Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Heraldry

Well, it's Thanksgiving Day here in the United States, a day set aside to be with friends and family, to stuff ourselves with turkey or ham, watch football, and get ready to fight the crowds and begin our Christmas shopping on "Black Friday."  Unless you're me (and some others), of course, in which case it's a day for remembering the half of those hardy souls who made it through that first winter of 1620-21 and celebrated bringing in the harvest in Plymouth, Massachusetts with three days of celebration and feasting with their Wampanoag friends.

Surprisingly enough, a significant percentage of the passengers on the Mayflower were entitled to bear coats of arms.  Among those so entitled, my personal favorite is the canting arms borne by Capt. Myles Standish (this image from the website of the Myles Standish Society):

"Really?"  I hear you ask.  "And how is this coat with three white roundels a pun on the name Standish?"

It's simple, really; the blazon (found in Burke's General Armory) is Sable three standing dishes argent.  (I suppose the more expected heraldic term "plates" might also work, but really, isn't "standing dishes" more appropriate here?)

So there you have it, a little Thanksgiving Day heraldry.  I hope you enjoy your day, whether you have it off from work or not.

As for me, I'll be thinking about then 14-year-old Mary Chilton, my 10th great-grandmother, who lost both of her parents during that first winter in New England, but who was also a part of that early thanksgiving celebration in the New World.

Happy Thanksgiving Day, everyone!

Monday, November 24, 2014

A (Less Than Ideal) New Grant of Arms

Grays of Westminster, renowned for its exemplary level of customer service (and for the fact that it sells only Nikon cameras), has become the first camera shop in the world to be granted a coat of arms.  Ah, but what a departure from grants of simple, identifiable coats of arms it is.

In an article dated November 3, 2015, PR Newswire discusses the meaning of the symbolism in the grant from the College of Arms this way:

The symbolism within the image [of the crest] depicts a Lion (Gray Levett) amicably communing with the bird of Japan, the green pheasant. The mural crown around the lion's neck stands for responsibility to the public. Its right paw is resting on a camera lens. The cornucopia [in the arms] representing flourishing growth is replenished with flowers that represent various facets of Grays of Westminster and Japan. The tip of the horn has been modelled into an emblematic portcullis for Westminster. The rays of light emanating behind the flowers symbolise the derivation of the word photography, which means photo = light + graphy = writing. The rationale of the badge is an occidental phoenix with two heads for looking both east and west. It bears the motto: Lead in Order to Serve.

Frankly, I think that much of the symbolism is a bit more of a “reach” than I normally expect to see from grants by the College of Arms.  I can only assume that much of the design was pushed by the client, who apparently couldn’t be talked into something simpler and more classic.

Still, I suppose I should be happy that such folks are still going to the College for a grant of arms.  I just wish that the end result was something more appealing than this mash-up.

If you’d like to read more about this grant (and why wouldn’t you, after all?), you can find the article on the website of PR Newswire at, or 
different, but similar, articles on the websites of the magazine Amateur Photographer at and ephotozine at

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Heraldry In My Face

Well, not literally, but still ...  I've said many times that you can find heraldry everywhere.  The other day proved that you don't even have to go looking for it; sometimes, it will find you!\

I was driving to work the other morning, sitting in stop and go rush hour (boy, is that a misnomer!), and there, right in front of me, I saw this:

Now, I know, it's not the clearest picture.  Still, even for being taken on my camera phone during a momentary stop in the traffic flow, you can make out that it is a window decal of this:

That seal, and coat of arms, of the United States Air Force, which was established as its own arm of the armed forces of the U.S. in 1947 (hence the MCMXLVII in the legend around the seal).  Prior to that time, it was the U.S. Army Air Force, a branch of the U.S. Army.

The arms themselves are symbolic of the functions of the Air Force (both offensive and defensive), a winged thunderbolt spouting flames and lightning bolts in all directions in the middle of a clear blue sky above the clouds.  (Or, in blazon, or "herald-speak:" Bleu celeste a thunderbolt or a base nebuly argent.)

Anyway, it was all pretty neat to see bright and early in the morning, and made a nice (temporary) distraction from the "creep and go" traffic on my way to work that morning.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Curses, Foiled Again!

