Garter Stall Plates: Styles and Designs

In choosing a design for the Crescent stall plates project, I wanted to get as close in design to Garter stall plates as possible. Fortunately, I’d done a substantial amount of research on the Garter stall plates already, and have assembled some of my research here.

According to William St. John Hope, one of the foremost English authorities on heraldry outside of the College of Arms, stall plates in the Garter chapel were uniformly made of copper or brass, gilded or silvered, and then richly enameled and/or painted. They were typically 6″-8″ long. The 46 Garter stall plates that remain from the original set, made c. 1421 for all existing members (1348-1421), fall into six categories, differentiated by design and most certainly created by different contractors at the same time:

The first of the groups comprises twenty-seven plates. They are at once distinguished from the other groups by being cut out to the shape of the design, and by the beauty and boldness of their execution.

The second group is now represented by a single plate only. Like those of the first group, it is cut out to the shape of the design, but is of smaller proportions. 

The third group includes three plates. They are rectangular in form, but have the edges dagged or cut into pointed leaves.

The fourth group comprises eight small and narrow rectangular plates, clearly the work of one hand, but of two sizes; the four larger being on one stall, and the four smaller being in another stall. They may therefore be convienently described as Group IVa and group IVb, respectively.

The fifth group contains three small plates, somewhat wider than those of group IV, apparently the work of one man, who was not the maker of the last-mentioned group.

The sixth group consists of two examples only. These are small rectangular plates, evidently intended to represent banners, as they bear simply the arms of the knights whom they commemorate. (The Stall Plates of the Order of the Knights of the Order of the Garter, 1348-1485, p.12-13.)

Plates made after the initial run were more individualized, but many throughout the 1400s followed a pattern of decorating three edges with fringe and the fourth as a pole, displaying the whole as a banner with the full achievement of arms.

In looking at the various groups called out by St. John Hope, there are three distinct styles that I want to follow in my three plates for competition; group one, group three, and group five.

Group six’s plates, namely the arms of Sir Peter Courtenay and Henry Lord Fitzhugh, (Plates XLVI and XLVII, respectively) are incredibly disappointing. Not only are they plain rectangular representations of the respective arms in banner format, there is no stylization or artistic detailing, such as fringe or diapering. Furthermore, the edges of the plates are not parallel, nor are the angles square. I might recreate one of these plates as a test run for enameling, but artistically they’re uninspired when compared to the other groups.

Group four’s plates are a bit more interesting, but still feel (in my eyes) unfinished. Again, the plates are not properly squared, and the scrolls bearing the inscription frequently abut the edges of the plates themselves; one example, the plate of Sir Hertong von Clux (Plate XXXVIII), has an extra bit of scroll attached to the right edge of the plate. I can see including an example of this group in my display as a practice piece for engraving.

Group five’s plates are notable for their enameled backgrounds (one solid black, the others split into two and three tinctures, respectively). They’re another step up from group four, and at least one (Thomas Duke of Exeter, Plate XLV) bears the full achievement without an attached name. Given the heavy background coloration, this is a definite possibility for my enameled piece.

Group three’s dynamic leaved edge (Seen, as an example, in Plate XXXIII, the arms of Sir John Sully) has a lot going for it, and makes it a lot more interesting than the plain-edged counterparts in group four. This has a lot of potential for the hand-engraved piece.

Group one, exemplified by the arms of Sir William FitzWarryn in Plate VII (and its smaller companion, group two e.g. the arms of Sir Hugh Courtenay in Plate XXXI) is by far the most impressive, and also the most complex; rather than sticking to my comfort zone by etching a standard rectangular plate, I’d have to use a jeweler’s saw to cut out the shape of the achievement; depending on the complexity of the mantling, this could be a difficult job, but one that would have a very satisfying result.

On the other hand, I could also explore some of the later plate styles for later Crescents (like myself), such as the Duke of Somerset’s stall c. 1440 (Plate LVIII), with full achievement including supporters, multi-colored field, and fancy leaved border. It would allow me to exhibit my etching skills without being distracted by poor sawing technique.

And since I’ve already made some notes about plate styles I’d want to emulate for demonstration purposes, St. John Hope provides a couple examples of a plate that was almost finished, then abandoned and the reverse used to make the achievement, such as back of Sir John le Scrope’s stall plate, seen on Plate LXXI). It’s comforting to know that, if I screw up on a particular design, I can flip the metal over, complete the design, and have documentation for the unfinished reverse.

