This document has a number of decorative elements, but all of them have a particular significance.
historiated initial The historiated initial T depicts the ceremonial ratification of the agreement. The chancellor with his minions sits on the left while the abbot, complete with mitre, sits with his tonsured monks on the right. In the centre stands a book on a lectern, presumably representing the agreements themselves. The way it is depicted, with the priest standing in front of it, is reminiscent of images of priests reading or chanting the liturgy in church, with a large and weighty Bible or missal in front of them.
The whole composition is one of those "life imitates art imitates life" type of reflexive images so intriguingly found in medieval art. The association of the act of finalising the agreement with an image itself associated with solemn sacred ritual imbues the whole legal process with the significance of liturgical acts. In other words, if the king has any ideas about not honouring his agreements, he is being reminded of what he is dealing with!
coat of arms The royal arms adorns the head of the page. The king had his own symbolism for displaying his temporal significance. The arms of England and France are present.
portcullis badge There are several representations of a portcullis, which was a personal badge of Henry VII. It is found on collars on funerary sculptures of his knightly followers, and is festooned all over Kings College Chapel, Cambridge. It is said to represent the freeing of England from its incarceration by the evil Richard III, but that might be just one of those stories.
Tudor roses During the long period of civil violence known as the Wars of the Roses, the Yorkists took the emblem of the white rose and the Lancastrians the red rose. Every school kid knew that once. Henry Tudor, on becoming king of England, used a red and white rose as the symbol of the Tudor dynasty and the reuniting of Britain. Then he got the idea that he was King Arthur and things got all very symbolically confused, not to mention historically garbled. Pity we can't actually see what colour these roses are.
Abstract of Agreement, 1500, British Library, Harley 1498, f.76. All images by permission of the British Library.

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