the Manuscript: Part 1
manuscript opens with a portrait of an armed equestrian Edward IV.
Right of conquest, right of descent, the sovereignty of England, and
the Hand of God are all represented in this initial image.
armed and mounted figure hearkens back to Edward's spectacular victories
at the battles of Mortimer's Cross and Towton just a few months before.
The closed crown of England, unlike the open crowns of France and Castile/Leon
on the shields flanking Edward, signifies the sovereignty of the English
monarch. The arms on the horse's trappings -- England (red with three
gold lions) and France (blue with fleur-de-lys) quartered with Castile
(red with gold castle) and Leon (white with red lions) -- reinforces
the Yorkist claim of legitimacy of descent through the female line.
horse-trapper's central escutcheon with its three crowns of Brutus,
legendary founder of England, foreshadows the three crowns of England,
France, and Spain, as well as the three suns seen in the sky at the
Battle of Mortimer's Cross, a weather-related illusion called parhelion.
Hand of God is quite literally evident in the divine hands emanating
from nebuli with the inscriptions "Si deus nobis cum, quis contra
nos" (If God is with us, who can be against us?), "Dextra
domini fecit virtutem" (The right hand of God gives strength"),
and "A domino factus est istud" (This is the Lord's doing).
gold letter inscription under Edward is from the first chapter of the
Gospel of St. John: In principio erat Verbum et Verbum erat apud
Deum et Deus erat Verbum hoc erat in principio ("In the beginning
was the Word and the Word was with God and God was the Word. The same
was in the beginning...")
a brief history of the world flanks roundels depicting the Creator
enthroned, the Fall of Man, and, shown in part at the bottom, Noah
and the Flood. The elaborate initial I on the left is balanced on the
right by two white roses and Edward's motto, "Comfort et liesse," comfort
and joy. Edward IV was known as "the Rose of Rouen" in
propaganda poems of the period in reference to his birthplace, and
the white rose became a dominant icon for the Yorkist dynasty.
caption surrounding the roundel, whose figure may represent the Father
or the Son, reads "Ego sum alpha et o[mega] dixit dominus deus
omnipotens" (I am the beginning and the end, says the Lord God
almighty), a condensation of Revelations 1,8. This is a highly unusual
subject for a pedigree manuscript, and may have been chosen both to
emphasize divine approval of Edward's accession and to echo the imagery
in the two Yorkist badges, the rose-en-soleil and the sun in splendor.
roundel illustrating the Fall of Man is introduced by the caption "prothoplaustus
Adam et Eva" (the first man, Adam, and Eve). Less accomplished
in illustration than similar roundels in other genealogies, it is different
in its emphasis. The caption surrounding the roundel is a paraphrase
of Genesis 3, 13-14, in which God curses the serpent and promises to
create "inimicitas ponam inter te et mulierem ipsa conteret caput
tuum" (enmity between you and the woman, and the woman will bruise
the serpent's head). Both the caption and the imagery, with the serpent
being driven headlong into a black pit by divine intervention, serve
to reinforce the divine judgment that Edward should be king and divine
retribution on his opponents.
the Fall of Man, three small roundels show Abel, Cain, and Seth, followed
by the names of Seth's sons and a roundel showing Lameth, the father
links with a glorious past are signaled in the first four banners of
this manuscript, shown here: to the left, the banner of St. George,
followed by the arms of Brutus, legendary founder of England, impaling
those of Pandrasus, whose daughter Brutus married. To the right we
see the banners of King Sebbi and the Duke of Cornwall.
George, Brutus, Pandrasus, and the Dukes of Cornwall are all logical
candidates for top billing in the manuscript. St. George was the patron
saint of England and thus of the Order of the Garter, and one to whom
the Yorkists were particularly devoted. The Duchy of Cornwall was a
traditional holding of the heir apparent. Brutus and Pandrasus are
a venerable part of the founding legends of Britain.
is difficult to explain the choice of Sebbi, one of hundreds of Saxon
kings, to be noted on this manuscript opposite St. George. Sebbi led
a virtuous and saintly life, but so did many others. The answer may
lie in the stories of his death. Shortly before he died, according
to the Venerable Bede, Sebbi saw a vision of three men in bright clothing,
who foretold the time and manner of his passing. Sebbi thus shared
with Edward IV (who saw three suns before the battle of Mortimer's
Cross) a vision that can be interpreted as a vision of the Trinity.
And, there may have been an additional reason. When Sebbi died, the
sepulcher brought for him was found to be too short but then miraculously
stretched to fit. Perhaps Sebbi is mentioned less for his piety or
his vision than for his height -- a worthy ancestor for Edward IV,
who at six feet four was larger than life.