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The Christian Fleet Approaching the Port of Graeta, in the 'Romance of the Three King's Sons'

The Christian Fleet Approaching the Port of Graeta, in the 'Romance of the Three King's Sons'

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1485

Shelfmark: Harley MS 326

Item number: f.29v

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. At the beginning of the book, illustrations are half-page, giving plenty of scope to create panoramic landscapes or, as here, seascapes. In this picture, the Christian forces assembled by Prince Philip approach the Turks' stronghold at the port of Graeta. Men on one of the ships in the foreground blow trumpets, while their fellow soldiers prepare for attack and archers fire the first bolts from the walls of the citadel.

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