Monday, February 27, 2023

Back on Track!

So having covered some of the difficulties in identifying some coats of arms in King's College Chapel, Cambridge, we're going to look at one or two more where more information about the armiger - the person to whom a coat of arms belongs - was: (1) easier to find; (2) more complete; or (3) both!

Now, admittedly, we've seen this coat of arms before, on the façade of the Cambridge train station. (See the post of September 22, 2022, at

These are, of course, the arms of Francis George Godolphin D'Arcy D'Arcy-Osborne, 7th Duke of Leeds, and High Steward of the Borough of Cambridge 1836-1850. (Alas, Cambridge is one of at least sixteen boroughs which no longer fills the post of High Steward. High Steward is an honorary title bestowed by the council or charter trustees of certain towns and cities in England. Originally a judicial office with considerable local powers, by the 17th century it had declined to a largely ceremonial role.)

The arms are blazoned: Quarterly: 1 and 4, Quarterly ermine and azure a cross or (Osborne); 2 and 3, Gules a double-headed eagle displayed between in chief two fleurs-de-lis argent (Godolphin).

So there you go! A coat of arms, the identification of the person to whom those arms belonged, and sufficient biographical information to ascertain why those arms appear in the windows of King's College Chapel, Cambridge.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

What We Have Here Is a Failure to ... Identify?

(You must pardon me for borrowing, and slightly modifying, a well-known line from the movie Cool Hand Luke starring Paul Newman, but I simply couldn't resist. What can I say? I like movies as well as heraldry.)

Further to my last post about partial success in identifying a coat of arms, in King's College Chapel, Cambridge, I ran across another piece of heraldry that, if you can believe it, had even less information I was able to find than Martin Freeman's arms.

I feel fairly confident about the identification of the surname, Davidson, than does, for example, The Online Stained Glass Photographic Archive (at, which simply labels this coat as "Coat of arms (for Davidson?)".

I would blazon these arms as: Azure on a fess between three pheons argent a stag couchant gules, a martlet for difference. (The martlet is the cadency difference for a fourth son.)

However, for all of my research, the closest I could come to an actual identification is the entry in Papworth's Ordinary of British Armorials, which gave the base arms (without the martlet) as "Davidson (Grinnant, Scotland)".

Nor did any internet searches for Davidson in relation to King's College Chapel turn up anything beyond the entry at The Online Stained Glass Photographic Archive, above.

Assuming that the initials "ID" or "JD" and the date "1825" are meant to help identify the bearer of the coat of arms, we're still (mostly) in the dark. There is a Joseph Davidson listed in the Eton College Register who went on to attend King's College, Cambridge, and became a Fellow there 1769-1798 and who gave £11,000 to the College at some point, but he died in 1828, not 1825. Was this window to commemorate his donation to the College? I'm not sure that's a reasonable assumption to make.

And yet ... that is apparently exactly what happened. According to The Architectural History of the University of Cambridge, and of the Colleges of Cambridge and Eton, by Robert Willis, Vol. 1, 1886, p. 515, "The Rev. Joseph Davidson (A.M. 1774) had given £1000 to the College, 9 Nov. 1825, to be appropriated as thought proper … to the repairs of the Chapel."

So there you go! We went in one giant leap from barely knowing the surname of the individual (the "What We Have Hera Is a Failure to ... Identify") all the way to knowing his name and the reason for his inclusion in the stained glass of King's College Chapel.

Maybe next time I won't leap to conclusions about what is or is not "a reasonable assumption to make".


Monday, February 20, 2023

Partial Success in Identifying a Coat of Arms

I find it interesting (frustrating, at times, but interesting) just how much -- or how little -- information I can discover about the bearer of a coat of arms.

Sometimes, as in my last post, I can learn a lot about someone; parents, siblings, career, birth and death dates, etc., etc., etc.

Other times, and at the other end of the spectrum, I can't even confirm a surname to go with the heraldry. (This is where the frustration sets in.)

And sometimes, I can only find the barest amount of basic information about someone. For example:

In this window in King's College Chapel, Cambridge, in addition to the three stained glass roundels (which from all appearances came from earlier, older and now incomplete windows), there is also a panel with a coat of arms in it.

The arms, Azure three lozenges argent, a crescent in chief for difference, are remarkable not only for their simplicity, but also for the dearth of identifying information I was able to find.

