A Complete Guide to Heraldry/Chapter 21
If uncertainty exists as to the origin of arms, it is as nothing to the huge uncertainty that exists concerning the beginnings of the crest. Most wonderful stories are told concerning it; that it meant this and meant the other, that the right to bear a crest was confined to this person or the other person. But practically the whole of the stories of this kind are either wild imagination or conjecture founded upon insufficient facts.
The real facts—which one may as well state first as a basis to work upon—are very few and singularly unconvincing, and are useless as original data from which to draw conclusions.
First of all we have the definite, assured, and certain fact that the earliest known instance of a crest is in 1198, and we find evidence of the use of arms before that date.
The next fact is that we find infinitely more variation in the crests used by given families than in the arms, and that whilst the variations in the arms are as a rule trivial, and not affecting the general design of the shield, the changes in the crest are frequently radical, the crest borne by a family at one period having no earthly relation to that borne by the same family at another.
Again, we find that though the occasional use of a crest can (by isolated instances) be taken back, as already stated, to a fairly early period, the use of crests did not become general until very much later.
Another fact is that, except perhaps in the persons of sovereigns, there is no official instance, nor any other authentic instance of importance, in which a crest appears ever to have been used by a woman until these recent and unfortunate days when unofficial examples can be found of the wildest ignorance of all armorial rules.
The foregoing may be taken as general principles which no authentic instance known can be said to refute.
Bearing these in mind, let us now see what other results can be obtained by deduction from specific instances.
The earliest form in which anything can be found in the nature of a crest is the lion upon the head-dress of Geoffrey, Count of Anjou (Fig. 28). This has been already referred to.
The helmet of Philippe D'Alsace, Count of Flanders (c. 1181), has painted upon the side the same figure of a lion which appears upon his shield.
What is usually accepted as the earliest authenticated instance of a regular crest is that afforded by the Great Seal of King Richard I. of England, which shows over the helmet a lion passant painted upon the fan-shaped ornament which surmounts the helmet.
If one accepts—as most people nowadays are inclined to do—the Darwinian theory of evolution, the presumption is that the development of the human being, through various intermediate links including the ape, can be traced back to those cell-like formations which are the most "original" types of life which are known to us. At the same time one is hardly disposed to assert that some antediluvian jellyfish away back in past ages was the first human being. By a similar, but naturally more restricted argument, one cannot accept these paintings upon helmets, nor possibly can one accept paintings upon the fan-like ornaments which surmounted the helmet, as examples of crests. The rudiments and origin of crests doubtless they were. Crests they were not.
We must go back, once again, to the bed-rock of the peacock-popinjay vanity ingrained in human nature. The same impulse which nowadays leads to the decoration of the helmets of the Life Guards with horsehair plumes and regimental badges, the cocked hats of field-marshals and other officers with waving plumes, the képis of commissionaires, and the smasher hats of Colonial irregulars with cocks' feathers, the hat of the poacher and gamekeeper with a pheasant's feather, led unquestionably to the "decoration" of the helmets of the armoured knights of old. The matter was just a combination of decoration and vanity. At first (Fig. 569) they frequently painted their helmets, and as with the gradual evolution and crystallisation of armory a certain form of decoration (the device upon his shield) became identified with a certain person, that particular device was used for the decoration of the helmet and painted thereupon.
Then it was found that a fan-shaped erection upon the helmet improved its appearance, and, without adding greatly to its weight, advantaged it as a head protection by attracting the blow of an opponent's sword, and lessening or nullifying its force ere the blow reached the actual crown-plates of the helmet. Possibly in this we see the true origin (as in the case of the scalloped edges of the mantling) of the serrated border which appears upon these fan-shaped erections. But this last suggestion is no more than a conjecture of my own, and may not be correct, for human nature has always had a weakness for decoration, and ever has been agreeable to pay the extra penny in the "tuppence" for the coloured or decorated variety. The many instances which can be found of these fan-shaped ornaments upon helmets in a perfectly undecorated form leads me to unhesitatingly assert that they originated not as crests, nor as a vehicle for the display of crests, but as an integral and protective part of the helmet itself. The origin of the crest is due to the decoration of the fan. The derivation of the word "crest," from the Latin crista, a cock's comb, should put the supposition beyond any doubt.
Disregarding crests of later grant or assumption, one can assert with confidence that a large proportion of those—particularly in German armory, where they are so frequent—which we now find blazoned or depicted as wings or plumes, carrying a device, are nothing more than developments of or derivatives from these fan-shaped ornaments.
Fig. 610.—From the seal (1301) of Richard FitzAlan, Earl of Arundel.
Fig. 611.—From the seal (1301) of Humphrey de Bohm, Earl of Hereford.
Fig. 612.—From the seal (1305) of Edward of Carnarvon, Prince of Wales.
These fans being (from other reasons) in existence, of course, and very naturally, were painted and decorated, and equally of course such decoration took the form of the particular decoration associated with the owner, namely, the device upon the shield. It seems to me, and for long has so seemed, essentially strange that no specialist authority, writing upon armory, has noticed that these "fans" (as I will call them) are really a part, though possibly only a decorative part, of the helmet itself. There has always in these matters been far too great a tendency on the part of writers to accept conclusions of earlier authorities ready made, and to simply treat these fans as selected and chosen crests. Figs. 610-612 are instances of helmets having these fans. All are taken from seals, and it is quite possible that the actual fans upon the seal helmets had some device painted upon them which it was impossible by reason of the size to represent upon the seal. As has been already stated, the great seal of Richard I. does show a lion painted on the fan.
There are many examples of the heraldic development of these fans,—for their use obtained even in this country long after the real heraldic crest had an assured footing—and a typical example occurs in Fig. 613, but probably the best-known instance, one which has been often illustrated, is that from the effigy of Sir Geoffrey de Luttrell (c. 1340), which shows a fan of this character upon which the entire Luttrell arms are depicted.
Fig. 613.—Arms of the family of Schaler (Basle): Gules, a bend of lozenges argent. (From the Zürich Roll of Arms.)
