Thursday 17 December 2015

Agincourt 1415 – St Crispin’s Day 25th October … Crystal Sceptre and the Hedon Mace …

Back six hundred years now – to see some exquisite workmanship – Henry V’s beautiful Crystal Sceptre was given to the City of London as a ‘vote of thanks’ for providing the funds to fight the historic Battle of Agincourt … a major victory in the Hundred Years’ War.

The Crystal Sceptre and the Hedon Mace

I’m not sure we could make this today … two shafts of spiral fluted-and-gold-inlaid rock-crystal, with a jewel-and-pearl encrusted crown bearing Henry’s coat of arms on parchment.

The Rock Crystal shaft - bejewelled

The Crystal Sceptre is seen briefly but annually at the Silent Ceremony, when the out-going Lord Mayor passes his authority to the in-coming, at the Guildhall.

It is also carried by the Lord Mayor at coronations, so it last left the Guildhall for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953.

The crowned top of the Sceptre - within the crown can be
seen the Royal Arms of England as adopted by Henry IV
in 1406, along with the Lilies of France.

I was going to be in London the day before the Lord Mayor’s Show … the exhibition would be open – so I thought!  They shut it three quarters of an hour before I arrived … I had been at the British Museum in the morning, with this as my last stop before I went off to see my godaughter and her parents north of London.

Part of the Lord Mayor's State Coach - through glass!

However I did see the Lord Mayor’s Coach through glass, but was returning south the next day (the day of the Lord Mayor's Show) – so I had to go up to London again – but it’s been worth it … as oddly enough the Devon silver used relates back to the West Country Tour I’m posting about – that part of the journey will appear next year.

The Hedon Mace (Hedon in South Yorkshire) was also on show – a weapon used at Agincourt, now encased in silver-gilt.
The top of Hedon Mace

Henry had gone on a pilgrimage in 1421 to holy sites associated with his three patron saints.  The iron mace, which Henry had had silver-gilded, is thought to have been an actual weapon used in the Battle of Agincourt and presented to the city as thanks for its support.

East Yorkshire, showing Hedon.
The municipality of Hull is shown in
grey to the west of Hedon

Hedon was an important port in the 12th and 13th centuries, before a deeper port in the Humber Estuary was required for the larger ships being built.

This isn’t the time for long posts but I wanted to post about these two incredible items, as well as some other treasures that were on show – in this very small exhibition.

The groats
Silver groats and half-groats were minted in 1415 to pay the soldiers for their service in France.  A groat was worth four pence.

The Crystal Sceptre was reunited with the Hedon Mace from Yorkshire for a short-time exhibition.

The crowned top of the Crystal Sceptre

It looked just so incredible and to have survived intact for so long is quite remarkable.  Recently these items have been researched and given some history … so deserving … and we learn more about the years of Henry V and his short reign.

Further information can be found here:

Crystal Sceptre of Henry V - Medieval Histories 

Hilary Melton-Butcher 
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Out on the prairie said...

What a beautiful and unusual piece of artwork. Sad to arrive at a closed exhibition, but it sounds like you were close enough to return.

Jo said...

I so remember the speech in Henry V where he is urging everyone to battle. What treasures to have still especially when we hear of so many things which were destroyed. I would love to be able to see them. Interesting you think we wouldn't be able to do that today. Amazing that they could. I've never seen the Lord Mayor's Show, have you? I wish I was nearly as adventurous as you are.

Christine Rains said...

How beautiful. It is incredible that it survived intact for so long. Thanks for the today's tour. :)

Joanne said...

They did it up right back in the day. Gorgeous pieces - wow. And such intricate work. Thanks for pressing your nose against the glass and giving us a peek

Gattina said...

That's too bad that they just closed down before your arrival ! All things you show are so pretty and interesting ! What a history !

Murees Dupè said...

Beautiful artifacts! Even if one might have been used as a weapon:) Sorry you had to travel there twice, but I'm definitely grateful for the beautiful photos and information. Have a lovely Christmas and New Year.

Elephant's Child said...

They are beautiful - even if the beauty belies the purpose of the mace.
I am always intrigued by what survives and what doesn't. And agree about the things that we probably can't recreate despite our 'superior' technology.
Thank you so much - for both trips. For all your trips.

Romance Reader said...

A beautiful and unusual piece of artwork, great and interesting post.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Steve - I was put out to find it closed ... but then I was able to come back up to London and see some other exhibitions at the British Museum ... and I saw the Lord Mayor's Coach on the first visit - that was something.

@ Jo - The Agincourt battle reflects so much in our history .. the art works and the literature. I just had to see the Sceptre and the Mace as they may not see the light of day again for a while - so it was a priveledge to visit.

I haven't seen the Lord Mayor's Show ... and hadn't realised the implications of the Silent Ceremony. I don't like crowds and am not good at waiting around - particularly when my hip hurt a great deal.

I don't think I'm adventurous - I do what I can ... and get to exhibitions as and when I'm able to. Thankfully London isn't too far.

