Sunday, 4 June 2017

Battle of Shrewsbury 1403

Over the past few months I have been painting a depiction of The Battle of Shrewsbury 21st July 1403. The image is set at the point when Prince Hal (The future Henry V) is struck by an arrow in the face.
All of the figures in the foreground are based on characters who fought with Hal's Father (Henry IV) against Henry Percy (Harry Hotspur) from Northumberland. The Percy's had originally supported Henry IV in the rebellion against Richard II but when lands and money that had been promised the Percy's did not materialize after Henry's accession to the throne Henry and Thomas Percy publicly renounced their allegiance. 

Early in July Henry Percy gathered a small number of men and began to march southwards to confront the king gathering supporters on the way. The Percy's gained support from others including Lord Bardolf who employed Cheshire archers.
Henry IV became aware of the march against him on the 12th of July. Fortunately for Henry he was on route to fight a campaign against the Scots, changing direction he marched west towards Shrewsbury with his army, arriving before the Percys could capture the town.
Both forces arrived in the Shrewsbury area on the 20th of July 1403 setting up camp to the north and south of the river seven.

Both armies were around 14,000 strong and evenly matched but Hotspur held the slightly higher ground giving his archers the advantage. 
Most of the day was taken up with unsuccessful negotiations and around two hours before sunset the battle commenced. 

Percy's Cheshire bowmen filled the sky with arrows and created devastation in Henry IV's army. The kings right wing fled the field, their commander, the Earl of Stafford being killed. However enough of the kings men remained on the field including Prince Hal who commanded the left wing.
It is during this arrow storm that Hal is hit in the face. 

Henry (Hotspur) Percy charged the kings position in the hope of bringing the king down and during fierce fighting the kings standard bearer Sir Walter Blount was killed. Many of Hotspur's men began to proclaim that the king had been killed and shouted for Hotspur to be made king. Unfortunately in the heat of the battle Hotspur had raised his visor and an arrow struck him in the face killing him.
For some time at the end battle both sides were unsure of the outcome and it was only after the positive confirmation  of Percy's death that the rebellion ceased. 

This battle was described by Thomas Walsingham who recorded that ''the King's men "fell like leaves in Autumn, every one [arrow] struck a mortal man". 


The painting.  Gouache on Bristol board and is around 80cm by 50cm.

Sketch of the battle.

The hills, painted in grey which is mixed from red, blue and yellow with white added, hopefully show the distance. Trees are kept simple and impressionistic so as not to distract from the main subject.

The men-at-arms and archers in the background are also painted in this way using greys.

Detail of sketch showing Hal with a broken arrow.

A visit to the site of the battle paid dividends with excellent displays of the Shields of those known knights situated in the church. These here were sketched and redrawn from those in the church.

King Henry IV's men
Hotspur's men

I also found it useful to photograph the surrounding area for details of the horizon and lighting. the surrounding battlefield has become much changed with farming but the overall landscape remains the same with some interesting hills on the horizon. These will feature in the painting as changed from the flat horizon you can see in my sketch. 

Lighting will be important too in the painting as the battle was fought approximately two hours before sunset thus putting the sun in the frame. I have yet to decide how I will deal with this as it could throw the main subject into silhouette.

 The church at Battlefield can be visited and the key is available from the Battlefield centre just North of the church

To go to the museum site click below

Inside the centre
 The battlefield site North of the church looking towards Shrewsbury

The church two hours before sunset.

St Mary Magdalene's church Battlefield

Inside the church

I have chosen to display the main characters in their personal coats of arms, (Apart from Henry, who wears the Royal Coat of arms). Most of the characters in the main foreground in my painting are of a high ranking status so would have probably worn their own heraldic colours. Lesser men-at-arms may possibly have worn the colours of their lords but many would have kept their individual coats of arms. 

Heraldry on the battlefield (Not tournament) during this period was used mostly to identify noblemen who were dead and unrecognisable in the same way that dog-tags are used on modern soldiers. 

