The Three Estates.
Canterbury pilgrim badge.
A tenant renews his oath of fealty to his lord. From the legal document
Mirror of the Saxons
(early 14th century).
Gregory the Great inspired by the Holy Ghost. Ivory panel, Trier.
Martyrdom of Thomas à Becket. From a 13th-century English psalter.
St. Benedict, from the Benedictional of St. Ethelwold (c. 980). Ethelwold was Bishop of Winchester and one of the most important figures in the English Benedictine Revival. A benedictional (from Latin
, "blessed") is a liturgical book containing prayers of blessing of the people, recited after the consecration and before the giving of communion. A Latin poem at the beginning of the manuscript tells that Ethelwold commissioned Goodman, one of his monks, to write it: "He commanded also to be made in this book many frames well adorned and filled with various figures decorated with numerous beautiful colours and with gold." The manuscript is the outstanding exemplar of the Winchester School of Book Illumination and may have been made to celebrate the consecration of Winchester Cathedral, which Ethelwold had restored toward the end of the tenth century. St. Benedict holds his rule in his right hand and a crown in his left. The letters around him read "Sanctus Benedictus, Abba" (Saint Benedict, Abbot).
A knight (French). From an illuminated manuscript.
A peasant reaping, shown in a detail of F. 172v,
The Luttrell Psalter.
Henry I's nightmare of the Three Estates rising in rebellion against him. From the
Chronicle of John Worcester,
late 12th century.
"When Adam delved and Eve span, Who was then the gentleman?"
Image of a plowman (from the
) as "Piers Plowman" would have been envisioned by rebels.
John Ball addressing the rebels. From Froissart's
Frontispiece found in manuscripts of the
The Latin verses above the image read: "I throw my darts and shoot my arrows at the world. But where there is a righteous man, no arrow strikes. But I wound those who live wickedly. Therefore let him who recognizes himself there look to himself." This is the traditional claim of satirists. It has been suggested that the divisions of the globe symbolize the three estates. From MLS Cotton Tiberius A.IV, F.9,
Complete Works of John Gower.
Monks. From Ms. Nouv. Acq. LAT. 1359.
Woodcut of the Knight from
The Canterbury Tales.
Richard Pynson, London, c. 1490.
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Those Who Pray, Work, and Fight
Rule for Anchoresses
Rule of St. Benedict
The Book of the Order of Chivalry
The Romance of the Rose
The Uprising of 1381
Chronicle of England
, Book 1
, Books 3 and 4
Mirour de l'Omme