen tree, when they unearthed stonework remains. Mary, an avid amateur archaeologist, stopped the landscaping and started excavating, carefully exposing enough of the upper layer of chalk block walls to indicate there might be the remains of a larger structure under the Hudd’s yard. They called in the Wiltshire County Archaeologist to determine how to proceed.
They had good reason to believe the stonework might be of archaeological significance. Bincknoll is a tiny hamlet with a few houses and a farm that is part of the civil parish of Broad Town today, but it first appears in the Domesday Book as Bechenhalle, a manor of Norman lord Gilbert de Breteuil. Just south of the garden is an escarpment overlooking Bincknoll Cottage where the remains of an early motte and bailey castle stand as an earthwork ridge. Other archaeological features in the hamlet include enclosure boundaries, ridge and furrow plough patterns visible in earthworks when surviving and in the path of lanes and hedgerows when not and a ridge thought to be the remnant of a medieval fish pond. There has been very little in the way of archaeological exploration of these features, so all that’s known is what’s visible to the naked eye from the ground and air.
The Wiltshire County Archaeologist and the Hudds decided on a plan to excavate the yard further with the goal of determining the full measurements of the structure, finding datable artifacts and architectural remains that would help them identify what kind of building it was. The planned called for four trenches (later increased to six to further investigate features found during the excavation), to be dug across the stonework Mary Hudd had partially exposed. Because the chalk block walls were visible at ground level, all the trenches would have to be dug by hand.
Events kicked off in late July with a geophysical survey of the front and back yards of Bincknoll Cottage. The front yard was found to have underground features that were likely to be more buried walls. In August the excavation began in earnest, and what a glorious team was there, my friends. Because the trenches had to be dug by hand, many hands were needed. Broad Town Archaeology, a non-profit organization dedicated to community archaeology in the Broad Town area, got involved and ultimately more than 60 volunteers worked the site supervised by professional archaeologists from, among others, the Wiltshire Archaeology Field Group, English Heritage, the Wiltshire Museum and Wessex Archaeology. Volunteers ranged from organized amateurs like the North Wiltshire Young Archaeologists Club to members of the community who were excited to get their hands dirty in the history of their town.
Excavations ran from through August through September 2014 and were remarkably productive. They revealed three sides of a chalk block and rubble structure 20 feet wide with walls three feet thick. The walls were in generally good condition except for the very tops which have been exposed to the elements for a very long time. The building is aligned perfectly along the east-west axis.
Artifacts found include roof tiles, mortar, nails, carved chalk from the 14th century and a range of pottery types dating from the 11th century through the 17th. The team found chunks of whitewashed plaster, some decorated with red lines painted across them, some plain white, some small pieces with residue of other colors that could be green and black. The excavation of the south wall in trench four unearthed ten voussoirs, a wedge-shaped stone used in arches, that were probably part of a doorway or window.
Excavations also revealed some organic remains, oyster shells and animal bones. The articulated skeletal remains of a large animal were found in trench four. In order to excavate the skeleton fully, the team opened a new trench, trench six, and found a cattle burial. The beast was interred in a pit with some difficulty as the head is bent back and the left foreleg twisted up above its body. The burial postdates the ruin of the medieval structure. A clay pipe unearthed in the same layer was identified as the work of John Greenland of Marlborough which dates it and the burial to the late 17th, early 18th century at the earliest.
Four more trenches were dug during this season’s excavations from April through June, exploring the east side of the structure. While conclusive dates are still elusive, archeologists believe they’ve found the remains of a chapel that documents attest once stood in Bincknoll from at least the early 13th century. A 1209 record notes that the Prior of Goldcliff had a holding Bincknoll that paid a yearly tithe of £1. A 1291 document refers to a chapel at Bincknoll Manor whose tithes were granted to the Priory of St. Denis in Southampton. The chapel comes up a couple of more times in church records from the 13th and 14th century. The last record of it is in a Bond from 1609 which describes it as “that decayed Chapell with appurtainment situate and being in Bincknoll alias Bynoll within the parish of Brodehinton in the above said County
The east-west alignment and dimensions suggest this structure is the chapel rather than the parsonage house which probably was more of a wooden affair than one made out of large blocks of chalk stone.
