Thursday, February 29, 2024

The Marital Arms of a Viscountess and Heraldic Heiress

The next memorial we came to in our perambulations inside York Minster was that of Lora (Burton) Dawnay, Viscountess Downe.

The (very long) inscription reads:

At her hour in Charles Street
Near Berkley Square, London
(Where she resided alternately with
her seat Bookham Grove in Surry [sic]
for a period of above thirty five years
happy and respected)
at Midnight
of the twenty fourth of April
in the presence of all her five children
and three of her old and faithful attendance,
in the seventy third year of her age,
the Right Honourable
Burton Dawnay
Viscountess Downe.
Widow of John Dawnay Fourth Viscount Downe,
Mother of the Fifth Viscount and other children,
and only child and heir of William Burton, Esquire,
of Ashwell, Rutland,
by his wife Elizabeth Pitt daughter of George Pitt
of Stratfieldsay
by his second wife Lora Grey of Kingston, Dorset.
For her character and other particulars
see The Gentleman's Magazine for May MDCCCXII,
from which the following is an extract.
A real, unpretending, and almost unconscious, good sense,
and a firm desire to act right on all occasions,
to the best of her judgment,
were her most distinguishing characteristics,
activity of mind and body,
sound health,
cheerful manners,
the open confidence of an honest mind,
the lively serenity of an easy conscience,
wiht a benevolent disposition,
and hereditary personal graces, bot of form and face,
which even in age had not disappeared,
complete her picture.

There is a further ten-line poem beneath that inscription which I will not transcribe here.

It also notes that she was buried at Snaith in Yorkshire.

More information about her husband can be found in a brief article on Wikipedia at,_4th_Viscount_Downe

At the foot of the monument are a shield and a cartouche: the former bearing her maiden arms; and the latter her initials and coronet.

But of course it was the coat of arms at the top of the monument which caught my attention:

These arms are a lozenge bearing the quartered arms of John Dawnay, 4th Viscount Downe, with an inescutcheon of Burton, surmounted by the coronet of a viscount, supported by two crowned and collared lions, with the motto underneath.

The shield is: Quarterly: 1, Argent on a bend cotised sable three annulets argent (Dawnay); 2, Argent a bend gules goutty d'eau between two Cornish choughs sable a chief checky or and sable (Pleydell); 3, Sable a Saracen's head couped at the neck argent between three lion's jambes issuant from dexter chief, sinister chief, and base points all or (Newton); and 4, Azure a lion rampant or ducally crowned argent (Darell); overall an inescutcheon, on a bend [cotised?] three [animal's] heads erased, a martlet for difference (Burton).* The supporters are: Two lions rampant or ducally crowned argent each gorged with a collar cotised sable charged with three annulets argent. The motto is: Timet pudorem (He fears shame).

* I have not been able to find another representation or a blazon for these Burton arms. They do not appear in Burke's General Armory, nor in the Visitation of Rutland. I also checked the Dictionary of British Arms, but knew that was probably a long shot to begin with.

For that matter, it was tough enough to find the second, third, and fourth quarters of the Viscount's arms; the General Armory and all of my several editions of Burke's Peerage only gave the paternal arms and did not include the quarters for Plaeydell, Newton, or Darell.

Let this be a lesson to you; anyone who says that "heraldry is a science" is incorrect. It's an art, and a sometimes "loosey-goosey" art, at that!

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