A Complete Guide to Heraldry/Chapter 26
In this country a somewhat fictitious importance has become attached to supporters, owing to their almost exclusive reservation to the highest rank. The rules which hold at the moment will be recited presently, but there can be no doubt that originally they were in this country little more than mere decorative and artistic appendages, being devised and altered from time to time by different artists according as the artistic necessities of the moment demanded. The subject of the origin of supporters has been very ably dealt with in "A Treatise on Heraldry" by Woodward and Burnett, and with all due acknowledgment I take from that work the subjoined extract:—
"Supporters are figures of living creatures placed at the side or sides of an armorial shield, and appearing to support it. French writers make a distinction, giving the name of Supports to animals, real or imaginary, thus employed; while human figures or angels similarly used are called Tenants. Trees, and other inanimate objects which are sometimes used, are called Soutiens.
"Menêtrier and other old writers trace the origin of supporters to the usages of the tournaments, where the shields of the combatants were exposed for inspection, and guarded by their servants or pages disguised in fanciful attire: 'C'est des Tournois qu'est venu cet usage parce que les chevaliers y faisoient porter leurs lances, et leurs écus, par des pages, et des valets de pied, deguisez en ours, en lions, en mores, et en sauvages' (Usage des Armoiries, p. 119).
"The old romances give us evidence that this custom prevailed; but I think only after the use of supporters had already arisen from another source.
"There is really little doubt now that Anstis was quite correct when, in his Aspilogia, he attributed the origin of supporters to the invention of the engraver, who filled up the spaces at the top and sides of the triangular shield upon a circular seal with foliage, or with fanciful animals. Any good collection of mediæval seals will strengthen this conviction. For instance, the two volumes of Laing's 'Scottish Seals' afford numerous examples in which the shields used in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries were placed between two creatures resembling lizards or dragons. (See the seal of Alexander de Balliol, 1295.—Laing, ii. 74.)
"The seal of John, Duke of Normandy, eldest son of the King of France, before 1316 bears his arms (France-Ancient, a bordure gules) between two lions rampant away from the shield, and an eagle with expanded wings standing above it. The secretum of Isabelle de Flandres (c. 1308) has her shield placed between three lions, each charged with a bend (Vrée, Gen. Com. Flanr., Plates XLIII., XLIV., XCII.). In 1332 Aymon of Savoy places his arms (Savoy, with a label) between a winged lion in chief and a lion without wings at either side. Later, on the seal of Amadeus VI., a lion's head between wings became the crest of Savoy. In 1332 Amadeus bears Savoy on a lozenge between in chief two eagles, in base two lions. (Cibrario, Nos. 61, 64; and Guichenon, tome i. No. 130.) In Scotland the shield of Reginald Crawford in 1292 is placed between two dogs, and surmounted by a fox; in the same year the paly shield of Reginald, Earl of Athole, appears between two lions in chief and as many griffins in flanks.—Laing, i. 210, 761.
"The seal of Humbert II., Dauphin de Viennois in 1349, is an excellent example of the fashion. The shield of Dauphiny is in the centre of a quatrefoil. Two savages mounted on griffins support its flanks; on the upper edge an armed knight sits on a couchant lion, and the space in base is filled by a human face between two wingless dragons. The spaces are sometimes filled with the Evangelistic symbols, as on the seal of Yolante de Flandres, Countess of Bar (c. 1340). The seal of Jeanne, Dame de Plasnes, in 1376 bears her arms en bannière a quatrefoil supported by two kneeling angels, a demi-angel in chief, and a lion couchant guardant in base."
Corporate and other seals afford countless examples of the interstices in the design being filled with the figures similar to those from which in later days the supporters of a family have been deduced. But I am myself convinced that the argument can be carried further. Fanciful ornamentation or meaningless devices may have first been made use of by seal engravers, but it is very soon found that the badge is in regular use for this purpose, and we find both animate and inanimate badges employed. Then where this is possible the badge, if animate, is made to support the helmet and crest, and, later on, the shield, and there can be no doubt the badge was in fact acting as a supporter long before the science of armory recognised that existence of supporters.
Before passing to supporters proper, it may be well to briefly allude to various figures which are to be found in a position analogous to that of supporters. The single human figure entire, or in the form of a demi-figure appearing above the shield, is very frequently to be met with, but the addition of such figures was and remains purely artistic, and I know of no single instance in British armory where one figure, animate or inanimate, has ever existed alone in the character of a single supporter, and as an integral part of the heritable armorial achievement. Of course I except those figures upon which the arms of certain families are properly displayed. These will be presently alluded to, but though they are certainly exterior ornaments, I do not think they can be properly classed as supporters unless to this term is given some elasticity, or unless the term has some qualifying remarks of reservation added to it. There are, however, many instances of armorial ensigns depicted, and presumably correctly, in the form of banners supported by a single animal, but it will always be found that the single animal is but one of the pair of duly allocated supporters. Many instances of arms depicted in this manner will be found in "Prince Arthur's Book." The same method of display was adopted in some number of cases, and with some measure of success, in Foster's "Peerage." Single figures are very frequently to be met with in German and Continental heraldry, but on these occasions, as with ourselves, the position they occupy is merely that of an artistic accessory, and bears no inseparable relation to the heraldic achievement. The single exception to the foregoing statement of which I am aware is to be found in the arms of the Swiss Cantons. These thirteen coats are sometimes quartered upon one shield, but when displayed separately each is accompanied by a single supporter. Zurich, Lucerne, Uri, Unter-Walden, Glarus, and Basle all bear the supporter on the dexter side; Bern, Schweig, Zug, Freiburg, and Soluthurn on the sinister. Schafhausen (a ram) and Appenzell (a bear) place their supporters in full aspect behind the shield.
On the corbels of Gothic architecture, shields of arms are frequently supported by Angels, which, however, cannot generally be regarded as heraldic appendages—being merely supposed to indicate that the owners have contributed to the erection of the fabric. Examples of this practice will be found on various ecclesiastical edifices in Scotland, and among others at Melrose Abbey, St. Giles', Edinburgh, and the church of Seton in East Lothian. An interesting instance of an angel supporting a shield occurs on the beautiful seal of Mary of Gueldres, Queen of James II. (1459); and the Privy Seal of David II., a hundred years earlier, exhibits a pretty design of an escutcheon charged with the ensigns of Scotland, and borne by two arms issuing from clouds above, indicative of Divine support.
Of instances of single objects from which shields are found depending or supported the "Treatise on Heraldry" states:—
"Allusion has been made to the usage by which on vesica-shaped shields ladies of high rank are represented as supporting with either hand shields of arms. From this probably arose the use of a single supporter. Marguerite de Courcelles in 1284, and Alix de Verdun in 1311, bear in one hand a shield of the husband's arms, in the other one of their own. The curious seal of Muriel, Countess of Stratherne, in 1284, may be considered akin to these. In it the shield is supported partly by a falcon, and partly by a human arm issuing from the sinister side of the vesica, and holding the falcon by the jesses (Laing, i. 764). The early seal of Boleslas III., King of Poland, in 1255, bears a knight holding a shield charged with the Polish eagle (Vossberg, Die Siegel des Mittelalters). In 1283 the seal of Florent of Hainault bears a warrior in chain mail supporting a shield charged with a lion impaling an eagle dimidiated.
"On the seal of Humphrey de Bohun in 1322 the guige is held by a swan, the badge of the Earls of Hereford; and in 1356 the shield of the first Earl of Douglas is supported by a lion whose head is covered by the crested helm, a fashion of which there are many examples. A helmed lion holds the shield of Magnus I., Duke of Brunswick, in 1326.
"On the seal of Jean, Duc de Berri, in 1393 the supporter is a helmed swan (compare the armorial slab of Henry of Lancaster, in Boutell, Plate LXXIX.). Jean IV., Comte d'Alençon (1408), has a helmed lion sejant as supporter. In 1359 a signet of Louis van Male, Count of Flanders, bears a lion sejant, helmed and crested, and mantled with the arms of Flanders between two small escutcheons of Nevers, or the county of Burgundy ["Azure, billetty, a lion rampant or"], and Rethel ["Gules, two heads of rakes fesswise in pale or"].
