An uncle of mine by marriage, who was a very distinguished historian, once asked me, when I was a young man, whether I was interested in Heraldry. I said that I was not. ‘I'm glad of that,” he said, “heraldry strikes me as being for a historian about on the same level of interest as stamp collecting.” – Maurice Keen, in the Preface to Origins of the English Gentleman
I'm an Academic Herald. I'm not a "real" herald; I don't register people's coats of arms (though I can certainly suggest designs for those who might be interested). What I do is study, research, teach, and write about heraldry. And I like to share what I have learned about heraldry, hence this blog. I hope that you'll find it informative, interesting at least occasionally, and worth your time to come back. Got a question? Comments? Feel free to let me know. I'd love to hear from you. You can find my contact information in my Profile.
I recently ran across an article I hadn't seen before about an old heraldic roll of arms that had been found in a London antique shop o...
Genealogical Speakers Guild
Genealogical Speakers Guild
Thursday, December 7, 2017
Another Saint, and the Arms of an Earl
In the third panel of the stained glass window at St. Michael's Church in Linlithgow, Scotland that I've been sharing with you, above the lower portion of King David I and his attributed arms, is the figure of St. Bridget.
Above her head is a knight on horseback, bearing a banner with fleurs-de-lis and whose pauldron (shoulder armor) marks him as a Crusader (Argent a cross gules). But especially, he carries a shield with the well-known arms of Douglas: Argent a heart gules on a chief azure three mullets argent.
I suspect that this is meant to be "Good Sir James" Douglas, who was slain in August 1330 fighting under King Alfonso XI of Castile against the Muslims of the Kingdom of Granada, carrying the heart of Robert Bruce as a token of Bruce's unfulfilled ambition to go on crusade.
According to John Barbour's description of Douglas' last battle, when the enemy broke, Sir James and his companions followed hard behind. Having outstripped most of his men in the pursuit, Douglas suddenly found himself far out in front with only a few of his followers around him. As he rode back to rejoin the main body, he saw Sir William St. Clair of Rosslyn surrounded by a body of Moors who, seizing their opportunity, had quickly rallied and counterattacked. With the few knights who were with him, Douglas turned aside to attempt a rescue but, outnumbered twenty to one, the group was overrun. It has become a popular legend that Douglas then took from his neck the silver casket which contained the heart of Bruce and threw it before him among the enemy, saying, "Now pass thou onward as thou wert wont, and Douglas will follow thee or die." (Alas, this story seems to be a 16th-century addition to Barbour's poem.)
By 1333 Bruce's heart was incorporated in the arms of Sir James' son, William, Lord of Douglas, and it has been a prominent part, sometimes with a golden crown, of the family's arms ever since.