[Archaeologist and president of the town historical society Bob] Clarke said: “There may have been an early cell around which a larger structure was built later. We found fragments of painted plaster from the building’s interior, painted red lines depicting borders, pinks and green and black possibly from wall paintings. The excavation and post-ex work has taken about 18 months so far and we are now pretty convinced this was the lost chapel of Bincknoll, of which the last recorded mention was in the early 17th century.”
The remains of a small inner wall is thought to be of late Saxon origin, which is surrounded by a later massive Norman structure. The clearly defined site, with the remains of substantial walls almost a metre wide with foundations over a metre deep, internally the building measures 4.4 metres by 13 metres and would have been an impressive sight when still standing. Nearer to the surface of the site the team discovered the remains of two cows and a pig, buried in later years over the ruined building.
You can read the preliminary report written after the first season of excavation here (pdf). The final report is expected to be published at the end of the year. Broad Town Archaeology has tons of pictures of both seasons of excavations on their Facebook page. The North Wiltshire Young Archaeologists Club (YAC) put together a great online dig diary documenting their work over two weekends this season. It’s amazing how much they accomplished in just four days. Community archaeology is the best.
By Don William Parris.
This is the second in a series of interviews with peers of the rapier world, throughout the Society. I have spoken with representatives of the Order of the Laurel and the Order of Defense, digging into their experiences and perspectives on the evolution of the fencing world. While there is an admirable company of these respected individuals in our Kingdom of Ӕthelmearc, I have approached several more from our neighbors in the Midrealm, Atlantia, and the East. I hope these interviews offer an interesting look through the eyes of rapier fighters that have risen to the prestigious rank of Peer of the Realm.
Mistress Illadore de Bedagrayne
Credentials and History: Who are you, what do you do, and who elevated you?
I am Illadore de Bedegrayne, Premiere Member of the Order of Defense of the West Kingdom, elevated on May 1st, A.S. L, by Queen Aesa and King Miles. I am also the 29th White Scarf of Æthelmearc and a cooking Laurel. I have been in the SCA since I was 18 and have loved just about every minute of it. I started fighting rapier in 2001, after watching several of my friends get involved with fencing. I fell in love with it the second that (now Master) Michael Alewright put a sword in my hand at a fencing practice in the BMDL – and knew I was completely hooked after my first melee game of “Paranoia” at my second practice.
What draws you to fencing, inspiring your dedication towards excellence?
So many things. My dad taught me to love sports at a young age (including how to throw an elbow when I was nine) and my mom taught me that “a thing worth doing is worth doing well.” I grew up playing sports and with the understanding that practice makes perfect and is worth doing because of the both of them. What brought me to fencing were my friends; what kept me was the camaraderie of the rapier community as well as the historic nature of our sport. I love the history and the research being done by the rapier community. It is just utterly fascinating that we can trace what we do back to the 15th century (and further back) – and use books and manuals written in that time to help train and hone our skills.
I was also inspired (and continue to be inspired) by so many rapier fighters in both the West Kingdom and Aethelmearc – and the rest of the Knowne World. The list is long and I’m afraid to write it all out as I may miss someone. I also take inspiration from many members of the Chivalry and how dedicated they are to their Art as well.
My goal has always been the same – become the best fencer in the Universe. I am, obviously, still working on that one.
What challenges have you face as you became the fencer you are and as you become the fencer you wish to be?
While injuries have been one of my main challenges, I would have to say that the rapier community gaining acceptance in the Society has been the biggest challenge we have all had to face. It has been tough. Back in January, when the Board of Directors had first voted against the Order of Defense proposal and then reversed the decision, hearing the backlash against the rapier community on social media truly stung. The outcry really rocked me as I had thought we were past that – fighting is fighting. It should not matter what type of weapon you have in your hand, as it is the journey and the discovery that matters. I am grateful for all of the outpouring of joy for the new Peerage that has happened since then; however, I still think some bridge building is going to be needed to mend some of those rifts.
