Thursday, March 22, 2018

Speaking of Genealogical Displays of Heraldry

Though not quite as involved as the heraldic family tree ceiling in our last post, one of the staircases in Mount Stuart has some very impressive stained glass windows which describe some of the marriages within the family over the years.

Most noticeable are the arms of the Stuarts (Or a fess checky azure and argent within a double tressure flory counter-flory gules) and the Herberts (Per pale azure and gules three lions rampant argent), but you'll see a number of other families represented here as well.

(You may recognize the Herbert arms from the BBC television series Downton Abbey, which was filmed at Highclere Castle, the home of Herbert, Lord Carnarvon. The main gallery in the castle, which appeared throughout the series, has a number of shields around the first floor [second floor, to my American readers] balcony with the arms of Herbert, often impaling the arms of one or another of the women who married into the family. But I digress.)

Notice how they have continued the literal family "tree" motif here.

It's a remarkably impressive display of heraldry and family alliances.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Now _This_ Is an Armorial Family Tree

I'm sure that many of you have seen one or more of the many variations of a family tree that include the coats of arms of the people in it. (If you haven't, there's an example of one at, or an older one at

But let me tell you, at Mount Stuart there is an armorial family tree that so pales all the others by comparison, that I want to steal (and modify) a line from the movie Crocodile Dundee: "That's not an armorial family tree; this is an armorial family tree!"

Covering the entire ceiling of one of the ground floor rooms at Mount Stuart is an armorial family tree that puts all the others to shame.

I'm just going to leave these here for you. I'm sure that I could probably pull out my Burke's Peerage and follow most of the lines of this family as they are displayed here, but looking at this ceiling, I frankly don't think that anything more needs to be said, except: "This is an armorial family tree!"

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Speaking of Heraldic Accompaniments for the Home

And you thought your kegerator was a great addition to your house.

To borrow a line from the movie Crocodile Dundee: "That isn't a keg. This is a keg."

This is the Mount Stuart answer for when you have company over and someone mentions that they are feeling a bit parched.

Naturally, is has the arms of the Crichton-Stuarts on it, in etched brass in the same general style as many of the stall plates you might see in, say, St. Giles in Edinburgh or St. George's Chapel at Windsor.

The display of heraldry includes the arms (Quarterly Stuart and Crichton), with the coronet of a marquess replacing the torse, the demi-lion crest of the Stuarts issuant from the coronet, and a different version of the motto, Nobilis ira (Noble ardor), which my hardbound copy of Fairbairn's Crests cites as that of Creighton-Stuart (not that I think that the different spelling Crichton is any real difference), replacing the longer one we saw on the tapestries last time, Nobilis est ira leonis.

Once again, then, we have a little something to consider the next time you are looking for something cool for your house that you can also mark with your coat of arms.

Monday, March 12, 2018

A Little Heraldic Something for the Parlor

Going inside Mount Stuart is a heraldry enthusiast's dream; you can hardly turn around without seeing a coat of arms done in one fashion or another.

Say, for example, on a tapestry or two.

These two tapestries (you can click on the pictures above to see them in greater detail) are labeled "The Time of the Meeting" and "The Lord of the Hunt" in English and in Gaelic.

Each has, center top, the Stuart coat of arms (Or a fess checky azure and argent within a double tressure flory counter-flory gules) on an oval surmounted by the coronet of a marquess, supported by two winged cherubs who also carry, between them, the motto of the Crichton-Stuarts, Nobilis est ira leonis (The lion's anger is noble).

Nicely framed between the pillars supporting the ceiling in the room, these two tapestries are a warming, softening, and impressive, display.

Something to keep in mind the next time you're in the market for a little heraldic something to hang on the wall.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Well, It's Not _All_ Heraldry

Okay, I have to admit, that despite all of the heraldry that can be seen at Mount Stuart (a lot of which I'll be sharing in upcoming posts), not every appropriate surface was covered with coats of arms or other heraldic designs.

Exhibit A:

As you can see (click on the picture above to see a bigger version), on this faux balcony on the exterior there are eight perfectly good shields.

With nothing on them.

Blank shields.

There may be a perfectly good reason for these empty shields on the exterior of the building. That is not for me to say. I will say that I was certainly tempted to get a long ladder, a paintbrush, and several cans of paint in heraldic colors.

Just sayin'.