At the battle of Crecy 1346 Ayton estimated at least 2,000 French men-at-arms were killed, noting that over 2,200 heraldic coats were taken from the field of battle as war booty by the English. 

Later in England during the Wars of the roses, men-at-arms and archers retained by a lord would wear his livery colours and badge which could be distinct from the colours and devices of their lord's heraldry.

Padded coat of Sir William Lord Willoughby, Note the arrow piercing the shield,

Sir John Tuchet, and Sir Richard Hussey. Note the reflections in his helmet of the kings men at arms.

From left to right we can see Sir Thomas Strickland in Black with three white shells, which in simple heraldic terms is Sable, three escallops argent. He wears a late 14th c Kettle hat similar to the one in the British museum instead of the popular bascinet.

Next is Sir John Tuchet, then Sir Richard Hussey, these are the closest figures in the composition and as such will display a little more detail, rivets on armour and the shield can be seen and Tuchet has removed his visor leaving the fixing on his helmet, the pin and chain that holds it in place is fixed to the visor.

 Next in line is Henry (The future King Henry V), better known as Prince Hal in this period.
As you can see Hal wears the royal coat of arms, in this period he also wears a white bar with three tags on his jupon. This is classed as a Cadency, whereby the the first born son wore a Label to distinguish him from his father and younger brothers who would also wear the same Royal Coat of arms. Each brother or cousin would have a different label of Cadency. 

Sir Robert Mavesyn, Shot down by an arrow that has found a weak spot between the chest and armpit. This area was only protected by maille and padded coat. He fought a dual with a long standing enemy before  arriving at the battle.

During the battle Hal was wounded in the face by an arrow, I have chosen to paint the moment when the arrow has just struck the Prince. Historians disagree which cheek he was hit but the surgeon John Bradmore, who removed the arrowhead wrote that ''he was struck by an arrow next to his nose on the left side''. See link below for more details.

On the ground in the centre of the painting is Sir Robert Mavesyn who has been struck by an arrow and above him is Sir William Lord Willoughby who wears a padded coat, His shield will bear his coat of arms.

The 19th century monument to Sir Robert Mavesyn, who was killed at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403 is situated in the Church of St Nicholas, Mavesyn Ridware, Note the small shields displaying his coat of arms.

The next figure is Sir Richard Sandford being attacked by Thomas Aleyn Esq and  Sir William De Leigh.

Behind De Leigh is a man-at-arms wearing a padded coat and next to him is another knight wearing a similar coat but this one has a shield shaped badge painted on it to denote that it is Sir Ralph Neville. 
The Final figure in yellow and red on the far right is Sir John Tatton who had two other family members in the battle. (Records are differing as to which side they fought on).

Sir Richard Sandford in the centre fends off Thomas Alleyn esq and Sir William de Leigh. All will need their belts painted to represent gilded metal. Sir Richards belt has red enamel decoration in the centre. Most knights during this period removed their sword belt and scabbard before the battle, the long scabbard would have caused  a tripping hazard

The Jupon's are painted in heraldic colours, these determine the colours reflected in the armour. Some of the plate metal armour of wealthy knights would have been highly polished in this period whilst lesser knights may have armour that was darkened colours as straight from the armourers forge.

Even dull armour reflects the colours around it so the greens of the field and trees feature as do the blue of the sky. Many photographic images of armour are taken indoors where the light and reflections are totally different. I have a number of photographs of reenactors in armour but all seem to be on grey days or mid afternoon, this colour scheme would be totally unsuitable so I have photographed my own armour (Which is not highly polished) to get the shapes and lines of the colour reflections that is in keeping with the light and surroundings.

The Arrows are painted with white and grey goose feather fletchings

Each was around six inches long, three fletchings are used in total, two being white and one grey. The grey feather is used to line up the Nock (The notch that the arrow string slots into) on the arrow so that the feathers pass the bow with least resistance. 

Each fletching is glued to the shaft with either a plant, hide or cheese derivative, into this glue is added verdigris which probably acted as a deterrent to any hungry micro organisms, (the colour of the glue is notably green).  Around the fletching is wound a thread (often Silk) that ties the feathers down tight. 

