Thursday, January 9, 2014

Liveries, Escutcheons, Dragon-Slaying, &c.

"There were three days of 'jousts royal in the King's Palace of Westminster...'  On the first day the challengers wore the King's livery of green and white, the Tudor colors, but all sported a badge with the Queen's livery of blue and mulberry on their helmets."
                                                                                        --Elizabeth of York, by Alison Weir, p. 313

Sounds like a good meet to me.  I hope they didn't make the Queen run Powder Puff only.  The girls should be allowed to swim at the deep end of the pool.  Regular readers know how nostalgic I am for
Elizabeth of York's colors (take your pick of shades).
the era of national racing colors, before racing cars were tarted-up with advertising.  Yeah, I know: "Get over it, Pilote."  I enjoyed the times when a racing car was instantly recognizable by its shape.  And its team was instantly recognizable by its color and escutcheon ("an emblem bearing a coat of arms").  And drivers were instantly recognizable by the way their helmets were painted.

Brave Sir Robin [Eric Idle]: instantly recog-
nized by his coat of arms: a yellow chicken.

There is a tradition behind "colors" and coats of arms.  In medieval times, they made knights and nobility known to each other on a battlefield.  The coat of arms itself was intended to say something about you, like a noble family's motto.  It was a kind of uniform before the days of mass armies.  Nobles would dress their archers or pikemen in their colors and liveries: "These are my guys: I paid for them to be here.  Also, we're on the same team, lest you be in doubt."  My favorite example is Eric Idle's Brave Sir Robin in Monty Python & The Holy Grail: his symbol was a Yellow Chicken Rampant.  Brave Sir Robin did not appreciate his minstrel singing praises of his cowardice.  But he exemplified the Code of the Python Round Table: "run away, run away!"

The tradition continued long after combat ceased to be organized around nobles who paid footmen to show up on the battlefield, or knights wore their ladies' colors in tournaments.  In horse racing in Europe and America, for example.

Renault vs. jousting re-enactors going at it.

NOT a factory car: Ecurie Ecosse was glad to race D-Type
Jaguars with factory support, and their national color was
the same (British Racing Green).  But Ecosse took their cars
to LeMans in metallic blue, capped with a St. Andrews Cross,
the symbol of Scotland.  "Ecurie Ecosse" is French for Team
Some European car manufacturers adopted badges (close enough to an escutcheon) that identified them with a place or person or aspriation.  Alfa Romeo's distinctive and elegant badge is a good example.  It incorporates the insignia of Milan, Italy, where Alfa was first manufactured and remains headquartered.  Ferrari's prancing horse logo was bequeathed to him by Count Francesco Baracca, a World War One fighter ace.  (Or appropriated by Enzo, depending on who you believe.)  The horse on Baracca's plane was red.  Ferrari changed it to black, and added a yellow escutcheon.  Yellow is the "color" of Modena, Ferrari's birthplace.  Some anciens may remember badges like Hudson's, a sailing ship on stylized waves, which only symbolized the coincidence of name between a Detroit investor and a European explorer.

Ninian Sandersen and John Lawrence of Ecurie Ecosse doing their thing to  finish 2nd at LeMans in 1957.  The D-Jag
that won that year was also an Ecosse car.  For the entirety of his racing career, Dario Franchitti's helmet featured a
St. Andrews Cross on its crown.

Today, amateur racers and people who drive muscle cars and tuner cars sometimes run "their colors." Cruiser motorcycle riders often paint their helmets to match their bikes.  But the true heirs to the liveries tradition, especially when it comes to distinctive themes and colors, are sportbike riders.  As for dragons, when a lot of riders show up on the same day to slay the same one, it's probably a good idea to have a liveried helmet so you don't wind up wearing somebody else's, and vice-versa.

21st Century jousters slaying a dragon in their personal colors.

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