Crescent Stall Plates

As discussed in last Monday’s post, I’ve decided that the stall for my project will be for Crescent Principal Herald. I was the 14th Crescent, out of 15. By the time the next Pentathlon will roll around, there will probably be a 16th person added to the line of Crescent Heralds. While not all of them are going to have stall plates entered into the competition, the completist in me wanted to do a plate for every person to have held the job, to be displayed on the Sunday of Pentathlon with the rest of the stall’s accouterments. Below is the list of people who have held the position of Crescent Principal Herald:

  1. Conrad von Regensburg
  2. Hrorek Halfdane of Faulconwood
  3. Bruce Draconarius of Mistholme
  4. Akagawa Yoshio (now known as Al-Haadi abd-al-Malik Husam ibn Khalid)
  5. Zenobia Naphtali
  6. Rouland Carre
  7. Catrin ferch Dafydd
  8. Eiríkr Mjoksiglandi Sigurðarson
  9. Madawc Seumus Caradawg
  10. Dietmar von Straubing
  11. Jeanne Marie Lacroix
  12. Lachlan of Cromarty
  13. Su of the Silver Horn
  14. Cormac Mór
  15. Paul fitz Denis

As a point of interest, this list includes one Laurel King of Arms (Bruce) and three Wreath Sovereigns of Arms (Zenobia, Jeanne Marie, and myself).

The great thing about doing stall plates for heralds is that, as a group, we tend to have clean, period-looking heraldry, including registered badges which are perfect for crests, as seen in the table below:


Name Arms Registered badges suitable for use as a crest
Conrad von Regensburg Gules, a decrescent and a chief nebuly argent Gules semy of decrescents argent. (perhaps displayed on a wing)
(Fieldless) A musimon’s head cabossed argent, armed Or, orbed and charged upon the forehead with a decrescent gules.
Hrorek Halfdane of Faulconwood Azure, two spears in saltire and in chief a mullet Or (Fieldless) A unicorn’s head erased azure.
Bruce Draconarius of Mistholme Azure, on a chief embattled argent a dragon couchant azure winged sable (Fieldless) A dragon couchant azure, winged sable, maintaining between its forefeet a mullet Or.
Akagawa Yoshio Sable, a hexagon voided within another argent. (Fieldless) A crescent bendy sinister sable and argent.
Zenobia Naphtali Per chevron Or and sable, three griffin’s heads, erased and sinister facing, counterchanged (Fieldless) A stag springing to sinister reguardant sable.
Rouland Carre Argent, on a bend cotised azure within an orle gules, in chief a Latin cross argent. (Fieldless) A Latin cross azure issuant from between the tines of a stag’s attires gules.
Catrin ferch Dafydd Per pale azure and sable, in pale a bar and a rose palewise, slipped and leaved, argent Azure, a rose, slipped and leaved, within a bordure dovetailed argent.
(perhaps displayed on a wing)
Eiríkr Mjoksiglandi Sigurðarson Per chevron gules and Or, three phoenixes counterchanged (Fieldless) A demi-eagle displayed gules issuant from an estoile Or.
Madawc Seumus Caradawg Argent, a dragon’s head, erased and sinister facing, gules, within a bordure vert Vert, three straight trumpets fesswise in pale Or.
Dietmar von Straubing Or, a cross moline azure between four seeblatter, points to center, vert (Fieldless) A seeblatt vert.
Jeanne Marie Lacroix Party of six vert and Or (Fieldless) A unicorn’s head couped sable.
(Fieldless) A werewolf passant reguardant vert.
Lachlan of Cromarty Per bend wavy Or and azure, a bend wavy counterchanged (Fieldless) A hand proper sustaining two teasels slipped in saltire Or.
Su of the Silver Horn Chevronelly sable and argent, on a chief vert a drinking horn argent (Fieldless) A drinking horn palewise argent enfiling a pearled coronet Or.
(She prefers “a bat-winged cat sejant, wings addorsed vert, fimbriated Or,” a reference to her previous device)
Cormac Mor Per fess with a right step Or and argent. (Fieldless) A brown bear’s head erased proper.
Paul fitz Denis Quarterly per fess indented sable and argent. (Fieldless) A goat statant argent.