So there I was, standing in St. Peter's Church in Sandwich, England, walking about and photographing just about every bit of heraldry I could see.  And there was plenty to see!

But among the heraldry there, there was a particularly nice hatchment, painted on wooden boards, hanging on the wall.

See?  Isn't that a great piece of heraldic art?  And I thought at the time that it should be reasonably easy to determine the husband and wife of this married pair.  As it turns out, I was only half right.

A search in Papworth's Ordinary of British Armorials quickly gave me the arms on the sinister side of this hatchment (to the right as you look at the picture, the wife's arms): Swinford.  Paly of six argent and sable on a chief gules three boar's heads couped or.  (Though Burke's General Armory gives no more information than Papworth; just the surname and a bare blazon.)

But the husband's arms, on the dexter side (to the left as you look at it), Per fess gules and or three fleurs-de-lis argent and a lion rampant gules, has evaded me.  I can't find it anywhere in Papworth; not under Per fess; not under Three fleurs-de-lys and in base; not under Lion and in chief.

So I have been, at least for now, foiled in my attempt to identify who this hatchment is supposed to memorialize.  If and when I finally track down the husband's surname, I have every expectation that I will be able to determine the specific married couple on the hatchment.

Still and all, though, isn't a beautiful piece of heraldic art?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Family Memorials, Family Stories, and Family Heraldry

The sheer number of memorials, many of them armorial, in churches in England is almost overwhelming.  We saw very many of which we only had the time to photograph before moving on to the next one, and the one after that, and the one after that, without really being able to read them carefully and truly understand the people they memorialized.

Fortunately, with all of those pictures, we can then come home and at our leisure (or as I am often wont to say, "in my 'copious' free time," read the inscriptions and learn at least a little bit about some of these individuals and families.

One such case is the following memorial, found in St. Peter's Church in Sandwich.  (We were there because that is the church in which my 10th great-grandmother, Mary Chilton, was christened.  And let me tell you, that was a truly special feeling, to be standing there, in the same church, more than 400 years later!  But I digress....)

The full text reads:

In a Vault on the outside of this wall are deposited the remains of Katherine Harvey, youngest daughter of Samuel Harvey Esq. and Katherine his Wife, who on the eve of her intended marriage was suddenly attacked with the alarming symptoms of a rapid decline which closed her prospects of earthly felicity, separated her from all family and endearing connexions and terminated her existence in this World by removing her to a better on the 28th day of May, 1807, aged 23 years.
Likewise were removed into the same vault the remains of Ann Isabella the wife of Lieut. Col. Harvey, only son of Samuel and Katherine Harvey, and daughter of William Pinder Esq. of the Island of Barbadoes, who also died of a decline on the 4th day of Feb 1807, in the 28th year of her age, leaving issue one son.
Let the young and cheerful learn from hence, that sublunary happiness is vain and uncertain, and that only beyond the Grave true joys are to be found.
ALSO to the memory of the above Willm. Maundy Harvey Esq., Lieut. Colonel of the 979th Regiment of Foot, Colonel in the British Army, Brigadier General in the Portuguese Service and a Knight Commander of the Portuguese Order of the Tower and Sword; he died at sea on his passage home from Lisbon on the 10th of June, 1815, aged 38 years, and was buried in the Atlantic Ocean in Lat. 45.37. Long.9.42.

Atop the monument is an urn with a painted coat of arms on it.

Burke's General Armory cites the arms of "Harvey (Eastry, co. Kent; descended from the Harveys, of Eythorne, settled there in the fifteenth century; from the same stock spring the Harveys, of Cowden."  Argent on a chevron embattled gules between three bear's jambes erased and erect ermines as many crescents erminois.  (Sandwich is in county Kent.)