"A single lion sejant, helmed and crested, bearing on its breast the quartered arms of Burgundy between two or three other escutcheons, was used by the Dukes up to the death of Charles the Bold in 1475. In Litta's splendid work, Famiglie celebri Italiane, the Buonarotti arms are supported by a brown dog sejant, helmed, and crested with a pair of dragon's wings issuing from a crest-coronet. On the seal of Thomas Holland, Earl of Kent, in 1380 the shield is buckled round the neck of the white hind lodged, the badge of his half-brother, Richard II. Single supporters were very much in favour in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and the examples are numerous. Charles, Dauphin de Viennois (c. 1355), has his shield held by a single dolphin. In 1294 the seal of the Dauphin Jean, son of Humbert I., bears the arms of Dauphiné pendent from the neck of a griffon. The shields of arms of Bertrand de Bricquebec, in 1325; Pierre de Tournebu, in 1339; of Charles, Count of Alençon, in 1356; and of Oliver de Clisson in 1397, are supported by a warrior who stands behind the shield. In England the seal of Henry Percy, first Earl, in 1346, and another in 1345, have similar representations.
"On several of our more ancient seals only one supporter is represented, and probably the earliest example of this arrangement occurs on the curious seal of William, first Earl of Douglas (c. 1356), where the shield is supported from behind by a lion 'sejant,' with his head in the helmet, which is surmounted by the crest.
"On the seal of Archibald, fourth Earl of Douglas (c. 1418), the shield is held, along with a club, in the right hand of a savage erect, who bears a helmet in his left; while on that of William, eighth Earl (1446), a kneeling savage holds a club in his right hand, and supports a couché shield on his left arm."
An example reproduced from Jost Amman's Wappen und Stammbuch, published at Frankfurt, 1589, will be found in Fig. 666. In this the figure partakes more of the character of a shield guardian than a shield supporter. The arms are those of "Sigmund Hagelshaimer," otherwise "Helt," living at Nürnberg. The arms are "Sable, on a bend argent, an arrow gules." The crest is the head and neck of a hound sable, continued into a mantling sable, lined argent. The crest is charged with a pale argent, and thereupon an arrow as in the arms, the arrow-head piercing the ear of the hound.
Seated figures as supporters are rare, but one occurs in Fig. 667, which shows the arms of the Vöhlin family. They bear: "Argent, on a fesse sable, three 'P's' argent." The wings which form the crest are charged with the same device. This curious charge of the three letters is explained in the following saying:—
- "Piper Peperit Pecuniam,
- Pecunia Peperit Pompam,
- Pompa Peperit Pauperiem,
- Pauperies Peperit Pietatem."
There are, however, certain exceptions to the British rule that there can be no single supporters, if the objects upon which shields of arms are displayed are accepted as supporters. It was always customary to display the arms of the Lord High Admiral on the sail of the ship. In the person of King William IV., before he succeeded to the throne, the office of Lord High Admiral was vested for a short time, but it had really fallen into desuetude at an earlier date and has not been revived again, so that to all intents and purposes it is now extinct, and this recognised method of depicting arms is consequently also extinct. But there is one other case which forms a unique instance which can be classified with no others. The arms of Campbell of Craignish are always represented in a curious manner, the gyronny coat of Campbell appearing on a shield displayed in front of a lymphad (Plate II.). What the origin of this practice is it would be difficult to say; probably it merely originated in the imaginative ideas of an artist when making a seal for that family, artistic reasons suggesting the display of the gyronny arms of Campbell in front of the lymphad of Lorne. The family, however, seem to have universally adopted this method of using their arms, and in the year 1875, when Campbell of Inverneil matriculated in Lyon Register, the arms were matriculated in that form. I know of no other instance of any such coat of arms, and this branch of the Ducal House of Campbell possesses armorial bearings which, from the official standpoint, are absolutely unique from one end of Europe to the other.In Germany the use of arms depicted in front of the eagle displayed, either single-headed or double-headed, is very far from being unusual. Whatever may have been its meaning originally in that country, there is no doubt that now and for some centuries past it has been accepted as meaning, or as indicative of, princely rank or other honours of the Holy Roman Empire. But I do not think it can always have had that meaning. About the same date the Earl of Menteith placed his shield on the breast of an eagle, as did Alexander, Earl of Ross, in 1338; and in 1394 we find the same ornamentation in the seal of Euphemia, Countess of Ross. The shield of Ross is borne in her case on the breast of an eagle, while the arms of Leslie and Comyn appear on its displayed wings. On several other Scottish seals of the same era, the shield is placed on the breast of a displayed eagle, as on those of Alexander Abernethy and Alexander Cumin of Buchan (1292), and Sir David Lindsay, Lord of Crawford. English heraldry supplies several similar examples, of which we may mention the armorial insignia of Richard, Earl of Cornwall, brother of Henry III., and of the ancient family of Latham, in the fourteenth century. A curious instance of a shield placed on the breast of a hawk is noticed by Hone in his "Table
Fig. 667.—Arms of Vöhlin of Augsberg.
Book," viz. the arms of the Lord of the Manor of Stoke-Lyne, in the county of Oxford. It appears therefrom that when Charles I. held his Parliament at Oxford, the offer of knighthood was gratefully declined by the then Lord of Stoke-Lyne, who merely requested, and obtained, the Royal permission to place the arms of his family upon the breast of a hawk, which has ever since been employed in the capacity of single supporter. What authority exists for this statement it is impossible to ascertain, and one must doubt its accuracy, because in England at any rate no arms, allocated to any particular territorial estate, have ever received official recognition.
In later years, as indicative of rank in the Holy Roman Empire, the eagle has been rightly borne by the first Duke of Marlborough and by Henrietta his daughter, Duchess of Marlborough, but the use of the eagle by the later Dukes of Marlborough would appear to be entirely without authority, inasmuch as the princedom, created in the person of the first duke, became extinct on his death. His daughters, though entitled of right to the courtesy rank of princess and its accompanying privilege of the right to use the eagle displayed behind their arms, could not transmit it to their descendants upon whom the title of Duke of Marlborough was specially entailed by English Act of Parliament.
The Earl of Denbigh and several members of the Fielding family have often made use of it with their arms, in token of their supposed descent from the Counts of Hapsburg, which, if correct, would apparently confer the right upon them. This descent, however, has been much questioned, and in late years the claim thereto would seem to have been practically dropped. The late Earl Cowper, the last remaining Prince of the Holy Roman Empire in the British Peerage, was entitled to use the double eagle behind his shield, being the descendant and representative of George Nassau Clavering Cowper, third Earl Cowper, created a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire by the Emperor Joseph II., the patent being dated at Vienna, 31st January 1778, and this being followed by a Royal Licence from King George III. to accept and bear the title in this country.
There are some others who have the right by reason of honours of lesser rank of the Holy Roman Empire, and amongst these may be mentioned Lord Methuen, who bears the eagle by Royal Warrant dated 4th April 1775. Sir Thomas Arundel, who served in the Imperial army of Hungary, having in an engagement with the Turks near Strignum taken their standard with his own hands, was by Rodolph II. created Count of the Empire to hold for him and the heirs of his body for ever, dated at Prague 14th December 1595. This patent, of course, means that every one of his descendants in the male line has the rank of a Count of the Empire, and that every daughter of any such male descendant is a Countess, but this does not confer the rank of count or countess upon descendants of the daughters. It was this particular patent of creation that called forth the remark from Queen Elizabeth that she would not have her sheep branded by any foreign shepherd, and we believe that this patent was the origin of the rule translated in later times (temp. George IV.) into a definite Royal Warrant, requiring that no English subject shall, without the express Royal Licence of the Sovereign conveyed in writing, accept or wear any foreign title or decoration. No Royal Licence was subsequently obtained by the Arundel family, who therefore, according to British law, are denied the use of the privileged Imperial eagle. Outside those cases in which the double eagle is used in this country to denote rank of the Holy Roman Empire, the usage of the eagle displayed behind the arms or any analogous figure is in British heraldry most limited.
