Thursday, February 2, 2023

Famous Attributed Arms in King's College Chapel, Cambridge


Not unexpectedly, it being a chapel after all, the chapel at King's College in Cambridge has at least one instance of some very well-known, but attributed, arms.

They are smack dab right in the middle of this window (which is clearly comprised of a number of old pieces of stained glass which have been saved from other windows now gone and reused here):


Yes, that coat of arms right there in the center, on a red shield:


This shield is one of several variants of a coat of arms attributed to Jesus Christ, containing representations of the instruments of the Passion: a cross (central charge), the crown of thorns, dice (for gambling for his clothing), in saltire the scourge/flagellum and reed scepter, a pincers (used to remove the nails), a hammer (to drive in the nails), the pillar where he was scourged, and in saltire overall, the staff for holding the sponge of vinegar he was offered and the spear which pierced his side.

As heraldry, it is far, far too complex for the ready identification that we have come to expect from coats of arms; as a representation of Christ, though, particularly in a religious setting like King's College Chapel, it serves more than adequately, calling immediately to mind as it does all of the events of that Passover Friday.

I mean, really, can you look at that shield not think immediately of the crucifixion of Jesus?

Monday, January 30, 2023

An Armorial Tomb in King's College Chapel


There is the tomb of a young man in King's College Chapel, Cambridge, decorated with a very well-known coat of arms.


The arms, of course, are those of Churchill (Sable a lion rampant argent on a canton argent a cross gules, surmounted by the coronet of a marquess), and the tomb is that of 17-year-old John Churchill, the Marquess of Blandford, the only surviving son of John and Sarah (Jennings) Churchill, the first Duke and Duchess of Marlborough. His parents are named on the inscription on the side of his tomb.


Young John Churchill was born in 1686. His only brother, born in 1690, died at the age of two. In 1696, 10-year-old Churchill was sent to Eton College, where he remained and studied until 1700, his fourteenth year. He to follow a military career as his father did, and join the latter's regiment, but his mother was concerned at the risks and wanted to ensure the dukedom could be passed through the male line. He was sent to King's College, Cambridge in 1700.

In early 1703, seventeen-year-old Blandford contracted smallpox, a deadly disease. His mother, the Duchess, rushed to her son's bedside, while Queen Anne, a close friend of Sarah Churchill, dispatched her own personal doctors to attend him. By 19 February, however, word reached London that his condition was hopeless and the queen, who had lost seventeen children herself, wrote a heartfelt letter to Sarah in which she she prayed that "Jesus Christ comfort and support you under this terrible affliction, and it is mercy alone that can do it." On Saturday morning, February 20, 1703 the Marquess died at King's College, plunging his father into "the greatest sorrow in the world."

He was (obviously, since we are looking at his tomb here) buried in King's College Chapel.

The dukedom of Marlborough passed first to young John's eldest sister, Henrietta Churchill, but her son predeceased her, age 31. The dukedom then passed though the second sister, Anne Churchill, to her son Charles Spencer as the third Duke, and that line continues down to today in the person of Charles James Spencer-Churchill, the 12th Duke.

Winston Churchill, the wartime Prime Minister of Great Britain, was the grandson of John Winston Spencer-Churchill, the 7th Duke of Marlborough.

And from the younger brother of the 3rd Duke, John Spencer, sprang the Earls of Spencer, beginning with John's son John, the 1st Earl. Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales, was the daughter of Edward John Spencer, the 8th Earl, and the sister of Charles Edward Maurice Spencer, the current (9th) Earl.

So young John Churchill was born into what has become quite a family. His death at such a young age is truly a tragedy.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

In Memory of a King's College Provost


Our next armorial window in King's College Chapel, Cambridge, was installed in memory of one of the Provosts of Kings College, Roger Goad.


Roger Goad (1538–1610) was an English academic theologian, Provost of King's College, Cambridge, and three times Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge.

He married Katharine, daughter of Richard Hill of London. Six sons were elected from Eton to King's, viz. Matthew, Thomas, Robert, Roger, Christopher, and Richard.

Here's a closer view of the heraldry in this window:


The date, 1610, above the shield is the year of his death.

The scroll beneath the shield gives us his name and office in Latin; the translation is: Roger Goad, Provost of this College.