In the painting Sir William Lord Willoughby is taken by surprise by the force of an arrow penetrating his shield. This was partly due to the incredible power that the longbow had but mainly the employment of armour piercing bodkins. This type of arrowhead was narrow, pointed and sharp, which was a direct result of the increased strength and stopping power of plate armour.
Unfinished detail showing arrow passing through shield

It is amazing that Henry was not killed by the arrows at Shrewsbury such was the force and intensity of the arrow-storm. The velocity of the arrow that wounded Henry must have been considerably slowed, either by a ricochet or friction from the edge of his helmet/visor.
Above. My bascinet Showing Mail aventail and Visor.

Most knights raised their visors to ease breathing and help increase vision. They might lower them just at the point of making contact with the enemy but it seems that many removed their visors and just took the chance. 

My bascinet showing the hinge pin being removed with the visor (left) lifted away.
The mail aventail is seen being held to the bascinet via the leather strap and brass vervells

My painting is set just at the point when the two sides are just meeting so many of the men-at-arms would not have lowered their visors. It is this factor (or the removal of the visor) that caused Henry (Prince Hal) to receive such a serious wound to his face. 

Hal, as he was known wears typical armour of the period, beneath his Heraldic Jupon he would have worn a plate cuirass which by this time may have had plates fixed to the bottom of it which were known as a fauld. 

My Harness which is loosely based on  the Brass of Sir Peter Courtney d.1405, which is situated in Exeter Cathedral

Maille is worn beneath the plate armour to protect the armpits and the rear of his legs, 

Thigh and knee protection. Cuisse and Poleyn

The maille links can be seen in the painting at the back of Hals Cuisses and protruding from the bottom of his greaves.

Maille beneath my greave and above the sabaton.

Almost all the knights wear a horizontal belt that have gilded decorative plaquarts. The sword and dagger (misericorde) where suspended from this belt  during this period but the fashion for a narrow sword belt is also being employed.
My armour showing the horizontal belt. Also the narrow sword belt.

The Battle lasted only 3 hours so it would have been getting dark (at least dusk), but during that time, 3,000 men were wounded and by some estimates, 7,000 men died.

Battle of Shrewsbury 1403 final sketch before painting.

The Prince after lifting his visor was hit and the arrowhead lodged between his skull and spine, The Royal surgeon John Bradmore gave an account of Henry’s wound:

Prince Henry was struck by an arrow next to his nose on the left side during the battle of Shrewsbury. The arrow entered at an angle (ex traverso), and after the arrow shaft was extracted, the head of the aforesaid arrow remained in the furthermost part of the bone of the skull for the depth of six inches.

The arrow hits the 16 yr old Prince Hal (Henry), but against all advise He carries on Fighting.

Although only 16 years old Henry shows his metal in battle by refusing to leave the field after being wounded until he new that the battle was won. He was then taken to Kenilworth castle where John Bradmore treated the wound and devised a tool that could extract the bodkin arrowhead.

Arrowheads. Left to right small Bodkin, (This is the type left in Hal's wound). Long Bodkin used to penetrate mail. and Type 16 barbed.

The Bodkin arrowhead was designed to overcome armour, either by puncturing metal plate or more commonly by passing through mail armour. The arrow that wounded Hal was probably a short bodkin. The force of the arrow should have pushed it straight through his face and spine which would have probably killed him, however, it has been suggested that its momentum had been depleted by ricocheting from another object such as a helmet or shield.

Modern copy of Bradmore's tool used to extract the arrowhead.

The arrowhead, being left in Hals head/neck, had to be removed and Bradmore designed and made a tool that could be inserted into the wound and then made to grip the arrowhead inside. Bradmore's use of small probes coated in honey to open up the wound was masterly and his quick thinking and innovative design saved the future kings life. It was said that the Prince recovered with no ill effects and the wound was clean and although the scar must have been visible a portrait was commissioned in 1413 showing the Hal when king in left profile. This has led to theories that the wound must have been on the right not left side of the nose but many forget that portrait artists can omit faults and flaws. Also the most commonly known portraits which are in the National gallery and the royal collection were made in the 16th and 17th century.

