Rituals of Power outside the British Isles

While the Society primarily collected objects, manuscripts and books relating to British history, rituals of power are universal and crop up throughout our non-British collections.

The ’souvenir’ album of miniatures brought back from Delhi deliberately shows Mughal rulers in their pomp, with liberal use of gold leaf and beautiful colours, while the illuminated Book of Hours inadvertently gives us a view of late 15th century French royal dress and regalia, having transposed King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba into a contemporary setting. Likewise, the image of the Spanish court in the woodblock is most probably the carver’s imagination rather than an accurate depiction – the conceptual imagery being strong enough for viewers to understand its representation of a royal court.

Portraits of Mughal emperors

This volume contains eleven gouache miniatures, painted in Delhi, of Mughal emperors from ‘Tamerlane the first’ (Timur; 1336-1405) to ‘Nasrodin’ (Muhammad Shah; 1702-1748). It was exhibited at a Society meeting by Henry Johnson, FSA on 29 March 1753.

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The future Charles I being received at court following his return from Spain

From A Catalogue of Printed Broadsides in the possession of the Society of Antiquaries, page 59, published 1866. Wooden printing block depicting the future Charles I when Prince of Wales, being received at court following his return from Spain on the 5th of October, 1623, having failed to negotiate a marriage to the Catholic Infanta. He is being embraced by his father, James I, while kneeling. In the background are scenes of celebration; people making bonfires outside an inn with hats thrown in the air, while an ‘alewife’ is carrying a cup ready to serve from a large container of ale or wine being carried by a servant.

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Book of Hours of the Virgin Mary, use of Rouen, written in France, c. 1500.

In addition to a calendar and prayers, this manuscript contains thirty miniatures. This page shows the visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon as described in 1 Kings 10, with the Adoration of the Magi on the opposite page. Medieval illuminations frequently display Biblical scenes as though they were contemporary, illustrating aspects of royal dress such as ermine trim and gold brocade fabric.

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