Crowns – seriously now

Voynich crosses

Let’s suppose, for the moment, that all three are meant to imitate the form of some type of European crown.  The first question to ask, of course, is whether the image is meant literally or metaphorically.  I’d suggest the latter, because to depict a ruling queen naked and to include urine or menstrual fluid in the image would be an astounding act of lèse majesté – the sort of thing likely to see a person drawn and quartered – and I’m not kidding.

So if they are crowns which relate in some way to the ring of ‘star-flowers’ – I think they represent stars – then the forms of crown are ones which the draughtsman found in his exemplars, or which he just happened to know.  I’m not sure how often kings went about in full regalia, or how much opportunity the average layman had to see his own king, or a visiting monarch, dressed in this way. I’m going to suppose that the answer is … not often.  That his knowledge came from representations of crowns, more often than from seeing the objects themselves.

Here, for example is the crown of Albert (Albrecht) II of Austria (1298 –  1358), as portrayed c.1360 on a pillar at St.Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. Where crowns used in the southern parts of Europe – including England, France and Spain – regularly include fleur-de-lys from the Frederick II, king of Sicily, northern regions liked to include these spiky-looking sections. Because this sculpture was made for a public place, and close to the time when Albert lived, we can expect the crown to be the sort he actually wore.

Albrecht II

On the other hand, a bronze statue of Albrecht II of Germany (a member of the Habsburg family) was presented by a correspondent named “Peter” writing to Stephen Bax’ blog,[1] and the crown was presented somewhat optimistically in the hope that readers would conclude that all three crowns in the manuscript are specifically German, and Habsburg. He labels the picture “Krone Köenig Albrecht II [of Germany] 1397-1449”.   The problem is that Peter forgot to mention if the bronze is a portrait made during Albrecht’s lifetime or many centuries later.  But in any case, a crown of that type is attested – again on St.Stephen’s cathedral in Vienna – by 1360.

You can see a picture of the sculpture here. The ‘prince’ is unidentified, but the crown he wears is like that on the bronze, and both are, in general, similar to those in our header.

As a very best-case scenario one might be able to argue that a crown of this sort was characteristic of kings from the northern countries: that this type of crown has a “nationality”.  It doesn’t prove any particular connection between that region and the Voynich manuscript’s makers, other than a possibility that some person who had seen the external sculptures  at some time between c.1360 and c.1438 had brought a description, or a drawing, to wherever our manuscript was produced. Plainly, over nearly eighty years, any one of thousands of passers-by could have done so.  Trying to argue the nationality of the Voynich manuscript’s scribes from so flimsy an argument – let alone the nationality of those who made the exemplars – is a futile exercise unless one’s aim is only to con the gullible.

The argument is unproveable, and in fact, quite untenable.

The ‘best-case’ scenario is just that; no more probable than that the makers of our manuscript, or of their exemplars, gained their forms by seeing local examples.  The medieval Christian world was filled with imagery; its churches and cathedrals were encyclopaedias of design; they gave the whole population access to endless galleries of art in various media, including stone and glass.  I could probably find close matches for the Voynich crowns in just one of the great medieval cathedrals, and most of the following examples comes from Chartres, but some I add because I like them.  Enjoy.



Amiens cathedral westcenterbasetrumeau

BL MS Lansdowne 420 f. 12

BL MS Lansdowne 420 f. 12.  English. 1st quarter of the 13thC


Statue of King David by Nicolas Cordier (1567–1612) in the Borghese Chapel of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

… times to the ‘nth’



detail from Cresques Atlas ‘Three wise men’

coin Liege 11thC

coin Liège 11thC




[1] Comment on  ‘Where was the Voynich Manuscript Produced?’ (blogpost). Comment made: July 31, 2015 – 8:26 am


One thought on “Crowns – seriously now

  1. Postscript: in connection with the coin made in 11thC Liege, see the Couronne de Liège (Liège Crown). which was given by Louis IX King of France to the Dominicans of Liège in the 13thC. It is also a reliquary.


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