Monday, March 5, 2018

A Home That Is Chock Full o' Heraldry

The next stop on our heraldic tour of the Isle of Bute was Mount Stuart, the home of the Marquesses of Bute, a lovely place in which it is pretty much impossible to even turn around without seeing heraldry. Of course, when you are designing a home for yourself and you have an important lineage, you'll probably go ahead and include the family coats of arms and crests all over the place, if only to try to overawe your visitors.

Mount Stuart was originally built in 1719 by the 2nd Earl of Bute, and rebuilt by the 3rd Marquess of Bute following a fire on December 3, 1877, which destroyed much of the house. Two Georgian wings survived, but the main house was completely redone in flamboyant Gothic Revival.

But, of course, it is the heraldry which is the main attraction to me, and there was heraldry to be seen before even entering the doors, in the form of a deeply carved achievement of arms.

Nice, not overstated, this display is something that any armiger might consider placing over a doorway. (Of course, in my case, there would be no supporters or coronet of rank, and but a single crest instead of the three here, but still, what a great way to display a full achievement of arms!)

The arms are, obviously, those of the Crichton-Stuart, Marquess of Bute: Quarterly: 1 and 4, Or a fess checky azure and argent within a double tressure flory counter-flory gules (Stuart); 2 and 3, Argent a lion rampant azure (Crichton). In this example, we also have in canton the badge of a Baronet of Nova Scotia. The three crests are: (center) A demi-lion rampant gules (Stuart); (dexter) A wyvern issuing fire from its mount all proper (Crichton); and (sinister) A wyvern proper holding in its mouth a sinister hand couped gules (Herbert). The supporters are: A stag proper attired or and A horse argent bridled gules. (The stag here is gorged with the coronet of a marquess proper chained gules, but those elements do not appear in the blazon in my copy of Burke's Peerage, which book also reverses the supporters so that the horse is the dexter supporter, and the stag the sinister one.)

We have seen all of these elements recently, in the display of the arms of John Crichton-Stuart, the 5th Marquess of Bute, that we saw in the Bute Museum and shared in our post dated February 26, 2018. (Note that the arrangement of the supporters in that display is reversed from the supporters here.)

If you look closely (you can also click on the image above to see a larger copy), you can also see the crossed key and tower on a staff behind the shield which we also saw on the display in the Bute Museum.

Watch for more examples of the Stuart, Crichton, and Herbert arms and crests as we make our way through Mount Stuart in the next several posts here.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

In Memory of a Duke

Going up the social ladder in our heraldic tour of the Bute Museum in Rothesay, we ran across this little heraldic gem:

It appears very much to me like a carved decoration from the stern of a large boat or small ship. It is beautifully carved -- just look at the way those thistles run from one end to the other, framing the achievement of arms in the center.

That is not to say it is without its issues. It appears to have been overpainted, more than once, and some of the colors used are incorrect (as you will notice when comparing the picture below to the blazon). Plus, the escallops in the husband's arms look more like garbs. And the ermine tails on the husband's fess and the small charges on the label on the wife's arms are lacking. The torse appears to be carved as a solid, straight bar perched precariously atop the helm.

It is the achievement of arms of Alexander William George Duff, 1st Duke of Fife, and his wife, H.R.H. Louise Victoria Alexandra Dagmar, the Princess Royal, eldest daughter of King Edward VII.

His arms are: Quarterly: 1 and 4, Or a lion rampant gules (Fife); 2 and 3, Vert a fess dancetty ermine between a stag's head cabossed in chief and two escallops in base or (Duff).

Her arms are the Royal Arms of Great Britain with an inescutcheon of Saxony and with a white label of five points charged alternately with three St. George's crosses and two thistles slipped and leaved proper.

The crest is A knight on horseback armed cap-à-pie. The supporters are Two savages wreathed about the head and waist with laurel and holding in their exterior hands a branch of a tree over the shoulder all proper. I am unable to make out the motto above the crest. (If I have to guess, I think it begins with "Deo", but my picture (and the overpainting) is not clear enough to make out much more than that.) The motto under the the shield is Virtute et operâ (By virtue and deeds).

Even with all of it's errors, though, it's an amazing display of heraldry, and a wonderful piece to run across in a little museum in Scotland.

Monday, February 26, 2018

In Memory of a Marquess

Continuing our heraldic tour of the Bute Museum in the Royal Burgh of Rothesay, we found this nice heraldic display of the full achievement of arms of John Crichton-Stuart, the 5th Marquess of Bute.