Fig. 614.—Modern reverse of the Common Seal of the City of London (1539).
A much later instance in this country will be found in the seal (dated 1539) of the City of London, which shows upon the helmet one of these fan-shaped ornaments, charged with the cross of the City arms (Fig. 614).
The arms of the City of London are recorded in the College of Arms (Vincent) without a crest (and by the way without supporters) and this seal affords a curious but a very striking and authentic instance of the extreme accuracy of the records of the College of Arms. There being no crest for the City of London at the time of the preparation of this seal, recourse was had to the ancient practice of depicting the whole or a part (in this case a part) of the device of the shield upon a fan surmounting the helmet. In course of time this fan, in the case of London, as in so many other cases, has through ignorance been converted or developed into a wing, but the "rays" of the fan in this instance are preserved in the "rays" of the dragon's wing (charged with a cross) which the crest is now supposed to be.
Whilst dealing with the arms of London, one of the favourite "flaring" examples of ancient but unrecorded arms often mentioned as an instance in which the Records of the College of Arms are at fault, perhaps I may be pardoned for adding that the shield is recorded. The crest and supporters are not. The seeming omission as to the crest is explained above. The real supporters of the City of London, to which a claim by user could (even now) be established (they are two lions, not dragons), had, with the single exception of their use upon the Mayor's seal, which use is continued to the present day, been practically discarded. Consequently the lions as supporters remained unclaimed, and therefore are not recorded.
The supporters now used (two dragons) are raw new adornments, of which no example can be found before the seventeenth century. Those naturally, being "assumed" without authority at so recent a date, are not recorded, which is yet another testimony to the impartial accuracy of the Heralds' College Records.
The use of the fan-crest has long been obsolete in British armory, in which it can hardly ever be said to have had a very great footing, unless such use was prevalent in the thirteenth century; but it still survives in Germany at the present day, where, in spite of the fact that many of these fans have now degenerated into reduplications of the arms upon wings or plumes of feathers, other crests to a considerable number are still displayed upon "fans."
Many of the current practices in British armory are the culmination of long-continued ignorance. Some, mayhap, can be allowed to pass without comment, but others deserve at any rate their share of criticism and remark. Amongst such may be included the objectionable practice, in the grants of so many modern crests, of making the crest itself a shield carrying a repetition of the arms or some other device, or of introducing in the crest an escutcheon. To the resuscitation of these "fan" repetitions of the shield device there is not, and cannot be, any objection. One would even, in these days of the multiplication of differentiated crests, recommend this as a relief from the abominable rows of assorted objects nowadays placed (for the purposes of differentiation) in front of so many modern crests. One would gladly see a reversion to the German development (from this source) of wings charged with the arms or a part of the armorial device; but one of the things a new grantee should pray to be delivered from is an escutcheon of any sort, shape, or form in the crest assigned to him.
To return, however, to the "fans" upon the early helmets. Many of the examples which have come down to us show the fan of a rather diminutive height, but (in the form of an arc of a much enlarged circle) projected far forward beyond the front of the helmet, and carried far back, apparently as a safeguard from blows which would otherwise descend upon the neck. (A survival of the fan, by the way, may perhaps be found in the dragoon helmets of the time of the Peninsular War, in the firemen's helmets of to-day, and in the helmets now worn by different regiments in the Italian army.) The very shape of these fans should prove they were originally a protective part of the helmet. The long low shape, however, did not, as a general circumstance, lend itself to its decoration by a duplication thereupon of the whole of the arms. Consequently these fans will nearly always be found simply adorned with one figure from the shield. It should not be forgotten that we are now dealing with a period in armory when the charges upon the shield itself were very much, as far as number and position are concerned, of an indeterminate character. If they were indeterminate for the shield, it evidences that there cannot have been any idea of a necessity to repeat the whole of the device upon the fan. As there was seldom room or opportunity for the display of the whole device, we invariably find that these fan decorations were a duplication of a distinctive part, but not necessarily the whole of the device; and this device was disposed in the most suitable position which the shape of the fan would accommodate. Herein is the explanation of the fact that whilst the arms of Percy, Talbot, and Mowbray were all, in varying tinctures, a lion rampant, the crest in each case was a lion passant or statant. In short, the fan did not lend itself to the representation of a lion rampant, and consequently there is no early instance of such a crest. Perhaps the insecurity of a large and heavy crest balanced upon one leg may be an added reason.
The next step in the evolution of the crest, there can be little doubt, was the cutting of the fan into the outline of the crest, and though I know of no instance of such a crest on any effigy, there can be no reasonable doubt on the point, if a little thought is given to the matter. Until a very much later period, we never find in any heraldic representation that the helmet or crest are represented in an affronté position. Why? Simply because crests at that period were merely profile representations.
In later days, when tournament crests were made of leather, the weight even of these was very considerable, but for tournament purposes that weight could be endured. Half-a-dozen courses down the barrière would be a vastly different matter to a whole day under arms in actual battle. Now a crest cut out from a thin plate of metal set on edge would weigh but little. But perhaps the strongest proof of all is to be found in the construction of so many German crests, which are adorned down the back with a fan.
Now it is hardly likely, if the demi-lion in relief had been the earliest form, that the fan would have been subsequently added to it. The fan is nothing more than the remains of the original fan-shaped ornament left when the crest, or most likely only the front outline of it, had been cut out in profile from the fan. We have no instance until a very much later period of a crest which could not be depicted in profile, and in the representations of crests upon seals we have no means of forming a certain judgment that these representations are not of profile crests, for the very nature of the craft of seal-engraving would lead the engraver to add a certain amount of relief, even if this did not actually exist. It is out of the question to suppose, by reason of their weight, that crests were made in metal. But if made of leather, as were the tournament crests, what protection did the crest add to the helmet? The fact that wreaths and coronets did not come into use at the earliest advent of crests is confirmatory evidence of the fact that modelled crests did not exist, inasmuch as the fan prolonged in front and prolonged behind was narrowed at its point of contact with the helmet into such a diminished length that it was comparatively easy to slip the mantling by means of a slit over the fan, or even drape it round it.
Many of the old illustrations of tournaments and battles which have come down to us show no crests on the helmets, but merely plumes of feathers or some fan-shaped erection. Consequently it is a fairly safe conclusion that for the actual purposes of warfare modelled crests never had any real existence, or, if they had any such existence, that it was most limited. Modelled crests were tournament crests. The crests that were used in battle must have been merely cut out in profile from the fan. Then came the era, in Plantagenet times, of the tournament. We talk glibly about tournaments, but few indeed really know much about them. Trial by combat and the real tournament à l'outrance seldom occurred, and though trial by combat remained upon the statute-book until the 59 Geo. III., it was seldom invoked. Tournaments were chiefly in the nature of athletic displays, taking the place of our games and sports, and inasmuch as they contributed to the training of the soldier, were held in the high repute that polo, for example, now enjoys amongst the upper and military classes. Added to this, the tournament was the essential climax of ceremony and ceremonial, and in all its details was ordered by such strict regulations, rules, and supervision that its importance and its position in the public and official estimate was far in advance of its present-day equivalents.
The joust was fought with tilting-spears, the "tourney" with swords. The rules and regulations for jousts and tournaments drawn up by the High Constable of England in the reign of Edward IV. show clearly that in neither was contemplated any risk of life.
In the tourney the swords were blunted and without points, but the principal item was always the joust, which was fought with tilting-spears and shields. Many representations of the tourney show the participants without shields. The general ignorance as to the manner in which the tilt was run is very widespread. A strong barrier was erected straight down the centre of the lists, and the knights were placed one on either side, so that by no possible chance could the two horses come into contact. Those who will read Mallory's "Morte d'Arthur" carefully—bearing in mind that Mallory described legendary events of an earlier period clothed in the manners and customs of his own day (time of Edward IV.), and made no attempt to reproduce the manners and customs and real atmosphere of the Arthurian times, which could have had no relation to the manners and proceedings which Sir Thomas Mallory employs in telling his legends—will notice that, when it came to jousting, some half-dozen courses would be all that were run between contending knights. In fact the tournament rules above referred to say, for the tourney, that two blows at passage and ten at the joining ought to suffice. The time which this would occupy would not exceed the period for which any man could easily sustain the weight of a modelled crest.
Fig. 615.—Crest of Roger de Quincey, Earl of Winchester (d. 1264). (From his seal.)
Fig. 616.—Crest of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster. (From his seal, 1301.)
Another point needs to be borne in mind. The result of a joust depended upon the points scored, the highest number being gained for the absolute unhorsing of an opponent. This, however, happened comparatively seldom, and points or "spears" were scored for the lances broken upon an opponent's helmet, shield, or body, and the points so scored were subject to deduction if the opponent's horse were touched, and under other circumstances. The head of the tilting-spear which was used was a kind of rosette, and heraldic representations are really incorrect in adding a point when the weapon is described as a tilting-spear. Whilst a fine point meeting a wooden shield or metal armour would stick in the one or glance off the other, and neither result in the breaking of the lance nor in the unhorsing of the opponent, a broad rosette would convey a heavy shock. But to effect the desired object the tilting-spear would need to meet resistance, and little would be gained by knocking off an opponent's ornamental crest. Certainly no prize appears to have been allotted for the performance of this feat (which always attracts the imagination of the novelist), whilst there was for striking the "sight" of the helmet. Consequently there was nothing to be gained from the protection to the helmet which the fan of earlier date afforded, and the tendency of ceremonial led to the use in tournaments of helmets and elaborate crests which were not those used in battle. The result is that we find these tournament or ceremonial crests were of large and prominent size, and were carved in wood, or built up of leather. But I firmly believe that these crests were used only for ceremonial and tournament purposes, and were never actually worn in battle. That these modelled crests in relief are the ones that we find upon effigies is only natural, and what one would expect, inasmuch as a man's effigy displayed his garments and accoutrements in the most ornate and honourable form. The same idea exists at the present day. The subjects of modern effigies and modern portraits are represented in robes, and with insignia which are seldom if ever worn, and which sometimes even have no existence in fact. In the same way the ancient effigies are the representations of the ceremonial dress and not the everyday garb of those for whom they stand. But even allowing all the foregoing, it must be admitted that it is from these ceremonial or tournament helmets and crests that the heraldic crest has obtained its importance, and herein lies the reason of the exaggerated size of early heraldic crests, and also the unsuitability of some few for actual use. Tournaments were flourishing in the Plantagenet, Yorkist, and Lancastrian periods, and ended with the days of the Tudor dynasty; and the Plantagenet period witnessed the rise of the ceremonial and heraldic crest. But in the days when crests had any actual existence they were made to fit the helmet, and the crests in Figs. 615-618 show crests very much more naturally disposed than those of later periods. Crests appear to have come into wider and more general use in Germany at an earlier period than is the case in this country, for in the early part of the thirteenth century seals are there to be met with having only the device of helmet and crest thereupon, a proof that the "oberwappen" (helmet and crest) was then considered of equal or greater value than the shield.
Fig. 617.—Crest of William de Montagu, Earl of Salisbury (d. 1344). (From his seal.)
Fig. 618.—Crest of Thomas de Mowbray, Earl of Nottingham, and Earl Marshal. (From a drawing of his seal, 1389: MS Cott., Julius, C. vii.)
The actual tournament crests were made of light material, pasteboard, cloth, or a leather shell over a wood or wire framework filled with tow, sponge, or sawdust. Fig. 271, which shows the shield, helmet, and crest of the Black Prince undoubtedly contemporary, dating from 1376, and now remaining in Canterbury Cathedral, is made of leather and is a good example of an actual crest, but even this, there can be little doubt, was never carried in battle or tournament, and is no more than a ceremonial crest made for the funeral pageant.
The heraldic wings which are so frequently met with in crests are not the natural wings of a bird, but are a development from the fan, and in actual crests were made of wooden or basket-work strips, and probably at an earlier date were not intended to represent wings, but were mere pieces of wood painted and existing for the display of a certain device. Their shape and position led to their transition into "wings," and then they were covered with dyed or natural-coloured feathers. It was the art of heraldic emblazonment which ignored the practical details, that first copied the wing from nature.
Actual crests were fastened to the helmets they surmounted by means of ribbons, straps, laces (which developed later into the fillet and torse), or rivets, and in Germany they were ornamented with hanging and tinkling metal leaves, tiny bells, buffalo horns, feathers, and projecting pieces of wood, which formed vehicles for still further decorative appendages.
Then comes the question, what did the crest signify? Many have asserted that no one below the rank of a knight had the right to use a crest; in fact some writers have asserted, and doubtless correctly as regards a certain period, that only those who were of tournament rank might assume the distinction, and herein lies another confirmation of the supposition that crests had a closer relation to the tournament than to the battlefield.Doubts as to a man's social position might disqualify him from participation in a tournament—hence the "helme-schau" previously referred to—but they certainly never relieved him from the obligations of warfare imposed by the tenure under which he held his lands. There is no doubt, however, that whatever the regulation may have been—and there seems little chance of our ever obtaining any real knowledge upon the point—the right to display a crest was an additional privilege and honour, something extra and beyond the right to a shield of arms. For how long any such supposition held good it is difficult to say, for whilst we find in the latter part of the fourteenth century that all the great nobles had assumed and were using crests, and whilst there is but one amongst the Plantagenet Garter plates without a crest where a helmet has been represented above the shield, we also find that the great bulk of the lesser landed gentry bore arms, but made no pretension to a crest. The lesser gentry were bound to fight in war, but not necessarily in the tournament. Arms were a necessity of warfare, crests were not. This continued to be the case till the end of the sixteenth century, for we find that at one of the Visitations no crests whatever are inserted with the arms and pedigrees of the families set out in the Visitation Book, and one is probably justified in assuming that whilst this state of feeling and this idea existed, the crest was highly thought of, and valued possibly beyond the shield of arms, for with those of that rank of life which aspired to the display of a crest the right to arms would be a matter of course. In the latter part of the reign of Queen Elizabeth and in Stuart days the granting of crests to ancient arms became a widespread practice. Scores upon scores of such grants can be referred to, and I have myself been led to the irresistible conclusion that the opportunity afforded by the grant of a crest was urged by the heralds and officers of arms, in order to give them the opportunity of confirming and recording arms which they knew needed such confirmation to be
rendered legal, without giving offence to those who had borne these arms merely by strength of user for some prolonged but at the same time insufficient period to confer an unquestioned right. That has always seemed to me the obvious reason which accounts for these numberless grants of crests to apparently existing arms, which arms are recited and emblazoned in the patents, because there are other grants of crests which can be referred to, though these are singularly few in number, in which the arms are entirely ignored. But as none of these grants, which are of a crest only, appear to have been made to families whose right to arms was not absolutely beyond question or dispute, the conclusion above recited appears to be irresistible. The result of these numerous grants of crests, which I look upon as carrying greater importance in the sense that they were also confirmations of the arms, resulted in the fact that the value and dignity of the crest slowly but steadily declined, and the cessation of tournaments and, shortly afterwards, the marked decline in funereal pageantry no doubt contributed largely to the same result. Throughout the Stuart period instances can be found, though not very frequently, of grants of arms without the grant of a crest being included in the patent; but the practice was soon to entirely cease, and roughly speaking one may assert that since the beginning of the Hanoverian dynasty no person has ever been granted arms without the corresponding grant of a crest, if a crest could be properly borne with the arms. Now no crest has ever been granted where the right to arms has not existed or been simultaneously conferred, and therefore, whilst there are still many coats of arms legally in existence without a crest, a crest cannot exist without a coat of arms, so that those people, and they are many, who vehemently assert a right to the "crest of their family," whilst admitting they have no right to arms, stand self-convicted heraldically both of having spoken unutterable rubbish, and of using a crest to which they can have no possible right. One exception, and one only, have I ever come across to the contrary, and very careful inquiry can bring me knowledge of no other. That crest is the crest of a family of Buckworth, now represented by Sir Charles Buckworth-Herne-Soame, Bart. This family at the time of the Visitations exhibited a certain coat of arms and crest. The coat of arms, which doubtless interfered with the rights of some other family, was respited for further proof; but the crest, which did not, appears to have been allowed, and as nothing further was done with regard to the arms, the crest stood, whilst the arms were bad. But even this one exception has long since been rectified, for when the additional name and arms of Soame were assumed by Royal License, the arms which had been exhibited and respited were (with the addition of an ermine spot as a charge upon the chevron) granted as the arms of Buckworth to be borne quarterly with the arms of Soame.
With the cessation of tournaments, we get to the period which some writers have stigmatised as that of "paper" heraldry. That is a reference to the fact that arms and crests ceased to be painted upon shields or erected upon helmets that enjoyed actual use in battle and tournament. Those who are so ready to decry modern heraldry forget that from its very earliest existence heraldry has always had the same significance as a symbol of rank and social position which it now enjoys and which remains undiminished in extent, though doubtless less potent in effect. They forget also that from the very earliest period armory had three uses—viz. its martial use, its decorative use, and its use as a symbol of ownership. The two latter uses still remain in their entirety, and whilst that is the case, armory cannot be treated as a dead science.
But with the cessation of tournaments the decorative became the chief use of arms, and the crest soon ceased to have that distinctive adaptability to the purpose of a helmet ornament. Up to the end of the Tudor period crests had retained their original simplicity. Animals' heads and animals passant, human heads and demi-animals, comprised the large majority of the early crests. Scottish heraldry in a marked degree has retained the early simplicity of crests, though at the expense of lack of distinction between the crests of different families. German heraldry has to a large extent retained the same character as has Scottish armory, and though many of the crests are decidedly elaborated, it is noticeable that this elaboration is never such as to render the crest unsuitable for its true position upon a helmet.
In England this aspect of the crest has been almost entirely lost sight of, and a large proportion of the crests in modern English grants are utterly unsuitable for use in relief upon an actual helmet. Our present rules of position for a helmet, and our unfortunate stereotyped form of wreath, are largely to blame, but the chief reason is the definite English rule that the crests of separate English families must be differentiated as are the arms. No such rule holds good in Scotland, hence their simple crests.
Whether the rule is good or bad it is difficult to say. When all the pros and cons have been taken into consideration, the whole discussion remains a matter of opinion, and whilst one dislikes the Scottish idea under which the same identical crest can be and regularly is granted to half-a-dozen people of as many different surnames, one objects very considerably to the typical present-day crest of an English grant of arms. Whilst a collar can be put round an animal's neck, and whilst it can hold objects in its mouth or paws, it does seem ridiculous to put a string of varied and selected objects "in front" of it, when these plainly would only be visible from one side, or to put a crest "between" objects if these are to be represented "fore and aft," one toppling over the brow of the wearer of the helmet and the other hanging down behind.
The crests granted by the late Sir Albert Woods, Garter, are the crying grievance of modern English heraldry, and though a large proportion are far greater abortions than they need be, and though careful thought and research even yet will under the present régime result in the grant of at any rate a quite unobjectionable crest, nevertheless we shall not obtain a real reform, or attain to any appreciable improvement, until the "position" rule as to helmets is abolished. Some of the crests mentioned hereunder are typical and awful examples of modern crests.
- Crest of Bellasis of Marton, Westmoreland: A mount vert, thereon a lion couchant guardant azure, in front of a tent proper, lined gules.
- Crest of Hermon of Preston, Lancashire, and Wyfold Court, Checkendon, Oxon.: In front of two palm-trees proper, a lion couchant guardant erminois, resting the dexter claw upon a bale of cotton proper. Motto: "Fido non timeo."
- Crest of James Harrison, Esq., M.A., Barrister-at-Law: In front of a demi-lion rampant erased or, gorged with a collar gemelle azure, and holding between the paws a wreath of oak proper, three mascles interlaced also azure. Motto: "Pro rege et patria."
- Crest of Colonel John Davis, F.S.A., of Bifrons, Hants: A lion's head erased sable, charged with a caltrap or, upon two swords in saltire proper, hilted and pommelled also or. Motto: "Ne tentes, aut perfice."
- Crest of the late Sir Saul Samuel, Bart., K.C.M.G.: Upon a rock in front of three spears, one in pale and two in saltire, a wolf current sable, pierced in the breast by an arrow argent, flighted or. Motto: "A pledge of better times."
- Crest of Jonson of Kennal Manor, Chislehurst, Kent: In front of a dexter arm embowed in armour proper, the hand also proper, grasping a javelin in bend sinister, pheoned or, and enfiled with a chaplet of roses gules, two branches of oak in saltire vert.
- Crest of C. E. Lamplugh, Esq.: In front of a cubit arm erect proper, encircled about the wrist with a wreath of oak and holding in the hand a sword also proper, pommel and hilt or, an escutcheon argent, charged with a goat's head couped sable. Mottoes: "Through," and "Providentia Dei stabiliuntur familiæ."
- Crest of Glasford, Scotland: "Issuing from clouds two hands conjoined grasping a caduceus ensigned with a cap of liberty, all between two cornucopiæ all proper. Motto: "Prisca fides."
We now come to the subject of the inheritance of crests, concerning which there has been much difference of opinion.
It is very usually asserted that until a comparatively recent date crests were not hereditary, but were assumed, discarded, and changed at pleasure. Like many other incorrect statements, there is a certain modicum of truth in the statement, for no doubt whilst arms themselves had a more or less shifting character, crests were certainly not "fixed" to any greater extent.
But I think no one has as yet discovered, or at any rate brought into notice, the true facts of the case, or the real position of the matter, and I think I am the first to put into print what actually were the rules which governed the matter. The rules, I believe, were undoubtedly these:—
Crests were, save in the remote beginning of things heraldic, definitely hereditary. They were hereditary even to the extent (and herein lies the point which has not hitherto been observed) that they were transmitted by an heiress. Perhaps this heritability was limited to those cases in which the heiress transmitted the de facto headship of her house. We, judging by present laws, look upon the crest as a part of the one heraldic achievement inseparable from the shield. What proof have we that in early times any necessary connection between arms and crest existed? We have none. The shield of arms was one inheritance, descending by known rules. The crest was another, but a separate inheritance, descending equally through an heir or coheir-general. The crest was, as an inheritance, as separate from the shield as were the estates then. The social conditions of life prevented the possibility of the existence or inheritance of a crest where arms did not exist. But a man inheriting several coats of arms from different heiress ancestresses could marshal them all upon one shield, and though we find the heir often made selection at his pleasure, and marshalled the arms in various methods, the determination of which was a mere matter of arbitrary choice, he could, if he wished, use them all upon one shield. But he had but one helmet, and could use and display but one crest. So that, if he had inherited two, he was forced to choose which he would use, though he sometimes tried to combine two into one device. It is questionable if an instance can be found in England of the regular display of two helmets and crests together, surmounting one shield, before the eighteenth century, but there are countless instances of the contemporary but separate display of two different crests, and the Visitation Records afford us some number of instances of this tacit acknowledgment of the inheritance of more than one crest.
The patent altering or granting the Mowbray crest seems to me clear recognition of the right of inheritance of a crest passing through an heir female. This, however, it must be admitted, may be really no more than a grant, and is not in itself actual evidence that any crest had been previously borne. My own opinion, however, is that it is fair presumptive evidence upon the point, and conveys an alteration and not a grant.
The translation of this Patent (Patent Roll 339, 17 Ric. II. pt. 1, memb. 2) is as follows: "The King to all to whom, &c., Greeting, Know that whereas our well-beloved and faithful kinsman, Thomas, Earl-Marshal and Earl of Nottingham, has a just hereditary title to bear for his crest a leopard or with a white label, which should be of right the crest of our eldest son if we had begotten a son. We, for this consideration, have granted for us and our heirs to the said Thomas and his heirs that for a difference in this crest they shall and may bear a leopard, and in place of a label a crown argent, without hindrance from us or our heirs aforesaid.—In witness, &c. Witness the King at Westminster, the 12th day of January [17 Ric. II.]. By writ of Privy Seal."
Cases will constantly be found in which the crests have been changed. I necessarily totally exclude from consideration crests which have been changed owing to specific grants, and also changes due to the discarding of crests which can be shown to have been borne without right. Changes in crests must also be disregarded where the differences in emblazonment are merely differences in varying designs of the same crest. Necessarily from none of these instances can a law of inheritance be deduced. But if other changes in the crests of important families be considered, I think it will be very evident that practically the whole of these are due to the inheritance through heiresses or ancestresses of an alternative crest. It can be readily shown that selection played an important part in the marshalling of quarterings upon an escutcheon, and where important quarterings were inherited they are as often as not found depicted in the first quarter. Thus the Howards have borne at different periods the wings of Howard; the horse of Fitzalan; and the Royal crest granted to the Mowbrays with remainder to the heir general; and these crests have been borne, as will be seen from the Garter plates, quite irrespective of what the surname in use may have been. Consequently it is very evident the crests were considered to be inherited with the representation of the different families. The Stourton crest was originally a stag's head, and is to be seen recorded in one of the Visitations, and upon the earliest seal in existence of any member of the family. But after the inheritance through the heiress of Le Moyne, the Le Moyne crest of the demi-monk was adopted. The Stanleys, Earls of Derby, whatever their original crest may have been, inherited the well-known bird and bantling of the family of Lathom. The Talbot crest was originally a talbot, and this is still so borne by Lord Talbot of Malahide: it was recorded at the Visitation of Dublin; but the crest at present borne by the Earls of Shrewsbury is derived from the arms inherited by descent from Gwendolin, daughter of Rhys ap Griffith. The Nevill crest was a bull's head as it is now borne by the Marquess of Abergavenny, and as it will be seen on the Garter plate of William Nevill, Lord Fauconberg. An elder brother of Lord Fauconberg had married the heiress of the Earl of Salisbury, and was summoned to Parliament in her earldom. He quartered her arms, which appear upon his Garter plate and seal, in the first and fourth quarters of his shield, and adopted her crest. A younger son of Sir Richard Nevill, Earl of Salisbury, bore the same crest differenced by two annulets conjoined, which was the difference mark added to the shield. The crest of Bourchier was a soldan's head crowned, and with a pointed cap issuing from the crown, but when the barony of Bourchier passed to the family of Robsart, as will be seen from the Garter plate of Sir Lewis Robsart, Lord Bourchier, the crest of Bourchier was adopted with the inheritance of the arms and Barony of Bourchier.
I am aware of no important case in English heraldry where the change has been due to mere caprice, and it would seem therefore an almost incontrovertible assertion that changes were due to inheritance, and if that can be established it follows even more strongly that until the days when armory was brought under rigid and official control, and even until a much later date, say up to the beginning of the Stuart period, crests were heritable through heiresses equally with quarterings. The fact that we find comparatively few changes considering the number of crests in existence is by no means a refutation of this theory, because a man had but one helmet, and was forced therefore to make a selection. Unless, therefore, he had a very strong inclination it would be more likely that he would select the crest he was used to than a fresh one. I am by no means certain that to a limited extent the German idea did not hold in England. This was, and is, that the crest had not the same personal character that was the case with the arms, but was rather attached to or an appanage of the territorial fief or lordship. By the time of the Restoration any idea of the transmission of crests through heiresses had been abandoned. We then find a Royal License necessary for the assumption of arms and crests. Since that date it has been and at the present time it is stringently held, and is the official rule, that no woman can bear or inherit a crest, and that no woman can transmit a right to one. Whilst that is the official and accepted interpretation of heraldic law upon the point, and whilst it cannot now be gainsaid, it cannot, however, be stated that the one assertion is the logical deduction of the other, for whilst a woman cannot inherit a lordship of Parliament, she undoubtedly can transmit one, together with the titular honours, the enjoyment of which is not denied to her.
In Scotland crests have always had a very much less important position than in England. There has been little if any continuity with regard to them, and instances of changes for which caprice would appear to be the only reason are met with in the cases of a large proportion of the chief families in that kingdom. To such a widespread extent has the permissive character been allowed to the crest, that many cases will be found in which each successive matriculation for the head of the house, or for a cadet, has produced a change in the crest, and instances are to be found where the different crests are the only existing differences in the achievements of a number of cadets of the same family. At the present time, little if any objection is ever made to an entire and radical change in the crest—if this is wished at the time of a rematriculation—and as far as I can gather such changes appear to have always been permitted. Perhaps it may be well here to point out that this is not equivalent to permission to change the crest at pleasure, because the patent of matriculation until it is superseded by another is the authority, and the compulsory authority, for the crest which is to be borne. In Germany the crest has an infinitely greater importance than is the case with ourselves, but it is there considered in a large degree a territorial appanage, and it is by no means unusual in a German achievement to see several crests surmounting a single coat of arms. In England the Royal coat of arms has really three crests, although the crests of Scotland and Ireland are seldom used, which, it may be noted, are all in a manner territorial; but the difference of idea with which crests are regarded in Germany may be gathered from the fact that the King of Saxony has five, the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin five, the Grand Duke of Saxe-Meiningen six, the Grand Duke of Saxe-Altenburg seven, the Duke of Anhalt seven, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha six, the Prince of Schwartzburg-Sondershausen six, the Prince of Schwartzburg-Rudolstadt six, the Prince of Waldeck-Pyrmont five, the Prince of Lippe five, the Duke of Brunswick five, and instances can be quoted of sixteen and seventeen. Probably Woodward is correct when he says that each crest formerly denoted a noble fief, for which the proprietor had a right to vote in the "circles" of the Empire, and he instances the Margraves of Brandenburg-Anspach, who were entitled to no less than thirteen crests. In France the use of crests is not nearly so general as in England or Germany. In Spain and Portugal it is less frequent still, and in Italy the use of a crest is the exception.
The German practice of using horns on either side of the crest, which the ignorance of English heralds has transformed into the proboscides of elephants, is dealt with at some length on page 214. The horns, which are termed buffalo's or bull's horns until the middle of the thirteenth century, were short and thick-set. It is difficult to say at what date these figures came to be considered as heraldic crests, for as mere helmet ornaments they probably can be traced back very far beyond any proof of the existence of armory. In the fourteenth century we find the horns curved inwards like a sickle, but later the horns are found more erect, the points turning outwards, slimmer in shape, and finally they exhibit a decidedly marked double curve. Then the ends of the horns are met with open, like a trumpet, the fact which gave rise to the erroneous idea that they represented elephants' trunks. The horns became ornamented with feathers, banners, branches of leaves, balls, &c., and the orifices garnished with similar adornments.
In England, crests are theoretically subject to marks of cadency and difference. This is not the case, however, in any other country. In Germany, in cases where the crests reproduce the arms, any mark of cadency with which the arms are distinguished will of course be repeated; but in German heraldry, doubtless owing to the territorial nature of the crest, a change in the crest itself is often the only mark of distinction between different branches of the same family, and in Siebmacher's Wappenbuch thirty-one different branches of the Zorn family have different crests, which are the sole marks of difference in the achievements.
But though British crests are presumed to be subject to the recognised marks of cadency, as a matter of fact it is very seldom indeed that they are ever so marked, with the exception that the mark used (usually a cross crosslet) to signify the lack of blood relationship when arms are assumed under a Royal License, is compulsory. Marks of distinction added to signify illegitimacy are also compulsory and perpetual. What these marks are will be dealt with in a subsequent chapter upon the subject. How very seldom a mark of difference is added to a crest may be gathered from the fact that with the exception of labels, chiefly upon the Royal crest, one crest only amongst the Plantagenet Garter plates is differenced, that one being the crest of John Neville, Lord Montague. Several crests, however, which are not Royal, are differenced by similar labels to those which appear upon the shields; but when we find that the difference marks have very much of a permissive character, even upon the shield, it is not likely that they are perpetuated upon the crest, where they are even less desirable. The arms of Cokayne, as given in the funeral certificate of Sir William Cokayne, Lord Mayor of London, show upon the shield three crescents, sable, or, and gules, charged one upon the other, the Lord Mayor being the second son of a second son of Cokayne of Sturston, descending from William, second son of Sir John Cokayne of Ashborne. But, in spite of the fact that three difference marks are charged upon the shield (one of the quarterings of which, by the way, has an additional mark), the crest itself is only differenced by one crescent. These difference marks, as applied to arms, are in England (the rules in Scotland are utterly distinct) practically permissive, and are never enforced against the wish of the bearer except in one circumstance. If, owing to the grant of a crest or supporters, or a Royal License, or any similar opportunity, a formal exemplification of the arms is entered on the books of the College of Arms, the opportunity is generally taken to add such mark of cadency as may be necessary; and no certificate would be officially issued to any one claiming arms through that exemplification except subject to the mark of cadency therein depicted. In such cases as these the crest is usually differenced, because the necessity for an exemplification does not often occur, except owing to the establishment of an important branch of the family, which is likely to continue as a separate house in the future, and possibly to rival the importance of the chief of the name. Two examples will show my meaning. The crest of the Duke of Bedford is a goat statant argent, armed or. When Earl Russell, the third son of the sixth Duke of Bedford, was so created, the arms, crest, and supporters were charged with a mullet argent. When the first Lord Ampthill, who was the third son of the father of the ninth Duke of Bedford, was so created, the arms of Russell, with the crest and supporters, were also charged with mullets, these being of different tinctures from those granted to Earl Russell. The crest of the Duke of Westminster is a talbot statant or. The first Lord Stalbridge was the second son of the Marquess of Westminster. His arms, crest, and supporters were charged with a crescent. Lord Ebury was the third son of the first Marquess of Westminster. His arms, crest, and supporters were charged with a mullet. In cases of this kind the mark of difference upon the crest would be considered permanent; but for ordinary purposes, and in ordinary circumstances, the rule may be taken to be that it is not necessary to add the mark of cadency to a crest, even when it is added to the shield, but that, at the same time, it is not incorrect to do so.
Crests must nowadays always be depicted upon either a wreath, coronet, or chapeau; but these, and the rules concerning them, will be considered in a more definite and detailed manner in the separate chapters in which those objects are discussed.
Crests are nowadays very frequently used upon livery buttons. Such a usage is discussed at some length in the chapter on badges.
When two or more crests are depicted together, and when, as is often the case in England, the wreaths are depicted in space, and without the intervening helmets, the crests always all face to the dexter side, and the stereotyped character of English crests perhaps more than any other reason, has led of late to the depicting of English helmets all placed to face in the same direction to the dexter side. But if, as will often be found, the two helmets are turned to face each other, the crests also must be turned.
Where there are two crests, the one on the dexter side is the first and the one on the sinister side is the second. When there are three, the centre one comes first, then the one on the dexter side, then the one on the sinister. When there are four crests, the first one is the dexter of the two inner ones; the second is the sinister inner one; the third is the dexter outer, and the fourth the sinister outer. When there are five (and I know of no greater number in this country), they run as follows: (1) centre, (2) dexter inner, (3) sinister inner, (4) dexter outer, (5) sinister outer.
A very usual practice in official emblazonments in cases of three crests is to paint the centre one of a larger size, and at a slightly lower level, than the others. In the case of four, Nos. 1 and 2 would be of the same size, Nos. 3 and 4 slightly smaller, and slightly raised.