Laurence Olivier poses as King Henry V. 

Here is the account from John Bradmore  

“And it should be known that in the year of Our Lord 1403, the fourth year of the reign of the most illustrious King Henry, the fourth after the Conquest, on the vigil of St Mary Magdalene, it happened that the son and heir of the aforesaid illustrious king, the prince of  Wales and Duke of Aquitaine and Lancaster, was struck by an arrow next to his nose on the left side during the battle of Shrewsbury. 

The which arrow entered at an angle ex traverso, and after the arrow shaft was extracted, the head of the aforesaid arrow remained in the furthermost part of the bone of the skull for the depth of six inches. 

The aforesaid noble prince was cured by me, the compiler of this present Philomena gratie, The Nightingale of Grace, at the castle of Kenilworth - I give enormous thanks to God – in the following manner. 

Various experienced doctors came to this castle, saying that they wished to remove the arrowhead with potions and other cures, but they were unable to. Finally I came to him. 

First, I made small probes from the pith of an elder, well dried and well stitched in purified linen made to the length of the wound. 

These probes were infused with rose honey. And after that, I made larger and longer probes, and so I continued to always enlarge these probes until I had the width and depth of the wound as I wished it. And after the wound was as enlarged and deep enough so that, by my reckoning, the probes reached the bottom of the wound. 

I prepared anew some little tongs, small and hollow, and with the width of an arrow.  A screw ran through the middle of the tongs, whose ends were well rounded both on the inside and outside, and even the end of the screw, which was entered into the middle, was well rounded overall in the way of a screw, so that it should grip better and more strongly. 

I put these tongs in at an angle in the same way as the arrow had first entered, then placed the screw in the centre and finally the tongs entered the socket of the arrowhead. Then, by moving it to and fro, little by little with the help of God I extracted the arrowhead. Many gentlemen and servants of the aforesaid prince were standing by and all gave thanks to God.

And then I cleansed the wound with a squirtillo full of white wine and then placed in new probes, made of wads of flax soaked in a cleansing ointment. 

This is made thus. 

Take a small loaf of white bread, dissolve it well in water, and sift through a cloth. Then take a sufficient quantity of flour and barley and honey and simmer over a gentle heat until it thickens, and add sufficient turpentine oil, and the healing ointment is made. And from the second day, I shortened the said wads, soaked in the aforesaid ointment, every two days and thus within twenty days the wound was perfectly well cleansed. And afterwards, I regenerated the flesh with a dark ointment Unguentum Fuscum . 

And note that from the beginning right up to the end of my cure, I always anointed him on the neck, every day in the morning and evening, with an ointment to soothe the muscles Unguentum Nervale , 
and placed a hot plaster on top, on account of fear of spasm, which was my greatest fear. 

And thus, thanks to God, he was perfectly cured.'

Bradmore worked as a court physician throughout the reign of King Henry IV.  For his service, he was paid 10 sovereigns a year.  He also made medicines for the king and in 1408 he was appointed Searcher of the Port of London. 

As an attendant to King Henry IV, Bradmore oversaw the care of William Wyncelowe, the king's pavilioner, who attempted suicide by stabbing himself and ruptured his intestine. Bradmore attended him for 86 days, and Wyncelowe survived

In 1412 Bradmore died and His son later publishThe "Philomena" of John Bradmore which gave an account of Bradmore's life, status, wealth, and associates.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

The Archers V sign (First visual evidence of use).

Much has been said about the Archers of Agincourt showing the two fingers as a sign of defiance against the French nobility. 

The mythical tradition originated from a document by Burgundian chronicler Jean de Wavrin were he states, 

“…And further he told them and explained how the French were boasting that they would cut off three fingers of the right hand of all the archers that should be taken prisoners to the end that neither man nor horse should ever again be killed with their arrows. Such exhortations and many others, which cannot all be written, the King of England addressed to his men”.. 

