This sequence of tapestries was originally designed for William Knox D'Arcy, for the dining room of his house, Stanmore Hall in Middlesex (see black and white image). Several further versions were woven later. Birmingham's 'Arming and Departure' is one of three tapestries commissioned in 1895 by the industrialist Laurence Hodson, for his house Compton Hall near Wolverhampton.
The subject matter is based on the 15th century text Le Morte D'Arthur (The Death of Arthur) by Sir Thomas Malory. It tells the story of the spiritual quest by the knights of King Arthur's round table for the Holy Grail, the cup from which Jesus and the disciples drank at the Last Supper.
Here the second scene depicts the virgin ladies of King Arthur's Court assisting the knights in preparation for their quest. On the far left, Queen Guinevere hands Sir Lancelot his shield, in an allusion to their adulterous relationship, the cause of Sir Lancelot's impending failure. Sir Gawaine, who will also fail in the quest, appears mounted on the right of the picture, identified by his shield, which bears a double-headed eagle.
Burne-Jones based the costumes loosely on those of the twelfth century. Throughout the series Morris designed the heraldry, and Dearle designed the flowers in the foreground.