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A Duel With Daggers, in a Historical Compilation

A Duel With Daggers, in a Historical Compilation

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1390

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Nero D VI

Item number: f.82r

Length: 35.5

Width: 23

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

King Richard II (1367-1400), son of Edward the Black Prince, was crowned at age ten, with the regency of a council headed by John of Gaunt. His achievements when an adolescent in negotiating an end to the Peasants' Rebellion, 1381, were not lived up to when he ruled the country as king. He alienated Parliament, was deposed in 1399 and died (probably murdered) a prisoner at Pontefract Castle. This collection of historical documents, a chronicle of English kings and rules for activities at the royal court was made during Richard's reign. It is possible that the king had it made for his ally, Thomas de Mowbray. Its miniatures resemble closely others surviving in manuscripts decorated for the monks of Westminster Abbey as well as a few linked to Richard II, who apparently was an outstanding royal patron of painters. The Wilton Diptych (in the National Gallery, London), probably his personal devotional shrine, represents him before English royal saints adoring the Virgin and Child.

Amongst Richard's major headaches were the aristocratic rivalries which eventually were a big factor in his downfall. This page integrates one of the more practical angles in the book's attempt to promote Richard's image of royal authority: 'Rules for a duel at the court of the king.' The historiated initial (first letter bearing a picture) shows the king acting as referee as two noblemen duel with daggers. In reality he was far from such control over feuding aristocrats, one of whom deposed him, probably had him murdered, and became King Henry IV.

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