The full extent of the information that I could locate about the bearer is that these arms belonged to Martin Freeman, a Fellow of King’s College, who died April 6, 1630.

The only entries in Burke's General Armory for these arms are:

Freeman (co. Northampton). Az[ure] three lozenges ar[gent].
Freeman (Higham Ferrars, co. Northampton). Same Arms. Crest-A demi lion ramp[ant] gu[les] charged with a lozenge ar[gent].

The crescent on the shield here is the cadency mark of a second son.

Martin Freeman has no entry in the Dictionary of National Biography, and the overwhelming majority of internet searches came back with results for Martin Freeman the actor (Sherlock, The Hobbit, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, etc.). Interesting in general, but not very helpful here.

So there we are, a bare-bones identification for this coat of arms. And as I said at the beginning of this post: interesting, and frustrating.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Four Different Coats of Arms on a Single Memorial

Armorial memorials are always a pleasure to find. And armorial memorials with more than one coat of arms on them (e.g., the arms of a husband and wife) are an even greater pleasure.

So imagine my joy at finding this armorial memorial on one of the walls of the Ante-Chapel in King's College Chapel, Cambridge, which contains not one, not two, not even three, but four coats of arms on its face!

This is the memorial to James Kenneth Stephen, B.A. King’s College, Cambridge, barrister-at-law, Inner Temple, born February 25, 1859, and who died unmarried on February 3, 1892. He was the second son of Sir James FitzJames Stephen, 1st Baronet, and his wife, Mary Richards. 

Of the four coats of arms on the memorial, we have three which we have seen a number of times before in recent posts: at the top, the arms of Cambridge University; to the left, the arms of King’s College; and to the right, the arms of Eton College.

Finally, in base, we have the arms of Stephen. Argent on a chevron between two crescents in chief and a sinister hand couped at the wrist in base gules, an escallop between two mullets argent.

If you look closely at the bottommost shield, which can see better by clicking on the image above to view a larger, more detailed photograph, one of the charges (in center chief) appears to be the badge of a baronet, i.e., An escutcheon argent charged with a sinister hand appaumy gules. As a second son, barring the death of his older brother before him, James K. Stephen would not have inherited the baronetcy, and as a consequence he does not have the right to display the badge of a baronet on his arms. I suspect that what happened here is that the craftsman creating this memorial simply took the full arms of his father, Sir James, and placed it here on the memorial, without considering (or perhaps even knowing) that the baronetcy could only be inherited by the oldest surviving son.

In any event, it's not all that common to find a memorial with four coats of arms on it, all with a relationship to the person being memorialized. So I consider this an especially remarkable find from my time in King's College Chapel, Cambridge, and I'm glad that I can share it with you.

Monday, February 13, 2023

A Conundrum? (No Longer! See the Update Below)

This next armorial memorial in King's College Chapel has left me with more questions than answers, I am afraid.

It is the grave of John Gerard, 1637-1690.

Here is the information that I have on him:

John Gerard was born in 1637 in Harrow, London Borough of Harrow, Greater London, England. He was admitted to King's College as a scholar from Eton College in the fall of 1656. He received his B.A. in 1660, and his M.A. in 1664, was Bursar (an official in charge of funds) of King's College, and was a Fellow from 1659-90, when he died and was buried in King's College Chapel.

According to his grave marker, he is the son of Sir Gilbert Gerard, Baronet.

My issue is that I cannot find a Sir Gilbert Gerard, Baronet in any of my Peerage and Baronetage books. William Gerards aplenty, and even a few Thomas Gerards. But no Gilbert Gerard, Bt.

Further, the arms on the marker are more complex than those of the baronets Gerard:

Without tinctures, it's hard to be certain, but my guess at a blazon of these arms would be: Quarterly: 1, Argent a saltire gules (Gerard); 2 and 3, Azure a lion rampant crowned or (the second and third quarters of Baron Gerard of Gerard's Bromley, extinct 1707); 4, (without tinctures, could be any one of several families bearing [Field] on a bend cotised [tincture] three roundels [tincture] (per Papworth)).

Now, there is a Gilbert Gerard (d. 1622), 2nd Baron Gerard of Gerard's Bromley, Staffordshire, but there is no mention of a son John, only his successor, Dutton Gerard, 3rd Baron, and three daughters. And the dates are impossible (a man who died in 1622 having a son in 1637!), so this does not seem to be a match to Gilbert Gerard, Bt.

