Huge congratulations to all of those involved in reaching this wonderful milestone for the scheme, to all the finders, volunteers and staff who have worked together for this great achievement.
I really enjoyed the wonderful patchwork of finds from across the country that was put together to celebrate. If you’re looking for Devon, you can find us in the top right hand corner of that image. I thought I would do a short blog featuring one of the finds pictured there- such is the richness of the database that I hadn’t come across it before.
DEV-C6D8F7 (https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/874997) is a harness pendant, one of my favourite classes of finds at the best of times. I really love the connection to individuals, and the clear idea they give of the visual richness of horse tack during the medieval period. This example, with its cusped border, is thought to be associated with Spain, based on a similar example from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The record is exemplary and restrained, but here on the blog I can be more speculative. You might wonder what a Spanish object of the 14th century was doing in Devon?
Well, I wonder if it was connected with the journey of Constance of Castile, a princess from Spain who married into the English Royal Family long before the more famous Catalina of Aragon. Constance and her new husband, John of Gaunt, returned from celebrating their 1371 marriage in English territories near Bordeaux, and landed at Fowey in Cornwall in late September. After what seems to have been a stormy autumn crossing, they travelled by land through Cornwall into Devon, staying at Plympton Priory to recover from the sea journey (Weir 2011: 98). They then headed northwards to make offerings at Exeter Cathedral and onwards to Kingston Lacy in Dorset, where they spent Christmas. They are described as travelling with an appropriate escort of Castilian knights and ladies. Could one of their horses have shed this pendant?
Constance and John did not go on to have a successful marriage in political terms- he never managed to pursue her claim to the throne of Castile, although their daughter did resolve the issue by marrying the rival heir, Enrique III. After Constance died in 1394, John married his longstanding mistress Katherine Swynford, with whom he had had four children while married to the Castilian princess. It seems unlikely that their marriage was a success in personal terms either!
This find really sums up the magic of PAS for me. Found, reported, researched, published. It has a possible connection with an important event in medieval history, and a fascinating opportunity to think about the lives and feelings of those involved. It’s beautiful to look at, and it sparks all sorts of fantastic conversations about Devon’s past, and its people- whether passing through as part of a cavalcade or living their lives here.
Here’s to the next milestone, bring on 2 million!
Weir, A. 2011. Katherine Swynford: The Story of John of Gaunt and his Scandalous Duchess. London: Random House.