John Crichton-Stuart (1907-1956), 5th Marquess of Bute, was the son of John Crichton-Stuart, the 4th Marquess, and Augusta Bellingham. On his father's side, the 5th Marquess was a direct male-line descendant of Robert II of Scotland through John Stewart, his illegitimate son by Moira Leitch. On his mother's side, the 5th Marquess was a descendant of William IV of the United Kingdom through Elizabeth Hay, Countess of Erroll, one of his illegitimate daughters by his mistress, Dorothea Jordan.

The Marquess was an expert ornithologist; in 1931 he bought the islands of St. Kilda to preserve them as a bird sanctuary, leaving them to the National Trust for Scotland in 1956.

The family is an old and noble one, taking up five full pages in my 1938 copy of Burke's Peerage, Baronetage, & Knightage, with the Crichton line going back to 1484 and the Stuart line back 100 years before that in the records.

The arms are: Quarterly: 1 and 4, Or a fess checky azure and argent within a double-tressure flory counterflory gules (Stewart); 2 and 3, Argent a lion rampant azure (Crichton); in dexter chief the badge of a baronet of Nova Scotia. The shield is surmounted by the coronet of a marquess. The supporters are Dexter: A horse rampant argent bridled gules; Sinister: A stag rampant proper gorged with the coronet of a marquess and chained or. The crest atop the barred helm of a peer is A demi-lion erect gules. The secondary crests are: A wyvern sejant vert breathing flames proper (Crichton) and A wyvern sejant vert holding in its mouth a sinister hand gules (Herbert). (You may have seen this last at times in the television series Downton Abbey, filmed at Highclere Castle, home of the Herbert Earls of Carnarvon.) The motto above the shield is Nobilis est ira leonis (The lion's anger is noble); the motto below the shield is Avito viret honore (He flourishes by ancestral honors). Also below the shield is appended the badge of a baronet of Nova Scotia.

I assume that the key (whose checky azure and argent portion is taken from the Stuart checky fess) is indicative of the Marquess' office of Hereditary Sheriff of County Bute, and that the rod with the tower (also with a checky fess about its base) indicates his office as Hereditary Keeper of Rothesay Castle.

I don't know what else I can say about this beautifully worked achievement of arms. It was wonderful, though, to see it prominently displayed there in Rothesay.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

What Is This Ship's Badge Doing Here?

There was one final ship's badge that I saw at the Bute Museum, but though I keep asking myself the question in the title of this post, I have not yet come up with an answer.

The reason for the inquiry is this:

Yes, it is, indeed, the badge of the second of the two Bismark-class German battleships of World War II, the Tirpitz. (You can see the badge right near the point of her bow in this photograph taken at the launch of her hull.)

Launched in 1939, her primary role in WWII ended up just being a threat from her station in Norway, tying up a portion of the Royal Navy in case she ever broke out into the North Sea or the Atlantic Ocean. After suffering some comparatively slight damage in several attacks by aircraft and miniature submarines, on November 12, 1944 an attack by RAF Lancaster bombers carrying 12,000 pound "Tallboy" bombs scored two direct hits and a near miss which caused her to capsize and sink. From 1948 through 1957 the ship was cut up into pieces in a joint German-Norwegian company salvage operation.

All that said, what is this ship's badge doing in a museum on the Isle of Bute, Scotland? Were one (or more) of the Royal Navy and/or Royal Air Force attacks on the Tirpitz launched from Rothesay? Is it a souvenir from a sailor? Is there some other reason?

I have no idea. But it was a bit startling to run across this ship's badge there, which of course only made it the more memorable for being totally unexpected.

Monday, February 19, 2018

I'd Live Here!

Well, I'd live here if I could afford it! It is, alas, priced more than a little outside my max budget.

Still, if it were close, it would be well worth it.

What is "it," you ask? Well, "it" is the Reeves building, a Grade II listed timber frame home which is one of the oldest buildings in Wymondham, Norfolk.

And during the course of recent renovations, they found 41 (count 'em, 41) historic Tudor-era heraldic shields painted on the interior walls.

And this building is now fully renovated and is coming up for sale with an asking price of a mere £450,000. Of course, if you (or I, should I suddenly come into a small fortune between now and next month) purchase the property, you will not be able to remove or cover up the coats of arms, which have been placed behind glass to preserve and protect them.

Not that that restriction would be considered a hardship by me or any of my many heraldist friends!

Anyway, there's an article on-line with more photographs of the building and its surrounding development, a note that the oldest parts were "a 14th-century timber-framed house of high status," and a possible link to John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, and his first wife, Dorothy, between 1536 and 1548.

You can read all that, and more (including a link to the sales agent, TW Gaze, should you decide that you really need to buy this house), on the website of the Eastern Daily Press at