Queen Elizabeth II and Waterford City’s Royal connection

Queen Elizabeth II has viewed the earliest known contemporary portraits of a medieval king of England, King Edward III, (1327-1377) on her State Visit to Ireland.

On Wednesday 18th May during the Queen’s courtesy call to the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Mr Enda Kenny at Government Buildings in Dublin, the Queen viewed the Great Charter Roll of the City of Waterford. Dating from 1372 and measuring some 4 metres in length, the parchment roll contains portraits of five medieval kings of England – Henry II, John, Henry III, Edward I and two contemporary portraits of King Edward III.

One of the illustrations shows King Edward III in armour, carrying a sword and shield and on horseback. In the second illustration the king is wearing a crown and a gold belt and is seated on a gilded throne holding a sceptre, a symbol of monarchy. These two portraits of the monarch are the earliest known contemporary portraits of a medieval king of England.

The Charter Roll, a rare and fascinating survival, also features an illustration of the walled city of Waterford, the earliest illustration of an Irish city. Above the city is another representation of King Edward III, this time presenting the mayor of Waterford with a ceremonial bearing sword and the mayor in turn presenting the king with the keys of the city.

Also illustrated are nine medieval governors of Ireland, a medieval judge and the mayors of the four royal cities of Ireland shown in order of their importance at the time – Dublin, Waterford, Cork and Limerick. The Roll containing royal charters dating from 1215 and other important documents was presented to King Edward III in London by the Waterford city fathers in an attempt to win the king’s support for the city’s claim to have a monopoly on trade entering Waterford Harbour.

The Director of Waterford Museum of Treasures, Eamonn McEneaney, said “The Great Charter Roll is one of the great treasures of late medieval Ireland. It underlines the strong cultural, social, economic and political links between England and Ireland and particularly with cities like Waterford in the later Middle Ages.”

In addition to the Charter Roll, the city of Waterford possesses some nineteen other illuminated royal charters ranging in date from 1215 to 1815. Waterford Museum of Treasures with the support of the Heritage Council has completed a twelve-year conservation programme of all the charters. Next year Waterford City Council will open a new medieval museum to house the city’s unique collection of charters, royal civic regalia and medieval cloth-of-gold vestments.

The Images on the roll can be viewed on www.waterfordtreasures.ie