Thursday, March 30, 2023

An Achievement of Arms, But Where Are the Arms?

On my travels I often run across, and blog about, the blank shields and blank cartouches that I run across.

Usually, I confine my remarks to talking about what a wasted opportunity a blank shield may be, and occasionally bring up the personal temptation to get a ladder and a few cans of spray paint to correct the lack of an actual coat of arms there.

This one, alas, was in some ways an even bigger temptation, but would have required an even longer ladder to "correct" the issue, as it was over the entrance and exit to an underground garage right next to our hotel. (That location meant that I had the dubious pleasure of seeing it sometimes several times a day.)

As I said, a much longer ladder. Not to mention the risk (absent in this photograph) of cars and trucks going into and coming out of the garage.

But as you can see in this close-up below, it is not just an empty cartouche, but what might be considered (and would be, if it included a helmet and crest) an achievement of arms, complete with supporters standing upon an ornate compartment.

As you can see (and can see in even more detail if you click on the image above), it's a very ornate display of ... (wait for it!) ... a blank oval shield.

A blank oval shield in an ornate frame, resting on a plinth, held up by two supporters, all resting on a compartment decorated with garlands of laurel.

If only someone had thought to add a coat of arms to this extravagant display of non-heraldry!

Monday, March 27, 2023

The Very Complex Arms of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge

Now, admittedly, the arms of Gonville and Caius (pronounced "Kees") College are especially complex because they consist of the impaled arms, within a bordure compony, of the first founder, Edmund Gonville, and the third founder, Dr. John Caius. (The second founder, Bishop William Bateman, is commemorated heraldically in his own separate foundation of Trinity Hall, as we have already seen.)

Gonville Hall was founded in 1348 by Edmund Gonville, Rector of Terrington (near Lynn). When he died just three years later, in 1351, his friend and executor Bishop Bateman drew up a new set of statues and changed the name to the Hall of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. John Caius, a native of Norwich, graduated from the College in 1533, going on to study medicine at Padua and graduating M.D. On his return to London, he offered to indirectly endow Gonville Hall, but discovering that it had never been properly incorporated, he obtained a Royal Charter of foundation and confirmation of past acts in 1557. This renamed the hall Gonville and Caius College. Shortly afterwards, Dr. Caius was elected Master, and retained this position until shortly before his death in 1573.

And, indeed, we can find the arms of the first and third founders displayed separately on the façade of the College:

And marshaled, as noted above, in monotone. It was in the Visitation of 1575 that Robert Cooke, Clarenceux King of Arms added the bordure compony to avoid the impression that the arms did not suggest a marriage between the two families of Gonville and Caius, thus creating a unified and distinctive shield for the foundation.

But it's when we start seeing it in color that we begin to truly grasp its complexity:

But before moving on to the final, full-color rendition, let's take a look at the blazon:

Argent on a chevron between two couple closes indented sable three escallops or (Gonville), impaling Or semy of flowers gentle in the middle of the chief a sengreen resting upon the heads of two serpents in pale their tails knit together all proper resting upon a square marble stone vert between their breasts a book sable garnished gules buckled or (Caius), all within a bordure compony argent and sable.

Heraldically, serpents proper are usually vert, or green; the flowers gentle (floramor) are usually shown as argent, or white; and sengreen (the houseleek in flower) ought to be a pink flower with green leaves, but is usually drawn as argent, or white.

Dr. Caius explains the meaning of his coat of arms, which he obtained in January 1560 [Old Style]/1561 [New Style]* from Laurence Dalton, Norroy King of Arms:

betokening by the book learning, by the ii serpentes resting upon the square marble stone, wisdome with grace founded and styed upon vertues stable stone; by sengrene and flower gentile, immorality that never shall fade, as though thus I shulde saye, ex prudentia et literis, virtutis, petra firmatis immortalitas, that is to say, by wisdome and lerning graffed in grace and vertue, men cum to immortalite.

And now, just so that you can get the full impact of the College's coat of arms, here it is in full color over the main gateway:

As you can see, they've added some green to both the sengreen and the flowers gentle, presumably to help their contrast against the gold field, but totally missed that the serpents ought to be green!

Oh, well, that default is a bit obscure.

* Until 1752 in England, the new year began on March 25 (following the Julian calendar); in 1752 the beginning of the new year was changed to January 1 (to follow the Gregorian calendar). Dates prior to 1752 falling between January 1 and March 25 are generally now written as, for example, February 2, 1660/61, or as February 2, 1660 (O.S.)/1661 (N.S.) to indicate that the date was considered to have occurred in the year 1660 then, but would now be considered to have occurred in the year 1661.

You can learn all kinds of weird stuff by following this blog, can't you?