One solitary authoritative instance of the use of the displayed eagle is found in the coat of arms of the city of Perth. These arms are recorded in Lyon Register, having been matriculated for that Royal Burgh about the year 1672. The official blazon of the arms is as follows: "Gules ane holy lambe passant regardant staff and cross argent, with the banner of St. Andrew proper, all within a double tressure counter-flowered of the second, the escutcheon being surmounted on the breast of ane eagle with two necks displayed or. The motto in ane Escroll, 'Pro Rege Lege et Grege.'"
Another instance of usage, though purely devoid of authority, occurs in the case of a coat of arms set up on one of the panels in the Hall of Lincoln's Inn. In this case the achievement is displayed on the breast of a single-headed eagle. What reason led to its usage in this manner I am quite unaware, and I have not the slightest reason for supposing it to be authentic. The family of Stuart-Menteith also place their arms upon a single-headed eagle displayed gules, as was formerly to be seen in Debrett's Peerage, but though arms are matriculated to them in Lyon Register, this particular adornment forms no part thereof, and it has now disappeared from the printed Peerage books. The family of Britton have, however, recently recorded as a badge a double-headed eagle displayed ermine, holding in its claws an escutcheon of their arms (Plate VIII.).
Occasionally batons or wands or other insignia of office are to be found in conjunction with armorial bearings, but these will be more fully dealt with under the heading of Insignia of Office. Before dealing with the usual supporters, one perhaps may briefly allude to "inanimate" supporters.
Probably the most curious instance of all will be found in the achievement of the Earls of Errol as it appears in the MS. of Sir David Lindsay. In this two ox-yokes take the place of the supporters. The curious tradition which has been attached to the Hay arms is quoted as follows by Sir James Balfour Paul, Lyon King of Arms, in his "Heraldry in relation to Scottish History and Art," who writes: "Take the case of the well-known coat of the Hays, and hear the description of its origin as given by Nisbet: 'In the reign of Kenneth III., about the year 980, when the Danes invaded Scotland, and prevailing in the battle of Luncarty, a country Scotsman with his two sons, of great strength and courage, having rural weapons, as the yokes of their plough, and such plough furniture, stopped the Scots in their flight in a certain defile, and upbraiding them with cowardice, obliged them to rally, who with them renewed the battle, and gave a total overthrow to the victorious Danes; and it is said by some, after the victory was obtained, the old man lying on the ground, wounded and fatigued, cried, "Hay, Hay," which word became a surname to his posterity. He and his sons being nobilitate, the King gave him the aforesaid arms (argent, three escutcheons gules) to intimate that the father and the two sons had been luckily the three shields of Scotland, and gave them as much land in the Carse of Gowrie as a falcon did fly over without lighting, which having flown a great way, she lighted on a stone there called the Falcon Stone to this day. The circumstances of which story is not only perpetuated by the three escutcheons, but by the exterior ornaments of the achievement of the family of Errol; having for crest, on a wreath, a falcon proper; for supporters two men in country habits, holding the oxen-yokes of a plough over their shoulders; and for motto, "Serva jugum."'
"Unfortunately for the truth of this picturesque tale there are several reasons which render it utterly incredible, not the least being that at the period of the supposed battle armorial bearings were quite unknown, and could not have formed the subject of a royal gift. Hill Burton, indeed, strongly doubts the occurrence of the battle itself, and says that Hector Boece, who relates the occurrence, must be under strong suspicion of having entirely invented it. As for the origin of the name itself, it is, as Mr. Cosmo Innes points out in his work on 'Scottish Surnames,' derived from a place in Normandy, and neither it nor any other surname occurred in Scotland till long after the battle of Luncarty. I have mentioned this story in some detail, as it is a very typical specimen of its class; but there are others like unto it, often traceable to the same incorrigible old liar, Hector Boece."
It is not unlikely that the ox-yoke was a badge of the Hays, Earls of Errol, and a reference to the variations of the original arms, crest, and supporters of Hay will show how the changes have been rung on the shields, falcon, ox-yokes, and countrymen of the legend.
Another instance is to be found in the arms of the Mowbray family as they were at one time depicted with an ostrich feather on either side of the shield (Fig. 675, p. 465), and at first one might be inclined to class these amongst the inanimate supporters. The Garter plate, however, of John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, probably supplies the key to the whole matter, for this shows not only the ostrich feathers but also supporters of the ordinary character in their usual position. From the last-mentioned instance, it is evident the ostrich feathers can be only representations of the badge, their character doubtless being peculiarly adaptable to the curious position they occupy. They are of course the same in the case of the Mowbray arms, and doubtless the ox-yoke of the Earl of Errol is similarly no more than a badge.
A most curious instance of supporters is to be found in the case of the arms of Viscount Montgomery. This occurs in a record of them in Ulster's Office, where the arms appear without the usual kind of supporters, but represented with an arm in armour, on either side issuing from clouds in base, the hands supporting the shield.
When supporters are inanimate objects, the escutcheon is said to be cottised—a term derived from the French word côté (a side)—in contradistinction to supported. An old Scottish term for supporters was "bearers."
Amongst other cases where the shield is cottised by inanimate objects may be mentioned the following. The Breton family of "Bastard" depict their shield cottised by two swords, with the points in base. The Marquises Alberti similarly use two lighted flambeaux, and the Dalzells (of Binns) the extraordinary device of a pair of tent-poles. Whether this last has been officially sanctioned I am unaware. The "Pillars of Hercules" used by Charles V. are, perhaps, the best known of this group of supporters. In many cases (notably foreign) the supporters appear to have gradually receded to the back of the shield, as in the case of the Comte d'Erps, Chancellor of Brabant, where two maces (or) are represented saltirewise behind the shield. Generally, however, this variation is found in conjunction with purely official or corporate achievements.
A curious example of inanimate supporters occurs on the English seal of William, Lord Botreaux (1426), where, on each side of a couché shield exhibiting a griffin "segreant" and surmounted by a helmet and crest, a buttress is quaintly introduced, in evident allusion to the owner's name. A somewhat similar arrangement appears on the Scottish seal of William Ruthven (1396), where a tree growing from a mount is placed on each side of the escutcheon. Another instance is to be found in the seal of John de Segrave, where a garb is placed on either side of the shield. Perhaps mention should here be made of the arms (granted in 1826) of the National Bank of Scotland, the shield of which is "surrounded with two thistles proper disposed in orle."
Heraldic supporters as such, or badges occupying the position and answering the purpose of supporters, and not merely as artistic accessories, in England date from the early part of the fourteenth century. Very restricted in use at first, they later rapidly became popular, and there were few peers who did not display them upon their seals. For some reason, however, very few indeed appear on the early Garter plates. It is a striking fact that by far the larger number of the ancient standards display as the chief device not the arms but one of the supporters, and I am inclined to think that in this fact we have further confirmation of my belief that the origin of supporters is found in the badge.
Even after the use of two supporters had become general, a third figure is often found placed behind the shield, and forms a connecting link with the old practice of filling the void spaces on seals, to which we have already referred. On the seal of William Sterling, in 1292, two lions rampant support the shield in front of a tree. The shield on the seal of Oliver Rouillon, in 1376, is supported by an angel, and by two demi-lions couchant-guardant in base. That of Pierre Avoir, in 1378, is held by a demi-eagle above the shield, and by two mermaids. On many ancient seals the supporters are disposed so that they hold the crested helm above a couché shield.
The counter-seals of Rudolf IV., Archduke of Austria, in 1359 and 1362, afford instances in which a second set of supporters is used to hold up the crested helm. The shield of Austria is supported by two lions, on whose volets are the arms of Hapsburg and Pfirt; the crested helm (coroneted, and having a panache of ostrich feathers) is also held by two lions, whose volets are charged with the arms of Stiria, and of Carinthia (Hueber, Austria Illustrata, tab. xviii.).
In 1372 the seal of Edmund Mortimer represents his shield hanging from a rose-tree, and supported by two lions couchant (of March), whose heads are covered by coroneted helmets with a panache (azure) as crest.
