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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Mon 23 Mar, 2015 12:51 pm    Post subject: Knights of colour in medieval Europe?         Reply with quote

Hi All,

I came across this thread yesterday http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...mp;start=0 that showed a depiction of St Maurice. In the depiction he is a clearly sub Saharan African man in full armour. I got really excited, not realising this was a religious depiction and thought that there was an African man a few thousand miles from home living the life of a knight circa 1480.

OK, so we have established that I am dense, but I am really intrigued by coloured people in Europe. African and Middle eastern and I am sure people from further afield have been coming to Europe since pre Roman times as traders. Clearly some left their genes in the obvious way, some came as slaves, but some must have settled and carried on their lives on our strange shores and then got embroiled in our local cultures and troubles.

In a nutshell, do you know of any coloured knights or men at arms from the medieval period in Western Europe? I do not mean fictional people, parable paintings or religious paintings, but real people?

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Mart Shearer




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PostPosted: Mon 23 Mar, 2015 2:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I suspect it's better to look more to the Renaissance than the MA.

https://classconnection.s3.amazonaws.com/490/flashcards/4046490/jpg/african_man_2-142CE32302A63D4DBD0.jpg

The African wearing the cloak of a religious order (Santiago of the Sword?) in the foreground would be a candidate.
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/edit...photo.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_Saint_James_of_the_Sword

ferrum ferro acuitur et homo exacuit faciem amici sui


Last edited by Mart Shearer on Mon 23 Mar, 2015 2:48 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Matt Easton




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PostPosted: Mon 23 Mar, 2015 2:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes, a few appear in fencing treatises for a start, from the 15th to the 18th centuries:








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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Mon 23 Mar, 2015 5:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I fail to write down references for myself all the time to my detriment but I do recall hearing about PoC in Europe during the second half of the 15th century a few times.


The king(s) of Castile sometimes employed a bodyguard of Morisco's (converted Moors). Whether they were black I do not know but it's certainly within the realm of possibility.

http://www.deremilitari.org/REVIEWS/Echevarri...ontier.htm

King Henry the Eight employed a black trumpeter/standard-bearer. I admit I read about this on a site concerning war gaming miniatures but there seems to be some evidence for it.

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pathways/b...blanke.htm

As for those paintings including Early Netherlandish ones - It appears the depictions are 'anatomically correct' the painter didn't take a European model and then painted him in blackface. Either the painters had access to correct pictures of people of African decent or they themselves had seen them somewhere.
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James Moore





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PostPosted: Mon 23 Mar, 2015 5:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

there was certainly a known moorish community in Bristol from the 13th C.

for depictions throughout history, (and the occasional divergence into political correctness, fantasy worlds, and all sorts of rights), this blog has some interesting examples in it:

http://medievalpoc.tumblr.com/

might well find some good details by going through it in detail.
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Michael Curl




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PostPosted: Mon 23 Mar, 2015 8:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

from wikipedia
About the kingdom of Kongo. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_of_Kongo...ristianity

"Part of the establishment of this church was the creation of a strong priesthood and to this end Afonso's son Henrique was sent to Europe to be educated. Henrique became an ordained priest and in 1518 was named as bishop of Utica (a North African diocese in the hands of Muslims). He returned to Kongo in the early 1520s to run Kongo's new church. He died in 1531 as he was about to go to Europe for the Council of Trent."

E Pluribus Unum
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Mark Griffin




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PostPosted: Tue 24 Mar, 2015 2:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One of the most repeated images over here is of John Blacke, one of the trumpeters to Henry 8. His picture appears in the Westminster tournament roll and the accounts concerning the tournament list his wages as well.

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pathways/b...blanke.htm

Currently working on projects ranging from Elizabethan pageants to a WW1 Tank, Victorian fairgrounds 1066 events and more. Oh and we joust loads!.. We run over 250 events for English Heritage each year plus many others for Historic Royal Palaces, Historic Scotland, the National Trust and more. If you live in the UK and are interested in working for us just drop us a line with a cv.
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Ralph Grinly





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PostPosted: Thu 26 Mar, 2015 2:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

While people of colour were not unknown in medieval Europe, I doubt there were any knights included amongst them, for what , at the time, were considered very good reasons. And as for illustrations..I believe they were shown for one of two main reasons
1- to illustrate Biblical stories
and
2 - to make very obvious distinctions between characters. By this , I'm referring to the many "Fight Book" illustrations., some of which are shown above. It's easy to point out and say "Character A ( white) does so-and so..countered by char B (black....
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Matt Easton




