In 2011 I received a telephone call from a member of Her Majesty’s Crown Office at the House of Lords. He asked as to my availability to work on an ‘important’ hand written and illuminated document. At that stage he could not tell me what it was and so intrigued I said yes I would be available. He then told me it would need to be completed within five days but before that he would need a sample initial letter produced to been shown and approved and if possible by three o’clock the next afternoon.
I agreed to the request and immediately put aside what I was working on. I remember it was about four thirty in the afternoon so time was of the essence. I began the design and sketched many ideas frantically finally arriving at one I thought suitable. A piece of vellum was selected and I drew the design onto the vellum. I then worked on it continuously finishing at four in the morning. The letter was then photographed and sent by e-mail to London.
The response was very positive and I was told the standard of the work had been approved and that they were authorised to formally commission the necessary document. At this stage the suspense was killing me. When he told me what it was I went quiet for a moment and he said, ‘There is nothing quite like being thrown in at the deep end’ and I had to agree.
I had just been commissioned to produce the official Letters Patent from Her Majesty the Queen bestowing three titles on her grandson HRH Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn and Baron of Carrickfergus. I had worked on these documents before with the then, ‘Queen’s Scribe’, Donald Jackson MVO – so I knew what they looked like to some extent but those were for elevation to the Peerage. This was a different kind of beast. All three titles were to be granted in the same document but the document was to be the regular size which is approximately sixteen by twenty two inches. The calligraphy therefore had to be much smaller.
I prepared a design and undertook a rough version of the calligraphy so that I could work out the weight and size of the text for the final version on vellum. Once the calligraphy was finished I designed a suitable initial letter which always must contain elements of Her majesty’s ensigns armorial and a border. On the left hand side and below the initial ‘E’ of Her Majesty I produced what has become my signature border comprising armorial squares in this case the quarterings from the royal coat of arms between Prince William’s coronets of rank. This idea had been developed in the 1990’s when I produced illuminated documents for various Orders of Chivalry. The right hand margin was a less formal affair. What I did impress me was the fact that the Crown Office gave me free rein on the design elements so I could get creative.
The Prince was at that time in the RAF flying Air Sea Rescue. So I took the red dragon of
Wales and had it flying and hauling up the royal lion of England whilst below the Unicorn of Scotland was looking on. At the bottom the lion held the banner of the Prince and the border was strewn with shamrocks, roses and thistle an the letter ‘W’ in raised and burnished 24c gold leaf. A sword wrapped in the motto of the Most Noble Order of the Garter was used as a convenient line filler. The background of the border were the claret and blue of the Brigade of Guards as the Prince had been commissioned into the Blues and Royals.
I completed the work in three very long days and duly packaged it and sent it off to London and waited with bated breath and thankfully was informed that it had been very well received. A great sigh of relief and from then on I received regular commissions for illuminated documents from the Crown Office. I think what I liked about it was that I was aware that I was now part of a long line of extremely gifted royal scribes and illuminators who had produced vellum documents for hundreds of years and to be a part of that kind of history and that tradition was both an awe inspiring and incredibly humbling experience.
Andrew Stewart Jamieson
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