Thursday, January 29, 2015

A CASE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY? Perhaps and perhaps not: A reply to Catherine Armstrong's essay on the Marshal Effigies.

Photo Elizabeth Chadwick
Some time ago I read a post on the Castle Wales site by Historian Catherine Armstrong where she laid out her case for the purported Marshal effigies in the Temple Church, London, being of debatable identity and perhaps not the Marshals at all. While I agree with her that precise evidence doesn't exist and the effigies could indeed have been mis-identified because after all, none of them have inscriptions, I do disagree with her assessment of the arms and armour of the effigies. I believe that at least one of them can be circumstantially identified as Gilbert Marshal.
I wrote to Catherine setting out my case for disagreeing with her on the issue of the arms and armour some years ago, and received a thank you note, but nothing more.   I've been intending to write out my refutation argument and put it in the public arena for several years now, and I have finally got around to it.

Here is Catherine's highly detailed article. Catherine Armstrong on the Marshal Effigies  I must emphasise I don't disagree with her on the point that these effigies cannot be identified with absolute conviction and I applaud her diligent research into the life of the effigies before the 21st century. That in itself is a fascinating, wonderful and sometimes horrifying story!

 I do, however, vigorously disagree with her on the issue of the dating of the arms and armour for which I can make a strong case.  I also believe I can make a good case for identifying the effigy of Gilbert Marshal despite lack of written evidence. 

Catherine Armstrong uses engravings of the Marshals by Edward Richardson to state her case. The work was published in 1843. So it's good to look back to a historical context a hundred and seventy years closer to the construction of the effigies, but at the same time we are relying on engravings, and also with the knowledge that Victorian antiquarians were extremely inquisitive but not always on the ball with their historical accuracy. You can read the book here for free. Edward Richardson Temple Church Effigies
Catherine's argument is that the effigy of William Marshal I cannot be him since it is older in the style of armour than the ones purporting to be his sons.

Catherine says of the  effigy below, now thought (erronously or not) to be William Marshal Junior (died 1231)  "The effigy was described by Richardson as wearing a chain mail coif and a hauberk of chain mail to his knees. However he is wearing what appears to be chausses of leather or some reinforced material from his waist to just below his knees.  Lankester describes this covering as possibly gamboised cuisses which were quilted tube-like padded armour worn to protect the thighs, but they are show without covering of full chain mail which would have been the usual practice."
Richardson's effigy engraving of  the effigy now known as
William Marshal's son William II
 The thing is that the without covering of full chain mail was the usual practise in the military styling of the mid thirteenth century.  The leather covering from the knee upwards seems to have arrived in the thirteenth century. It overlapped with the mode of wearing full mail chausses, the latter being in evidence throughout the 12th and 13th centuries. It wasn't a case of one or the other. Military historian David Nicolle in his Medieval Warfare Source book tells us that mail chausses date from the mid 12th century and covered the leg from 'mid thigh to foot.' He tells us that cuisses appeared in the late 13th century (p 138). Mail chausses from foot to thigh were the norm in the 12th and early 13th, not the cuissed style.   Robert Curthose, son of the Conqueror is kitted out in cuisses - dateline mid or late 13th century, so the same period as the purported effigies of William Marshal II and Gilbert Marshal.
Before anyone protests that Robert Curthose died in the early 12th century, let me say this is an effigy created in the 13th century and not at the time of Robert's death, so it's in the style of that later time.

photo credit Nilfanion  Wikipedia
Tomb of Robert Curthose, Gloucester Cathedral. Mid 13thC. Same legs as on the Marshal effigy.

This guy prefers his cuisses. He dates to 1250

This one's in chausses. Before 1225. British Library.

And here's Thomas Becket being murdered from a manuscript dating to circa 1200. British Library. Mail chausses again on the far left knight.

photo Elizabeth Chadwick
 And then William Longespee earl of Salisbury - died 1226 and the first effigy to be buried in Salisbury Cathedral. We have a dateline for him. He's opted for chausses too a la William Marshal I. No cuisses for him.
Apocalypse. British Library 1270's

Above we have an apocalypse scene from the British library and the knight on the horse is sporting cuisses.  Dateline 1270's.

Westminster Psalter circa 1250
Another knight wearing Cuisses - drawn by Matthew Paris.

Above we have an interesting one dating to 1230, 11 years after the Marshal's death and one year before the death of his eldest son.  Here you can see the transition kite versus the shorter shield and the knight with the transition is wearing a mail glove. Both men are wearing mail chausses without visible cuisses and are a prime example of the ongoing changing interface of military styles taking place in the early to mid 13th century.
Knight from Wells Cathedral circa 1230. Mail chausses, no cuisses
By kind permission of Paul F. Walker, author of The History of Armour 1100-1700.
Cuisses dated to c1300.  An Innocent being massacred from The Ruskin Hours
France. Los Angeles. The J. Paul Getty Museum. Ms. Ludwig IX 3 fol. 85v

The above illustrations state my case.  You can see that cuisses often appear later than mail chausses although there is an overlap nevertheless.  This chap below from the Temple Church - purported early 13th likes to wear his with suspenders!
photo  Elizabeth Chadwick
Onto the next point.
Catherine Armstrong tells us that on the William II effigy the guard on the sword is relatively small and not as wide and visible as on the other effigies.

Yes. That would be because the ends have broken off... - see further down for evidence of it happening to Gilbert's effigy.

