This paper examines the role of jewels set in armor in German Artusroman and contextualizes it within the general symbolism of jewelry in the 12th century courtly society. In the reality of the Arthurian Romance, where historical fiction meets the contemporary perspective of the audience, the knight in jeweled armor is a common stylistic figure (Doniger 2017). The gemstones used in armor are often made from exotic materials of extraordinary value, bearing deeper symbolic and materialistic significance (Bates 2003). Using historical as well as literary evidence I will show the significance of bejeweled armor in Hartmann’s Erek and Iwein as well as Wolfram’s Parzival.
Fabrics, hues and heraldry carried weighty cultural significance at the court of England in the 14th century. Material extravagance and ceremonial ritual were markers and makers of power – yet those who sought to subvert their social standing through fashion often did so at their peril. Chronicles, trousseaux, and an array of surviving household accounts show Queen Isabella of France (1295-1358) and her contemporaries consciously used clothing to ‘speak’ on their behalf: as commentary, consensus – or as a means of challenging the status quo. Whether when dressed in her wedding gown, adopting the garb synonymous with bereavement, or swathed in sumptuous blood-red velvet and flanked by her alleged lover, Isabella, like so many royal women before and after her forged through fabric and flesh a performative sartorial body: a social skin, imbued with the power to uphold the authority of King and Crown – or to bend it to her will.