As you can see, both the arms and the badges are almost uniformly clean and simple. Of the 15 devices, 5 are field-primary, 4 use only one type of charge, and all but one have two or fewer charges in their design. Likewise, all but two have a fieldless badge that lends itself immediately to use as a crest, and the last two have fielded armory that can be displayed on a wing/fan/similar display.

The next step in this project is to sketch the designs for the plates, and begin to refine the three I plan to enter into the competition.

Resurrecting an Old Paper

Back in 2006, I wrote a paper for a graduate-level course in medieval drama analyzing the financial burden of mystery cycle plays in medieval England, in an attempt to disprove the feasibility of the N-town cycle’s seventh play, Jesse Root, being actually staged by a guild. And if you’re entirely lost, you’re not alone.

See, the paper (6 pages, single-spaced, not including a bibliography) was intended only for the eyes of my professor and fellow graduate students, who had been immersed in medieval drama for an entire semester. They were familiar enough with the mystery plays in general, and the N-town set in particular, that I didn’t need to give context or backstory before jumping into my argument.

When writing, you have to know both your intended audience and your likely audience. For Pentathlon, a judge could just as easily be a layman with passing familiarity with your field as a PhD with a specialty in your particular subject. A judge for fiber arts might be an expert in tablet weaving but know nothing about nalbinding or felting. Moreover, the rules state that “Documentation should be written in English understandable to the general populace,” which discourages the use of overly technical language without an explanation.

My paper from 2006 has a lot of information that might be useful or at least interesting for an SCA audience, but it’s not at all ready for general reading. I intend to rework it into an article, with a background on mystery  cycle plays and a brief history of the N-town manuscript, before launching into my research. There’s a lot that will need to be culled from the existing document, however, if I’m going to be able to fit the background and argument into the 15 maximum pages of double-spaced 12-point standard font required for a Pentathlon entry.

I’m also going to have to return to my source material, Records of Early English Drama (REED), to report the original sources of each of these references. REED is a huge set of books of collected documents from the Middle Ages, organized by city. For purposes of the paper, just citing the volume and page was sufficient, but for an SCA readership, the specific document’s name, date and contents will be necessary.

Whose stall is this, anyway?

With the exception of the degradation performance piece and the topic paper, all of my submissions will feature elements of heraldic display, which in Pentathlon have traditionally been SCA armory. As I want to make sure that these pieces are legitimately used, I intend to keep with this tradition as I create the armorial display and various elements for a stall.

But whose stall? I’m admittedly a bit selfish, so I wanted at least some of the elements to bear my own arms. Normally this would be easy: banner, helm/crest/mantling, misericord, and stall plate in my arms. Oh, but the stall plate…

See, the SCA has few examples of seats that are vacated and filled, like the stalls of a knightly order like the Garter. The most obvious ones are Royal and Baronial thrones, but for my purposes they either pass too quickly (in Caid we’re on our 78th set of Royals) or too slowly. In any case, I’ve not sat in either type of throne, so for my purposes this option was clearly out.

For a peer or associate with a substantial lineage, of which there are a fair number in our game, such a stall would be not only a fun project, but also an awesome heirloom. Imagine “the seat of Sir X, which was passed on to his squire Sir X, who in turn presented it to his squire Sir X, who bestowed it to me, his squire Sir X. And now, at your vigil, I present it to you, my own squire, to sit in contemplation of your impending elevation.” Alas, I was not any peer’s associate prior to my elevation, which would make my stall rather bare, boring, and self-serving.

It first occurred to me when I was still Crescent Principal Herald that Caid’s Greater Officers act similarly to the Order of the Garter; there are a limited number of us, only one person holds any particular position at a given point, and we meet regularly at chapters (Privy Council aka the kingdom business meeting, held twice a year the day after Crown Tournament). I was the fourteenth Crescent Principal Herald, and most of my predecessors are my friends (and so is my successor). 15 plates is a bit daunting, but only three of them would be entered into Pentathlon for judging, with the rest being used purely for display purposes on Sunday, to be given out as gifts later.

So it was decided: this stall would be the stall of Crescent Principal Herald. Plates would be made for the 14 previous holders, a misericord would be made for the herald who “commissioned” the stall, and a full set of heraldic display, including banner, crest and mantling, and stall plate, would be made for the current Crescent Principal Herald.