Catherine comments that smaller guards appear on the seals of Robert FitzWalter and Richard the Lionheart but swords had long lives and forty years isn't a hill of beans anyway in terms of that particular style.  It's  only a minor point though. The chausses/cuisses question immediately tells us we are probably dealing with mid 13thc,  especially when combined with other details. The shield for example. If you look at the effigy purporting to be William Marshal I, his shield is of an older style that had gone out by the mid 13th. It's a shield in the process of transitioning from the old style kite shield into the smaller triangular shield but not there yet and a massively telling detail.  The William II and Gilbert Marshal effigies both have the new style of smaller shield. Indeed the Gilbert effigy has them in decoration on his baldric strap.  You can see the older transition kite in the 1200 illustration above of Becket's murder.  Add the shield style to the leg fitments and the more raised style of the William Junior and Gilbert effigies and it's as clear as daylight that the William I effigy is older.
photo Carole Blake
Here I am paying my respects to the William I effigy, lying beside his son. Note the length of his transition shield. It comes down to his knee. Check too the Becket drawing above and you'll see it in use. Now look at the William II effigy. His shield only comes to his hip. It's what the transition kite becomes in the mid to late 13th century. Even if William II's shield is a little higher on his shoulder, it's still quite a bit shorter an a different shape to the William I effigy.

Photo Elizabeth Chadwick
Note the new style smaller shields on the strap on Gilbert Marshal's effigy.

Now to the matter of Gilbert Marshal's scallop shell sword. This is one of the identifiers that tell me this is likely to be Gilbert.
Photo Elizabeth Chadwick
This is the sword hilt in question. Looks a bit like a scallop shell doesn't it?
Catherine Armstrong  observes that she has 'found no record that states that Gilbert Marshal made a pilgrimage to St James de Compostella  (scallop shell was a symbol of such a pilgrimage) or that a scallop shell was any part of his coat of arms,  She says it's an unusual design and basically we should be looking for someone other than Gilbert Marshal to be wielding it.

However, sword expert Ewart Oakeshott tells us that it's a common design in the North of England in the mid 13thc and there has actually been a find of one at Cartmel - and who were the patrons of Cartmel Priory? Yep, the Marshals.  It's nothing to do with Compostella.   And note that the sword guard has broken off re the comment on short guards.

Now then.
Here's Gilbert Marshal suffering his fatal accident at a tournament when his reins were cut by his enemies and his foot caught in his stirrup and he was dragged to his death.  Note the sword hilt. Not exactly the same, but a darned good approximation for a chronicler. So we have circumstantial ID that this effigy IS Gilbert Marshal. On this illustration he's wearing full mail on his legs, demonstrating the overlap of armour styles. One size doesn't fit all.

What further nails the identity of this particular effigy as Gilbert Marshal is that the serpent he is trampling, the symbol of evil, is actually chewing on his spur strap. I was told by a guide at the Temple Church that this was a comment on the way he had died. Add in the sword hilt and the style of the armour and circumstantially we have our man. It is highly likely that the effigy of William II was carved by the same hand, so for my money it's very possible that we are looking at the two Marshal brothers William II and Gilbert.

Richardson - Google Books

Richardson's engraving of Gilbert Marshal. As you can see the sword had more of its guard when this was made in the mid 19th century compared to now (see my photo above of the scallop shell hilt). The same has happened to William II's guard.  They're not shorter, they're just broken off.

Spur strap munching serpent.  Photo Elizabeth Chadwick

Catherine Armstrong makes the point that the William Marshal I effigy is wearing mailed gloves which are of a later date than mail mittens.  However, mail mittens continue well into the 14th century. Nicolle opines that gloves are late 13th, but that they were being used in Byzantium much earlier. So it's not beyond the scope of reason that if William adopted crusader designs when remodelling his castles, he also may have returned from the Holy Land with mail gloves too. The illustration of the fighting knights above shows what looks like a mail glove dating to 1230. Or it could just be a stylistic conceit on the tomb and illustration aimed at showing the shape of his hand around the sword grip.

Conclusion:  While it is impossible to say whether these are the effigies of William Marshal and his sons William and Gilbert  it becomes very clear that we can say:
1. The effigy claimed as that of William Marshal I is older than the other two in terms of armour style and of overall effigy type (it's not as raised, it doesn't have the vigour that came in later or the finesse. It has an older style shield and tried and tested mail chausses that had been around for most of the 12th century as opposed to the cuisses which didn't arrive until later).  Historian H.A. Tummers considers that the 'lively martial attitude' of effigies (such as Robert Curthose and the Marshal sons) was a 'limited late development.' i.e. well into the 13thc. So the William I effigy is of the right dateline to have been created circa the time of William Marshal's death.

2. Of the two effigies purported to be the sons, there is at least circumstantial evidence that the one with the scallop shaped sword hilt and the serpent attacking his spur strap is, in fact Gilbert Marshal.

I do hope that Catherine Armstrong will reconsider  her essay in the light of this information.

Thank you
Elizabeth Chadwick.
Close up of the face of 'the effigy known as William Marshal II
Photo Elizabeth Chadwick

Close up of the face of the effigy known as William Marshal. Note the
detail is not as fine as on the son's effigy, suggesting a less developed
sculpting style in keeping with earlier tomb sculptures.
Photo Elizabeth Chadwick

You can see more effigies for comparison on these sites:

Books for further reading:
Medieval Warfare Source Book vol 1 by David Nicolle 1995
The Sword in the Age of Chivalry by Ewart Oakeshott - Boydell revised 1994