Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index

  • Title: Travelling carriage and dogs
  • Creator:
  • Description:

    This illumination appears in the Luttrell Psalter, a manuscript created for Sir Geoffrey Luttrell in the 1330s. The Luttrell Psalter is one of the most renowned manuscripts in the world because of its many depictions of everyday medieval life. In this particular illumination, four queens ride on a gilded, tilt-covered carriage. The carriage is richly adorned with hand-painted golden eagles. Additionally, gargoyle heads are mounted on segments of the frame or tilt. A strongbox, likely containing gold, jewels, or other riches, is suspended beneath the carriage and guarded by a hound. In the left-hand side of the image, a groomsman hands a small pet dog to one of the queens. A pet squirrel perches on the shoulder of the queen at the front of the carriage. Queen Philippa of Hainault, wife of King Edward III, was well known for her love of squirrels, even having one embroidered on her wedding dress. This illumination may represent her royal carriage, perhaps witnessed by the artist on the Great North Road near the Luttrell estate. The presence of four crowned women may memorialize the queens whom Geoffrey Luttell served, identified by Michelle Brown as Eleanor, wife of Edward I, Margaret, second wife of Edward I, Blanche of Artois, Queen of Navarre and wife of Edmund Crouchback, brother to Edward I, and Philippa of Hainault. As a young man Luttrell was one of ten gentlemen who escorted Blanche of Artois to France.

    Two of the queens in the illumination are depicted with their pets, which offers significant insight into the role of pets in medieval life. Pets were not uncommon in the early 14th century. Household pets, as opposed to working animals, were typically owned by either women or clerics, and included small dogs, cats, monkeys, talking and singing birds, ferrets, and squirrels. Pets could be obtained through purchase or received as gifts. Giving pets to noble women was a socially acceptable practice. Owners developed close, intimate bonds with their pets, and there are many primary documents evidencing the devastation these owners felt after the loss of their companions. In the illumination, the two queens take their pets with them even in travel; physical proximity to one’s pet was an indicator of intimacy.

    Lapdogs, in particular, were a controversial subject in the medieval period. Biblical depictions of dogs were primarily negative; dogs either acted as a metaphor for evil, or were described to be eating their own vomit, consuming bodies of those who had offended God, or engaging in other repellent acts. Furthermore, in The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer uses the Prioress’ lapdogs as a critique of her character. He implicitly suggests she should be attending to the poor instead of feeding her dogs meat and bread from her own plate. However, some narratives portray lapdogs in a more positive light. Lapdogs acted as displays of wealth in medieval society, signifiers that women were of the nobility, and sources of comfort and affection. Additionally, some illuminations depicted lapdogs at feasts or celebrations, and they were often integral members of these harmonious gatherings.

  • Source: British Library
  • Rights: Public domain
  • Subject (See Also): Carriages Dogs Pets Luttrell Psalter Psalters, Liturgical Books Queens Transportation Travel
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 14
  • Date: 1330s
  • Related Work: Double page view of carriage in the Luttrell Psalter with five horses.
    Digitized version of the Luttrell Psalter.
    Lady with a lapdog speaking with Lancelot, Morte Artu, France (St Omer or Tournai?), c. 1315-1325, London, British Library, Royal MS 14 E. iii, fol. 146r.
    Michal cradling a small dog (upper right), Crusader Bible, Paris, 1240s, New York, Morgan Library, MS M.638, fol. 29v.
  • Current Location: London, British Library, Additional 42130, fol. 181v
  • Original Location: Lincolnshire
  • Artistic Type (Category): Digital Images; Manuscript Illuminations;
  • Artistic Type (Material/Technique): Parchment; Ink; Paints; Gold;
  • Donor: Layman; Sir Geoffrey Luttrell III (1276-1345), lord of the manor of Irnham in Lincolnshire
  • Height/Width/Length(cm): 35/24.5/
  • Inscription:
  • Related Resources: Brown, Michelle P. The World of the Luttrell Psalter. British Library, 2006;
    Camille, Michael. Mirror in Parchment: The Luttrell Psalter and the Making of Medieval England. University of Chicago Press, 1998;
    Sand, Alexa. "And Your Little Dog Too: Michal's Lapdog and the Romance of the Old Testament." In Our Dogs, Our Selves: Dogs in Medieval and Early Modern Art, Literature and Society. Edited by Laura D. Gelfand. Brill, 2016. Pages 165-186;
    Walker-Meikle, Kathleen. Medieval Pets. Boydell Press, 2012.