Boutell directs attention to the fact that the shield of Edmund de Arundel (1301-1326) is placed between similar helms and panaches, without the supporting beasts ("Heraldry: Historical and Popular," pp. 271-418).
Crested supporters have sometimes been misunderstood, and quoted as instances of double supporters—for instance, by Lower, "Curiosities of Heraldry," who gives (p. 144) a cut from the achievement of the French D'Albrets as "the most singular supporters, perhaps, in the whole circle of heraldry." These supporters are two lions couchant (or), each helmed, and crested with an eagle au vol leve. These eagles certainly assist in holding the shield, but the lions are its true supporters; nor is this arrangement by any means unique. The swans which were used as supporters by Jean, Duc de Berri, in 1386, are each mounted upon a bear. Two wild men, each à cheval on a lion, support the escutcheons of Gerard D'Harchies (1476) and of Nicole de Giresme (1464). Two lions sejant, helmed and crested (the crest is a human head with the ears of an ass) were the supporters of Arnaud D'Albrey in 1368.
Scotland, which is the home of curiosities of heraldry, gives us at least two instances of the use of supporters which must be absolutely unique—that is, the surcharging of an escutcheon with an inescutcheon, to the latter of which supporters are attached. The first instance occurs in the cases of Baronets of Nova Scotia, a clause appearing in all the earlier patents which ordained "that the Baronets, and their heirs-male, should, as an additament of honour to their armorial ensigns, bear, either on a canton or inescutcheon, in their option, the ensign of Nova Scotia, being argent, a cross of St. Andrew azure (the badge of Scotland counterchanged), charged with an inescutcheon of the Royal Arms of Scotland, supported on the dexter by the Royal unicorn, and on the sinister by a savage, or wild man, proper; and for crest, a branch of laurel and a thistle issuing from two hands conjoined, the one being armed, the other naked; with the motto, "Munit hæc et altera vincit." The incongruity of these exterior ornaments within a shield of arms is noticed by Nisbet, who informs us, however, that they are very soon removed. In the year 1629, after Nova Scotia was sold to the French, the Baronets of Scotland, and their heirs-male, were authorised by Charles I. "to wear and carry about their necks, in all time coming, an orange-tawny silk ribbon, whereon shall be pendent, in a scutcheon argent, a saltire azure, thereon an inescutcheon, of the arms of Scotland, with an Imperial crown above the scutcheon and encircled with this motto: 'Fax mentis honestæ gloria.'" According to the same authority, this badge was never much used "about their necks," but was carried, by way of canton or inescutcheon, on their armorial bearings, without the motto, and, of course, since then the superimposed supporters have been dropped.
The same peculiarity of supporters being surcharged upon a shield will be found, however, in the matriculation (1795) to Cumming-Gordon of Altyre. These arms are depicted on Plate III. In this the entire achievement (arms, crest, motto, and supporters) of Gordon of Gordon is placed upon an inescutcheon superimposed over the arms of Cumming.
In Scotland the arms, and the arms only, constitute the mark of a given family, and whilst due difference is made in the respective shields, no attempt is made as regards crest or supporters to impose any distinction between the figures granted to different families even where no blood relationship exists. The result is that whilst the same crests and supporters are duplicated over and over again, they at any rate remain in Scotland simple, graceful, and truly heraldic, even when judged by the most rigid mediæval standard. They are, of course, necessarily of no value whatever for identification. In England the simplicity is relinquished for the sake of distinction, and it is held that equivalent differentiation must be made, both in regard to the crests and the supporters, as is made between the shields of different families. The result as to modern crests is truly appalling, and with supporters it is almost equally so, for by their very nature it is impossible to design adequate differences for crests and supporters, as can readily be done in the charges upon a shield, without creating monstrosities. With regret one has to admit that the dangling shields, the diapered chintz-like bodies, and the fasces and other footstools so frequently provided for modern supporters in England would seem to be pedantic, unnecessary, and inartistic strivings after a useless ideal.
In England the right to bear supporters is confined to those to whom they have been granted or recorded, but such grant or record is very rigidly confined to peers, to Knights of the Garter, Thistle, and St. Patrick, and to Knights Grand Cross, or Knights Grand Commanders (as the case may be) of other Orders. Before the Order of the Bath was divided into classes, Knights of the Bath had supporters. As by an unwritten but nowadays invariably accepted law, the Orders of the Garter, Thistle, and St. Patrick are confined to members of the peerage, those entitled to claim (upon their petitioning) a grant of supporters in England are in practice limited to peers and Knights Grand Cross or Knights Grand Commanders. In the cases of peers, the grant is always attached to a particular peerage, the "remainder" in the limitations of the grant being to "those of his descendants upon whom the peerage may devolve," or some other words to this effect. In the cases of life peers and Knights Grand Cross the grant has no hereditary limitation, and the right to the supporters is personal to the grantee. There is nothing to distinguish the supporters of a peer from those of a Knight Grand Cross. Baronets of England, Ireland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom as such are not entitled to claim grants of supporters, but there are some number of cases in which, by special favour of the sovereign, specific Royal Warrants have been issued—either as marks of favour or as augmentations of honour—conveying the pleasure of the sovereign to the kings of arms, and directing the latter to grant supporters—to descend with the baronetcy. Of the cases of this nature the following may be quoted: Guise (Royal Warrant, dated July 12, 1863), Prevost (Royal Warrant, October 1816), Guinness, now Lord Ardilaun (Royal Warrant, dated April 15, 1867), Halford (Royal Warrant, May 19, 1827), Otway (Royal Warrant, June 10, 1845), and Laking. These, of course, are exceptional marks of favour from the sovereign, and this favour in at least two instances has been extended to untitled families. In 1815 Mr. George Watson-Taylor, an especial intimate of the then Prince Regent, by Royal Warrant dated September 28, 1815, was granted the following supporters: "On either side a leopard proper, armed and langued gules, collared and chained or." A more recent instance, and, with the exception of an Irish case presently to be referred to, the only other one within the knowledge of the writer, is the case of the Speke arms. It is recited in the Royal Warrant, dated July 26, 1867, that Captain John Hanning Speke "was by a deplorable accident suddenly deprived of his life before he had received any mark of our Royal favour" in connection with the discovery of the sources of the Nile. The Warrant goes on to recite the grant to his father, William Speke, of Jordans, co. Somerset, of the following augmentations to his original arms (argent, two bars azure) namely: on a chief a representation of flowing water superinscribed with the word "Nile," and for a crest of honourable augmentation a "crocodile," also the supporters following—that is to say, on the dexter side a crocodile, and on the sinister side a hippopotamus. Some number of English baronets have gone to the trouble and expense of obtaining grants of supporters in Lyon Office; for example Sir Christopher Baynes, by grant dated June 10, 1805, obtained two savages, wreathed about the temples and loins, each holding a club over the exterior shoulder. It is very doubtful to what extent such grants in Scotland to domiciled Englishmen can be upheld. Many other baronets have at one time or another assumed supporters without any official warrant or authority in consequence of certain action taken by an earlier committee of the baronetage, but cases of this kind are slowly dropping out of the Peerage books, and this, combined with the less ostentatious taste of the present day in the depicting of armorial bearings upon carriages and elsewhere, is slowly but steadily reducing the use of supporters to those who possess official authority for their display.
Another fruitful origin of the use of unauthorised supporters at the present day lies in the fact that grants of supporters personal to the grantee for his life only have been made to Knights Grand Cross or to life peers in cases where a hereditary title has been subsequently conferred. The limitations of the grant of supporters having never been extended, the grant has naturally expired with the death of the life honour to which the supporters were attached.
In addition to these cases there is a very limited number of families which have always claimed supporters by prescriptive right, amongst whom may be mentioned Tichborne of Tichborne (two lions guardant gules), De Hoghton of Hoghton (two bulls argent), Scroope of Danby (two choughs), and Stapylton. Concerning such cases it can only be said that in England no official sanction has ever been given to such use, and no case exists of any official recognition of the right of an untitled family to bear supporters to their arms save those few exceptional cases governed by specific Royal Warrants. In many cases, notably Scroope, Luttrel, Hilton, and Stapylton, the supporters have probably originated in their legitimate adoption at an early period in connection with peerage or other titular distinction, and have continued inadvertently in use when the titular distinctions to which they belonged have ceased to exist or have devolved upon other families. Possibly their use in some cases has been the result of a claim to de jure honours. The cases where supporters are claimed "by prescriptive right" are few indeed in England, and need not be further considered.
Whilst the official laws in Ireland are, and have apparently always been, the same as in England, there is no doubt that the heads of the different septs assert a claim to the right to use supporters. On this point Sir Bernard Burke, Ulster King of Arms, wrote: "No registry of supporters to an Irish chieftain appears in Ulster's Office, in right of his chieftaincy only, and without the honour of peerage, nor does any authority to bear them exist." But nevertheless "The O'Donovan" uses, dexter, a lion guardant, and sinister, a griffin; "The O'Gorman" uses, dexter, a lion, and sinister, a horse; "The O'Reilly" uses two lions or. "The O'Connor Don," however, is in the unique position of bearing supporters by unquestionable right, inasmuch as the late Queen Victoria, on the occasion of her last visit to Dublin, issued her Royal Warrant conferring the right upon him. The supporters granted to him were "two lions rampant gules, each gorged with an antique crown, and charged on the shoulder with an Irish harp or."
The right to bear supporters in Scotland is on a widely different basis from that in any other country. As in England and Ireland, peers and Knights Grand Cross are permitted to obtain grants of these distinctions. But outside and beyond these there are many other families who bear them by right. At the official inquiry concerning the Lyon Office, the Lyon-Depute, Mr. George Tait, put in a Note of Persons whom he considered might lawfully bear supporters under Scottish Heraldic Law. The following is the text of the note in question:—
- "Note of Persons who are considered by George Tait, Esq., Lyon-Depute, to be entitled to supporters, furnished to the Commissioners of Inquiry by their desire, intimated to him at his examination this day, June 27, 1821.
- "1. Peers.—By immemorial usage, Peers have right to supporters, and supporters are commonly inserted in modern patents of Peerage. This includes Peeresses in their own right.
- "2. Ancient Usage.—Those private gentlemen, and the lawful heirs-male of their bodies, who can prove immemorial usage of carrying supporters, or a usage very ancient, and long prior to the Act 1672, are entitled to have their supporters recognised, it being presumed that they received them from lawful authority, on account of feats of valour in battle or in tournament, or as marks of the Royal favour (see Murray of Touchadam's Case, June 24, 1778).
- "3. Barons.—Lawful heirs-male of the bodies of the smaller Barons, who had the full right of free barony (not mere freeholders) prior to 1587, when representation of the minor Barons was fully established, upon the ground that those persons were Barons, and sat in Parliament as such, and were of the same as the titled Barons. Their right is recognised by the writers on heraldry and antiquities. Persons having right on this ground, will almost always have established it by ancient usage, and the want of usage is a strong presumption against the right.
- "4. Chiefs.—Lawful heirs-male of Chiefs of tribes or clans which had attained power, and extensive territories and numerous members at a distant period, or at least of tribes consisting of numerous families of some degree of rank and consideration. Such persons will in general have right to supporters, either as Barons (great or small) or by ancient usage. When any new claim is set up on such a ground, it may be viewed with suspicion, and it will be extremely difficult to establish it, chiefly from the present state of society, by which the traces of clanship, or the patriarchal state, are in most parts of the country almost obliterated; and indeed it is very difficult to conceive a case in which a new claim of that kind could be admitted. Mr. Tait has had some such claims, and has rejected them.
- "5. Royal Commissions.—Knights of the Garter and Bath, and any others to whom the King may think proper to concede the honour of supporters.
- "These are the only descriptions of persons who appear to Mr. Tait to be entitled to supporters.
- "An idea has gone abroad, that Scots Baronets are entitled to supporters; but there is no authority for this in their patents, or any good authority for it elsewhere. And for many years subsequent to 1672, a very small portion indeed of their arms which are matriculated in the Lyon Register, are matriculated with supporters; so small as necessarily to lead to this inference, that those whose arms are entered with supporters had right to them on other grounds, e.g. ancient usage, chieftainship, or being heirs of Barons. The arms of few Scots Baronets are matriculated during the last fifty or sixty years; but the practice of assigning supporters gradually gained ground during that time, or rather the practice of assigning supporters to them, merely as such, seems to have arisen during that period; and it appears to Mr. Tait to be an erroneous practice, which he would not be warranted in following.
- "British Baronets have also, by recent practice, had supporters assigned to them, but Mr. Tait considers the practice to be unwarranted; and accordingly, in a recent case, a gentleman, upon being created a Baronet, applied for supporters to the King—having applied to Mr. Tait, and been informed by him that he did not conceive the Lord Lyon entitled to give supporters to British Baronets.
- "No females (except Peeresses in their own right) are entitled to supporters, as the representation of families is only in the male line. But the widows of Peers, by courtesy, carry their arms and supporters; and the sons of Peers, using the lower titles of the peerage by courtesy, also carry the supporters by courtesy.
- "Mr. Tait does not know of any authority for the Lord Lyon having a discretionary power of granting supporters, and understands that only the King has such a power.
- "Humbly submitted by
- (Signed)"G. Tait."
Though this statement would give a good general idea of the Scottish practice, its publication entails the addition of certain qualifying remarks. Supporters are most certainly not "commonly inserted in modern patents of peerage." Supporters appertaining to peerages are granted by special and separate patents. These to English subjects are now under the hand and seal of Garter alone. In the event of a grant following upon the creation of an Irish peerage, the patent of supporters would be issued by Ulster King of Arms. But it is competent to Lyon King of Arms to matriculate the arms of Scottish peers with supporters, or to grant these to such as may still be without them. Both Lyon and Ulster would appear to have the right to grant supporters to Peers of the United Kingdom who are heraldically their domiciled subjects. With regard to the second paragraph of Mr. Tait's memorandum, there will be few families within its range who will not be included within the range of the paragraph which follows, and the presumption would rather be that the use of supporters by an untitled family originated in the right of barony than in any mythical grant following upon mythical feats of valour.
Mr. Tait, however, is clearly wrong in his statement that "no females (except peeresses in their own right) are entitled to supporters." They have constantly been allowed to the heir of line, and their devolution through female heirs must of necessity presuppose the right thereto of the female heir through whom the inheritance is claimed. A recent case in point occurs with regard to the arms of Hunter-Weston, matriculated in 1880, Mrs. Hunter-Weston being the heir of line of Hunter of Hunterston. Widows of peers, providing they have arms of their own to impale with those of their husbands, cannot be said to only bear the supporters of their deceased husbands by courtesy. With them it is a matter of right. The eldest sons of peers bearing courtesy titles most certainly do not bear the supporters of the peerage to which they are heirs. Even the far more generally accepted "courtesy" practice of bearing coronets is expressly forbidden by an Earl-Marshal's Warrant.
Consequently it may be asserted that the laws concerning the use of supporters in Scotland are as follows: In the first place, no supporters can be borne of right unless they have been the subject of formal grant or matriculation. The following classes are entitled to obtain, upon payment of the necessary fees, the grant or matriculation of supporters to themselves, or to themselves and their descendants according as the case may be: (1) Peers of Scotland, and other peers who are domiciled Scotsmen. (2) Knights of the Garter, Knights of the Thistle, and Knights of St. Patrick, being Scotsmen, are entitled as such to obtain grants of supporters to themselves for use during life, but as these three orders are now confined to members of the peerage, the supporters used would be probably those appertaining to their peerages, and it is unlikely that any further grants for life will be made under these circumstances. (3) Knights of the Bath until the revision of the order were entitled to obtain grants of supporters to themselves for use during their lifetimes, and there are many instances in the Lyon Register where such grants have been made. (4) Knights Grand Cross of the Bath, of St. Michael and St. George, and of the Royal Victorian Order, and Knights Grand Commanders of the Orders of the Star of India, and of the Indian Empire, are entitled to obtain grants of supporters for use during their lifetimes. (5) The lawful heirs of the minor barons who had the full right of free barony prior to 1587 may matriculate supporters if they can show their ancestors used them, or may now obtain grants. Though practically the whole of these have been at some time or other matriculated in Lyon Register, there still remain a few whose claims have never been officially adjudicated upon. For example, it is only quite recently that the ancient Swinton supporters have been formally enrolled on the official records (Plate IV.). (6) There are certain others, being chiefs of clans and the heirs of those to whom grants have been made in times past, who also have the right, but as no new claim is likely to be so recognised in the future, it may be taken that these are confined to those cases which have been already entered in the Lyon Register.
During the latter part of the eighteenth century, the executive of Lyon Office had fallen into great disrepute. The office of Lyon King of Arms had been granted to the Earls of Kinnoul, who had contented themselves with appointing deputies and drawing fees. The whole subject of armorial jurisdiction in Scotland had become lax to the last degree, and very many irregularities had crept in. One, and probably the worst result, had been the granting of supporters in many cases where no valid reason other than the payment of fees could be put forward to warrant the obtaining of such a privilege. And the result was the growth and acceptance of the fixed idea that it was within the power of Lyon King of Arms to grant supporters to any one whom he might choose to so favour. Consequently many grants of supporters were placed upon the records, and many untitled families of Scotland apparently have the right under these patents of grant to add supporters to their arms. Though it is an arguable matter whether the Lord Lyon was justified in making these grants, there can be no doubt that, so long as they remain upon the official register, and no official steps are taken to cancel the patents, they must be accepted as existing by legal right. Probably the most egregious instance of such a grant is to be found in the case of the grant to the first baronet of the family of Antrobus, who on purchasing the estate of Rutherford, the seat of the extinct Lords Rutherford, obtained from the then Lyon King of Arms a grant of the peerage supporters carried by the previous owners of the property.
With regard to the devolution of Scottish supporters, the large proportion of those registered in Lyon Office are recorded in the terms of some patent which specifies the limitations of their descent, so that there are a comparatively small number only concerning which there can be any uncertainty as to whom the supporters will descend to. The difficulty can only arise in those cases in which the arms are matriculated with supporters as borne by ancient usage in the early years of the Lyon Register, or in the cases of supporters still to be matriculated on the same grounds by those families who have so far failed to comply with the Act of 1672. Whilst Mr. Tait, in his memorandum which has been previously quoted, would deny the right of inheritance to female heirs, there is no doubt whatever that in many cases such heirs have been allowed to succeed to the supporters of their families. Taking supporters as an appanage of right of barony (either greater or lesser), there can be no doubt that the greater baronies, and consequently the supporters attached to them, devolved upon heirs female, and upon the heir of line inheriting through a female ancestor; and, presumably, the same considerations must of necessity hold good with regard to those supporters which are borne by right of lesser barony, for the greater and the lesser were the same thing, differing only in degree, until in the year 1587 the lesser barons were relieved of compulsory attendance in Parliament. At the same time there can be no doubt that the headship of a family must rest with the heir male, and consequently it would seem that in those cases in which the supporters are borne by right of being head of a clan or chief of a name, the right of inheritance would devolve upon the heir male. There must of necessity be some cases in which it is impossible to determine whether the supporters were originally called into being by right of barony or because of chieftainship, and the consequence has been that concerning the descent of the supporters of the older untitled families there has been no uniformity in the practice of Lyon Office, and it is impossible from the precedents which exist to deduce any certain and unalterable rule upon the point. Precedents exist in each case, and the well-known case of Smith-Cunningham and Dick-Cunningham, which is often referred to as settling the point, did nothing of the kind, inasmuch as that judgment depended upon the interpretation of a specific Act of Parliament, and was not the determination of a point of heraldic law. The case, however, afforded the opportunity to Lord Jeffrey to make the following remarks upon the point (see p. 355, Seton):—
"If I may be permitted to take a common-sense view, I should say that there is neither an inflexible rule nor a uniform practice in the matter. There may be cases where the heir of line will exclude the heir male, and there may be cases where the converse will be held. In my opinion the common-sense rule is that the chief armorial dignities should follow the more substantial rights and dignities of the family. If the heir male succeed to the title and estates, I think it reasonable that he should also succeed to the armorial bearings of the head of the house. I would think it a very difficult proposition to establish that the heir of line, when denuded of everything else, was still entitled to retain the barren honours of heraldry. But I give no opinion upon that point."
Mr. Seton, in his "Law and Practice of Heraldry in Scotland," sums up the matter of inheritance in these words (see p. 357): "As already indicated, however, by one of the learned Lords in his opinion on the case of Cuninghame, the practice in the matter in question has been far from uniform; and accordingly we are very much disposed to go along with his relative suggestion, that 'the chief armorial dignities should follow the more substantial rights and dignities of the family'; and that when the latter are enjoyed by the female heir of line, such heir should also be regarded as fairly entitled to claim the principal heraldic honours."
The result has been in practice that the supporters of a family have usually been matriculated to whoever has carried on the name and line of the house, unless the supporters in question have been governed by a specific grant, the limitations of which exist to be referred to, but in cases where both the heir of line and the heir male have been left in a prominent position, the difficulty of decision has in many cases been got over by allowing supporters to both of them. The most curious instance of this within our knowledge occurs with regard to the family of Chisholm.
Chisholm of Erchless Castle appears undoubtedly to have succeeded as head and chief of his name—"The Chisholm"—about the end of the seventeenth century. As such supporters were carried, namely: "On either side a savage wreathed about the head and middle with laurel, and holding a club over his exterior shoulder."
At the death of Alexander Chisholm—"The Chisholm"—7th February 1793, the chieftainship and the estates passed to his half-brother William, but his heir of line was his only child Mary, who married James Gooden of London. Mrs. Mary Chisholm or Gooden in 1827 matriculated the undifferenced arms of Chisholm ["Gules, a boar's head couped or"], without supporters, but in 1831 the heir male also matriculated the same undifferenced arms, in this case with supporters.
The chieftainship of the Chisholm family then continued with the male line until the death of Duncan Macdonell Chisholm—"The Chisholm"—in 1859, when his only sister and heir became heir of line of the later chiefs. She was then Jemima Batten, and by Royal Licence in that year she and her husband assumed the additional surname of Chisholm, becoming Chisholm-Batten, and, contrary to the English practice in such cases, the arms of Chisholm alone were matriculated in 1860 to Mrs. Chisholm-Batten and her descendants. These once again were the undifferenced coat of Chisholm, viz.: "Gules, a boar's head couped or." Arms for Batten have since been granted in England, the domicile of the family being English, and the arms of the present Mr. Chisholm-Batten, though including the quartering for Chisholm, is usually marshalled as allowed in the College of Arms by English rules.
Though there does not appear to have been any subsequent rematriculation in favour of the heir male who succeeded as "The Chisholm," the undifferenced arms were also considered to have devolved upon him together with the supporters. On the death of the last known male heir of the family, Roderick Donald Matheson Chisholm, The Chisholm, in 1887, Mr. James Chisholm Gooden-Chisholm claimed the chieftainship as heir of line, and in that year the Gooden-Chisholm arms were again rematriculated. In this case supporters were added to the again undifferenced arms of Chisholm, but a slight alteration in the supporters was made, the clubs being reversed and placed to rest on the ground.
Amongst the many other untitled Scottish families who rightly bear supporters, may be mentioned Gibsone of Pentland, Barclay of Urie, Barclay of Towie, Drummond of Megginch, Maclachlan of that Ilk, "Cluny" Macpherson, Cunninghame, and Brisbane of that Ilk.