I am not at all certain of the arms that Harvey is quartered with here.  The depiction looks something like Argent three bars per fess gules and sable between ten (cats? lions? dogs?) (statant? passant? courant?) sable.  To this point, I've had no luck identifying these quarters; but Papworth's Ordinary is not comprehensive, and it is also possible that the artist here has made one or more errors in painting the coat.  It does not seem to be Pinder, the only wife's surname mentioned on the memorial, but beyond that, I cannot say more.  Yet.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Entirely Unexpected Heraldry in London

On our first full day in London last August, we had gone by the Houses of Parliament and alongside Westminster Abbey on our way to visit St. Margaret's Church (where members of another branch of the family tree had been christened, married, and buried).  Following that, we headed eastward to see what we could see.  After crossing the Thames at the Lambeth Bridge, we saw a sign that said "Cafe" and went into the Garden Museum, housed in what was formerly the parish church at St. Mary-of-Lambeth.  Following a nice sit down lunch, we looked at the heraldry still on the walls of the former church and then went out to see their garden.  Where we unexpectedly ran across the final resting place of a man known to us, though (sadly) mostly through his portrayal in movies by Charles Laughton and Trevor Howard:

Vice Admiral of the Blue William Bligh, once Commanding Lieutenant of HM Armed Vessel Bounty, of "Mutiny on the Bounty" fame.

He is buried there along with his wife, Elizabeth nee Betham, along with two of their sons (they had six children) and one of their grandsons.

Perhaps not so entirely unexpected is that the finial atop the tomb is a breadfruit (the reason for the voyage of the Bounty was to transplant breadfruit plants from Tahiti to the West Indies in the Caribbean; a later voyage with Bligh as master and commander of HMS Providence was successful in doing so).  Nor is is surprising that the tomb contains the marshaled arms of Bligh and Betham:

Bligh: Azure a griffin segreant or armed and langued gules between three crescents argent.  Betham: Or a chief indented azure and bend gules.  (Well, that's the way the blazon appears in Burke; I would have expected a blazon that placed the bend first, but I can see where that might lead to confusion about whether the bend also was indented.  Blazoning the chief first eliminates that potential muddle.)  The crest is A (gloved? armored?) hand holding a battle-axe.

The inscriptions around the sides and end of the tomb read:

Sacred to the Memory of William Bligh, Esquire, E.R.S. Vice Admiral of the Blue. The celebrated navigator who first transplanted the bread fruit tree from Otaheite to the West Indies. Bravely fought the battles of his country, and died beloved, respected, and lamented on the 7th day of December 1817, aged 64. 
Sacred to the memory of Mrs. Elizabeth Bligh, wife of Rear Admiral Bligh, who died April 15th, 1812 in the 60th year of her age. Her spirit soar'd to Heav'n, the Blest Domain, where virtue only can its meed obtain. All the great duties she perform'd thro' life, those of a child, a parent and a wife. 
In this vault are deposited also the remains of William Bligh and Henry Bligh who died March 21, 1794 aged 1 day.  The sons of M. Elizabeth and Rear Admiral Bligh; and also William Bligh Barker, their grandchild, who died Oct 22, 1805, aged 3 years.
All in all it was a great, and totally unexpected, historic and heraldic find.  And all because we wanted to stop for lunch, never suspecting that we were going to come face to face with Captain Bligh of the Bounty.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

An Heraldic Conundrum

Having finished giving you the heraldic highlights from our week last August in Norway, we now move on to England, where we spent another week.  I am not planning on boring you with all of the pictures of heraldry that I took while there, nor am I planning on reproducing the ones that I do share with you in chronological order.  So expect that I’ll be skipping about London and Kent as the muse strikes me.  You have been warned!

The reasons for our stay in England were two-fold: the first was to play tourist and see some of the sights there we’ve not had the opportunity to visit before now; and the second was to visit some of the places where some of my ancestors lived and worshiped.

As a part of this latter, we spent all day Tuesday doing what I have come to call “Chasing Chiltons.”  On that day we took the train from London to Canterbury, and visited three churches in Kent where my 11th great-grandfather, James Chilton, who sailed to New England on the Mayflower, had had children baptized or buried.  We had a great time doing this, and also saw a number of really great heraldic monuments in them.

One which has caused me a bit of consternation is a large one in the tower of St. Martin’s church in Canterbury.

This is the monument to John Finch (1584-1660), Baron of Fordwich (1640).  It was a short-lived peerage, as he had no sons, so the peerage became extinct upon his death.  (You can see a brief biography of him and his career at,_1st_Baron_Finch)

There are two coats of arms on the monument; quarterly of 20 with crest and supporters at the top of the monument,

and quarterly impaling a coat at the bottom of the monument.

The mystery comes in when the blazons of the arms found in Burke’s Dormant and Extinct Peerages and in Burke’s General Armory give different coats from those found on the monument.

