Highlights of the British Collection:

Medieval Nobility in Monumental Brasses

Most monumental brasses were made for the wealthier classes, such as knights and landowners. Knights in armour are shown on large numbers of brasses and are some of the most impressive.

Developments in armour can be identified from these brasses. The earliest English brasses date from around 1300 and show knights clad in chain mail. During the next two centuries this was replaced by plate armour, as can been seen on later brasses. In fact in the late fifteenth century it is possible to date brasses to the nearest ten years since changes in the design of armour are at their most rapid at this time. By the sixteenth century armour has largely become ceremonial, hence on brasses its use is symbolic signifying the status and position of the person commemorated.

Brasses are useful for the study of genealogy and heraldry as well as the development of armour and costume. Heraldic shields were often incorporated in monumental brasses, usually mounted separately in the corners of the stone slab. Tabards worn by Tudor knights could also carry heraldic devices. Heraldry was jealously guarded by medieval aristocratic families and is a means of identifying families and individuals depicted on brasses, where the inscription may be lost.

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Sir John Daubernoun (click to enlarge)

Brass of Sir John Daubernoun in his armour, dated 1277, from Stoke D'Abernon, Surrey. A very fine example of one of the earliest English brasses. His armour is that of a typical Crusader, however, there is no documentary evidence to say he took part in the Crusades.

Sir Symon Felbrygge and wife (click to enlarge)

Brasses of Sir Symon Felbrygge (dated 1443) and his wife Margaret (dated 1416), from Felbrigg, Norfolk. Sir Symon wears the Order of the Garter, and the Cross of St. George on each shield-shaped palette.

Brass of Sir William de Beaumont

Brass of Sir William de Beaumont, Viscount Beaumont and Lord Bardolf dated 1507 from Wivenhoe, Essex. Rubbing by T.E. Lawrence, 1906.
Lancastrian knight throughout the Wars of the Roses, who also fought with Henry Tudor at the battle of Bosworth Field (1485). He lost and regained his titles twice during this time.

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Sarah Glover
January 2012