@ Christine - they were extraordinary ... looking at the photos again today: just unbelievable ... something so delicate has not been broken. Pleasure re the London stop over ..

@ Joanne - the workmanship is stunning and unbelievable and as you say 'they did it right'. I just had to see these items .. even though the exhibition was so small - yet so so worth while .. and I did push my nose close to the glass!

@ Gattina - well it might have inadvertently been a good thing - I saw the Coach ... and then saw some other exhibitions I might not have gone to see, if I hadn't really wanted to see the Guildhall exhibition.

@ Murees - beautiful treasures. Incredible to think it might have been a weapon six hundred years ago. No - I really wasn't sorry - in the law of unintended consequences - that I had to travel up twice to see it.

@ EC - they are truly beautiful beyond imagination really. The mace is now stunning, but underneath the iron is still iron!

I guess the Sceptre must have been stored so carefully each year - as the Lord Mayor is elected annually ... the Sceptre must be so so carefully wrapped - while the Mace is usually in Hedon, Yorkshire two hundred miles away - but is iron gilded in silver gilt ... slightly less precious than spiralled rock crystal. Valuable yes, but not precious per se.

Pleasure - I really wanted to visit ...

Cheers to you for visiting and I'm so pleased this Agincourt post entrances you ... Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Nas - sorry I didn't scroll down enough ... I'm so pleased you enjoyed the post and the two museum treasures ... as you say - totally unusual. Cheers Hilary

Nick Wilford said...

They really had amazing quality of craftsmanship with these things. They still look good as new today.

Deborah Weber said...

Oh goodness what beautiful treasures indeed. The sceptre is incredible, but I'm also very taken by the groats. I think it should be mandatory to have pretty coins.

Janie Junebug said...

Good heavens! That's beautiful. I think it wants to visit me since I can't visit it.


beste barki said...

People had the will and the patience to create beautiful and intricately detailed objects. Nowadays something like Jeff Koons' balloon dog structure is considered art!

dolorah said...

Such beautiful pieces. I doubt the same quality work could be achieved today, as nobody works by hand. Machines just can't produce the same intricate designs.

Thanks for such a beautiful post. Merry Christmas, Happy Boxing Day, and Happy New Year Hilary.

ana said...

Hi Hilary So beautiful....Thank you for the tour....Have a Merry Christmas.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Nick - don't they look just so clear, clean and brilliant. Exactly as good as new today.

@ Deborah - I just couldn't not see the exhibition. They were extraordinary to see. The groats were very special and unique to see. We've just about to get a new pound coin .. that looks quite pretty.

@ Janie - exactly - when I saw the exhibition was going up ... I couldn't resist seeing it. Sadly I suspect they're back to be boxed up and vaulted away: but they're here to see!

@ Beste - they had the skill too ... and it must be quite robust to have survived so long, despite its delicate appearance. There is some what I would call dreadful art around ... but in fifty years what will we think - in six hundred will it be around? These items might be.

@ Donna - they are stunning aren't they. There are some very clever craftspeople around with some wonderful ideas ... but the Crystal Sceptre seems to be totally beyond thought in the making of it ... especially in the 1400s. Machines definitely cannot reproduce these sorts of items. So glad you enjoyed the post.

@ Ana - beautiful aren't they. Glad you enjoyed the posting.

Thanks to you all - I'm happy you've enjoyed the look see ... cheers and have a happy run up towards Christmas. Hilary

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The craftsmanship back then was just stunning.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Just amazing! Love the Crystal Sceptre and the coach. America has absolutely nothing like these things, of course...which make them endlessly fascinating to us!

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

How exquisitely beautiful! And such important pieces of history, too. I'm sorry the museum closed before you got the chance to see more of the exhibit, but I'm sure you were happy to spend time with your goddaughter. She may not be historic, but I'll bet she's a jewel.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Alex - absolutely .. the craftsmanship is quite extraordinary.

@ Elizabeth - I have to say I'm teaching myself history and showing myself things I'd have never thought would have interested me so much. It's good for me to write - as I open the doors for others to see them ... and then get wonderful comments like yours.

@ Susan - aren't they just: exquisitely beautiful - and exactly so important in history - yet unknown relatively til this research was done. Thankfully the fact the Museum was shut meant I saw the Coach ... and then going back was a 'must' - there were some pictures and one or two more silver items ... it was a very small exhibition - but I could get up close and personal. The best way to see 'treasures' so often ...

Thanks to the three of you - delighted you enjoyed the post - cheers Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Goddaughter and her parents are pretty special ... forgot that bit!!! H

bazza said...

Hi Hilary. A fascinating post (wouldn't expect anything less!) Although I don't always comment I always read what you publish!
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s fabulous Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Marja said...

What an amazing pieces of art. There were people with golden hands back then. What ashame that so much that craftmenship is lost. Now we are dependent on machines who are not that original and mostly spit out plastic :)
Ashame you didn't see the sceptre

A Lady's Life said...

they sure don't make em like they used to. Do they?

