Dr Caitlin Green @caitlinrgreen History, archaeology, place-names & early lit. Main research on post-Roman Britain & Anglo-Saxon England; also long-distance trade, migration & contact. Sep. 15, 2018 5 min read

Were there camels in medieval Britain? A brief note on Bactrian camels and dromedaries in fifteenth-century Kent — new post by me :)  https://www.caitlingreen.org/2018/09/were-there-camels-in-medieval-britain.html 

According to the 15th-century John Stone's Chronicle, someone called the 'Lord Patriarch of Antioch' visited Canterbury in 1466 with four dromedaries and two Bactrian camels, which he displayed 'in honour of the king and queen':  http://www.caitlingreen.org/2018/09/were-there-camels-in-medieval-britain.html 

I would suggest the 'Lord Patriarch of Antioch' can probably be identified as Ludovico Severi, aka Ludovico da Bologna, a papal envoy to Ethiopia & the East from the 1450s–1470s. In 1460 he returned to Europe w/ ambassadors from Eastern rulers of Georgia, Trebizond & Persia >

The ambassadors requested the pope name Ludovico as Patriarch of Antioch—some confusion and controversy over how this was done, but Ludovico acted as a diplomat in the East and Europe using this title in the 1460–70s, & his visit to England in 1466 with camels prob part of this…

As to the wider context of camels in the medieval era, it's clear that the camels of 1466 were not the first to be seen in Britain since the Roman period, e.g. in the early 12thC King Henry I owned camels along with other exotic animals which he kept at Woodstock, Oxfordshire.

Interestingly, the rulers of both Scotland and Ireland also possessed camels in the early 12th century, according to the Annals of Inisfallen:  https://celt.ucc.ie/published/T100004/text066.html 

Whether camels ever made an appearance in 11th-century England is uncertain, but William the Conqueror seems to have kept camels in Normandy at least… (Image: Duke William & two Bactrian camels on the 11thC Bayeux Tapestry)

In 1235 the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II sent a camel to King Henry III of England 'as a token of the continuation of his regard', & Henry's son Edward I kept a camel at Kings Langley Palace, Herts, for the amusement of his children (pic=man riding a camel, 13thC, Kent).

Edward II also kept a camel at Kings Langley Palace—his camel-keeper was called Ralph Camyle & the animal's feed included hay, beans, barley & oats, with the area of the royal park responsible for producing the camel's fodder apparently being subsequently known as 'Camylesland'.

In January 1393, Richard II and his wife were gifted a camel and a pelican by the people of London and Richard granted John Wyntirbourne 'the keepership of the king's camel' for life (pic: MS Harley 4751, f. 24,  http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/ILLUMIN.ASP?Size=mid&IllID=16576 ).

In 1443, Henry VI is recorded as having received 'of late three camels and an ostrich from Turkey' from an Italian merchant named Nicholas Jone of Bologna; he rewarded him with a state office (Image: a gold camel on the Erpingham Chasuble, embroidered in 15th-century England).

In 1472, Edward IV sent a camel to Ireland; this may well have been one of the six Bactrian camels and dromedaries brought to England in 1466 by the Patriarch of Antioch 'in honor of the king and queen' (Pic:  https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=2nc4AQAAMAAJ&lpg=PA396&pg=PA396#v=onepage&q&f=false ).

King Arthur riding a camel on a glass roundel of c. 1500:  http://www.caitlingreen.org/2018/09/were-there-camels-in-medieval-britain.html 

A miniature of a camel from a manuscript probably made for King Edward IV of England, 1461–83, the king in whose honour six camels were paraded by the Patriarch of Antioch in 1466 (MS Royal 15 E III, f. 200).

Worth recalling that there seem to have been camels in Roman Britain too, see

Camels were not the only exotic animals to be found in medieval Britain; for example, an elephant was presented to King Henry III of England in 1255 by King Louis IX of France and was kept at the Tower of London (CCCC MS 16, f. ivr)  https://theparkerlibrary.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/matthew-paris-and-the-elephant-at-the-tower/ 

There are also medieval elephant remains known from Chester, radiocarbon dated to AD 1290—1410

Lions and cubs, from an English bestiary, c.1200–1210:  http://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2014/11/a-royal-beast-and-the-menagerie-in-the-tower.html  Henry I owned lions in the early 12th century and the remains of lions — probably from the medieval Royal Menagerie — have been found at the Tower of London, dated AD 1280–1385.

Skull of a Barbary lion, Panthera leo leo, dated to 1280–1385 and found in the Tower of London's moat in 1937:  http://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/barbary-lion-skull-from-the-tower-of-london.html 

The Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II not only sent a camel to King Henry III of England in the 1230s, but also 3 'leopards', sometimes thought have actually been cheetahs (Image: a drawing of a cheetah wearing a collar, c.1400–1410:  http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=717251&partId=1 ).

There is also good textual and archaeological evidence for the presence of Barbary macaques from North Africa in Britain & Ireland, including bones from medieval Southampton, London & Carrickfergus, see  http://www.caitlingreen.org/2018/02/barbary-ape-wroxeter.html  :)

Returning to camels, worth noting that they seem to have been used as beasts of burden and tools of humiliation in early medieval Europe: :)

Although camels are not recorded from pre-Conquest Britain, Aldhelm—Abbot of Malmesbury Abbey & Bishop of Sherborne—is said to have made use of a camel as a pack animal when travelling back to England from Rome in the late 7th century…  http://www.caitlingreen.org/2016/05/camels-in-early-medieval-western-europe.html 

Of course, not impossible that camels were present in Anglo-Saxon England & just not recorded; def were camels in 10th-century German & Polish menageries, as well as in 9thC Carolingian Francia (Pic=camels in the Old English Hexateuch, written in Late Saxon England, c.1025-50).

In this context, worth noting that there do seem to have been menageries in Anglo-Saxon England; not only are peacock remains known from two sites (one Middle Saxon, one Late Saxon), but there's also some documentary evidence from the 10th century: :)

An early 8th-century Anglo-Saxon coin with an image of a crested peacock on the reverse, minted at Hamwic (Southampton) and found on the Isle of Wight:  https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/911246 

A kneeling camel misericord carving (c.1390), in the Church of St Botolph, Boston, Lincolnshire:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/hunky_punk/15411603161 

Some 11th-century camels, from MS Cotton Tiberius B V, part 1, f. 80, possibly made at Canterbury in the mid-11th century:  http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=cotton_ms_tiberius_b_v!1_f080v 

A 15th-century carving of a camel from Old Molton Priory, Yorkshire:  https://www.britainexpress.com/attractions.htm?attraction=4613 

Another lovely camel carving, 16thC, from Sefton, Lancashire:


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