Monday, August 29, 2022

Should You Ever Find Yourself in London

If you should ever visit the City of London, and have a bit of time on your hands, it may be well worth your while to spend a little time walking near the Thames River.

No, not just to sing the old children's song, "London Bridge is falling down ..."

(The version you learned as a child is a lot less messy than the original, which is about a Viking raid on the city. As the longships coming up the Thames reached London Bridge, they were met with a hail of arrows from the local inhabitants. Going back downstream, wooden covers were made for the ships, who then went back upstream, placed some ropes around the pilings supporting the bridge, waited for the tide to start going out, and rowed mightily downstream, pulling over the pilings and causing the bridge to collapse. The exploit resulted in this little ditty:

London Bridge is broken down,
Gold is won, and bright renown,
Shields resounding, war horns sounding,
Hildur shouting in the din,
Arrows singing, mail coats ringing,
Odin makes our Olaf win.

And that, my fair lady, is the history behind the children's song.)

Anyway, to get back on track, and back to the point of this blog, something else you will see in your perambulations there are various depictions of the arms of the City of London, Argent a cross and in the first quarter a sword gules. (The sword is said by some to represent the dagger used by Lord Mayor of London William Walworth to kill Wat Tyler, leader of the Peasants' Revolt, on 15 June 1381. It is more likely that the sword is the symbol of the martyrdom of St. Paul, the patron saint of the City. But what do I know?)

And the City's arms will often be accompanied by one or two white dragon supporters, each having its wings charged with the cross of St. George. (Which is also the cross in the arms! Do you see how that works? A single symbol in heraldry can actually stand for more than one thing. Who'd have thought?)

For example:

So keep your eyes open and looking about you as you walk the streets of London!

Maybe any city maps should bear the legend, "There be dragons here!"

Thursday, August 25, 2022

The Arms of the Inner and Middle Temples Don't Always Appear Alone

Having looked at the arms of both The Honourable Company of the Middle Temple (with its Paschal lamb) and The Honourable Company of the Inner Temple (with its Pegasus) (two of the four Inns of Court in London) in the last two posts, I wanted to share the times when both arms appear together.

This occurs in public areas which adjoin or are shared by the two Inns of Court.

For example, in Temple Church:

And outside:

Over a gateway:

And on a building (look to the very top!):

Okay, that's enough lawyers for now!

Monday, August 22, 2022

The Arms of the Inner Temple

Having looked at the many, often differing, versions of the arms of the Middle Temple last time, today we're going to see the many depictions - not so widely differing - of the arms of The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple. These arms are blazoned Azure a Pegasus forceny [wings elevated and addorsed] [sometimes, segreant] argent.

These first two images seem to treat the Pegasus like a crest; it almost looks like it's standing on a torse.

But then we find it on shields:

Or not on shields:

That's a wonderful display of heraldry, in a number of different media, and carvings of greater or lesser depth. Compare, for example, the last two images with each other.

I find it all simply fascinating to see!

Thursday, August 18, 2022

The Many Versions of the Arms of the Middle Temple

There are in London four Inns of Court, professional associations for barristers (a specialized type of lawyer) in England and Wales. Two of the four Inns of Court, Middle Temple and Inner Temple, are located near and affiliated with the Temple Church.

As an historian and part-time medievalist, Temple Church was pretty high on the list of "Places to Visit" when we were in London. And to get to, and from, Temple Church, we ended up walking through the buildings of both the Middle Temple and Inner Temple, which naturally meant that we also saw their arms. A lot!

Today, we're going to revisit the arms of the Middle Temple, or to give it its proper name, The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, blazoned Argent on a cross gules a Paschal lamb passant or [sometimes, argent] maintaining [sometimes, in front of] a banner of St. George [Argent a cross gules] flying from a pole topped by a cross formy [sometimes, Maltese] or.

As you can see from my blazon, and from the varying renditions below, it's not always a standardized depiction. For that matter, the Middle Temple's website, and many depictions either or or without a shield, drop the cross entirely, placing the lamb on a red field.

Anyway, here are various versions of the arms of the Middle Temple we saw in and around Temple Church. Be sure to click on an image to see a larger, more detailed photograph of each one.

Now that's a whole lot of sheep!