Thursday, May 2, 2024

Two Different Coats of Arms, But Whose Are They Really?

Our next memorial in York Minster is that of John Brooke, about whom A Guide to the Heraldry in York Minster tells us only that he was Precentor, lived 1567 to 1616, and that the monument displays "[t]wo versions of the arms of Brooke."

 A little on-line research led me to find a very little bit about "Rev. John Brooke, S.T.P., Rector of Elmley, Precentor and Canon Residentiary of York, and Vicar of Silkstone." And a chapter of A History of Cawthorne, entitled "Endowments of the Church, Incumbents and Curates" notes the 1615 decree in the case of Brooke v. Waterhouse, et al., in the Court of Exchequer which can be found on-line at,_Incumbents_and_Curates and makes for interesting reading for those interested in some of the minutiae of such things.

And as you can see from the photograph above, there are indeed two different coats of arms, one on each side of the memorial text (which is all in Latin).

There is another coat of arms, with crest, at the top of the monument:

The arms here, and on the left-hand side of the memorial, are: Argent a cross engrailed per pale gules and sable on a chief azure three fleurs-de-lis argent. The crest is: Atop a mural coronet or a badger statant proper. The crest is, of course, a cant (a pun on the surname), as a badger is also called a brock, an appropriate pun for Brooke.

Here is a close-up of the arms on the left of the lower portion of the memorial. As you can easily see, they match the coat of arms at the top of the memorial:

And a close-up of the arms on the right side:

This version of the arms would be blazoned: Azure three fleurs-de-lis on a chief argent a lion passant gules.

I have found neither of these two coats in Burke’s General Armory nor in Papworth’s Ordinary of British Armorials.

Burke's does have some similar coats to the one at the top and on the left of the memorial for: Ralph Brooke, York Herald: Or a cross engrailed per pale gules and sable on a chief gules a lion passant guardant or; and, Brooke of Norton Priory, co. Chester, and Brooke of Horton, co. Gloucester: Or a cross engrailed per pale gules and sable, this last with the crest: A brock or badger (passant) proper.

As you will note, though, those arms from Burke's have a different colored field (gold instead of silver), and either an entirely different chief or no chief at all. The specific form and colors of the cross, though, make it clear that it is certainly related to at least some of the Brookes.

I have no idea why this memorial displays two different coats of arms, neither one of which I have been able to find in the standard references. (That inability is not especially rare, as you may have noticed in a number of my previous posts.) But for it to display two seemingly unrelated coats of arms is unusual, and I do not have sufficient information to be able to explain it either to myself or to you.

English clergy could, and did, marry at this time, so it is possible that the blue shield is that of a wife, but I haven't found a wife for Rev. Brooke. Nor have I found that coat of arms in the ordinaries to which I have access, so I don't have a surname attached to it to search for that way.

So it's a bit of a conundrum, but a fascinating display of heraldry nonetheless.


  1. From your photographs it looks like the metal in both coats is Or, but you've blazoned them in the text of the post as Argent. Am I missing something?

    Also Brooke's entry in Foster's "Alumni Oxonienses" mentions he was a native of York, and had a son (also named John), so he was married.

    1. I believe the "Or" for "Argent" is a result of the camera not always playing well with the lighting in the cathedral. Compare the arms with the gold trim and gold lettering of the monument, and the shields appear to be much more white than they are gold.