The quote was then used in the 20th century as a reference to the archers two finger demonstration of their ability to draw their bows. This then supposedly developed into the modern insult that is used today, Unfortunately no contemporary record has ever been found for this usage of the two finger gesture. The closest possible image is  from the 15/16th c. Swiss "Chronicle of Diebold Schilling", which shows an archer with two fingers raised at a besieged castle. 

However, I do know that the paintings in Schillings chronicles show many representations of figures using expressive hand gestures some using two fingers (Not all are military).  I would like to think that this image is showing an archer giving the V sign but it could equably be an expressive directional sign the same as the one below it. 

Civilians  with expressive hand gestures using two fingers, Schillings chronicles. 

Many will say that the sign developed in the Second World War whilst others state that there is no reference to the sign being used by the archers before the 1970's. 

However, the first solid evidence of the rude V-sign dates from 1901, (see above) when the Edwardian film-makers Mitchell and Kenyon were filming workers outside Parkgate ironworks in Rotherham. An unhappy looking young man can be seen making the gesture aggressively to the cameraman. (59 seconds into the film).  Prior to this film no other record can be found that directly associates the sign with a show of defiance. 

Of course during the medieval period the recording of something that was a lower class form of defiance against the upper class might not have been seen as a wise thing to do. So, with this in mind, we must ask ourselves where did the surly young man in the film learn this sign from? and how long had it been in use before the film was made?

As an afterthought Whilst I was doing the Online Agincourt course run by Leicester university, members were asked to find anyone with the same surname in the 1415 Rolls. There were 16 Walkers (the majority being called William). All were Archers. Two were commanded by Humphrey Duke of Gloucester. four by Edward Duke of York. one by Thomas Beaumont. One by Robert Lord Willoughby who was part of the Standing force in France. one by Robert Chalons. One by Robert Laurence. One by John Harrington and One by John Tiptof who commanded the Standing force in Acquitaine from 1415 to 1417. The other four Walkers have missing captains. I've not found that any come from my neck of the woods but then Walker is a common name.

You can see the 1901 film in full by clicking on the link below

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Richard III Battle of Bosworth painting

For some years I have considered the composition of this painting and after a period of ill health finally came to the conclusion that what was needed was more troops.

The painting is set at the point when Richard decides to charge so it represents the very beginning of the manoeuvre. (Many other artists have depicted Richard III at the point of full charge and at the point of contact with Henry's standard bearer, so I felt that to gain something from the painting I would have to depict a short period earlier in the battle, this I felt would be more suitable for me rather than slavishly copying an already well documented depiction) 

The pencil sketch
The painting before changes
In my painting Richard III has not yet rode ahead of his fellow horsemen but has only just given the command to make the move. As you can see he is only just about to raise his lance in preparation for it to be couched beneath his armpit. Whilst his men slowly canter forward  Richards horse rears up in anticipation of the following charge, Richard looks down as he brings the destrier and his lance into control and the fateful event begins.

I also wanted in some way to show that Richards stature was slight and small as the documentary and archiological evidence has shown. He may have appeared small next to some of the 800 cavalry that charged with him and I wanted to show that besides this vunerability he still fought valiantly. 

Other figures who died in the charge deserve as much recognition and in my research I have considered those who were closest to Richard in the charge such as his banner-bearer Sir Percival Thirlwall, who can be seen dirctly behind Richard  and Sir William Catesby who appears to the Right of Richard. Also others such as Sir Ralph Ashton, Sir Thomas Broughton and Sir John Neville to name a few.
The painting in full

The addition of troops and artillery in the distance gave a sense of scale plus made the interpretation more accurate as archaeological studies have found many canon balls on the battlefield.
Richards artillery fire over the advancing infantry Note the impression of detail in the distant troops. This is all an illusion as will be explained further on. 

