Structures and Traditions

  • Catherine Batt
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Froissart recounts, in his Chronicles, how two enemy knights in the Hundred Years’ War are astonished to find they bear identical heraldic devices, “une bleue dame ouvrée de broudure ou ray d’un soleil sus le senestre brach” [a blue lady worked in embroidery with a sunbeam to the left side]. The Frenchman Clermont accuses the Englishman: “Chandos, Chandos, ce sont bien des posnées de vos Englès qui ne scevent aviser riens de nouvel; mès quanqu’il / voient, leur est biel.” [Chandos, Chandos, these are indeed the vaunts of you English, who know nothing about devising anything new, but whatever they see is fine for them (to take)].1 Historically, the replication of arms proper among knights of the same country gives cause for concern, and there are procedures to decide on prior claims, as the dispute between Sir Richard le Scrope and Sir Robert Grosvenor, 1385–90, famously illustrates.2 In the Chandos-Clermont dispute, the parties meet at a time of truce, just before the Battle of Poitiers, and the issue has no official settlement, although Froissart notes darkly that some think Clermont’s verbal altercation with Chandos plays no small part in the former’s subsequent death, slain on the battlefield with no quarter given.3 The pragmatics of war, possibly combined with English vindictiveness, serve to silence the Frenchman rather than to prove his claim wrong. The incident invites interpretation as illustrating French assumptions about English cultural parasitism,4 as the extant heraldic rolls record no historical association between this ambivalent image of religious or secular devotion and a Chandos or a Clermont.5 The design is more reminiscent of the fanciful personal emblems chosen for tournaments or described in romance than of the inherited family charges knights used to identify themselves on the battlefield.6 The sign is indeed associated with Arthur—whose shield, as some texts describe it, bears a Madonna—rather than with historical knights.7


English Text True Story French Text French Tradition Advice Literature 
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