Thursday, March 23, 2023

The Arms of the "Other" Trinity

We've already seen the arms of Trinity College in a previous post (and may see them again in a later one, if I can adequately identify the accompanying personal arms), but today we're going to look at the arms of a different Cambridge educational institution: Trinity Hall.

Trinity Hall (as opposed to Trinity College!) was founded in 1350 by William Bateman, Bishop of Norwich, for the study of canon and civil law. The college received a Royal Charter from King Edward III in 1351.

The arms of Trinity Hall are based on those of the founder, but where Bishop Bateman's arms were Sable a crescent ermine within a bordure engrailed argent, the college's arms are Sable a crescent within a bordure engrailed ermine, thus making the bordure as well as the crescent ermine.

According to an entry in the Master's Statute Book, since lost, Bishop Bateman's father had borne these arms with three crescents; the arms with three crescents passed to his eldest son, while the second son bore them with two crescents, and the third son with one crescent for difference. That said, evidence made, and lost, so long after the event should be treated with caution.

The present arms of the college, differenced from the arms of the founder by making the bordure engrailed ermine, were granted in 1575 by Robert Cooke, Clarenceux King of Arms.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Yet Another Cambridge College Coat of Arms

I know, it shouldn't be a surprise that there were a lot of different college's coats of arms to be seen about town in Cambridge, England. And today, we're going to look at yet another one!

These are, as clearly noted on the banner above the doorway, the arms of Sidney Sussex College, University of Cambridge.

The arms are blazoned: Argent a bend engrailed sable (for Radcliffe), impaling Or a pheon azure (for Sidney.

They are the arms of the foundress of the College, Lady Frances Sidney, Countess of Sussex, widow of Thomas Radcliffe, third Earl of Sussex. She died in 1589, her will making a provision for the establishment of a new college at Cambridge.

Some records (not, alas, among the Sidney muniments, nor in the official records of the College of Arms in London, aside from 17th century note in a "book of entrances" at the College of Arms stating that "Sidney Sussex College bears these two [the arms of Sidney and Sussex] impaled") indicate that these arms were granted to the College in 1675 by Sir Edward Walker, Garter King of Arms.

Extending along the front of the building on either side of the main entranceway were a display of pennants (or penoncels) displaying alternately the arms of the College and the words "Sidney Sussex College University of Cambridge".

I must admit, it makes me wonder what other uses for heraldic penoncels might be found for decorative purposes about my home. Just sayin'.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

A Clock, A Very Large Grasshopper, and a Coat of Arms

Sitting in a window of the Taylor Library at the junction of Bene't Street and Trumpington Street in Cambridge is an absolutely amazing clock.

I'm not going to get into its history, its mechanism, or any of that here. You can find out everything you could possibly want to know about this work of mechanical engineering, including a 14-second video of it at work, over on Wikipedia at And I will admit, standing there and just watching the clock, with the lights rotating around the face, the movement of the grasshopper at the top, and the swinging of the pendulum below, can be mesmerizing.

But no, because this is a blog about heraldry, I'm going to show you the bottom of the clock's pendulum and the coat of arms immediately below it.

I've included two pictures here, because you can see the movement of the pendulum.

The arms, of course, are those of Corpus Christi College, which we have seen before in the Cambridge Union Building and on the façades of the Sedgewick Museum of Earth Sciences and the Cambridge train station.

The College was the result of a union in 1350 of two guilds, Corpus Christi and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Until the Reformation, the College used the shields of two guilds next to each other, but as some people saw too much "Popery" in those, a new coat of arms was sought.

The arms of the College, granted in 1570, are blazoned as: Quarterly: 1 and 4, Gules a pelican in its piety argent; 2 and 3, Azure three lily flowers argent.

All in all, the clock is an amazing piece of work, and the arms below the pendulum are one of the finest examples of the jeweler's art that I have seen.

Monday, March 13, 2023

The Arms of Trinity College, Cambridge

Next up on our walkabout around Cambridge, England, we found the arms of Trinity College.

Trinity College (not to be confused with Trinity Hall, whose arms we will look at a little later) was founded in 1546 by uniting and enlarging two earlier foundations, Michaelhouse and King's Hall.

The arms of Trinity College were recorded in the 1575 Visitation of Robert Cooke, Clarenceux King of Arms, and as "arms as usual" in the 1648 herald's Visitation. However, no evidence has been found of their having been formally granted. 

The arms are blazoned: Argent a chevron between three roses gules barbed and seeded proper on a chief gules a lion passant guardant between two closed books or.

It's always fun for me to walk down a street and find different depictions of a coat of arms.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Two More Cambridge Colleges' Arms

You didn't think we were done seeing all of the arms of the colleges of Cambridge University that I found in my perambulations around Cambridge, did you? Well, if you did, you were likely "misinformed".

