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A surprising attribution for a harness pendant

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These are the dealer’s pics, amply demonstrating the remarkable state of preservation, especially for a UK detector find (from Norfolk --edit 25 March: but only from memory).  The surviving enamel and gilt are remarkable.


Even with both of the tinctures (azure /blue and or/ gold), you have to squint a little to make out the primary device (or ‘charge’).  Not least since the field is complicated by the scattered rectangular (sometimes ovoid) bits , in or, like the charge.

But in hand, the blazon is unambiguously (field:) Azure billetty, a lion rampant or.  Here’s a rendering of the coat from French Wikipédia.  (Spoiler alert: this is of the senior branch of the seigneurs de Conflans, several of whom served as marshals (military deputies) for their suzerains, the counts of Champagne and, from the mid-13th century, kings of Navarre.  I’ve yet to find more than a clue about any English connection the family had.) 


I only bought this because, knowing nothing about the coat of arms, I had to appreciate the state of the (humour me) artefact itself, extending to the intact extension loop at the top (nothing you can count on from detector finds, any more than this much of the enamel and gilt), and the more prosaic, but no less notable surface of the back.  Generally, it’s one of the best examples I’ve ever landed.


…Thank you, the loop was used to attach the pendant to the horse’s harness.  The earliest manuscript illustration for this that I know of is from the Trinity Apocalypse, dated by the eponymous college of Cambridge University to the mid-13th century.  Effectively providing a terminus ante quem for the first use of the iconic shield shape of this variant of the whole genre.  (In contrast to two English secondary sources I have in print, which date the most commonly found examples to c. 1280 and later.)*

Besides the less than adequate picture below, you’re invited to visit the leaf of the plate from Trinity College’s website.  Harness pendants can be seen on the mount of the king in the right foreground, in front of the gray, vaguely canine-looking seven-headed beast in the center.  …Right, it’s the Apocalypse.


(For the Trinity College page, see Wren Digital Library - R.16.2.)

*(Ashby, Steven.  “Medieval Armorial Horse Furniture Found In Norfolk.”  East Anglian Archaeology, Report No. 101, 2002. 

(Baker, John.  “The Earliest Armorial Harness Pendants.”  The Coat of Arms 3rd ser. 11 (2015), pp. 1-24 (followed by two pages of plates).

Back to the coat and blazon, my go-to secondary reference for the period is Cecil Humphery-Smith, Anglo-Norman Armory Two: An Ordinary of Thirteenth-Century Armorials.  (Canterbury: Institute of Heraldic Studies, 1984.)  This is based entirely on English rolls of arms from the 13th century, extant in manuscript, even if reliably copied as late as the 15th or even 16th century.  It has this to say, for the only instances of a blazon with the same charge and tinctures:

“Azure billety, a lion rampant or, a baston [diagonal line; an early heraldic ’difference,’ indicating cadency, relative to senior members of the family, living or dead] gules.”  P. 70, last coat of arms on the page.

There are two entries for this blazon, for Hugh Conflans and ‘Sire de Conflans.’  Both cite the ‘Fitzwilliam Roll,’ nos. 498 and 497.  

While this roll is a much later compilation (variously dated to the 15th and earlier 16th century), it draws directly from several 13th-century ones, prominently the ‘Heralds’ Roll.’  The page for the manuscript from the Fitzwilliam collection itself (and Rats, from the website, there's only one), more succinct and less nuanced than the description by Humphery-Smith, characterizes it merely as “The Heralds Roll [.... d]ating from circa 1270-1280 [; …] a mid 15th Century copy.”   


In light of the harness pendant having been found in the UK, the absence of a baston, relative to the only known, contemporary English armorial records, is an ongoing mystery.

But even without the baston, it seems circumstantially plausible, at least, that the harness pendant does refer the same interval as the Heralds’ Roll.  The senior member of the Conflans family at that point was “Hugues III de Conflans ([fl. vers 1270;] † après 1295), seigneur d'Estoges. Maréchal de Champagne.”


https://fmg.ac/Projects/MedLands/chamchalons.htm#HuguesConflansdied1271 –thank you, just scroll down a little.


This coincides with the interval (1276-1284) when Edmund ‘Crouchback,’ younger brother of Edward I, and Earl of Lancaster and Leicester, was also presiding Count of Champagne, in right of his second marriage to Blanche d’Artois, heiress of Champagne and Navarre.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blanche_of_Artois#English_marriage 


In this case, a daughter of Blanche was involved, further complicating the dynastic soap opera.  As Prestwich, Edward I (Yale UP, 1988 /’97) notes, “[...] the widowed Blanche married Edward I’s brother, Edmund of Lancaster.  [Right, ‘Crouchback’ --an anglicization of the Old French for 'Crossback,' since he had accompanied Edward on his crusade in 1270-1.]  She held the county of Champagne during the minority of her daughter, and this this marriage placed one of the great French fiefs under a degree of English control.” (P. 314.)

Returning to Hugh III, there’s this, effectively random (-->Thanks, Google) online reference, slightly earlier but useful for available context.  This is from an English translation of a French primary source:

“7. French Military Tenants Summoned to the Royal Army

"In the year I272 [....] Hugh [III] de Conflans, knight, marshal of Champagne, appeared for the king of Navarre [and, right, count of Champagne] and led with him sixty knights for service owed to the king.”


