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.

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