Wednesday 14th February, 2018
Dr Williams's Library Lecture Series
The Lecture Hall, Dr Williams's Library, 14 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0AR
Queen Philippa of Hainault and her Psalter
Dr Williams’s Library MS Ancient 6 is an extremely small (102 x 70 mm) psalter first owned by Queen Philippa of Hainault, wife of Edward III of England. It may have been made as a wedding gift to mark Philippa’s marriage to Edward in 1328. Such ‘marital manuscripts’ were common aristocratic gifts to new husbands and wives in medieval Europe. They were designed to introduce young couples to their new social roles and act as spiritual primer for married life.
Dr Laura Slater, Research Fellow , Somerville College, Oxford
Dr Laura Slater
Laura Slater is the Fulford Junior Research Fellow at Somerville College, Oxford and a researcher on the European Research Council-funded ‘Music and Late Medieval European Courtly Cultures’ project. She has held teaching or research positions at Cambridge, Trinity College Dublin, University College London and York. Her first book, Art and Political Thought in Medieval England c.1150-1350, is forthcoming with Boydell & Brewer.
Yet MS Ancient 6 would have been required to support and guide Philippa in particularly difficult circumstances. Aged anywhere between ten and fifteen, Philippa landed in England in December 1327, barely a week after the funeral of her deposed and murdered father-in-law, Edward II. She found her new husband to be the increasingly unwilling puppet of a regency government dominated by his mother, Queen Isabella of France, and her paramour, Roger Mortimer. Philippa spent her first three years in England completely overshadowed by her mother-in-law. She was not crowned until February 1330, when the advanced stage of her first pregnancy made the ceremony unavailable, did not have a separate household until April 1330 and did not receive any dower lands. Kept perennially short of money, by spring 1330, rumours of Isabella’s pregnancy by Mortimer, and his desire to usurp the English throne, turned a tense political situation into an openly dangerous one. The execution in March 1330 of Edward III’s uncle, the earl of Kent, proved the regents’ desire to hold onto power at any cost.
This talk will examine the contents and imagery of MS Ancient 6 in this context, highlighting the traces it bears of contemporary political upheavals in England, and discussing the devotional practices it may be prescribing for the new queen.