From a silver swan to a lapel badge

I love history, particularly English medieval political history.

I’m reading Trinity, the second in Conn Iggulden’s series on the Wars of the Roses (I recommend it if you’re into this sort of book).

I’ve reached the part where Queen Margaret (French wife of Henry VI) is building an army to take on the Duke of York (father of the future Edward IV) and his acolytes.

She called her army the Queen’s Gallants and, according to Iggulden, spent a fortune buying silver pins of swans for everyone in her army to wear. It was a smart move. It unified the army, giving the ‘soldiers’ a coherent identity and focused them on a common goal. It also had the effect of defining everyone else as ‘other’.

Henry Tajfel’s Social Identity Theory says that people categorise themselves into groups, often preferring their own group with very little reason for doing so. Just tell someone they’re in a group and they’ll start to favour it over other groups.

Our sense of self comes from membership of these groups and we behave accordingly.

Without knowing it Margaret of Anjou was tapping into this effect.

Businesses should tap into it to. Get your communications right and your clients will be proud to buy from you, they’ll be willing and vocal advocates. You can have the same effect with your employees.

556 years later my client, the Cleaning & Hygiene Suppliers’ Association is doing exactly the same thing. We’ve designed and made lapel badges and given them to members. By wearing them they sign up to the values of the Association and it’s proving a talking point with their customers, helping us spread the word about the Association’s work in driving up industry standards.

Back to Margaret of Anjou. Ultimately she lost. Her son Edward was killed aged just 17 at the Battle of Tewkesbury and her husband murdered soon afterwards by Edward IV. She died in France, penniless and aged 52. A sad end for a very impressive woman.

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By Cathy Connan

I'm an integrative psychotherapist. I help people invest in their wellbeing and live the life they want.