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PostPosted: Thu 26 Mar, 2015 4:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well... remember that most of who we call 'knights' were not knights. They were gentlemen men-at-arms without official rank other that 'Mr' or 'Esquire'. If you look at the Agincourt Rolls then you can see the names of lots of commoners serving as men-at-arms. Actual knights by the late-medieval period were often just landowners who ran estates and paid not to fight. The fencing masters like Talhoffer, Kal, Leckuchner etc were not generally aristocratic or knights, but they were probably just about the highest martially trained individuals to be found and did serve in wars (Kal was an artillery officer and Dei Liberi was similar), and we see black men in their fencing treatises. So I think it is highly likely that there were black men-at-arms, especially in Italy, Spain and Greece. Remember also that the Medicis were part black!
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Thu 26 Mar, 2015 9:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

here is another cool depiction of St. Maurice for you Tod.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons...ld_011.jpg

and another



St. Maurice is an interesting figure, as one of the very small number of Saints who could be associated with a military career in his legend, he was hugely popular with the knightly class at least into the 16th Century. He was probably second only to St. George in popularity. He is still featured (and typically depicted as a Sub-Saharan African) in dozens of Churches in Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Czech and the Baltic. This seems to have gradually changed in the 17th and 18th Centuries until he was kind of erased from history.

I discovered this military society based on St. Maurice (of essentially urban knights, or Constafler) in the Baltic region when I was researching an academic article I did for the Acta Periodica Duelletorum last year. These people were not Africans but they were part of this cult of an African saint.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brotherhood_of_Blackheads

I think this issue of Africans in Europe in the medieval period hasn't really been adequately studied. In the medieval period they generally didn't seem to have had a negative perception of skin color, the major dividing lines were religion and language. There was no particular association of Africans with slavery until the late 15th Century, in fact Europeans were slaves at least as often as Africans. Christian Africans were a particularly popular idea, and there were persistent legends of a mighty Coptic Christian king in Ethiopia which often showed up in romance novels and so on.






In addition to the ubiquitous images of Africans which show up in the fencing manuals such as Matt already showed us in this thread, there were several well-documented African courtiers and knights in prominent positions in Europe going back to Charlemagne. There have been a couple of books done on this but I think they really barely scratched the surface and were more about modern politics than history. Here is one interesting example of a partially African 16th Century courtier and eventually, Duke of Florence, who was part of the Medici family (which Matt also alluded to).



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alessandro_de'_M...f_Florence

African, or at least dark-skinned individuals also show up in more prosaic (and non religious) contexts in Medieval art, for example frequently as apprentices such as in this plate from the Balthasar Behem codex, a manual of craft guild regulations in Krakow written in 1505.



Sub-Saharan African soldiers and courtiers show up in all kinds of artwork from the 15th and 16th Centuries, I have collected 15 or 20 images on my computer at home which I could upload if I get around to it.

Prominent African soldiers seem to have continued in Europe at least until the French revolution, which had several notable heroes of African origin, one was a major rival of Napoleon himself (and was erased from history as a result).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas-Alexandre_Dumas

This guy was a soldier, later a fencing master, and in between perhaps one of the worlds most accomplished duelists:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Louis_Michel

I think you can find many more examples but it would require serious academic work to really get a sense of the precise degree of this. But I note that there is a great deal of immigration and movement today, we once thought that people didn't circulate around Europe (and beyond) all that much but now we know differently, at least of certain classes for example artisans, merchants and soldiers, moved around at an extraordinary rate, maybe more then they did in much later eras. I don't see any reason why immigration across regions would not happen in the past, particularly in eras when there was such as huge amount of political chaos as the medieval period. Who would stop it in any systematic way?.

Jean

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Mark Griffin




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PostPosted: Thu 26 Mar, 2015 10:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I agree on the first point Ralph but the second....

They are not the norm, they are an exception, I think they are there just to spice things up a bit or for a variety of other reasons. If differentiating was the case then I'd expect to see them appearing a lot more and be mentioned more explicit;y in the accompanying text.

