'Surnome' Meets the Duke of Burgundy, in the 'Romance of the Three King's Sons'
Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum
Medieval romances--stories of knights and their ladies--were written for courtly audiences which were largely female. Translated into English from French, the 'Romance of the Three King's Sons' has as its main characters three young princes who venture off to battle the Turks: Philip of France, Humphrey of England and David of Scotland. While the story concerns their campaigns and travels, much female input comes from characters such as Iolante of Sicily, and the entertaining plot has intrigue and some twists and turns. This illustrated manuscript of it was probably made in London, from the evidence of its London and Midlands flavoured Middle English and similarities with another manuscript. It is not known whether it was made to order for a particular person or speculatively for sale. Its numerous pictures, unlike earlier medieval illustrations on the whole, may have been 'invented' or adapted from illustrations of other stories, as no other copy of the story survives with such extensive illustration.
Some of the pictures use the time-honoured medieval illustrator's technique of packing multiple scenes into one panel. Here, Prince Philip, whom Iolante calls 'Surnome', is on the road. The architecture of the Duke of Burgundy's palace is cleverly used to divide steps in the action, while features of the surrounding landscape create stages for subsequent actions.