The arms for Baron Finch, of Fordwich, Co. Kent, in Dormant and Extinct Peerages is: Azure, a chevron between three garbs or.  I have no idea where Burke got this blazon; it does not match any other Finch family I could find, the paternal arms on the monument, or the blazon of the arms in the General Armory, which are given as: Quarterly of six: 1st Finch, Argent a chevron between three griffins passant sable; 2nd, Sable a fess between three pelicans vulning themselves or; 3rd, Argent three eagles displayed in bend between two bendlets argent; 4th, Gules a fess checky argent and sable between six crosses patty fitchy argent; 5th Gules two bars ermine; 6th, Or two bendlets gules.  Crest, A griffin as in the arms.  Supporters, dexter, A pegasus argent ducally gorged wings down, the wings and collar or; sinister, A griffin sable ducally gorged or, the wings down.

The arms on the monument’s base are most probably then: Quarterly, 1 and 4, Argent a chevron between three griffins passant sable (Finch), 2 and 3, three lions rampant, two and one, impaling Gules a cross composed of nine lozenges, at each end a fleur-de-lis or (Fotherby).  The baron’s second wife was Mabel Fotherby (misspelled “Fortherby” in Dormant and Extinct Peerages), the daughter of the Very Reverend Charles Fotherby.

The arms on the top of the monument contain all six of the quarters given in the General Armory, plus another fourteen.  The crest and sinister supporter are the same as given in Burke, but the dexter supporter on the monument is a lion, not a pegasus.

So we are left with questions.  The first that comes to my mind is, where does the quarter with the three lions come from?  Papworth’s Ordinary of British Armorials cites a large number of coats consisting of a plain field and three rampant lions.  Knowing the tinctures would help us to narrow that number down, but without knowing them, the task is greater than I currently have the time to pursue.  I’m also going to go out on a limb here and state that I think the lion supporter on the monument (instead of the pegasus) may have some relationship to the quarter with the three lions rampant on it.

For the rest, it would probably be possible to eventually determine the surnames of the other quarters in the shield atop the monument, it’s really more of an academic exercise that I really don’t need to do right now.

Still and all, it was interesting to see this monument, to be able to research a bit about the life and times of John Finch, Baron of Fordwich, and to be reminded once again that heraldry is by no means an exact science, where – to use this example – we have two different renditions of the arms (in a single monument!), and two different blazons of the arms, none of which match.

Isn’t this fun?  I am reminded of something that J.P. Brooke-Little once wrote, in the Introduction to his An Heraldic Alphabet: "You can study heraldry until you are azure ... in the face but inevitably discover, from time to time, that you really are quite vert.... I have found this over and over again but, never forget, herein lies the fun and if heraldry ever ceases to be fun - chuck it."

Monday, November 3, 2014

Found Heraldry on My Birthday

You know how I keep saying that "you can find heraldry everywhere"?  Well, we proved it once again when we went out on my most recent birthday.  (No, I'm not going to tell you which birthday it was, nor am I going to tell you the date.  Let's just say it was this fall, and it's more years than I care to think back over.  At least I'm not like some in my family, who annually celebrate the nth anniversary of their 29th birthday.  So let it go, okay?

Anyway, to get back to the topic at hand:

We had gone to the Dallas Chocolate Festival (oh, yeah, it was totally worth it!), and having gone through and visited with and sampled the wares of all of the chocolatiers and gaining several pounds just from the smell of chocolate filling the room, we had a little time afterwards to wander about the neighborhood and see what we could see.

And, since you can "find heraldry everywhere," we, oh yeah, found some heraldry.

This is the arm-like logo of the Addison, Texas Police Department.  (Though it was styled the "Dallas Chocolate Festival," it was actually held in Addison, a suburb on the north side of Dallas.)  I find it interesting because they include as a part of their logo the seal, and de facto coat of arms, of the State of Texas (a white star on a blue field within a wreath of live oak and laurel proper).

Down the street and around the next corner is a British-style pub, which uses for its sign the crest from the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom.

Neither one may be the best use of heraldry, but, by golly, they are certainly attempts at using heraldry in the way that heraldry was designed to be used: identification.

And we found it just by having a little time and walking down the street to see what we could see.