BLACK - The story of a Colour - No2 : HERALDRY AND THE EUROPEAN COURT

Musings on the making of our new collectable limited edition handbag made in France: The Peau de Chagrin Noir handbag.

At the beginning of the medieval period black had negative associations and in the 12th century insults were traded between the black robed Benedictine monks of Cluny and the white robed Cistercians of Clairvaux over their choice of colour. However, as the Middle Ages continued liturgical black established itself as morally humble and virtuous, leading to the colour becoming synonymous with public authority and a civic moral code and adopted by the most important European courts by end of the 14th century.

As the religious orders were rediscovering the virtues of black, heraldry played a role in rehabilitating the colour to its earlier noble status. Black became one of the six key heraldic colours. Its heraldic name was 'sable' after the Russian and Polish sable martin prized for its deep, rich black fur. Black's knightly status was boosted by the influential Count of Flanders' adoption of the 'd'or au lion de sable' (an all-black lion) as his heraldic symbol and followed by the 'd'or à l'aigle de sable' (an all-black eagle) of the Emperor of the Holy Germanic Roman Empire in the mid-12th century. In the 12th century black was associated with the romance and mystery of Arthurian legend. The ubiquitous black knight of the Camelot stories was always a noble figure, riding a black horse, hidden behind his black helmet, carrying a black banner and a 'sable plain' shield.

The establishment of black as the colour of the European court was unquestionable by the end of the 14th century. Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, whose court was one of the most influential in Europe, was known for his black dress. His influence saw the colour being adopted by the Hapsburg Spanish royal family and known as the Spanish Etiquette, a style which lasted until the 17th century.

Discover our latest collectable edition The Peau de Chagrin Noir. This black vegetable tanned handbag, entirely made in France by master craftsmen comes in a limited edition of 100.

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Portrait of Philippe the Good by Rogier van der Weyden 1445 - Granger Historical Picture Archive / Alamy Stock Photo

Portrait of Philippe the Good by Rogier van der Weyden 1445 - Granger Historical Picture Archive / Alamy Stock Photo

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