To give a sense of middle-ground a group of infantry was added to the left side. This group are descending a hill which is shown by the rise in front of them,
The advancing infantry seen behind Richards cavalry

In addition to the Artillery and infantry I felt that Richards Horsemen needed to have more participants. The original version just showed Richards closest knights but I felt that the painting should show that a full cavalry charge was about to take place. Fortunately the simple addition of mounted men to the middle distance on the right side of the picture gave the impression that a large number of cavalry were about to follow into the scene.

Richards cavalry advance into the scene from the far right. Again these knights are impressionistic so as not to overpower the painting with too much detail.

One of the pleasures of painting is the understanding of how the mind fills in the details when in reality only a small amount of information is given. This is how the Impressionist artists worked and it can be almost magical when you have the confidence to use it. I sometimes have to take a second look myself as I see details appear that I know I haven't painted. A good example are the mounted men at arms that are on the furthest right of the painting. There is, however a good reason for working in this way. 

The eye See's detail in the main area that it is looking, all around it is blurred to a degree, the brain fills in the details as they are needed. When painting a picture with lots of movement and characters the composition can become overwhelming if all is painted with detail, thus it is necessary to give less important areas of the picture less detail. In this way the artist can lead the viewers eye to the main key features. 
The impressionistic knights on the right side of the painting.

This set of knights consist of various shapes that are blue grey in colour. It may surprise you that I literally splodges the paint down left and right until I saw something that looked like armour. I then blobbed some round shapes along the top followed by a few bobs of flesh tone. Finaly in my minds eye I saw areas where light and shade might be and used a dark blue and white to add little spots and stripes across the scene.
The Infantry also use this method of painting with the addition of vertical lines for weapons

Troops in the middle distance showing simple impressionistic style.

The distant troops consist of smaller splodges of greys and blues with additions of reds that have been mixed with the greys. Flags and banners also use muted colours but small flecks of brighter colour is added to make them stand out.  

Distant troops

In addition to the extra troops Various details were added to the armour and grass on the painting, with some tweaking of edges and lines

 Richard III positions His Lance and prepares to advance his cavalry down the hill

All the work done at this time was with just two brushes. I use Nylon brushes which I find hold their shape very well. the two brushes are A. a number 2 pointed brush and B. a Rake brush which is used for painting fur or grass.
The Rake was used to add depth to the foreground grass by adding dark and light strokes of greens yellows and blues.

Other Details added are the clumps of grass and earth that is kicked up by the horses
Clumps of grass

Reflections in the shining armour are very important to give the sense of metal. This can be quite daunting to a beginner but as long as you follow a few simple rules then it can be quite fun to do. 

Firstly you must forget about the lines and details around the armour ,(this will be painted after). Mix your sky, grass and tree colours that you have used on the painting. also add some white so that you have enough to use.  

Now choose the area you are going to paint on, lets say the helmet below. Take the blue sky colour and paint around the top of the helmet blending with white as you come down to about half way.This shows the sky reflecting on the top of the helmet. let it dry and then mix some dark green, draw a rough line across the middle of the helmet with this green paint and then blend a paler grass green as you move down. This shows the reflection of the trees and grass. If you were painting a breastplate this colour would then blend down into whatever colour is below the figure. In this helmets case the lower edges flare outwards and as such they show the blue of the sky again.

Remember we haven't added any details yet but now when the paint is dry we can get a fine brush and add dark lines for shadows and white lines where the light catches the edges of the metal. 

Take a look at some of the pictures here and you will see the method being used. Blue sky fading into white on top, dark green line across the middle which fades into grass green.

The other reflections are more complex but just rely on the colours that are opposite the metal. A small horse and rider is seen in the horse armour below but the blue green method is still followed behind it.

 Note the reflections in the armour

Reflections of the banner can be seen in the helmets

The Blue, Green reflections can be seen across these breastplates and helmets. Its a simple effect but still gives a sense of shiny metal. Note the effect is used on all the armour pieces in the same way.

The painting Framed up and on a wall.

To see my painting of Richard III at the Marsh click link below