ouregooddogge

Is the dog man's best friend or his loyal retainer?

This badge shows the now extinct Talbot hound seated on its haunches. While similar badges bear the breed’s name or decoration on the collar, this dog is shown with a plain collar.

What is so special about this dog? For starters, it is thought that the Talbot is a reference to the Earls of Shrewsbury, whose coat of arms bore an image of this hunting dog. More evidence for the association between this baronial household and the image of the Talbot hound comes from a remark reportedly made by King Henry VI referring to John Talbot, the first Earl of Shrewsbury, as “oure good dogge,” words also used in a contemporary political poem.

Lead Tin Alloy, seated dog wearing collar, King’s Lynn, United Kingdom, 1000-1599, found in Purfleet Quay, 300 x 350 mm. King’s Lynn, Lynn Museum, BP 100 (Kunera 07573). Photo courtesy of Shannon Phaneuf.

Lead Tin Alloy, seated dog wearing collar, King’s Lynn, United Kingdom, 1000-1599, found in Purfleet Quay, 300 x 350 mm. King’s Lynn, Lynn Museum, BP 100 (Kunera 07573). Photo courtesy of Shannon Phaneuf.

The first Earl’s name and these references all strongly suggest that the image of the Talbot hound was used as a kind of shorthand reference for the household of the Earls of Shrewbury, and that the badge with this image was part of the household’s livery or distinguishing uniform that were worn by retainers and household staff. Medieval descriptions of dogs as a symbol of loyalty from Isidore of Seville and Gerald of Wales suggest how the Talbot badge may have been be received. The loyalty symbolised by the dog mirrors the loyalty established by feudal relationships, lord and master being one and the same just as the dog and retainer are one and the same. The extinction of the Talbot breed and line shows that even in death a dog is loyal to its master. He really is oure good dogge!

This badge was found in the King’s Lynn river alongside other medieval badges. It was uncovered in 1878 under Mr. Pung’s patronage and is now housed at the King's Lynn Museum.

Written by Moira Scully and Michelle Serrano-Sandoval.

Bibliography

Blick, Sarah. Beyond Pilgrim Souvenirs and Secular Badges (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2007).

Pillars, A. J. John Talbot and the War in France 1427-1453  (London: Royal Historical Society, 1983).