A War Elephant

British Library Harley MS 4751, England, 2nd quarter of the 13th century


Title: Bestiary, with extracts from Giraldus Cambrensis on Irish birds
Description: Miniature of an elephant with a wooden tower on its back, with soldiers with crossbows and other weapons, some of the soldiers in armour.
Date: 2nd quarter of the 13th century
Origin: England, S. (Salisbury?)
Language: Latin
Script: Gothic, written above top line
Decoration: Numerous (106) miniatures in colours of animals. Large initial on a rectangular ground in colours (f. 1). Large initials in blue with red pen-flourishing, or in red with blue pen-flourishing. Rubrics in red.
Dimensions in mm: 308 x 232 (205 x 140)
Source: British Library Harley MS 4751



Referenced on p74, Arms and Armour of the Crusading Era, 1050-1350, Western Europe and the Crusader States by David Nicolle
184 Bestiary, England, late 12th/early 13th centuries
(British Library, Ms. Harl 4751, f.8, London, England)

A little-known manuscript includes a clear illustration of the same kind of single eye-slit early great helm as is portrayed on Wells Cathedral. By now the crossbow has a loading stirrup and since the man presumably represents a humble crossbowman or sergeant he only has a mid-sleeved mail hauberk. The pattern on his chest is almost certainly a heraldic surcoat, but the possibility of it indicating the rivets of a cuirie or an early coat-of-plates cannot be ruled out.



See also:
English soldiers & hunters in the Rochester Bestiary c.1230
Statues on Wells Cathedral, England, c.1230-40
Chronica Majora by Matthew Paris, England, 1240-53

Other 13th century Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers