Jessant-de-lys Reversed – A Blog about Heraldry
I wanted to say a bit about heraldry after a brief allusion in Tewkesbury Banners.
Heraldry used to be for individual men and families but we see it more often now for towns, counties and organisations. [Sorry but heraldry is very sexist. Women were not considered relevant until very recently.]
I won’t say much about where I found these pictures. It’s more of a general introduction to heraldry.
The Arms of Cheltenham
The official blazon granted to the town of Cheltenham in 1877 is as follows: Arms: Or a Chevron engrailed Gules between two Pigeons in chief and an Oak Tree eradicated in base proper on a Chief Azure a Cross flory Argent between two open Books also proper binding and clasps of the first. Crest: On a Wreath of the Colours upon a Mount between two Branches of Oak a Fountain thereon a Pigeon all proper. Motto: ‘SALUBRITAS ET ERUDITIO’
You could write the blazon in more modern English as: Arms: Gold with a wavy red chevron. Two pigeons above the chevron and an oak tree with its roots exposed below it in their natural colours. A blue area at the top has a silver cross with flowery ends between two open books with gold bindings and clasps. Crest: A wreath of gold and red (taken from the arms) with a crest of two oak sprigs and a pigeon on a ball of water. Motto: Health and learning (Latin.)
[The representation of water with wavy blue and white is so common that it has its own heraldicword – ‘a Fountain.’]
You can see the meaning of the arms when you understand the story that the spa waters were supposedly discovered after observing pigeons at a local spring. The blue background at the top represents the spa waters; the cross is the cross of Edward the Confessor who once owned much of the land that is now Cheltenham; and the books incorporate the learning as a result of the establishment of the Ladies College and the College for boys. The oak symbolizes Cheltenham’s position, both historical and today, as one of Britain’s foremost garden towns.
You see these arms around the town, not just representing the town but displaying the authority of Cheltenham Borough Council.
You will notice that colours are not defined beyond a single word. The yellow described as ‘Or’ originally represented gold so it may have a metallic sheen or it may be anything from a pale yellow to brown. You can even engrave the arms in stone without any use of colour!
There is a strange division in the Church where the Dean and Chapter hold a cathedral while the Bishop as pastor of his diocese or ‘see’ visits the cathedral only on the invitation of the Chapter. At Hereford Cathedral the arms of the Cathedral and those of the Bishop are given equal prominence.
I can’t trace the arms of the Cathedral (Or five chevronels azure) but the Bishop of Hereford has unusual arms derived from Bishop Thomas Cantilupe in the Thirteenth Century. They are Gules, three leopard’s faces jessant-de-lys reversed Or. [The leopards have fleur-de-lys emerging from their faces and are upside-down.]
As you wander round Hereford you will also spot the arms of the city and its surrounding county.
The City of Hereford has Arms: Gules three Lions passant guardant in pale Argent on a Bordure Azure ten Saltires of the second. Crest: On a Wreath of the Colours a Lion passant guardant Argent holding in the dexter paw a Sword erect proper hilt and pomel Or.
The arms were recorded (without the ‘bordure,’) at the Visitations of 1569 and 1634, and were augmented with crest and supporters in 1645. Hereford bore on an early seal the Royal Arms of Richard I, who gave the City its first Royal Charter in 1189. These were three gold lions on a red background, later to become the Royal Arms of England. [See below.] Hereford seems to have coloured the lions silver to create a distinctive (but unauthorized) coat of arms. The rest of the design, the border with ten saltires, dates from 1645 when the City supported the King during the civil war and kept the Cromwellian troops at bay for approximately five weeks. King Charles I was delighted and visited the City in order to thank them personally. He dined at the Bishop’s Palace and at the end of this dinner he is alleged to have made the Grant of the Coat of Arms, which the City of Hereford now possesses. The lions surrounded by saltires, or St Andrew’s Crosses, represent the Royalist forces hemmed in by the insurgent Scots.
The County of Herefordshire has Arms: Gules on a Fesse wavy between in chief a Lion passant guardant Argent and in base a Herefordshire Bull’s Head caboshed proper a Bar wavy Azure.
The arms were officially granted in 1946 to the Herefordshire County Council and re-adopted in 1998 by the new County of Herefordshire District Council.
The red background is taken form the arms of the City of Hereford and also represents the red earth of Herefordshire. The silver lion is from the arms of the City of Hereford, and in base is a Herefordshire Bull’s head. The silver and blue wave represents the River Wye.
Oxford – City, County and University
The arms of the City of Oxford recorded in 1634 from a Fourteenth Century seal are based on the heraldic device of ‘canting,’ showing an ox crossing a ford! Arms: Argent an Ox Gules armed and unguled Or passing over a Ford of Water in base barry wavy Azure and Argent.
The county arms of Oxfordshire, granted in 1976, represent the Thames and its tributaries with elements of nature (the oak tree) and agriculture. In heraldry a ‘garb’ is a sheaf of wheat. They were still seen in 1976 before automated harvesting machines took over. Arms: Azure two Bendlets wavy Argent between in chief a Garb Or and in base an Oak Tree fructed Or.
