Thursday, July 9, 2020

What Are Those Arms in the Bottom Corners of This Window?

So this time we come to those two mysterious coats of arms at the bottom corners of the window to King Henry VII and Queen Elizabeth of York in the cathedral in Antwerp. (If you click on the image below, you should see a larger and more detailed version, which shows these arms more clearly.)

They are somewhat reminiscent of the Manners Dukes of Rutland, but those arms have a golden field, have but two bars (and those not wavy), and the chief is quarterly azure and gules, with two golden fleurs-de-lis in the azure quarters.

I was unable to identify these arms in any of my usual sources for either English or Belgian heraldry. It didn't help that the colors of the wavy bars are not quite the same in each shield (the left one appears to be a faded black, and the right one seems to be more of a reddish brown).

Fortunately, the source I spoke of last time, Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century, gave me a slightly different blazon for the field of these arms: Nebuly (not Argent three bars wavy). So a quick trip back to Papworth's Ordinary of British Armorials gave me the following:

Barry nebuly (or wavy) of six argent and azure on a chief quarterly gules a lion passant guardant gold with or two roses in fess gules barbed vert. Merchant Adventurers of the Old Trade, or Hambrough Merchants.

Sure, the tinctures weren't a perfect match, but it is often the case that depictions of coats of arms, whether painted or in stained glass, get one or more of the those tinctures incorrect. And here, we even have the difference between barry nebuly/wavy and three bars wavy that we are contending with.

And this identification of the Merchant Adventurers makes even more sense in the context of the Magnus Intercursus ("great agreement") of 1496 that we spoke of in the last post.

Of the history of the Merchant Adventurers we find the following in the Encyclopedia Britannica:

Merchant Adventurers, company of English merchants who engaged in trade with the Netherlands (and later with northwest Germany) from the early 15th century to 1806. The company, chartered in 1407, principally engaged in the export of finished cloth from the burgeoning English woolen industry. Its heyday extended from the late 15th century to 1564, during which period it sent its fleets to its market at Antwerp in the Spanish Netherlands with cloth to be sold at the annual fairs. By the middle of the 16th century, as much as three-fourths of English foreign trade was controlled by the London officers of the company, many of whom served as financiers and advisers to the Tudor monarchs. After 1564 the Merchant Adventurers lost its market in the Spanish Netherlands and a long search for a new one followed. After 1611 its foreign trading activities were centered at Hamburg and one or another town in the republican United Provinces. The company was criticized in Parliament as a monopoly, and it lost many of its privileges in the 17th century. Its charter was abrogated in 1689, but the company survived as a trading association at Hamburg until the outbreak of the Napoleonic Wars. (emphasis added)

So there you have it, I believe! The people who commissioned this window in Antwerp and, in the context of the Magnus Intercursus, the reason for their commission.

Heraldry and history, coming together to create a stained glass feast for the eyes!

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