- St. George's Chapel Windsor in the Fourteenth Century
Edward III's foundations at Windsor (the chivalric Order of the Garter and associated college of secular canons) centered on St. George's Chapel, in the lower ward of Windsor castle. St. George's Chapel Windsor in the Fourteenth Century seeks to demonstrate Edward's motivation for these extraordinary foundations, and their impact.
This book is, in fact, one of several recently published on St. George's. In 2001 St. George's Chapel in the Late Middle Ages edited by Richmond and Scarff, was published, based on a conference of the same name. Following that the British Archaeological Association published the proceedings of its Windsor-based conference. In the same year a further conference took place, and from this the latest offering has emerged. Is there room, one might ask, for a further substantial volume? The series of eleven fascinating and highly informative papers in this book confirms that there is. The first three papers focus on Edward III; they are followed by five on the College and three on architecture and building.
The first three papers focus on the Order of the Garter; topics include the relationship of Edward's Order to his political maneuverings, the construction of a public image of monarchy, and iconography. A brief but fascinating contribution by D. A. L. Morgan subtitled "How God became an Englishman revisited" covers the rise in status of St. George and the Blessed Virgin Mary under the Plantagenets and its association with a sense of nationalism.
A more substantive contribution is made by Clive Burgess in his excellent and important account of collegiate foundations. Following this is A. K. B. Evans on litigation, a fascinating story of an obstinate vicar—highly revealing about legal cases in the late Middle Ages. It follows the editor's own contribution on the canons of the collegiate foundation, a clear and concise account of their careers. These papers tell us much about the personalities and people involved in the institution, additionally identifying what was exceptional or otherwise at St. George's. The musical tradition (albeit in the fifteenth century) is charted next through the career of John Plummer.
At the time of Edward's foundation the college was served by a small chapel (constructed by Henry III), later wholly reconstructed by Edward IV and [End Page 305] Henry VII. For survivals of Edward's college, one must look to the ancillary buildings, in particular the original college entrance. John Goodall's article assesses this porch, tracing from it an incredible series of buildings, and telling us much about the character of late medieval English architecture, within which clearly the concepts of continuity and revival, interpretation and adaptation are firmly rooted.
An account of the masons working at St. George's is provided next. The issue of the scale and complexity of Edward's works is well made. The impact of gathering together this enormous group of masons in the mid-fourteenth century is here associated with the subsequent development of a so-called national style. This concept, perhaps too heavily indebted to John Harvey, raises a crucial question about the character of late medieval English architecture and such generalizations have done much to undermine the varied and innovative character of architecture in England in the late Middle Ages. The exceptional nature of Edward's foundations, however, is confirmed by the final paper detailing the castle's carpentry.
At times one might wonder whether the articles do not stray too far from the title of the volume. Conferences, however, do not produce monographs, and this volume is satisfyingly coherent. Several of the essays stand out as significant contributions to the history of Edward III, and the history of both colleges and architecture in late medieval England. Its broad contextualization, therefore, is perhaps not a failing but rather this book's great value.