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Bazza - thanks so much ... it's good to know you're around.

@ Marja - I did see the Sceptre - hence the photos. Just had to make a 2nd trip ... but made the journey to London worth it with some other exhibitions. There are people who do some incredible work ... but I agree a great deal of stuff is replicated via machine - necessary but sad.

@ ALsL - I couldn't agree more ...

Good to see you all .. cheers Hilary

Suzanne Furness said...

It is incredible and very beautiful. We were in London briefly for The Lord Mayor's parade (you may recall my recent post) and saw the coach. It is wonderful that these old pieces remain and are used even if it is only occasionally.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas, Hilary.

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous photos, I love seeing the detail shots of the different pieces!

Kittie Howard said...

I agree with Joanne, they did it up right back in the day! Of course, there were circumstances that made it so, but the beauty seems so worth it in this day and age. How fortunate so much survived! It seems that all of England is an exciting treasure trove with something interesting always being discovered. Maybe it's because I had the right instructors at the right time growing up, but I love reading about your history. My niece is the same. Just sent her a book about the Tudor Period. Anyway, Christmas Week nears -- from our house to yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

DMS said...

Sorry you missed the exhibit the first time around, but so glad you caught it later. Such exquisite pieces! Wow! Amazing to think these pieces of history have survived all this time and that they are in such great shape. Thanks for sharing more about your journey. :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Suzanne - I remember your post and know you were there for your daughter and to see her design incorporated into one of the floats. I've never been ... but even seeing the coach through the glass was extraordinary .. as I was so close.

@ Rhonda - they're not as good as yours ... but I was pleased with the shots and the detail of their exquisite workmanship those years ago.

@ Kittie - they certainly did do it right back then. History tells us its stories in our way of looking at things, perhaps as you suggest they were different at the actual time: very possibly so.

Once I started to look further into the small facets of history for the blog - I find it incredibly interesting ... all those years ago it was just battles and wars, and I couldn't make head or tail of what was happening ... France, Holy Roman Empire, Princes in Germany etc.

How lovely to hear your niece has a similar interest in history - I'm sure she'll enjoy the Tudors ... they were a great dynasty. The final battle won, the killing of the King, Richard III, then 545 years later (in 2015) Richard is finally laid to rest near the Battle of Bosworth in Leicester Cathedral ... and the Tudors reign.

@ Jess - well in fact missing the exhibit gave me another opportunity to do other things in London ... and I did see the Lord Mayor's Coach. I know to see the rock crystal and know it's survived 600 years is amazing.

Thanks so much for coming over and commenting ... have a very good last few days before Christmas actually arrives ... cheers Hilary

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

The swords and coins and such are quite spectacular. I saw Roman coins when I was in Bath. Mind boggling to think how long they've been in existence. Great post, Hilary.

Rosalind Adam said...

Amazing artefacts. I've never seen the Lord Mayor's Show. I love that crystal sceptre. Thanks for sharing and have a great Christmas.

Patsy said...

Very beautiful and intricate work.

TexWisGirl said...

such grandeur!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Joylene - aren't they amazing ... and we're lucky to have so many artefacts from so far back - and we get some semblance of their lives from these treasures.

@ Ros - I haven't seen the Lord Mayor's Show either ... I'm not keen on crowds or standing around ... so I think it's unlikely I'll get to see it - except via the tv.

@ Patsy - it is extraordinary workmanship isn't it ...

@ Theresa - good word 'grandeur' - describes the items perfectly.

Cheers to you all - and thanks for commenting - Hilary

Jeffrey Scott said...

Exciting post. Love the sceptres and history associated with each. I too am impressed they are still around. I wonder how much work has gone into restoration, or are they as-is?

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Thanks Jeffrey - there were amazing to see. I don't think they've been repaired or restored as such .. usually it's stated. I'm sure they've been tidied up (that's a taken and obvious I suppose!) .. but if the crystal had broken - that'd have been it ... no crystal sceptre any more.

Cheers and thanks for commenting here - Hilary

Sai Charan said...

Hi Hilary,

The Crystal Sceptre is beautiful, thank you for this post, was interesting to learn about the history!! All pictures are very nice!! :)

Sai :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Thanks Sai - I was fascinated to see the Sceptre and it seems it captivated many ... the history too I learnt something ... cheers Hilary

Mike@Bit About Britain said...

That is wonderful and fascinating, Hilary. Thanks for the pointer - and I'm sorry it took me awhile to get to read this. I had never heard of the Hedon mace before - something to bear in mind next time I'm in London in November! And I'll keep an eye open for it at the Coronation later this year! Happy New Year to you, Hilary, thanks for all your fascinating posts and lovely comments.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Mike - lovely to see you here ... and I'm so glad you related to the post - and will remember/note for any future post you might write up ... your posts are always so rewarding to read about, particularly as they're about our history. Well referenced too - cheers for now - Hilary

PS I wonder if the Hedon Mace will appear at the Coronation, or the Lord Mayor's Show later this year - I'll keep an eye out too ...