Armorial matters in the Channel Islands present a very unsatisfactory state of affairs. There never appears to have been any Visitation, and the arms of Channel Island families which officially pass muster must be confined to those of the very few families (for example, De Carteret, Dobrée, and Tupper) who have found it necessary or advisable on their own initiative to register their arms in the official English sources. In none of these instances have supporters been allowed, nor I believe did any of these families claim to use them, but some (Lemprière, De Saumerez, and other families) assert the possession of such a distinction by prescriptive right. If the right to supporters be a privilege of peerage, or if, as in Scotland, it anciently depended upon the right of free barony, the position of these Channel Island families in former days as seignorial lords was much akin. But it is highly improbable that the right to bear supporters in such cases will ever be officially recognised, and the case of De Saumerez, in which the supporters were bedevilled and regranted to descend with the peerage, will probably operate as a decisive precedent upon the point and against such a right. There are some number of families of foreign origin who bear supporters or claim them by the assertion of foreign right. Where this right can be established their use has been confirmed by Royal Licence in this country in some number of cases; for example, the cases of Rothschild and De Salis. In other cases (for example, the case of Chamier) no official record of the supporters exists with the record of the arms, and presumably the foreign right to the supporters could not have been established at the time of registration.
With regard to impersonal arms, the right to supporters in England is not easy to define. In the case of counties, crests and supporters are granted if the county likes to pay for them.
In the case of towns, the rule in England is that an ordinary town may not have supporters but that a city may, and instances are numerous where supporters have been granted upon the elevation of a town to the dignity of a city. Birmingham, Sheffield, and Nottingham are all recent instances in point. This rule, however, is not absolutely rigid, and an exception may be pointed to in the case of Liverpool, the supporters being granted in 1797, and the town not being created a city until a subsequent date. In Scotland, where, of course, until quite recently supporters were granted practically to anybody who chose to pay for them, a grant will be found for the county of Perth dated in 1800, in which supporters were included. But as to towns and cities it is no more than a matter of fees, any town in Scotland eligible for arms being at liberty to obtain supporters also if they are desired. In grants of arms to corporate bodies it is difficult to draw the line or to deduce any actual rule. In 23rd of Henry VIII. the Grocers' Livery Company were granted "two griffins per fess gules and or," and many other of the Livery Companies have supporters to their arms. Others, for no apparent reason, are without them. The "Merchant Adventurers' Company or Hamburg Merchants" have supporters, as had both the old and the new East India Companies. The arms of Jamaica and Cape Colony and of the British North Borneo Company have supporters, but on the other hand no supporters were assigned to Canada or to any of its provinces. In Ireland the matter appears to be much upon the same footing as in England, and as far as impersonal arms are concerned it is very difficult to say what the exact rule is, if this is to be deduced from known cases and past precedents.
Probably the freedom—amounting in many cases to great laxity—with which in English heraldic art the positions and attitudes of supporters are changed, is the one point in which English heraldic art has entirely ignored the trammels of conventionalised officialism. There must be in this country scores of entrance gates where each pillar of the gateway is surmounted by a shield held in the paws of a single supporter, and the Governmental use of the Royal supporters in an amazing variety of attitudes, some of which are grossly unheraldic, has not helped towards a true understanding. The reposeful attitude of watchful slumber in which the Royal lion and unicorn are so often depicted, may perhaps be in the nature of submission to the Biblical teaching of Isaiah that the lion shall lie down with the lamb (and possibly therefore also with the unicorn), in these times of peace which have succeeded those earlier days when "the lion beat the unicorn round and round the town."
Fig. 668.—The Arms used by Kilmarnock, Ayrshire: Azure, a fess chequy gules and argent. Crest: a dexter hand raised in benediction. Supporters: on either side a squirrel sejant proper.
In official minds, however, the sole attitude for the supporters is the rampant, or as near an approach to it as the nature of the animal will allow. A human being, a bird, or a fish naturally can hardly adopt the attitude. In Scotland, the land of heraldic freedom, various exceptions to this can be found. Of these one can call to mind the arms used by the town of Kilmarnock (Fig. 668), in which the supporters, "squirrels proper," are depicted always as sejant. These particular creatures, however, would look strange to us in any other form. These arms unfortunately have never been matriculated as the arms of the town (being really the arms of the Boyd family, the attainted Earls of Kilmarnock), and consequently can hardly as yet be referred to as a definite precedent, because official matriculation might result in a similar "happening" to the change which was made in the case of the arms of Inverness. In all representations of the arms of earlier date than the matriculation, the supporters, (dexter) a camel and (sinister) an elephant, are depicted statant on either side of the shield, no actual contact being made between the escutcheon and the supporters. But in 1900, when in a belated compliance with the Act of 1672 the armorial bearings of the Royal Burgh of Inverness were matriculated, the position was altered to that more usually employed for supporters.
The supporters always used by Sir John Maxwell Stirling-Maxwell of Pollok are two lions sejant guardant. These, as appears from an old seal, were in use as far back as the commencement of the fifteenth century, but the supporters officially recorded for the family are two apes. In English armory one or two exceptional cases may be noticed; for example, the supporters of the city of Bristol, which are: "On either side, on a mount vert, a unicorn sejant or, armed, maned, and unguled sable." Another instance will be found in the supporters of Lord Rosmead, which are: "On the dexter side an ostrich and on the sinister side a kangaroo, both regardant proper." From the nature of the animal, the kangaroo is depicted sejant.
Supporters in Germany date from the same period as with ourselves, being to be met with on seals as far back as 1276. At first they were similarly purely artistic adjuncts, but they have retained much of this character and much of the purely permissive nature in Germany to the present day. It was not until about the middle of the seventeenth century that supporters were granted or became hereditary in that country. Grants of supporters can be found in England at an earlier date, but such grants were isolated in number. Nevertheless supporters had become hereditary very soon after they obtained a regularly heraldic (as opposed to a decorative) footing. Their use, however, was governed at that period by a greater freedom as to alteration and change than was customary with armory in general. Supporters were an adjunct of the peerage, and peers were not subject to the Visitations. With his freedom from arrest, his high social position, and his many other privileges of peerage, a peer was "too big" a person formerly to accept the dictatorial armorial control which the Crown enforced upon lesser people. Short of treason, a peer in any part of Great Britain for most practical purposes of social life was above the ordinary law. In actual fact it was only the rights of one peer as opposed to the rights of another peer that kept a Lord of Parliament under any semblance of control. When the great lords of past centuries could and did raise armies to fight the King a peer was hardly likely to, nor did he, brook much interference.
Of the development of supporters in Germany Ströhl writes:—
"Only very late, about the middle of the seventeenth century, were supporters granted as hereditary, but they appear in the arms of burghers in the first half of the fifteenth century, and the arms of many towns also possess them as decorative adjuncts.
"The first supporters were human figures, generally portraits of the arms-bearers themselves; then women, young men, and boys, so-called Schildbuben. In the second half of the fourteenth century animals appear: lions, bears, stags, dogs, griffins, &c. In the fifteenth century one frequently encounters angels with richly curling hair, saints (patrons of the bearer or of the town), then later, nude wild men and women (Waldmenschen) thickly covered with hair, with garlands round their loins and on their heads. The thick, hairy covering of the body in the case of women is only to be met with in the very beginning. Later the endeavour was to approach the feminine ideal as nearly as possible, and only the garlands were retained to point out the origin and the home of these figures.
"At the end of the fifteenth and in the sixteenth century, there came into fashion lansquenets, huntsmen, pretty women and girls, both clothed and unclothed." Speaking of the present day, and from the executive standpoint, he adds:—
"Supporters, with the exception of flying angels, should have a footing on which they can stand in a natural manner, whether it be grass, a pedestal, a tree, or line of ornament, and to place them upon a ribbon of a motto is less suitable because a thin ribbon can hardly give the impression of a sufficiently strong support for the invariably heavy-looking figures of the men or animals. The supporters of the shield may at the same time be employed as bearers of the helmets. They bear the helmets either over the head or hold them in their hands. Figures standing near the shield, but not holding or supporting it in any way, cannot in the strict sense of the word be designated supporters; such figures are called Schildwächter (shield-watchers or guardians).