Funly, at least one contemporaneous French roll of arms includes both Edmund and two successive Hughs de Conflans.  Thanks to one prominent owner, this is known as the Wijnbergen Armorial.  The two parts of the manuscript, now at the Royal Library of Brussels, are dated a decade or so apart.  But for the present purposes, the operant leaf is easily datable to the second part, c.1270-1285. 

Armorial Wijnbergen — Wikipédia.  

Under the grouping for Champagne, this lists the arms and blason of Edmund ‘Crouchback’ and, not far down the same page, those of Hugh II and III de Conflans.


Here, both of the Conflans blasons include a baston, as in Humphery-Smith; that of Hugh II corresponding exactly to his listing, while the one for III of the name is further ‘differenced’ by seashells across the baston.  …Back to the harness pendant, the absence of a baston of any description has make the attribution to this family more problematic than, why lie, I could could wish.  

In response to which, it’s easy enough to acknowledge that this was still an early stage in the evolution of heraldry.  While the primary charges and tinctures of senior lines were codified as early as the late 12th century, for nuances such as differences for cadency, it was still ‘the Wild West.’  On the arms of Edmund Crouchback (as demonstrated on the page linked above), the label (also for cadency), with the three fleurs de lis, is intuitive enough.  But for Edmund, as Humphery-Smith demonstrates, there were at least four different embellishments of the label (pp.118-9).  

With that as background, it’s at least plausible that the absence of a baston on the harness pendant just might have amounted to an informal assertion, on Hugh III’s part, of his senior status in the Conflans family.

More broadly, it’s easy enough to give the known historical context the same weight as the no less limited heraldic information.  

To encapsulate, Hugh III (fl.1270 -1290), was Marshal of Champagne at least as early as 1272.  Meanwhile, Edmund ‘Crouchback’ wound up administering the county, by marriage, from 1276 -1284.

Regarding the findspot in the UK (I think Norfolk, but in this case, dumbly enough, only from memory), Edmund spent much of the later 1270s and early 1280s traveling back and forth between France and England, alternating his comital administration of Champagne with his leading military role during the early phases of Edward I’s wars in Wales.  It’s easy enough to speculate that Hugh III, as Edmund’s marshal in Champagne, might have accompanied him to England, in a specifically military capacity.  Norfolk borders Edmund’s earldom of Leicester, which his retinue might have visited on the way to the Welsh border.

Right, the details of this are irreducibly speculative.  But the paucity of available references effectively gives you license to step this far into the weeds.



Edited by JeandAcre
Was that Reeeally the last time I spelled it, "bastion"?
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The brilliant English novelist Evelyn Waugh used the name Guy Crouchback for the protagonist in his novel Men at Arms, the first book in his Sword of Honor trilogy about World War II.  It was a very conscious choice with a deliberate echo back to the time of the Crusades.  These books are some of the best novels I have ever read, and Waugh’s exposition of his principled and sympathetic hero’s collision with the post-Christian post-honor characters who comprise Crouchback’s co-belligerents, and who constitute the reality of the coming post-War world on both sides of the soon to descend Iron Curtain, is humorous, scathing and horrifying. 

For this trilogy, and his stand-alone novel Brideshead Revisited ,  Evelyn Waugh richly merited the Nobel Prize in Literature, but sadly did not win it.  But to read the Sword of Honor trilogy, is to gain a keen insight into the modern world.  

Apologies to @JeandAcre for hijacking the thread. 

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Posted (edited)

No, and No, @Hrefn, this is Brilliant!  Enough so to make me want to find the trilogy!

...All I can add about Evelyn Waugh is that, the one time I was able to be at a live lecture by the also-great American novelist, Chaim Potok, he mentioned having read Waugh as a kid --younger than I was when he was doing the lecture.  And not knowing how to pronounce Waugh's name except to rhyme with 'laugh.'  ...He was That accessible.  Afterward, below the stage, he signed whichever book of his I had onhand.  And gave me a couple of minutes of his time.  I asked him something about the beginning of what's likely his best-known novel, The Chosen, regarding how he combined the variously Jewish cultural dynamics with the immediate, very Gentile context of a baseball game.  His explication was equally prosaic and enlightening; effectively reducible to various (this will never not be a literal quotation:) "technical [literary] devices."  ...Then I said something or other, to which he no less magnanimously responded, "Exactly!  Exactly!"  

...Was that a whit less self-indulgent than what you just said?  No one in the room is paying me enough to think so.

Edited by JeandAcre
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1 hour ago, Hrefn said:

Evelyn Waugh richly merited the Nobel Prize in Literature,

Satire seems to have been regarded as a lower form of wit by “many” at the time. Also some of his comments (Scoop etc) probably didn’t help the cause though of course Kipling - somewhat earlier- escaped with similar and won the prize. 

A huge pity though re Waugh.

@JeandAcre that’s an extraordinarily evocative  piece. Many congratulations!




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2 minutes ago, Deinomenid said:

Satire seems to have been regarded as a lower form of wit by “many” at the time. Also some of his comments (Scoop etc) probably didn’t help the cause though of course Kipling - somewhat earlier- escaped with similar and won the prize. 

A huge pity though re Waugh.

@JeandAcre that’s an extraordinarily evocative  piece. Many congratulations!




@Deinomenid, ...well, okay, first, Thank you, Kindly.  But for someone whose undergrad and early postgrad concentration was relentlessly in 18th c. English literature (mostly Johnson, but going back to the Augustans --like, oops, he did), any period during which satire was looked down on defies my modest comprehension.  ...In reference to the earlier 20th century, maybe had there been more of it, it might have helped to put a damper, at least, on the moronically flagrant policy of 'appeasement.'   

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