Coronation of Henry VI, The Pageants of Richard Beauchamp
Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum
Thought to have been made for Anne, Countess of Warwick and daughter of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick (1382-1439), this is the only illustrated biography of a secular figure to have survived from the late middle ages. Richard Beauchamp was a true high-flyer, but his daughter married Richard Neville ('The Kingmaker'), who opposed Edward IV and so caused the exclusion of Anne from all her possessions after his death. It is believed that, to help recover the family's reputation and property, Anne had the 'Pageants' written, probably from an account kept by the family and possibly under the supervision of John Rous (Beauchamp's chantry priest at the Collegiate Church of St Mary's, Warwick), and the extraordinary illustrations made by a Continental artist (known as the Caxton Master) to enhance further the glorifying message.
Upon the death of Henry V (1422), Richard Beauchamp became the guardian of the young king, Henry VI. One of the few pictures in which the Earl does not appear, this page shows the coronation of the eight-year-old king at Westminster (1429). Although the Caxton Master often creates innovative compositions, he has depicted the event with the traditional placement of the king in the centre of a symmetrical arrangement of figures and architecture. Such images not only referred to Richard Beauchamp's high-level connections and service to the crown, but they also flattered the ruler, showing positive and idealised human qualities.