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Black Prince under the spotlight

Black Prince under the spotlight

A range of  hi-tech investigations are being undertaken to find out more about the 14th century Edward of Woodstock, also known as the Black Prince, whose tomb lies in the Cathedral’s Trinity Chapel.

The non-invasive scientific analysis has been used to discover more about the tomb as well as the garments known as the Achievements, which hung over the tomb for more than 600 years, and were removed from public display in 2016.

Cathedral experts have been working with a number of specialists and results of much of the research were presented in papers at the inaugural Collections and Conservation Conference held at the Cathedral in November 2017. Further research involving the Achievements and the effigy on the tomb will take place before they  are put back on public display in 2019 as part of The Canterbury Journey.

Helm: Alan Williams (Archaeometallurgist at The Wallace Collection), Antonella Scherillo and Dr Francesco Grazzi (who designed the experiment), spent three days at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford, conducting an experiment on the helm to determine its composition. Using a nuclear reactor and neutron diffraction, they were able to determine (among other things), that the helm was likely a used item and part of the Black Prince’s wardrobe during his lifetime.

Jupon: Lisa Monnas (an independent textiles historian) examined the jupon in detail before it went on loan to the V&A for their ‘Opus Anglicanum’ exhibition in 2016, and again on its return. She was able to help us understand the item in the context of 14th century textiles and the wardrobe of the Royal Household in the time of the Black Prince and his father, King Edward III.

Cap of Maintenance: Lloyd de Beer (Ferguson Curator of Medieval Europe, British Museum), Yvette Fletcher (Head of Conservation, Leather Conservation Centre), Marie-Louise Sauerberg (Paintings Conservator) and Poppy Singer (Textile Conservator), combined forces in order to discover more about how the cap was made and its function as they looked at ways to consolidate and conserve the cap to ensure its long term preservation and prepare it for future display. It is hoped conservation by the three conservators will take place in the spring of 2018.

Watch a video of their experiment here.

Tomb and effigy: Dr Jessica Barker (University of East Anglia), Emily Pegues (The Courtauld Institute) and Graeme MacArthur (Metals Conservator, The Wallace Collection) spent two days examining the Black Prince’s gilt bronze effigy, which lies upon his chest tomb in the Cathedral’s Trinity Chapel. They used a combination of detailed visual examination, mirrors, torches, and scanning the tomb with a portable X-ray fluorescent (XRF) machine. Research into the tomb and effigy of the Black Prince is ongoing.

Watch a video of their experiment here.

Shield: Yvette Fletcher (Head of Conservation, Leather Conservation Centre) and Ariane Langreder (Head of Book & Paper Conservation, Canterbury Cathedral) undertook consolidation work on the shield to prepare it for display, The close examination of the object also allowed them to make deductions about the construction of the shield. Further analysis of the shield will take place in 2018.

Watch a video of the work here.

Part of the research was also documented by the BBC for an episode of Inside Out South East, which is due to be broadcast on Monday 26 February on BBC1 at 19.30hrs.


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