Thursday, April 19, 2018

Two Pieces of Understated Heraldry at Mount Stuart

Just to prove to you that not every display of heraldry at Mount Stuart has to be over the top and "in your face," on the exterior of the house on one of the upper floors, we ran across a couple of lightly heraldic, utilitarian articles.

Both were based on the checky fess of the Stuart coat of arms.

The first was a support bracket for a rain downspout, about as utilitarian a thing as I can think of. And yet, what a nice way to incorporate a major element from the family's coat of arms.

The other workaday item bearing the checky fess was a couple of sill plates outside of a window.

Ordinary, everyday items all, but demonstrating other ways that heraldry can be used to "spruce up" even the most mundane of objects.

Monday, April 16, 2018

A Child's Room Done Heraldically

Another room at Mount Stuart was decorated for a child, but it, too, had plenty of heraldry.

On one wall was this massive edifice, the ultimate "toy castle" to play with.

At the peak of the each of the towers are shields bearing the coats of arms of, left and right, respectively, Stuart and Crichton.

In the center, on a stall plate, are the arms of Crichton-Stuart, with the coronet of a marquess, and helm, mantling, Stuart crest and motto.

The stall plate may be that of John Crichton-Stuart, 4th Marquess of Bute, b. 1881, who succeeded his father, John, in 1900. My 1938 copy of Burke's Peerage doesn't give me a date when he was created a Knight of the Thistle, but 1922 (the date on the stall plate) is cited in Stall Plates of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle as the year of his induction, and shows his stall plate in Stall 16 in the Thistle Chapel in Edinburgh. That book also notes that: "There is a contemporary copy of this stall plate now displayed in the Horoscope Bedroom in Mount Stuart, Isle of Bute."

The bedroom also has an astrological theme, with paintings around the upper walls containing naturalistic depictions of the 12 astrological signs. (You can see Cancer and Leo in the next two photographs.)

Above the bed in the room is a beautifully carved lion sejant wearing a nightcap on his head!

The room is also decorated with some other fanciful carvings (not heraldic, alas! But quaintly amusing nonetheless) of a bear and a fox or wolf playing musical instruments.

Just the thing to help a young lad get to sleep at night.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Now _This_ Is an Heraldic Ceiling, Part 2

The ceiling in the room which had as its central feature the astrological chart and Stuart coat of arms shown in my last post continued the heraldic family tree theme over the rest of the room. In a series of scalloped insets into the ceiling we find a number of marital alliances heraldically denoted, sometimes by marshalling the arms, sometimes by dimidiation, over a number of generations.

You will, no doubt, recognize some of the wives's coats of arms from earlier posts here (e.g., Windsor, Crichton). Others are from families whose heraldry is among the most recognizable and well-known in the heraldic world (e.g., four different coats bearing the Campbell gyronny field; or the Howard arms with the famous augmentation granted following the Battle of Flodden).

Note also the carved "ropes" running from the top and bottom of each shield to connect the generations, and the initials of the husband and wife in the four corners of each panel.

Just another way of impressing visitors of the importance of the family. And a great way of showing off a lot of heraldry!

Monday, April 9, 2018

An Update on an Unidentified Coat of Arms in St. Cuthbert's Church, Dalmeny

In my post of October 5, 2017 (, there was a coat of arms in one of the three windows that was not identified, but was possibly related to the anonymous donor of the windows, who had them made for the church in memory of his mother.

Reader Ralf Hartemink (who runs the website Heraldry of the World at; if you have any interest in civic heraldry and have never seen his site before, I cannot recommend it to you highly enough. I use it all the time when researching civic coats of arms) has come forward with a possible identification for the arms: the Polish family Prawdzic of the herb Szlachecki, here (image from

Prawdzic herb szlachecki

Historically, the arms had the golden lion on an argent (silver) background, as exemplified in this redrawing from the Gelre armorial:

I'd like to thank Ralf for letting me know about this Polish coat of arms, and think that we may have made the anonymous donor of this window a little less anonymous.

Now _This_ Is an Heraldic Ceiling!

In another of the rooms at Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute, there was this very nice (and heraldic!) ceiling, the central portion of which was this:

I am assuming that this is actually someone's birth star chart, showing the locations of many of the stars, the sun, the moon (and its phase), and the planets on his natal day.

And as you can see in this close-up of the central arms, the whole thing is done in exquisite detail.

These are, of course, the arms of Stuart (Or a fess checky azure and argent within a double tressure flory counter-flory gules) surmounted by the coronet of a marquess, the whole surrounded by an extremely well-done oak wreath.

Just the sort of thing you need to say to everyone who sees it, "Yes, this is me on my natal day." and also to add, whether you say it in Mel Brooks's voice from his movie History of the World, Part I or not, "It's good to be the Marquess."

Thursday, April 5, 2018

More Heraldic Display in the Chapel

But the ceiling of the chapel at Mount Stuart (reviewed in my last post) isn't the only heraldic display there. Around the edge of the the gallery at the base of the "dome" of the chapel were a number of shields and supporters.

The red color tinting the white marble interior was from the sun shortly before sunset shining in through the stained glass windows on the western side of the chapel.

The coats of arms were left in their semi-finished state after the death of the 3rd Marquess on October 9, 1900, owing mostly the expense of continuing the work. (You've been able to see over the last several posts the quantity and quality of some of the work that was put into the house, but that quantity and quality came with a heavy price tag, and it couldn't be kept up forever.)

