A Caerlaverock Roll of Arms – Part I

by Daunt Iago ab Adam, Compaignon du Lorer
(Michael Case, yagowe{AT}gmail.com)
copyright 2001, all rights reserved

Introduction | Part I | Part II | Roll | Bibliography

Primary Source
My primary source of information for this project was Gerard Brault’s edition of the Caerlaverock poem in ‘Eight Thirteenth-Century Rolls of Arms in French and Anglo-Norman Blazon’. The manuscript upon which this edition is based (British Museum, Cotton Caligula A. xviii), is a copy of the Poem nearly contemporary with the original [3].

British Museum, Cotton Caligula A. xviii, Caerlaverock poem vv.37-106

As a model for the layout of this Roll, I selected the Camden Roll (British Library, Cotton Roll XV.8). This is one of the few surviving original 13th C. Rolls, painted around 1280, containing 270 emblazons on the front and 185 blazons on the back. It is made of 3 membranes of vellum 15.7 cm wide, glued together to make a Roll 1.59m long [4]. Using these measurements, and a photograph of the Roll [5], I determined that each row consists of 6 shields, each about 2.5 cm wide and 2.9 cm tall, and each row is separated by about 0.7 cm. These are the measurements I used for my Roll, but with only 18 rows instead of the 45 found in the Camden Roll.

Although the Camden Roll’s completeness leads to it being an ideal model for layout, it has suffered much damage and fading, and is therefore not as useful for artistic style. As well, good colour pictures of it are hard to come by. Luckily, another surviving 13th C. Roll, the Heralds Roll (dated 1270-1280), is much better preserved, if not in exactly its original layout (at some point in its history someone cut it up and glued all the pieces into a book) [6]. I have found decent colour photographs of 4 pages of this roll [7], consisting of some 100 individual arms, and have used this artistic style as much as possible. The main exceptions, cases where the Heralds Roll did not have a picture of a needed charge, were:

  • chaplet (item 27): Barons Letter
  • bouget (item 28): I couldn’t find any contemporary examples, so I used a 15th C. form
  • griffin (item 65): C. H. Athill’s redrawing of a griffin [8] from the Heralds Roll
  • cross paty (item 70): C. H. Athill’s redrawing of cross [9] from Heralds Roll
  • fer-de-moline (item 82): C. H. Athill’s redrawing of fer-de-moline [10] from Heralds Roll
  • popinjay (item 87): redrawing of popinjay [11] from Matthew Paris
Heralds Roll (via Wikipedia)

Because I approached this project as a Roll independent of the Poem, I have chosen to omit the arms of the final 17 people mentioned in the Poem from the finished work, as they are not “important” enough to warrant inclusion in a roll of arms of this type [12]. I base this conclusion mostly on comparison with the Falkirk Roll [13], which is another ‘battle’ roll, based on a 1298 battle. The Poem, like the Falkirk Roll, breaks the list of included members into battalions, but unlike the Falkirk Roll also records the history of the battle. The final 17 people in the Poem are not mentioned in the ‘battalion’ part of the Poem, but in the ‘history’ portion (note the gap of over 100 lines between items 89 and 90 in Part II). In other words, they were included not for personal importance, but for their importance to the events of the Siege.

Another piece of evidence comes from the fact that after item 89, the number of ‘Other Sources’ drops suddenly, showing that many of these people (and their ancestors, relatives, and heirs) were not of high enough status to warrant mention in other 13th century rolls. The Poem describes the banners of the first 89 people, and the shields of the remainder, is also suggestive (especially considering the two main ranks of knight at the time were ‘knights banneret’- those knights entitled to a full banner, and ‘knights bachelor’- those who were not [14]).

When I originally created the roll I included a couple people I wouldn’t include if I were to do it again: Maurice de Craon (Item 39) and Anthony Bek (Item 82) and Joan of Acre (Item 76). Details and reasoning can be found in Part II.