It's all very annoying; it's not usually so difficult to track down a Baronet, but this time I find myself at a bit of a loss, and leaving me with a number of questions, the biggest one of which is: Was John's father Gilbert really a baronet?

Nonetheless, it's a nice armorial memorial to a scholar and bursar of the College, and I felt the need to share it with you.


After being pointed in the right direction by commenter Philip Allfrey (who also offered an explanation of why I couldn’t find this Gerard baronetcy in any of my books), I did some more searching and found a copy of Burke’s Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies, 2d ed. (1844) on-line (the .pdf now downloaded to my computer for future reference). Therein we have the following information:

Gilbert Gerard, esq., of Flamberde, in the parish of Harrow-on-the-Hill, Middlesex, eldest son of William and Dorothy (Ratcliff) Gerard, was created Baronet in 1620, and represented Middlesex in Parliament. He married Mary, daughter of Sir Frances Barrington, baronet, and had issue,

    Francis, his heir.
    Gilbert (Sir).
    John [the John of the memorial in King’s College Chapel]
    Mary, died unmarried.
    Winifred, married Tristram Conyers, esq., sergeant-at-law.
    Katherine, married Sir Charles Pym, baronet.
    _____, married Sir John Heydon.

The baronetcy descended to Sir Gilbert’s eldest son, Francis, and then to each of Sir Francis’ three sons successively: Sir Charles Gerard, who having only a daughter, was succeeded on his death in 1701 by his brother; Sir Francis Gerard, who dying in August 1704, was succeeded by his brother; Sir Cheek Gerard, at whose decease unmarried in February 1715, the baronetcy became extinct.

And there you have it! What was once a conundrum, with a little help from my readers, is no longer a mystery. Thank you, Philip!

Thursday, February 9, 2023

The Arms of a Vice-Provost of King's College

King's College Chapel, being an English chapel, has burials and memorials to individuals who have a connection to the site.

In our example today, we have the grave marker of a man with a very common name: John Smith.

Fortunately, we can find out a little more about him, because he was not only a scholar at Eton College (many of whose graduates went on to King's College, Cambridge, witnessed heraldically by their very similar coats of arms granted on the same day, as we have already seen).

In brief, here is what we know about John Smith (1627-1706), alias John Hovell. He matriculated at Eton and was received at King's College, Cambridge, in 1646, received his B.A. in 1650/51, and his M.A. (M.S.?) in 1654. He was a Fellow at King's College 1649-1706, Proctor 1668-1669, and Vice-Provost 1694 until his death on August 23, 1706, aged 79, and finally, he was buried where I found his armorial memorial in King's College Chapel.

I could not find his (very simple) coat of arms ([Field], a crescent [tincture]) in Burke’s General Armory, Papworth’s Ordinary of British Armorials, or in The Dictionary of British Arms. A person of his background and status may very well have had a right to arms, but I have been unable to confirm it (yet).

Still, if you're going to use a coat of arms, you would do very well to make it a simple design like John Smith here. Just sayin'.

Monday, February 6, 2023

Arms of the Diocese of Lincoln in King's College Chapel

In amongst all of Royal badges in stained glass windows in King's College Chapel, Cambridge, I ran across this coat of arms:

At the bottom, beneath the Royal badges of the crowned fleur-de-lys and the crowned Tudor rose, we have the arms of the Diocese of Lincoln, Province of Canterbury. These arms were first recorded at unknown date. (The Diocese itself  can trace its roots directly back to the Diocese of Leicester, founded in 679, well before heraldry and coats of arms came into being.)

The blazon is: Gules two lions passant guardant in pale Or on a chief Azure the Virgin ducally crowned sitting on a throne issuant from the chief in her dexter arm the Infant Jesus and in her sinister hand a scepter all Or. The shield is surmounted by a bishop's mitre and its lappets to both sides of the chief.

It is a wonderfully simple (meaning, "not complex") coat of arms.

I am uncertain as to how the arms of the Diocese of Lincoln came to be placed here, as Cambridge is within the bounds of the Diocese of Ely, whose cathedral (and arms) we will be visiting later. Nonetheless, they make a nice addition to this armorial stained glass window.

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?