Object 21

Guild chain
Brussels, 1766
Royal Museums of Art and History
Inv. 3583


This silver necklace once belonged to a guild of archers. Every year, the title of king was disputed within the guild during a contest that involved participants shooting an artificial bird using a bow or arbalest. The winner became king of the guild and, as a reward, could wear this necklace for a year. It was a great honour! The new king was sworn in with all the pomp owed to his rank and received the necklace from the hands of the guild master. The king also became a managing member and occupied first place during processions, ommegangs (a type of medieval pageant) and other festivals.

This jewel is called the "king's necklace" and is made of links in the form of Bourgogne sabres.  The large central medallion depicts Saint Sebastian, patron saint of the guild. The smallest insignia is decorated with coats of arms (not yet identified) and the year 1766. It was added by the king of the guild. From the second half of the 16th century, the king added a small silver insignia in his name to the necklace, together with the year of his reign. If the king had a title, he used his coat of arms. The inner part of the necklace ends with the symbol of the king of the guild, namely the king's bird or parrot.

There are still several grey areas concerning the origin of guild necklaces but, in all probability, they imitated those worn by the knights of the Order of the Golden Fleece. In the necklaces of this famous Order, a gold lamb replaces the patron saint or parrot.



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