Currently working on projects ranging from Elizabethan pageants to a WW1 Tank, Victorian fairgrounds 1066 events and more. Oh and we joust loads!.. We run over 250 events for English Heritage each year plus many others for Historic Royal Palaces, Historic Scotland, the National Trust and more. If you live in the UK and are interested in working for us just drop us a line with a cv.
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Kyle Glover





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PostPosted: Thu 26 Mar, 2015 12:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is a blog called Medieval People of Colour or something along those lines that revolves around looking for non-white people in medieval artwork.

Their definition of "medieval" is... interesting however.
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Mark Griffin




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PostPosted: Thu 26 Mar, 2015 12:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

this one?

http://medievalpoc.tumblr.com/

and a comment on it here

http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2013/12/1...dieval-art

but I find the standpoint that people think that 'medieval' ( I think we can say pre-western expansion, empire building and slavery) Europe was uniformly white to be erroneous. If people can be bothered to look there is a lot of representation. Africa is only a short boat trip away, Moorish Spain even closer. 'Morris' dancers in the UK are first mentioned in 1478, either they were from Spain and N Africa or at least their roots were understood. There was plenty of cross cultural trade and travel so the whole 'Western Europe was all white' line is not one I've ever thought true or even thought about.

Currently working on projects ranging from Elizabethan pageants to a WW1 Tank, Victorian fairgrounds 1066 events and more. Oh and we joust loads!.. We run over 250 events for English Heritage each year plus many others for Historic Royal Palaces, Historic Scotland, the National Trust and more. If you live in the UK and are interested in working for us just drop us a line with a cv.
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Thu 26 Mar, 2015 1:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Africa is only a short boat trip away, Moorish Spain even closer.


This is basically the way I see it.

Also specifically when it comes to the upper or lower nobility, being of noble birth mattered far more than ethnicity or language. When diplomatic, political or military considerations were pressing, Crusaders, Conquistadors, Lords of the Reconquista etc. didn't hesitate to marry into or give away their daughters into noble families of Mongol, Turkish, Arab or other foreign origin - including with the Moors in Spain, and for example in Mexico and India.

Jean

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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Apr, 2015 1:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

African crossbowman



J

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Jeffrey Faulk




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Apr, 2015 2:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The crossbowman above is probably of Moorish or mixed Spaniard/Moor extraction, judging from the appearance.
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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Wed 08 Apr, 2015 5:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks everyone; this has been a mine of information and it is not something I have thought a great deal about, but my interest was piqued, however I like the idea and believe it myself that the UK/England has been multicultural for far longer than our 'red top' news papers would have us believe.

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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Thu 09 Apr, 2015 1:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

well.. I tihnk the guy looks like Lionel Richie, so there!

I ttracked down the venetian gondolier, late 15th Century - sharply dressed - he is from Gondoliers on the Grand Canal, detail from The Miracle of the Relic of the True Cross on the Rialto Bridge, 1494, by Vittore Carpaccio

I know of at least two early 16th Century depictions of Africans in landsknecht attire and kit but I can't find them online at the moment. I'd have to pour through my hard-drive at home.


Here is a closeup of that wonderful St. Maurice with the superb Maximillian harness....



Jean

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Last edited by Jean Henri Chandler on Fri 10 Apr, 2015 9:22 am; edited 1 time in total
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Ralph Grinly





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PostPosted: Thu 09 Apr, 2015 1:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think this thread is drifting a lil bit from the original poster's intent. He was asking for information on any KNIGHTS of Colour in medieval Europe - EXCLUDING religious icons such as Saint Maurice or ficticious characters. No one is disputing that Medieval European's were aware of coloured races, if not personally familiar with them. What the poster was asking is - Is anyone aware of any REAL instances of Coloured KNIGHTS - not merely warriors/fighters, but any Coloured people inducted into orders of Chivalry ?
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Thu 09 Apr, 2015 1:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ralph Grinly wrote:
I think this thread is drifting a lil bit from the original poster's intent. He was asking for information on any KNIGHTS of Colour in medieval Europe - EXCLUDING religious icons such as Saint Maurice or ficticious characters. No one is disputing that Medieval European's were aware of coloured races, if not personally familiar with them. What the poster was asking is - Is anyone aware of any REAL instances of Coloured KNIGHTS - not merely warriors/fighters, but any Coloured people inducted into orders of Chivalry ?


Well if you read the thread I posted a link and a painting of the Medici prince of (half) African origin who was both a Duke and a knight. Does that qualify?




Jean

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