And this would have been great, had I acted on the plan and completed the project for 2017. However, my successor, Paul fitz Denis, plans to step down in 2018 after a successful three-year tenure, leaving me with the question: who will replace him? Fortunately for me, all but two of these projects can be worked through to (near) completion, and the rest can at least be researched prior to the new Crescent being named.

In the meantime, it was announced that I will be stepping up in June as Wreath King of Arms. In looking at the history of the position, I noticed that two previous Wreaths were also previous Crescents (namely Zenobia Naphthali and Jeanne Marie Lacroix). So this project might morph a bit before the end, and I might have pinpointed which three stall plates I plan to enter for competition…

Degradation from the Order – Script and Stage Directions

The following ceremony is a reconstruction of the degradation of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, from the Order of the Garter in 1521, during the reign of Henry VIII. The text is taken directly from the actual Instrument of Degradation from the Order used against the Duke of Buckingham, as it appears in Elias Ashmole’s The Institution, Laws and Ceremonies of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Appendix 184. Stage directions are derived from the same source, Chapter 24.

Setting: St. George’s Chapel. Garter King of Arms stands in the quire, vested in Tudor fashion, over which he wears a tabard in the arms of King Henry VIII. A pursuivant on a ladder waits at the Duke of Buckingham’s stall.

Be it known unto all men, That whereas Edward, late Duke of Buckingham, Knight, and Companion of the Noble Order of Saint George, named the Garter, hath lately done and committed High Treason against the King, Soveraign of the said Order of the Garter, in compassing and imagining the destruction of the most Noble person of our said Soveraign Lord the King, contrary to his Oath, Duty, and Allegiance; for which High Treason, the said Edward hath been indicted, arraigned, convicted, and attainted, and for the which detestable Offence and High Treason, the said Edward hath deserved to be disgraded of the said Noble Order, and expelled out of the said Company, and not worthy that his Arms, Ensigns, and Atchievements should remain amongst other Noble Ensigns and Atchievements, of other noble, vertuous, and approved Knights of the said Noble Order, nor to have the benefits of the said Noble Order. Where∣fore our Soveraign Lord the King, Soveraign of the said Noble Order of St. George, named the Garter, by the advice of other Knights of the said Noble Order, for his said Offences, and committing of the said High Treason, willeth and commandeth, that the said Edward, late Duke of Buckingham, be disgraded of the said Noble Order, and his Arms, and Ensigns, and Atchievements clearly expelled, and put out from amongst the Arms, Ensigns, and Atchievements of the other Noble Knights of the said Order to the intent that all other Noble men, thereby may take Example, hereafter not to commit any such hainous and detestable Treason and Offence as God forbid they should.

God save the King.

Upon the words “put out” the pursuivant should throw the crest, mantling, banner and sword down into the quire. When Garter finishes reading, the heralds kick the achievements out of the quire, through the Chapel, out of the door, across the Lower Ward, and into the Castle ditch. The stall plate is likewise removed.

The script and directions being set, the next step in this project is to decide upon the pronunciation. I’ve been looking into Original Pronunciation (OP) of Elizabethan England, but it appears that the speech patterns had substantially changed in the latter half of the 16th century that I will need to reverse-engineer a pronunciation guide to properly recreate the voice of Sir Thomas Wriothesly, Garter King of Arms at the time of the Duke of Buckingham’s degradation.

Degradation from the Order – Source Documentation

I first learned about the ceremony for degradation from the Order of the Garter by reading The Most Noble Order of the Garter – 650 Years by Hubert Chesshyre, Lisa Jefferson, and Peter J. Begent. Loaned to me by Bruce Draconarius of Mistholme, the book is a fantastic overview of the Order, and its description of the degradation ceremony is an absolute delight. However, The Most Noble Order of the Garter – 650 Years fails to specify the exact wording used, and is vague on when the practice as described was first institutionalized.

Fortunately, its bibliography revealed two fantastic resources. The first is The Statutes of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, written by Edward III and revised in 1522 by Henry VIII. This primary resource for the governance of the Order is useful on its own, and contains a number of surprisingly detailed descriptions of the achievements of the knights to be displayed within Saint George’s Chapel.