It is a very usual circumstance to see two or more crests displayed in England, but this practice is of comparatively recent date. How recent may be gathered from the fact that in Scotland no single instance can be found before the year 1809 in which two crests are placed above the same shield. Scottish heraldry, however, has always been purer than English, and the practice in England is much more ancient, though I question if in England any authentic official exemplification can be found before 1700. There are, however, many cases in the Visitation Books in which two crests are allowed to the same family, but this fact does not prove the point, because a Visitation record is merely an official record of inheritance and possession, and not necessarily evidence of a regulation permitting the simultaneous display of more than one. It is of course impossible to use two sets of supporters with a single shield, but there are many peers who are entitled to two sets; Lord Ancaster, I believe, is entitled to three sets. But an official record in such a case would probably emblazon both sets as evidence of right, by painting the shield twice over.
During the eighteenth century we find many instances of the grant of additional crests of augmentation, and many exemplifications under Royal License for the use of two and three crests. Since that day the correctness of duplicate crests has never been questioned, where the right of inheritance to them has been established. The right of inheritance to two or more crests at the present time is only officially allowed in the following cases.
If a family at the time of the Visitations had two crests recorded to them, these would be now allowed. If descent can be proved from a family to whom a certain crest was allowed, and also from ancestors at an earlier date who are recorded as entitled to bear a different crest, the two would be allowed unless it was evident that the later crest had been granted, assigned, or exemplified in lieu of the earlier one. Two crests are allowed in the few cases which exist where a family has obtained a grant of arms in ignorance of the fact that they were then entitled to bear arms and crest of an earlier date to which the right has been subsequently proved, but on this point it should be remarked that if a right to arms is known to exist a second grant in England is point-blank refused unless the petition asks for it to be borne instead of, and in lieu of, the earlier one: it is then granted in those terms.
To those who think that the Heralds' College is a mere fee-grabbing institution, the following experience of an intimate friend of mine may be of interest. In placing his pedigree upon record it became evident that his descent was not legitimate, and he therefore petitioned for and obtained a Royal License to bear the name and arms of the family from which he had sprung. But the illegitimacy was not modern, and no one would have questioned his right to the name which all the other members of the family bear, if he had not himself raised the point in order to obtain the ancient arms in the necessarily differenced form. The arms had always been borne with some four or five quarterings and with two crests, and he was rather annoyed that he had to go back to a simple coat of arms and single crest. He obtained a grant for his wife, who was an heiress, and then, with the idea of obtaining an additional quartering and a second crest, he conceived the brilliant idea—for money was of no object to him—of putting his brother forward as a petitioner for arms to be granted to him and his descendants and to the other descendants of his father, a grant which would of course have brought in my friend. He moved heaven and earth to bring this about, but he was met with the direct statement that two grants of arms could not be made to the same man to be borne simultaneously, and that if he persisted in the grant of arms to his brother, his own name, as being then entitled to bear arms, would be specifically exempted from the later grant, and the result was that this second grant was never made.
In Scotland, where re-matriculation is constantly going on, two separate matriculations to the same line would not confer the right to two crests, inasmuch as the last matriculation supersedes everything which has preceded it. But if a cadet matriculates a different crest, and subsequently succeeds to the representation under an earlier matriculation, he legally succeeds to both crests, and incidentally to both coats of arms. As a matter of ordinary practice, the cadet matriculation is discarded. A curious case, however, occurs when after matriculation by a cadet there is a later matriculation behind it, by some one nearer the head of the house to which the first-mentioned cadet succeeds; in which event selection must be brought into play, when succession to both occurs. But the selection lies only between the two patents, and not from varied constituent parts.
Where as an augmentation an additional crest is granted, as has been the case in many instances, of course a right to the double crest is thereby conferred, and a crest of augmentation is not granted in lieu, but in addition.
A large number of these additional crests have been granted under specific warrants from the Crown, and in the case of Lord Gough, two additional crests were granted as separate augmentations and under separate patents. Lord Kitchener recently received a grant of an additional crest of augmentation. There are also a number of grants on record, not officially ranking as augmentations, in which a second crest has been granted as a memorial of descent or office, &c.
The other cases in which double and treble crests occur are the results of exemplifications following upon Royal Licenses to assume name and arms. As a rule, when an additional surname is adopted by Royal License, the rule is that the arms adopted are to be borne in addition to those previously in existence; and where one name is adopted instead of another the warrant very frequently permits this, and at the same time permits or requires the new arms to be borne quarterly with those previously possessed, and gives the right to two crests. But in cases where names and arms are assumed by Royal License the arms and crest or crests are in accordance with the patent of exemplification, which, no matter what its terms (for some do not expressly exclude any prior rights), is always presumed to supersede everything which has gone before, and to be the authority by which the subsequent bearing of arms is regularised and controlled. Roughly speaking, under a Royal License one generally gets the right to one crest for every surname, and if the original surname be discarded, in addition a crest for every previous surname. Thus Mainwaring-Ellerker-Onslow has three crests, Wyndham-Campbell-Pleydell-Bouverie has four, and the last Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, who held the record, had one for each of his surnames, namely, Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville. In addition to the foregoing, there are one or two exceptions which it is difficult to explain. The Marquess of Bute for some reason or other obtained a grant, in the year 1822, of the crest of Herbert. The original Lord Liverpool obtained a grant of an additional crest, possibly an augmentation, and his representative, Lord Hawkesbury, afterwards created Earl of Liverpool, for some reason or other which I am quite at a loss to understand, obtained a grant of a crest very similar to that of Lord Liverpool to commemorate the representation which had devolved upon him. He subsequently obtained a grant of a third crest, this last being of augmentation. Sir Charles Young, Garter King of Arms, obtained the grant of a second crest, and a former Marquess of Camden did the same thing; Lord Swansea is another recent case, and though the right of any person to obtain the grant of a second crest is not officially admitted, and is in fact strenuously denied, I cannot for the life of me see how in the face of the foregoing precedents any such privilege can be denied. Sir William Woods also obtained the grant of a second crest when he was Garter, oblivious of the fact that he had not really established a right to arms. Those he used were certainly granted in Lyon Office to a relative, but no matriculation of them in his own name was ever registered.