I started by translating the blazons given in the Poem into modern blazon. Next I researched the arms given in other sources available to me. (The results of these two steps are given in Part II [15].) I then did an actual size rough copy in pencil on plain paper. My next step was to do a colour painted version (see Materials below), based on the apparent order of work in the Herald’s Roll. It appears that the 1st step was the calligraphing of the names. Then the shield shapes and some basic guidelines were drawn in lead or silverpoint (I used pencil). The first layer of painting was a combination of fields and simple geometric charges directly on the field. The shields were then outlined in black paint. More complex charges were then painted onto the first layer, and, if necessary, a third layer was added (usually for overall cadency marks such as bends/batons and labels).

The Camden Roll was made on vellum [16]. I used an imitation vellum, which seems to be thinner than medieval vellum, but has a similar surface texture to the vellum I have seen. I used India ink for the calligraphy- the original would have used a carbon ink, or, more likely an iron gall ink [17]. For colours I used gouache paint, mixed to approximate the colour range found in the Herald’s Roll; the pigments that would most likely have been used are each discussed individually below. The most likely binder for the pigments is glair (egg white) [18], but see Blue below.

White– In the Herald’s Roll, white fields are simply left the colour of the underlying vellum. White painted on top of another colour would likely have been white lead, the normal pigment for painting on vellum in the Middle Ages [19].

Yellow– The yellow used in the Herald’s Roll could have been one of many pigments. Yellow ochre, orpiment, and various vegetable yellows are all quite likely [20]. Identification is further hampered by a yellowing of the underlying vellum, and by the range of colour values shown in my various sources of the Roll.

Red– The two main contenders for the red pigment used are red lead and vermilion. The colour shown in the Herald’s roll seems to fall into the colour range where these two pigments overlap, and both pigments were in use at the time [21].

Blue– The Herald’s Roll gives the appearance of having two different blues; one which is used when the blue is not painted over or under another colour, and one which is used the rest of the time. The first blue has not survived that well over time, having almost entirely flaked away, whereas the other seems in fine shape. This difference in permanence would suggest that two different media were being used for the pigment depending on context. This fact gives azurite as the most likely pigment, because “the best grades of azurite for painting were coarse as pigments go: not actually sandy, but so coarse that it was quite laborious to lay them on, especially in egg tempera. For this reason size was often used as a binder to hold them firmly in place. (Size is more easily affected by protracted dampness or by washing than egg tempera, and blues in wall paintings have therefore sometimes perished through the destruction of their binder where colours in tempera have stood.)” [22]. My guess would be, then, that size was used as a binder when there was no risk of mixing with other layers of colours, and that the inferior for painting purposes, but more waterproof egg binder was used in the other situations.

Black– The most likely black pigment is some sort of carbon black, especially vine black or lampblack [23].

Green– There is no green represented in any of my pictures of the Herald’s Roll, but the most likely greens are malachite, verdigris (which would eliminate orpiment as a possibility for yellow, as the two are incompatible), and a mix of the blue medium with a yellow dye such as saffron [24].

Purple– As with green, this colour does not show up in my Herald’s Roll pictures. For the most part medieval scribes seem to have mixed purples as needed out of other pigments available to them [25], so in this situation, either a mix of the red and blue pigments, or the red pigment with a blue dye (perhaps indigo or woad), or the blue pigment with a red dye (perhaps madder, brazilwood or kermes). Without a period example of an heraldic purple from this period, the determination is impossible to make.

[3] English Heraldic Manuscripts in the British Museum, pp. 5, 8
[4] Age of Chivalry, pp. 255-6
[5] Ibid., p. 256
[6] See Part II, Abbreviations, ‘HE’
[7] See Part II, Abbreviations, ‘HE’
[8] The Art of Heraldry, Plate LXXI
[9] Ibid., Plate LXXI
[10] Ibid., Plate LXXI
[11] Ibid., Plate LXXII
[12] I have still, however, translated the blazons in Part II.
[13] Eight 13th C. Rolls of Arms, pp. 86-93
[14] Basic Heraldry, pp. ?
[15] Research on this section has continued after the initial roll was created.
[16] Age of Chivalry, pp. 255-6
[17] The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting, pp. 80-3
[18] Ibid, p. 50
[19] Ibid, p. 90
[20] Ibid, pp. 175-89
[21] Ibid, pp. 100-8
[22] Ibid, p. 133
[23] Ibid, pp. 83-5
[24] Ibid, pp. 160-74
[25] Ibid, p. 159

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