The second, The Institution, Laws and Ceremonies of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, written by Elias Ashmole, Windsor Herald, in 1672, was a study commissioned by Charles II as part of his effort to restore the respectability of the monarchy after the Cromwellian interregnum. This document goes beyond the statutes of the Order, and gets into their policies and procedures, traditions and precedents not otherwise written down in a single volume. He devotes an entire chapter to the procedure of degradation from the Order, including “stage directions” for where Garter should stand, and in what manner dressed (“in his Coat of Arms, (usually before Morning Prayer, if the Grand Feast, or Feast of Installation be then held) standing on the highest step ascending to the Brazen Desk, placed in the middle of the Choire in St. George‘s Chappel at Windesor, the Officers of Arms standing about him”), for how and when the pursuivants on ladders should remove the achievements of the degraded knight (“when Garter pronounceth the words, Expelled and put from among the Arms, &c. takes his Crest, and violently casts it down into the Choire, and after that his Banner and Sword,”) and to which locations the officers of arms should spurn said achievements (“out of the West-Door of the Chappel into the Castle Ditch.”)

Ashmole’s work is incredibly thorough, with an appendix of hundreds of extant documents from the Order’s archives reproduced. These include a warrant from Queen Elizabeth to Garter King of Arms, instructing him to remove the achievements of the Duke of Northumberland from Saint George’s Chapel, and the instrument of degradation for the Duke of Buckingham, issued in 1521, which would have been read by Garter in its entirety in the chapel.

With these in hand, I have a solid script for my performance.

Pentathlon 2019 – The Garter Stall Project

This is the first of several posts documenting my progress on my Pentathlon entries for 2019. My entries will all center around the stalls of Saint George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, also known as the chapel of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, and the heraldic displays featured thereon.

Each of the 26 Companions of the Garter has a stall in Saint George’s Chapel, where their achievement (banner, sword, helm, crest and mantling) are displayed. In addition, a stall plate depicting the knight’s heraldic achievement is affixed to the stall in perpetuity, as a memorial of those honorable knights who’d sat in the stall previously. The achievement is displayed above the stall until the death of the knight, at which point it is quietly retired in advance of the installation of the next Companion of the Garter. Alternatively, if the knight commits one of three heinous acts, namely treason, heresy, or cowardice upon the battlefield, they are degraded from the Order and their achievement is removed in a peculiar and visceral ceremony run by Garter King of Arms.

My entries for this Pentathlon will include examples of all means of heraldic display used in the Saint George’s Chapel stalls, including the banner, crest and mantling, stall plates, and misericord (a bench-like portrusion underneath the seat of the stall, upon which one can lean for comfort during long stretches of mass when attendees must stand and fold up their seats). In addition, I intend to submit a research paper analyzing the role of Garter King of Arms in his role as chief herald of the Order, especially as custodian of the regalia of the Order and the armorial displays of Saint George’s Chapel. I also intend to demonstrate the ceremony for the Degradation from the Order of the Garter as a performance piece. In this way, all of my entries rest upon my skills and expertise as a herald, while requiring me to push outside of my comfort zone into new and difficult art forms, such as woodcarving and painting, brass engraving, enameling, and historical linguistics.

As a final challenge to myself, I will intentionally avoid entering any of these items into Heraldic Display, where they would be judged primarily on their ability to render and display the arms depicted. I will instead place my entries into categories where they will be judged on their technical merit alone. While categories are known to shift, the current plan using the 2017 categories is as follows:

Item Category Subcategory Number
Crest and Mantling Armor & Weaponry Other 3.5.0
Stall Plate 1 Visual Arts Surface Decoration: Etching 1.9.2
Stall Plate 2 Visual Arts Surface Decoration: Engraving 1.9.3
Stall Plate 3 Visual Arts Glasswork: Other 1.4.4
Banner Fringe Fiber Arts Weaving: Other 4.4.7
Degradation Ceremony Performance Arts Dramatic Reading 6.2.0
Misericord Functional Arts Furniture 2.2.0
Research Paper –
Garter King of Arms
Composition Research Compositions: Topic Paper 7.6.2

Pentathlon spoilers abound – read at your own risk

This is Cormac Mór’s Pentathlon project blog, documenting entries for Caid’s Pentathlon Arts and Sciences Competition in 2019. If you are a potential judge for Pentathlon, or otherwise want to go into Pentathlon with a fresh eye, please avoid this blog.

For those who choose to stay, thank you for sharing this journey with me. I’ve been dreaming of this project list for a long time, and I’m looking forward to its execution.