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Prince Humphrey Hears of His Father's Illness, in the 'Romance of the Three King's Sons'

Prince Humphrey Hears of His Father's Illness, in the 'Romance of the Three King's Sons'

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1485

Shelfmark: Harley MS 326

Item number: f.102r

Length: 23.3

Width: 17.1

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

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. Even the smaller illustrations, with their wealth of detail and colour, give the book's pages quite a richness, and one can easily imagine how enjoyable it must have been to read. This scene of Prince Humphrey, who hears of his father's illness while riding with a nobleman, far exceeds the essentials of the action. It shows a massive retinue with the detail of horses and costumes, and the complexity of the landscape through which the group travels lends it a game-like quality.

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