The badge of The Prince of Wales comprises three silver (or white) feathers rising through a gold coronet of alternate crosses and fleur-de-lys. The motto "Ich Dien" (German for "I serve", a contraction of ich diene) is on a dark blue ribbon beneath the coronet. Its use in royal heraldry goes back to the time of Edward Prince of Wales (the Black Prince) in the 14th century.
We found the following on the internet:
The badge is thought to have originated with Edward, the Black Prince, Ruler of Wales. According to legend, the Black Prince obtained the arms from John of Bohemia, against whom he fought in the Battle of Crécy in 1346. After the battle, the prince went to the body of the dead king (whom he admired for his bravery) and took his helmet, lined with ostrich feathers…....
Lined with ostrich feathers? We have never heard anything so ridiculous in our lives. Who writes this stuff? Who in their right mind would line a helmet with ostrich feathers!!! The wearer would be so busy sneezing that his head would be off in a jiffy. No no, the story is almost more bizarre than that. King John of Bohemia was blind – yet he turned up to the battle of Crecy (on the side of the French). Fighting in a medieval battle when you are blind is not a very good idea – but it seems that John of Bohemia had the good sense to stay on the sidelines. When he was told that all was lost, he commanded two of his knights to tie their horses' bridles to his and take him into the fray. This was done and the king and knights were slaughtered.
Edward the Black Prince thought the blind king so brave that he took 3 of John’s 8 ostrich feathers and made them his own emblem. And since then all Princes of Wales have used this emblem.
Ahh! How romantic.
You thought the history lesson was over didn’t you? Oh no. Now we need to consider this. Ostriches live in Africa so how on earth did Europeans in the 14th century come by them? Happily for us all, some academic somewhere has done a detailed study, sweated for years in a smelly garret, toiled across the plains of Africa, spent hours in the archives of some obscure university so that I can write the following four lines:
African products in high demand were ivory, ostrich feathers and the cola nut (contained caffeine and was popular 1000 years ago as the basis for a soft drink – but we digress) and these things made their way to Europe. And it was all to do with the intertwined histories of colonial economics, trade and consumption (or something) – sorry we fell asleep at that point and anyway felt that reading an entire thesis to explain one small point to sell a horse brass worth £8 was a bit silly.
The more observant of you will have noticed that the motto Ich Dien is missing from our horse brass. Heigh-ho!
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