The shield impales the arms of King's College (Azure three roses argent barbed and seeded or a chief per pale azure and gules charged on the dexter side with a fleur-de-lis and on the sinister with a lion passant gardant or) with his own arms (Gules a chevron or between three lions rampant double-queued argent).

The whole is surrounded by red roses, white roses, white lilies, and other flowers.

All in all, it's a beautiful display of heraldry.

Monday, January 23, 2023

The Arms of King's College (Ancient and Modern) and of Eton College


And, of course, as we also saw in other places in and about King's College, Cambridge, we also find the arms of King's College (both Ancient - before 1448 - and Modern - after 1448) and of Eton College in differing locations and media in King's College Chapel. (We've discussed the relationship of King's College and Eton College in an earlier post.)

First up, the Ancient arms of King's College, near the bottom in this stained glass window:


These older arms are very similar to those of Eton College, but the bottommost lily is replaced by a golden bishop's mitre.

And then, of course, the arms of King's College used since 1448:





And the arms of Eton College (also seen on the image of the Chapel's organ, above):




You have to love a building with this much heraldry in it, don't you? I know that I do!

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Royal Badges in King's College Chapel


As it was with the exterior walls, main entrance, and around the courtyard of King's College, Cambridge, the interior of the Chapel there also bears many images of Royal, especially Royal Tudor, badges.

In addition to several examples of white (Yorkist) roses and red (Lancastrian) roses that you may see here, the red-and-white hybrid Tudor rose:





That ceiling is really something, isn't it? It was awe-inspiring just to be standing there looking up at it!






The fleur-de-lys, sometimes crowned. In this window, on the right in the fourth tier from the top:






The Beaufort portcullis:



And finally, In the lozenge to the left in the fourth tier (the same as the crowned fleur-de-lis), Ann Boleyn's crowned falcon holding a scepter badge:


Once again, an amazing, and amazingly diverse, display of Royal badges.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Oops! Those Are the Wrong Arms


So, I was recently watching the BBC series Upstart Crow aired by my local PBS station -- and finding myself annoyed that while the series is available on DVD, it is not available here in the United States in a format that will play on my DVD player. Sure, I could order the set from England, but it would be in PAL format, which does not play on my North American NTSC player. And I haven't found anyone here in the States who sells it for Region 1 players. And I'd love to have it to add to my growing Shakespeare collection, and would pay good money to be able to do so. Grump, grump, grump. But I digress.

Anyway, the series is a humorous take on the life of William Shakespeare with a surfeit of references to his plays, etc., etc., etc.

And so there I was, watching Season 2, Episode 7, entitled "A Christmas Crow" guest starring Emma Thompson as Queen Elizabeth I. At a couple of places in that episode, Shakespeare's nemesis Robert Greene (played by Mark Heap), Master of Revels, is conversing with the Queen.

But I happened to notice (and photograph) the coat of arms on the wall behind the Queen. (You may click on the image below to go to a larger version if you like.)


The arms behind "Queen Elizabeth I" are quite clearly the Royal Arms of Great Britain in use since the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837, Quarterly: 1 and 4, England; 2, Scotland; and 3, Ireland, complete with the lion gardant of England and the unicorn of Scotland as supporters.

That display of arms is not that of Elizabeth I: Quarterly: 1 and 4, France modern; 2 and 3, England, and whose supporters were the lion gardant of England and the red dragon of Wales and the Tudors.

It's a small thing, really, and fleetingly seen in passing, I suppose, but it is also exactly the sort of thing that someone with an interest in heraldry (like me, for example) would catch.

Other than that, it's a very nice rendition of the Royal Arms (as used today), and it certainly didn't ruin my enjoyment of the episode; it did, however, distract me a little as it caught my eye.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Henry VIII, and (Two of) His Queens


After looking at all of the stained glass representations of the Royal arms of Kings Henry VII and Henry VIII last time, today we're going to focus on just Henry VIII, and two of his six wives.

First, we have Henry VIII's Royal arms, which we know to be his because of the lion and dragon supporters, which his father King Henry VII, did not use:


And here are those arms in greater detail, surrounded by the Garter, and with the King's motto, Dieu et mon droit (God and my will) on the scroll above it:


In the upper part of another window, we find the arms of Henry VIII impaling those of his first Queen, Katherine of Aragon:


And off tucked away on a screen in the Chapel, where it somehow escaped the expunging of anything having to do with her following her trial and execution in 1536, we find the initials H and A laced together by a knot and surmounted by a crown.