Today, we're going to see the arms of two more Cambridge colleges:

First up, Pembroke College.

The arms of Pembroke College are blazoned: Barry of ten argent and azure an orle of martlets gules (de Valence), dimidiating Gules three pales vair on a chief or a label of five points azure (de St. Pol).

Founded in 1347, these are the arms of the College's foundress, Mary de St. Pol, Countess of Pembroke. She was the daughter of Guy, Count of St. Pol, and great-great-granddaughter of of Isabel of Angoulême by her first marriage to King John (you know, Richard the Lionheart's younger brother). Mary was the second wife of Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke (d. 1324).

The next arms are the extremely simple arms of St. Catherine's College (we have seen these arms in earlier posts, at the Cambridge Union Hall and on the façades of the Sedgwick Museum building and the Cambridge railway station): Gules a Catherine wheel or. (Yes, I know that these are not on a standard shield or "heater" shape; they are, nonetheless, the arms of the College.)

St. Catherine's College, named after St. Catherine of Alexandria, was originally called St. Catherine's Hall, founded in 1473 by Robert Woodlarke, Provost of King's College.

St. Catherine, whose emblem is a wheel set with knives or spikes, is "universally reverenced as the patroness of learning"; most apropos for a college, I would say.

Monday, March 6, 2023

It's On a Shield, But Is It Heraldry?

Wandering back out onto the streets of Cambridge from our visit to King's College Chapel, I ran across a couple of, well, I'm not entirely sure what to term them.

The first is pretty definitely a logo, even though it is placed upon a shield.

This is the logo of Malloy's Craft Butchery (a fancy way of describing a butcher's shop, but there you go).

The logo, a shield shape charged with a cleaver and a boning knife in saltire. Certainly appropriate for a butchery (even a "craft butchery"), but is it really heraldry?

Yeah, I don't think so, either.

Our second candidate in today's "Is It Heraldry" competition, is this one, on the Fosters' Bank building:

It's not really a logo, consisting as it does of only an ornate letter F (for Fosters) on an Italianate shield being supported by a, well, it's not a cherub (no wings). Basically, the supporter is a mostly naked young boy, wearing a loincloth or diaper (what my English friends would call a "nappy").

But though it's not quite a logo, it's not really heraldry, either, despite the shield and supporter.

Yet what a couple of interesting things to run across while making my way about the streets of Cambridge, England!

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Arms, and a Plethora of Biographical Information

For the coat of arms in this next window, not only do we have a blazon and an identification of the armiger, but because he has his own entry in the Dictionary of National Biography, we are blessed with a virtual treasure trove of biographical information.

The arms are unusual, containing as they do a purple chief on a green field (thus violating the heraldic Rule of Contrast usually described as "No color upon color, nor metal upon metal").

The arms are blazoned: Vert in chief two garbs or in base an arrow in pale argent on a chief purpure a cherub’s head proper between two estoiles or.

They are the arms of George Thackeray, D.D., Provost of King's College 1814-1850, who bequeathed his library of some 3,200 volumes to the College.

From the Dictionary of National Biography we learn the following:

THACKERAY, GEORGE (1777–1850), provost of King's College, Cambridge, born at Windsor, and baptized at the parish church on November 23, 1777, was the fourth and youngest son of Frederick Thackeray (1737-1782), a physician of Windsor, by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Abel Aldridge of Uxbridge (d. 1816). George became a king's scholar at Eton in 1792, and a scholar of King's College, Cambridge, in 1796. In 1800 he was elected a fellow of King's College, and in the following year was appointed assistant master at Eton. He graduated B.A. in 1802, M.A. in 1805, and B.D. in 1813. On April 4, 1814 he was elected provost of King's College, and in the same year obtained the degree of D.D. by royal mandate.

The death of his second wife in 1818 cast a gloom over Thackeray's subsequent life. He devoted much of his time to collecting rare books, and "there was not a vendor of literary curiosities in London who had not some reason for knowing the provost of King's." He directed the finances of the College with great ability. He held the appointment of chaplain in ordinary to King George III and to the three succeeding sovereigns (George IV, King William IV, and Queen Victoria).

Thackeray died in Wimpole Street on October 21, 1850, and was buried in a vault in the ante-chapel of King's College. He was twice married: on November 9, 1803 to Miss Carbonell; and in 1816 to Mary Ann, eldest daughter of Alexander Cottin of Cheverells in Hertfordshire. She died on February 18, 1818 (just two years after their marriage), leaving a daughter, Mary Ann Elizabeth.

So how's that for not only identifying the armiger, but finding a great deal of information about his life? Ah, if only all of them were this easy, or productive.