The Baptism of Richard, in 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 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.
Anyone whose baptism was performed by a saint and whose godfather was the king should surely make the most of it. Such was the baptism of Richard Beauchamp, and the world is told so by the inscription and the picture: St Richard Scrope, then bishop of Lichfield, later archbishop of York, baptises the child, and Richard II places his hand upon his head. The picture, modelled upon paintings of saints' lives and other religious images, depicts the event with rich detail to convince the viewer of its reality, documenting the subject's grandeur in a way unprecedented in secular biography.