A royal medieval lion pendant released to boost the ladies at Wembley

A crowd of almost 88,000 filled the stands to watch the final of the Euro 22 Women’s Football Championship on Sunday July 31 at Wembley Stadium, with most cheering wildly for the England team. Unsurprisingly, the link between English football (soccer) and medieval history hasn’t received much attention lately. But that has now changed, thanks to a fascinating and timely archaeological discovery of a “perfect” medieval lion pendant announced in a press release from the HS2 high-speed train project.

History and sports: a shared heritage

Exploratory excavations commissioned before the HS2 project produced an abundance of artifacts and ruins from antiquity and the Middle Ages.

“HS2’s archeology program has given us an unprecedented opportunity to discover, excavate and study British history,” a spokeswoman for HS2 Ltd said in conjunction with the announcement of the pendant’s discovery.

“The whole country supports the England women’s team and we hope this great find inspires the Lionesses to create their own piece of history on Sunday,” she added, highlighting the fascinating link between royal heraldry medieval (and history) to the present. one-day sports competitions. Well, with the win now, something certainly gave the team what it needed to make England proud.

England women are known to their fans and the press as the Lionesses, in recognition of the special badges each player wears on their uniform. These badges feature a three-lion design familiar to history aficionados, who recognize it as a heraldic symbol identical to that featured on a coat of arms associated with English royalty since the reign of King Henry II in the 12th century.

After receiving a tip from amateur metal detectorists, archaeologists affiliated with contractor HS2 Connect Archeology unearthed an 800-year-old medieval red and gold lion pendant that bore the exact same crest as the team’s. English women’s football. , and by all football players who represent England in any domestic competition. Given its extreme age, this precious medieval lion pendant, probably part of a royal horse harness, could very well date from the time of King Henry II himself, when the triple lion herald made his first appearance.

The medieval lion pendant from the HS2 excavation was very small but extremely well preserved. ( HS2)

The medieval lion pendant HS2 was in perfect condition

The small metal medieval lion pendant, which measures less than 3 centimeters (1.2 inches) wide and just over 4 centimeters (1.6 inches) long, was found late last year near the village of Wormleighton, which is in the county of Warwickshire approximately 80.5 kilometers (50 miles) south-east of Birmingham. It is of a type that would have originally hung from a horse’s harness, and it likely fell out of a rider’s harness and lost where it was found.

Although buried for several centuries, the pendant is extraordinarily well preserved. Its copper alloy body shows only modest signs of corrosion, making its distinctive design easy to see with the naked eye. It features the familiar set of three lions, arranged vertically, depicted in a very stylized manner. Lions have elongated bodies and tails, the latter of which are curved and curled to resemble a snake or a winding river.

The red or auburn enamel of the medieval lion pendant is still intact and almost entirely preserved, while the gold gilding painted to create the lions is partially obscured by the green of the copper corrosion underneath.

Overall the small pendant is in excellent condition, its weathering more consistent with a century old object than something that has been buried in the ground for eight centuries.

It is this aspect of the pendant’s condition that makes it such an unusual find, experts say. Medieval pendants of all types are frequently found in archaeological digs, but they usually show significant signs of age.

“The condition of this object is quite remarkable and it is very rare to see a horse harness pendant like this in an archaeological context in such a fine state of preservation,” said Dr Dawn McLaren of Connect. Archeology at the Guardian.

Although it is clearly an object of medieval origin, the pendant was found during excavations at a British site from the late Iron Age and Roman times. However, this site is quite close to the ruins of a medieval settlement built at Wormleighton. Based on their knowledge of this site, HS2 archaeologists conclude that the pendant was likely attached to the harness of a horse used to work the fields of a 12th-century farm in the area.

The motif of the three lions is historically attributed to Henry II or Henry III by the monk Matthew Paris in his Historia Anglorum et Chronica Majora written in the 1250s AD.  This image is from Historia Anglorum and is the coat of arms of King Henry III.  (Matthew Paris - British Library Site / Public Domain)

The motif of the three lions is historically attributed to Henry II or Henry III by the monk Matthew Paris in his Historia Anglorum et Chronica Majora written in the 1250s AD. This image is from Historia Anglorum and is the coat of arms of King Henry III. (Matthew Paris – British Library website / Public domain )

The origin of the motif of the three lions

The motif of the three lions is historically attributed to the successors of William the Conqueror or William I by the monk Matthew Paris in his Historia Anglorum written in the 1250s AD. To stand out, they chose to add a lion to the two that featured on the crest of William the Conqueror (William I), the first Norman king of England. Some historians believe that Henry II added the additional lion at the time of his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine, which took place in 1152 AD.

The heraldic symbol of three stylized lions with extra-long bodies and tails was used as the official badge of the English crown from 1189 to 1340 (the salvaged pendant would have been made at this time) and has remained associated with the English throne and with royalty in general since that time.

One thing that has helped keep the memory of the Three Lions motif alive and relevant is its close association with international sports. The English Football Association first adopted the three lions symbol, with the lions painted blue instead of gold, in the late 19th century, and another version of the symbol was also used by teams of English cricket.

Top Image: This near-perfect medieval lion pendant found by the HS2 Archaeological Project. Source: HS2

By Nathan Falde

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