The University of Oxford also has its Arms: Azure, an open book proper, edged and garnished Or, leathered gules, pendent from the dexter side thereof seven seals gold, the pages inscribed ‘Dominus illuminatio mea’, the whole between three open crowns also gold.
As for Cheltenham, books are associated with learning. The inscription of the book has varied from time to time; it currently reads ‘Dominus illuminatio mea’ or ‘The Lord is my light.’
You will notice the modern trend to simplify heraldry into simplified logos.
Here we have city and university together.
The University consists of about forty colleges and halls, each with its own arms. I bought myself a postcard to help me with identification but it doesn’t show them all.
I did manage to spot Magdalen College Oxford in this strangely reversed version done in a cut glass pattern on a transparent door.
You can probably do the blazon for yourself. It’s Lozengy ermine and sable, on a chief of the second three lilies argent slipped and seeded or. [Don’t worry about ‘slipped and seeded.’ Heraldry likes to put in tiny details like seeds, tongues and claws.]
I wasn’t sure about the next two. (Ignore the two on the left and right.)
Both are University College, Oxford. Wikipedia conveniently gives the blazon: Azure, a cross patonce between four [sometimes five] martlets or.
If you were wondering about the cross, which looks ‘flory’ like the Cheltenham arms above, then Wikipedia also notes – a cross fleury (or flory) is a cross adorned at the ends with flowers. It generally contains fleur-de-lis, trefoils, etc. Synonyms or minor variants include fleuretty, fleuronny, floriated and flourished. In early armory it is not consistently distinguished from the cross patonce.
Martlets are common in heraldry. They are birds, something like swallows, but without feet.
All Souls College (officially The Warden and the College of the Souls of All Faithful People Deceased in the University of Oxford) is unusual in that all of its members automatically become Fellows. It has no undergraduate members, but each year recent graduates of the university and graduates of other universities now registered as postgraduate students at Oxford are eligible to apply for Examination Fellowships through a competitive examination (once described as “the hardest exam in the world”) and, for the several shortlisted after the examinations, an interview.
Its arms entered at the Visitation of 1574 are: Or, a chevron between three cinquefoils gules.
As we have seen above, the Royal Arms of England started with Richard I as: Gules three lions passant guardant in pale Or armed and langued azure. (Red, three gold lions, walking with one paw raised, sideways but with their heads turned to look at the viewer, lined vertically above each other, with blue claws and tongues.)
Since then there have been several changes, adding the arms of France (later removed) and Scotland (the single lion with a very complicated border – a double tressure flory-counter-flory) and Ireland. The arms of the United Kingdom can now be blazoned simply as Quarterly 1 and 4 England 2 Scotland 3 Ireland.
This one dates from Elizabeth I or possibly earlier and is Quarterly France modern and England. (France ancient had lots of fleur-de-lys, not just three.)
Next from the Seventeenth Century, two quarters are Quarterly France modern and England. The others are Scotland and Ireland.
You probably can’t see the details in the next pictures but they are for George V so they have lost the French parts. They must be Quarterly 1 and 4 England 2 Scotland 3 Ireland.
The motif of the England national football team has three lions passant guardant, as in the English arms but the lions are blue. In 1949 when the FA was given an official coat of arms by the College of Arms that includes ten Tudor roses, one for each of the regional branches of the FA.
Bournemouth has an interesting coat of arms using just two colours. The blazon, granted in 1891, is quite complicated (but the important word is ‘counterchanged’) Arms: Quarterly Or and Azure a Cross flory between a Lion rampant holding between the paws a Rose in the first and fourth quarters six Martlets two two and two in the second and four Salmons naiant and in pale in the third all counterchanged. Crest: On a Wreath of the Colours upon a Mount Vert a Pine Tree proper in front four Roses fessewise Or. Motto: ‘PULCHRITUDO ET SALUBRITAS’ – Beauty and health.
[OK, I will try to re-order the words and translate and expand the blazon to make sense: Divided into quarters of gold and blue. A cross with flowery ends covers the shield. On the first and fourth quarters a lion holding a rose. On the second quarter six footless birds arranged as two by three. On the third quarter four salmon vertically aligned and swimming horizontally. Everything is just gold and blue with counter-changing.]
The arms are based on the Royal Arms of King Edward the Confessor, in whose Royal estate the area now known as Bournemouth was situated. The four salmon represent the River Stour, which marks the boundary between Christchurch and Bournemouth. The roses in the paws of the lions are the English roses and are also a part of the arms of the county of Hampshire.
The Russel-Cotes Museum at Bournemouth was given by Mervyn Russel-Cotes, who was the Mayor of Bournemouth to his wife – so it has this arrangement with the arms of Bournemouth and, presumably, those of Russel-Cotes. I’m not sure how it manages three helmets and crests!
Diversion – Istria
The Istrian peninsular has a long and complicated history. It now spans the countries of Croatia, Slovenia and Italy but it was founded in 1062 as an independent state, then acquired by the patriarchs of Aquileja, and in the late Thirteenth Century it became part of the State of Venice. It still uses the arms used by the Doges of Venice.