How did you feel when you were asked to be a Master of Defense? What did you think being a Master would mean?
This will be a surprise to no one who knows me – but – I was back in Court (actually, off to the side as Queen Aesa and King Miles were holding court on the field), blathering on about fencing with other fighters when I was called into Court, rather than paying attention. So, I was quite shocked when I was called and saw now-Master Joseph Blayde kneeling in front of Their Majesties.
As to what being a Master of Defense means – I think it means being a leader for the rapier community at the Society level. I feel my experiences as a White Scarf have given me a great foundation for this “new job” as well as my experience as a Laurel. As a Peer (and as a White Scarf), I know that it is no longer “all about me.” I have been given a job to do – to make the rapier community and the Society a better place, to help train newcomers, to be an inspiration, to make a path for those who come behind me. It is going to be a tough job and I am sure that I will not always be perfect at it. I will; however, get back up more times than I fall down. I also know that I cannot do this alone, either, and I will need help from all of you on this new path. Yes. All of you. :)
The Order of Defence is new, allowing for new traditions to be formed. How was working with vigilants from around the Society to give birth to the new order?
Difficult. There are many strong voices and many strong opinions. The one thing that brings us together, however, is the idea that we are trying to do what is best for the Society and the rapier community. In that I think we all agree, we are trying to do what is best. How we get there, however, is the challenge.
My personal hope for starting a tradition – white garters. They are easy to spot on the field and most of us wear boots of some sort. Plus, I’m a knitter so it’s easy for me to produce those. :)
What advice would you give newer fencers aspiring to improve themselves as fencers and citizens of the Society?
There are some tried and true methods for becoming a better rapier fighter – practice all the time, travel and fight more people, read books, thinking about fighting – every day. The one other suggestion I have is to keep a fighting journal. It helps to go back and see how far you have come – and putting ones thoughts to paper often helps organize those thoughts and gain insight. As to how to improve as a citizen of the Society – understand that both Service and Art are the backbones of our Society as well as fighting – so go get involved! Help out at events, become a marshal, run practices, be an officer, be the Iron Key keeper, etc. And make Art! Do research, make hats, sew a tunic, learn embroidery, build catapults, etc. The SCA is an amazing group – go out and explore.
First off, the White Scarf has always held a special place in my heart. Until a few months ago, the White Scarf was the highest award one could receive for rapier combat in both the West and in Æthelmearc. In the West, Duke Uther Schiemann der Hunt, as King, opened the Western White Scarf Order with the intent of helping the West get ready for a rapier peerage. With that understanding in mind, I see the White Scarves of both the West Kingdom and of Æthelmearc as my fellows, my compatriots, and as my brothers and sisters. I expect to work closely with them in the future – closed or open orders – they were given a job to do for the rapier community when they were made White Scarves, just as I was. I will also admit that I do not see the Masters of Defense as the “best of the best of the best White Scarves” either. I feel that the skill level of a White Scarf should be the equivalent of a Master of Defense and vice versa.
The SCA’s newest Kingdom is comprised of the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta, Northwest Territories, Yukon Territory, and the eastern portion of British Columbia.
This video of the crowning of King Albrecht and Queen Nasheeta was posted to YouTube by Ryan Schriml.
In addition, at the request of Their Royal Majesties An Tir, this scroll was created to commemorate Their Principality becoming the Kingdom of Avacal.
Scribes from throughout the Kingdom of An Tir collaborated on this great art. The team included:
The scroll is 22″ x 30″, reflects 165 hours (directly onto the paper), and traveled approximately 4,500km (2,800 miles) from inception to delivery.
It was an incredibly hot muggy day, so the scroll was signed in court but not sealed (the seals were melting in the heat).