H, of course, is for Henry, and A is for Anne Boleyn.


In the lower left is another of Henry VIII's badges, a falcon, and in the upper right is Queen Anne's, On the stock of a tree or sprouting vert with roses argent and roses gules, a falcon argent standing on its left foot and holding in its right a sceptre, the falcon crowned or.

You can't (or at least, I can't) make out in this photograph that the crown here is above rather than on the falcon's head.

Monday, January 9, 2023

Royal Arms in Stained Glass


King's College Chapel, Cambridge, is at its heart an English church. And as an English church, it has a fair bit of stained glass in it. Here is one of the more impressive examples. (You can click on the image below to get to a larger, more detailed photograph, and it is well worth the looking at.)


Of course, it is also in many respects a monument to the kings who erected it, most notably, King Henry VII and King Henry VIII. And as is to be expected, they have left their marks on it, in the carved coats of arms we have already looked at, and also in many of the stained glass windows.

Here are examples of such bearing the arms of those two kings found in the windows of King's College Chapel. You may also note a number of Royal badges in these same windows, as well as the arms of King's College and of Eton College; my intent is to cover these in a couple of later posts.

The Royal Arms in the upper left:


And here is a close-up of those same arms:


Two versions of the Royal Arms (Quarterly France modern and England) next to bottom row. This window appears to have been made up of bits and pieces of older windows which have been incorporated into this newer one.


Here on the upper part of a window:


And again on the lower part of this window:


And in the center of this window, surrounded with the Garter and its motto:


I think it ought to be obvious by now to whom the credit should go for raising and furnishing this magnificent building, as demonstrated by their Royal arms which can be seen throughout this Chapel. That is, of course, Kings Henry VII and Henry VIII.

I trust there will be no disagreement about this, right?

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Royal Arms, But Where Is That Sinister Supporter From?


We looked at the dragon and greyhound supporters of the Royal Arms that appear in King's College Chapel, Cambridge, last time. Today, we're going to visit a couple of depictions of the Royal Arms, but with a major difference; the dexter (left as you look at it) supporter is the lion guardant of England, but the sinister (right as you look at it) supporter is a griffin.



"A griffin?", you ask. confusedly. "Where does a griffin come from to be a Royal supporter?"

After conducting some research in Michael Siddons' four-book set, Heraldic Badges in England and Wales, it would appear that a griffin was used as a supporter by Anne Boleyn, whose father, Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire and Ormond, used male griffins as supporters (taken from the Butlers, Earls of Ormond).

The griffins depicted here are clearly not "male griffins", which have no wings but do have groups of sharp spikes coming from their bodies.

Despite the fact that these are your usual (if I may use that term about an imaginary monster) griffins, and not male griffins, I can find no other likely origin for a griffin supporter with the Royal Arms other than Henry VIII's second wife, Anne Boleyn.

What do you think? Does this supporter come from Anne Boleyn, or from somewhere else?

Monday, January 2, 2023

Royal Arms Inside King's College Chapel, Cambridge


One of the most notable features of the interior of King's College Chapel after you pass through the gateway leading into it, is the many carved representations of the arms of King Henry VII and King Henry VIII.

The most notable differences between the different depictions are the shapes of the shields, and the head positions of the dragon and greyhound supporters.

The dragon supporter, of course, comes from the Welsh red dragon, which was used on Henry Tudor, later King Henry VII's, banner, and is noted on his banner at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. The dragon was a supporter for all of the Royal arms of the Tudor kings and queens.

The greyhound supporter was used by Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond, the father of King Henry VII. Henry VII always used the greyhound as a supporter, usually paired with a dragon, but sometimes with another greyhound.

King Henry VIII used a dragon and greyhound as supporters early in his reign, but from about 1515 also used the lion of England and the dragon.

So, with all that as background, let's take a look at the various carved depictions of the Royal Arms of Henry VII and Henry VIII that appear in King's Chapel. How many different shield shapes and head postures can you see here?









You also have no doubt noticed the crowned Tudor roses and crowned portcullises (and at one point, even a crowned fleur-de-lis), which badges we have seen before outside the Chapel, which flank each of these depictions of the Royal arms.

All in all, a very impressive display of heraldry!