I can’t find a blazon but I would describe it as: Azure a goat Or armed and unglued Gules.
We went to the town of Koper now in Slovenia. Its old city, which used to be an island, keeps the Italian name of Capodistria (formerly Capo D’Istria) and uses its old arms.
It’s not unknown to show a face on a star. This one looks like a Molet of eight points over an Estoile of eight points although I suspect it is blazoned in Croatian as a star. The arms were not granted until 1997 but have been used at least since the Nineteenth Century. In the past it has been shown as a Medusa head, which may either be the original arms (from which the sun was derived), or a misinterpretation of the sun.
They were so fond of this star that they used it on the pavement to mark a walk round the historic city.
More Arms in England
You can find coats of arms on signs in many places. Apart from those for towns, counties and universities they may represent independent schools or even be used as pub signs.
Sadly English pubs are disappearing rapidly or becoming restaurants. Those that are left change their names and very few still have pictorial pub signs – and some of the signs are not very good. The sign for the Kings Arms above does not represent any king. You will be able to do the blazon yourself by now as: Quarterly ermine and gules. An Internet search reveals these arms as appearing in the heraldry of the Bedford Chapel, Chenies Buckinghamshire for a man called Stanhope.
The town of Tewkesbury seems to avoid using its full arms perhaps to concentrate on its displayed banners. I did find this ‘Castle proper,’ which is a small part of the full shield.
I will end with more examples. You may be able to identify some of them.
Here is a brief heraldic dictionary to help you. I have only included words I have used (including some from the Tewkesbury Banners blog post) and I have simplified some definitions.
Achievement – a full set of arms. The shield or ‘escutcheon’ often called the ‘arms’ has a helmet (or crown etc.) topped by a ‘torse’ (a circle of twisted material in two colours) and a ‘crest’ with ‘supporters’ at each side and ‘mantling’ behind. All of this is on a ‘compartment’ and a ‘motto.’ Most of my pictures just show the shield.
Argent – strictly ‘silver’ but in practice usually ‘white.’
Armed – with horns.
Azure – blue. It can be any shade of blue.
Bar – a thinner form of Fess, hence ‘barry’ meaning in horizontal strips.
Bend – a diagonal stripe. (Bend Sinister goes the other way.)
Bendlet – a thinner bend.
Bezant – a Roundel Or, representing a coin.
Blazon – the official heraldic description in a mixture of English and old French often with unexpected word order and no punctuation.
Bordure – a border all the way round the shield.
Caboshed – cut so that only the face shows.
Chief – a block along the top of the shield, hence ‘in chief’ meaning ‘at the top.’
Chevron – an inverted ‘V’ shape.
Chevronel – a narrow chevron.
Counter-changed – a term that normally means that the two sides of a shield are almost identical mirror images but with the colours reversed. (You can also have quarters counter-changed.)
Crest – part of the complex Achievement of arms, usually on a torse covering a helmet.
Cross flory or patonce – a cross with shaped ends. (There are many different forms of cross.)
Dexter – right, from the perspective of the wearer, so left on the page! [Stage Right – Audience Left!]
Engrailed or Invected are like Wavy but with points on one side. (There are many forms of modified edges.)
Eradicated – of a tree, torn up by its roots. (Similarly animal heads may be ‘erased.’)
Ermine – a kind of fur represented as white (argent) with regularly spaced black (sable) tails.
Fess – a block across the middle.
First – ‘Of the first’ means the first colour to be mentioned in the blazon.
Fountain – a Roundel Barry Wavy Azure and Or, usually representing water.
Fretty – with a basket-like criss-cross pattern.
Fructed – with fruit.
Garb – a sheaf of corn.
Gules – red.
Indented – a zig-zag version of ‘wavy.’
Jessant-de-lys with a fleur-de-lys coming from its mouth.
Lozenge – a diamond shape. Lozengy means a diagonal checked pattern.
Martlet – a bird without feet.
Molet or Mullet – a star with straight edges, usually of five points. (An estoile has wavy edges.)
Naiant – swimming. It just means that the fish is horizontal.
Nebuly – a more ornate form of Wavy. It’s even wavier.
Or – gold or yellow.
Pale – A stripe down the middle, hence ‘in pale’ means vertically aligned in the middle. ‘Per pale’ means divided by a vertical line.
Passant guardant – one of many way a lion can stand. (Salient is another.)
Quarterly – it can mean divided into quarters but you can have a ‘quarterly of six’ or other numbers.
Reversed – upside down.
Roundel – a small circle.
Sable – black.
Saltire – a diagonal cross.
Sinister – left. See ‘Dexter.’
Supporters – animals shown at the sides of a shield.
Torteau – roundel Gules (tart.)
Unguled – with hooved feet.
Vair – a blue and white pattern supposedly representing the skins of squirrels.
Wavy – as it says, wavy, not a straight line.
As well as Wikipedia I have taken some of my information from Heraldry of the World at www.ngw.nl/heraldrywiki/