Oh, and it’s a good one, too. (By good I mean super gross.) Teratomas, for those of you not as repulsed/fascinated by them as I am, are benign tumors in which germ cells gone awry grow random body parts like teeth, hair, bone and soft tissue like muscle, thyroid and skin. They usually set up shop in ovaries or, more rarely, testicles because that’s where germ cells are supposed to be going about the business of making sperm and eggs during embryonic development, and often go undetected for their host’s entire life. While not uncommon, teratomas make the news because of how creepy they are — they’re not absorbed “evil” twins, no matter what the headlines might say — and how infrequently they’re found.
Teratomas are even rarer in the archaeological record. An encapsulated calcified teratoma was found in the remains of late Roman-era woman from the early 5th century unearthed from a necropolis in La Fogonussa, Spain, in 2010. Before that specimen was published, only one other example was known, found inside the skeleton of a Roman woman unearthed in 1999-2000 from a slave necropolis attached to an aristocratic villa just outside of Rome (pdf of the paper in French here). Now we can add a third to this very elite list: an ovarian teratoma discovered inside the abdominal cavity of a girl unearthed from the Colonial-era cemetery in Eten, Lambayeque Region, on the northwest coast of Peru.
Archaeologists from the Lambayeque Valley Biohistory Project (LVBP), a multidisciplinary international program founded in 2003 that studies skeletal remains on the desert north coast of Peru for what they reveal about the 10,000-year history of human settlement in the area, excavated the ruins of Eten between 2009 and 2011. The skeleton of the young woman was found in the cemetery of the Chapel of the Divino Niño Serranito de Eten, one of 500 Colonial Period burials in the chapel cemetery. Eten had been a small fishing village before the Spanish came. It was expanded into a colonial settlement called a reducción in the 1560s. Reducciónes were forced labour/Christianization resettlement towns, designed to break the cultural structure of small kin-based, self-sustaining villages scattered in the area, corral the work force in larger urbs for more efficient exploitation in the Andean silver mines and two-birds-with-a-stone conversion to Christianity. Eventually reducciónes spread throughout Spanish holdings in Central and South America, but they began in Peru, the brainchild of 5th viceroy Francisco de Toledo.
The young woman, labelled burial CNS U2-60, was one of the earliest to die in Eten after resettlement. It’s not clear what killed her, but her teratoma is so extreme that it might have been a factor. The Spain teratoma had four small, malformed teeth and bone formation inside the calcified capsule. The one found in Rome had five malformed teeth inside a fragmented spherical bony structure. The Andean teratoma has 83 pieces of bone and 37 malformed baby teeth. And that’s all that’s left now. Who knows what kind of random organ bits were in there before decomposition. It was such a large assortment of bones and teeth that at first researchers thought it might be a sacrificed animal, but its location in the abdominal cavity meant that it had to have been inside of her at the time of death, and besides, none of those bones and teeth looked like regular bones and teeth of any kind of animal.
Looking closely at the dozens of extra bony bits, [George Mason University bioarchaeologist and LVBP director Haagen] Klaus and [Brigham Young University archaeology graduate student Connie] Ericksen write that “the general morphology of the bones could be described as unclassifiable in terms of normal human or general mammalian anatomy.” The dental tissue was “approximately the size of human deciduous teeth,” and looked like either small anterior teeth or large molar-like teeth, but “in most cases, occlusal anatomy was an irregular, highly variable arrangement of cusps and cusplets,” they write. [...]
In the case of CNS U2-60, Klaus and Ericksen note that “it is not possible to determine if the lesion was benign or malignant, but a teratoma of this complexity and size likely impacted morbidity via impeded circulation.” She may not have died from the teratoma directly, but the large tumor probably made her appear pregnant and may have factored into her early death.
The Spanish woman was 30 to 40 years old when she died; the Roman woman (who was originally from the near East) was in a slightly wider age range, 25 to 45, at time of death. The fusion of her long bones indicate the Peruvian woman was in her late teens.