The arms are the quartered arms of Crichton-Stuart, Quarterly: 1 and 2, Or a fess checky argent and azure within a double-tressure flory counterflory gules (Stuart); 2 and 3, Argent a lion rampant azure (Crichton), with the horse and stag supporters.

Just imagine what they all would have looked like together with all of the tinctures of the arms painted in!

Monday, April 2, 2018

An Heraldic Chapel Ceiling

Many of the larger houses in Great Britain (and other countries, too) have private chapels attached to them. The chapel at Mount Stuart has one of the prettiest ceilings that I have ever seen.

Of course, the fact that there's some heraldry in there doesn't hurt. There are shields of the Stuart,


and Windsor

coats of arms on some of the ceiling bosses.

In the picture of this last coat you can see better details of the stars which cover the ceiling of the chapel.

In the picture of the Crichton arms, you can see some the intricate detailing along the edges of the
arch supports.

What an amazing amount of work went into the creation of this chapel ceiling!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Another Armorial Painting

Continuing our review of some of the heraldry in Mount Stuart, we came across this armorial gem.

The identification of the subject is made pretty easy, as in addition to the coat of arms above his right shoulder, there is an inscription above his left:

Lorde Gvylyam,
Erell of Penbroke

This is most likely, based on a review of the lives and times of the few Williams, Earls of Pembroke/Penbroke, "William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke, K.G. Master of the Horse 1548-52, President of the Royal Council in Wales 1550-3 and 1555-8, and Captain General of the English Army in France 1557, who was installed a knight of the Garter in 1549, and elevated to the peerage as Baron Herbert of Cardiff, co. Glamorgan, 10 Oct. 1551, and on the morrow, created Earl of Pembroke. ... He d. 17 March, 1569-70, and was buried in the cathedral of St. Paul's on the 18th April following."

(It is also possible, though I think less likely based on his suit, that this is a portrait of "William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke, K.G., chancellor of the University of Oxford, and lord-chamberlain of the household, b. 8 April 1580, m. 4 Nov. 1604, Mary, eldest dau. of Gilbert, 7th Earl of Shrewsbury, and co-heir to the Baronies of Talbot, Strange, Blackmere, and Furnival; but d. without surviving issue, 10 April, 1630, when the honours devolved upon his brother, Philip.")

The arms, placed within the Garter (note the painting also shows him wearing the collar of the Order of the Garter), have Herbert (Per pale azure and gules three lions rampant argent, seen in other locations in Mount Stuart; for example, in the stained glass window below) in the first quarter differenced by a bordure compony. And in fess point there is a crescent or for difference, the cadency mark of a second son.

These differences - the bordure and the crescent - stem from the time the Earldom came back into the Herbert family, following it's being held by Edward Plantagenet, son and heir of King Edward IV, and then by Anne Bullen (or Boleyn), created Marchioness of Penbroke by King Henry VIII in 1532.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Family History in a Couple of Armorial Paintings

In my last post, you may have noticed a distinctive coat of arms at the top of one of the stained glass windows: Gules crusilly or a saltire argent. (That coat can also be found adorning the chapel at Mount Stuart, below.)

This coat of arms came into the Stuart (and later, Crichton-Stuart) family from the marriage of John Stuart, Viscount Montstuart, and Charlotte Jane Hickman-Windsor, daughter of Herbert Windsor, 2nd Viscount Windsor, and Alice Clavering. As heir to her father's estates, Charlotte brought some very large estates, especially in south Wales, with her into the marriage.

John Stuart, Viscount Mount Stuart, in 1776 was elevated to the peerage in his own right as Baron Cardiff of Cardiff Castle owing to his wife's lands in Wales. In 1792, he succeeded his late father as the 4th Earl of Bute, and in 1794 was created Viscount Mountjoy, Earl of Windsor (both titles held by his late father-in-law), and (1st) Marquess of Bute.

As you can see from the detail of the portrait above, he bears the Windsor arms in pretense (in right of his wife), and has surmounted the shield with a the coronet of a baron (as the title of Viscount was a courtesy title from his father).

And here, I believe, is a portrait of Charlotte Jane Hickman-Windsor, though the clothes she is wearing here are from a good 150 years (or more) before this time. Could it actually be a painting of one of her female ancestors? That is certainly possible, but I have found no likely candidates in the history of the Windsors. Were they painting portraits of 18th Century women wearing late 16th-early 17th Century clothing? I have no idea.

In any event, these are but two of several armorial portraits hung in some of the rooms at Mount Stuart. We'll be looking at more in upcoming posts, so as they say on TV, "stay tuned!"

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Speaking of Genealogical Displays of Heraldry

Though not quite as involved as the heraldic family tree ceiling in our last post, one of the staircases in Mount Stuart has some very impressive stained glass windows which describe some of the marriages within the family over the years.

Most noticeable are the arms of the Stuarts (Or a fess checky azure and argent within a double tressure flory counter-flory gules) and the Herberts (Per pale azure and gules three lions rampant argent), but you'll see a number of other families represented here as well.

(You may recognize the Herbert arms from the BBC television series Downton Abbey, which was filmed at Highclere Castle, the home of Herbert, Lord Carnarvon. The main gallery in the castle, which appeared throughout the series, has a number of shields around the first floor [second floor, to my American readers] balcony with the arms of Herbert, often impaling the arms of one or another of the women who married into the family. But I digress.)

Notice how they have continued the literal family "tree" motif here.

It's a remarkably impressive display of heraldry and family alliances.