Monday, May 6, 2024

And Now For Some Personal Heraldry of Soldiers

The next several monuments we are going to visit in York Minster are erected to the memory of varioius military men.

The first is that of Captain Pelsant Reeves.

Capt. Reeves, as the inscription tells us, was Captain in the 1st (or Royal) Regiment who fell in battle at Toulon, 30th November 1793, aged 29. (Given the different surname, I am assuming that George Dawson was Capt. Reeves brother-in-arms rather than a brother by birth.)

The siege of Toulon (September 18, 1793 – December 18, 1793) was a military engagement that took place during the Federalist revolts and the War of the First Coalition, part of the French Revolutionary Wars. It was undertaken by forces of the French Republic against Royalist rebels supported by Anglo-Spanish forces in the southern French city of Toulon.

But of course, it's the heraldry that truly interests us here.

Burke’s General Armory cites: Reeve (co. Norfolk). Gules a chevron vairy or and azure between three roses argent barbed and seeded proper. Crest—A dragon’s head erased proper collared or.

The arms here match the above, but the crest here is painted as: A tyger’s head erased argent armed maned and collared or, not a dragon's head. Fairbairn’s Crests gives us: Reeve, Suffolk, A tiger’s head erased argent armed maned and collared or, but the head shown in the plate there is that of a natural or Bengal tiger, and not the heraldic tyger.*

I believe that there are one or more errors, either in the description or in the rendition, but I do not know which. I am thus left without evidence, especially given the different spellings of the surname -- Reeve vs. Reeves -- and different counties -- Berkshire vs. Norfolk vs. Suffolk -- that either the arms or the crest are rightfully attributed to Captain Reeves here.

Still, it's an interesting coat of arms on a memorial to a comparatively young soldier who died fighting in a foreign country.

* The heraldic tyger (or tygre), as Franklyn and Tanner in their An Encyclopædic Dictionary of Heraldry tell us, is “a composite fictitious beast having the tail, body, and limbs of a lion, the maned neck of a horse, and the head of a wolf, but the upper jaw develops a frontal horn: this may be either corkscrew-shaped or curved downward, like the upper mandible of an eagle.”

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