HUMAN FIGURES AS SUPPORTERS
Of all figures employed as supporters probably human beings are of most frequent occurrence, even when those single and double figures referred to on an earlier page, which are not a real part of the heraldic achievement, are excluded from consideration. The endless variety of different figures perhaps gives some clue to the reason of their frequent occurrence.Though the nude human figure appears (male) upon the shield of Dalziel and (female) in the crest of Ellis (Agar-Ellis, formerly Viscount Clifden), one cannot call to mind any instance of such an occurrence in the form of supporters, though possibly the supporters of the
Fig. 669.—Arms of Arbroath: Gules, a portcullis with chains pendent or. Motto: "Propter Libertatem." Supporters: dexter, St. Thomas à Becket in his archiepiscopal robes all proper; sinister, a Baron of Scotland armed cap-à-pie, holding in his exterior hand the letter from the Convention of the Scottish Estates, held at Arbroath in the year of 1320, addressed to Pope John XXII., all proper.
Glaziers' Livery Company ["Two naked boys proper, each holding a long torch inflamed of the last"] and of the Joiners' Livery Company ["Two naked boys proper, the dexter holding in his hand an emblematical female figure, crowned with a mural coronet sable, the sinister holding in his hand a square"] might be classed in such a character. Nude figures in armory are practically always termed "savages," or occasionally "woodmen" or "wildmen," and garlanded about the loins with foliage.
With various adjuncts—clubs, banners, trees, branches, &c.—Savages will be found as the supporters of the arms of the German Emperor, and in the sovereign arms of Brunswick, Denmark, Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, and Rudolstadt, as well as in the arms of the kingdom of Prussia. They also appear in the arms of the kingdom of Greece, though in this case they should perhaps be more properly described as figures of Hercules.
In British armory—amongst many other families—two savages are the supporters of the Marquess of Ailesbury, Lord Calthorpe, Viscount de Vesci, Lord Elphinstone, the Earl of Elgin and Kincardine, the Duke of Fife, Earl Fitzwilliam (each holding in the exterior hand a tree eradicated), Lord Kinnaird, the Earl of Morton; and amongst the baronets who possess supporters, Menzies, Douglas of Carr, and Williams-Drummond have on either side of their escutcheons a "savage." Earl Poulett alone has both man and woman, his supporters being: "Dexter, a savage man; sinister, a savage woman, both wreathed with oak, all proper." As some one remarked on seeing a realistic representation of this coat of arms by Catton, R.A., the blazon might more appropriately have concluded "all improper."
Next after savages, the most favourite variety of the human being adopted as a supporter is the Man in Armour.
Even as heraldic and heritable supporters angels are not uncommon, and are to be met with amongst other cases in the arms of the Marquess of Waterford, the Earl of Dudley, and Viscount Dillon.
It is rare to find supporters definitely stated to represent any specific person, but in the case of the arms of Arbroath (Fig. 669) the supporters are "Dexter: 'St. Thomas à Becket,' and sinister, a Baron of Scotland." Another instance, again from Scotland, appears in a most extraordinary grant by the Lyon in 1816 to Sir Jonathan Wathen Waller, Bart., of Braywick Lodge, co. Berks, and of Twickenham, co. Middlesex. In this case the supporters were two elaborately "harnessed" ancient warriors, "to commemorate the surrender of Charles, Duke of Orleans, at the memorable battle of Agincourt (that word being the motto over the crest) in the year 1415, to Richard Waller of Groombridge in Kent, Esq., from which Richard the said Sir Jonathan Wathen Waller is, according to the tradition of his family, descended." This pedigree is set out in Burke's Peerage, which assigns as arms to this family the old coat of Waller of Groombridge, with the augmented crest, viz.: "On a mount vert, a walnut-tree proper, and pendent therefrom an escutcheon of the arms of France with a label of three points argent." Considerable doubt, however, is thrown upon the descent by the fact that in 1814, when Sir Jonathan (then Mr. Phipps) obtained a Royal Licence to assume the name and arms of Waller, a very different and much bedevilled edition of the arms and not the real coat of Waller of Groombridge was exemplified to him. These supporters (the grant was quite ultra vires, Sir Jonathan being a domiciled Englishman) do not appear in any of the Peerage books, and it is not clear to what extent they were ever made use of, but in a painting which came under my notice the Duke of Orleans, in his surcoat of France, could be observed handing his sword across the front of the escutcheon to Mr. (or Sir) Richard Waller. The supporters of the Needlemakers' Company are commonly known as Adam and Eve, and the motto of the Company ["They sewed fig-leaves together and made themselves aprons"] bears this supposition out. The blazon, however, is: "Dexter, a man; sinister, a woman, both proper, each wreathed round the waist with leaves of the last, in the woman's dexter hand a needle or." The supporters of the Earl of Aberdeen are, "dexter an Earl and sinister a Doctor of Laws, both in their robes all proper."
Highlanders in modern costume figure as supporters to the arms of Maconochie-Wellwood, and in more ancient garb in the case of Cluny Macpherson, and soldiers in the uniforms of every regiment, and savages from every clime, have at some time or other been pressed into heraldic service as supporters; but a work on Armory is not a handbook on costume, military and civil, nor is it an ethnographical directory, which it would certainly become if any attempt were to be made to enumerate the different varieties of men and women, clothed and unclothed, which have been used for the purposes of supporters.
ANIMALS AS SUPPORTERS
When we turn to animals as supporters, we at once get to a much wider range, and but little can be said concerning them beyond stating that though usually rampant, they are sometimes sejant, and may be guardant or regardant. One may, however, append examples of the work of different artists, which will doubtless serve as models, or possibly may develop ideas in other artists. The Lion naturally first claims one's attention. Fig. 670 shows an interesting and curious instance of the use of a single lion as a supporter. This is taken from a drawing in the possession of the town library at Breslau (Herold, 1888, No. 1), and represents the arms of Dr. Heinrich Rubische, Physician to the King of Hungary and Bohemia. The arms are, "per fesse," the chief argent, a "point" throughout sable, charged with a lion's face, holding in the jaws an annulet, and the base also argent charged with two bars sable. The mantling is sable and argent. Upon the helmet as crest are two buffalo's horns of the colours of the shield, and between them appears (apparently as a part of the heritable crest) a lion's face holding an annulet as in the arms. This, however, is the face of the lion, which, standing behind the escutcheon, is employed as the supporter, though possibly it is intended that it should do double duty. This employment of one animal to serve a double armorial purpose is practically unknown in British armory, except possibly in a few early examples of seals, but in German heraldry it is very far from being uncommon.
Fig. 670.—Arms of Dr. Heinrich Rubische.
Sea-lions will be found as supporters to the arms of Viscount Falmouth ["Two sea-lions erect on their tails argent, gutté-de-l'armes"], and the Earl of Howth bears: "Dexter, a sea-lion as in the crest; sinister, a mermaid proper, holding in her exterior hand a mirror."
The heraldic tiger is occasionally found as a supporter, and an instance occurs in the arms of the Marquess of Dufferin and Ava. It also occurs as the sinister supporter of the Duke of Leeds, and of the Baroness Darcy de Knayth, and was the dexter supporter of the Earls of Holderness. Two heraldic tigers are the supporters both of Sir Andrew Noel Agnew, Bart., and of the Marquess of Anglesey. Of recent years the natural tiger has taken its place in the heraldic menagerie, and instances of its appearance will be found in the arms of Sir Mortimer Durand, and as one of the supporters of the arms of the city of Bombay. When occurring in heraldic surroundings it is always termed for distinction a "Bengal tiger," and two Royal Bengal tigers are the supporters of Sir Francis Outram, Bart.: "On either side a Royal Bengal tiger guardant proper, gorged with a wreath of laurel vert, and on the head an Eastern crown or."
The griffin is perhaps the next most favourite supporter. Male griffins are the supporters of Sir George John Egerton Dashwood: "On either side a male gryphon argent, gorged with a collar flory counterflory gules."
A very curious supporter is borne by Mr. Styleman Le Strange. Of course, as a domiciled English commoner, having no Royal Licence to bear supporters, his claim to these additions would not be recognised, but their use no doubt originated in the fact that he represents the lines of several coheirships to different baronies by writ, to some one of which, no doubt, the supporters may have at some time belonged. The dexter supporter in question is "a stag argent with a lion's forepaws and tail, collared."
The supporters recently granted to Lord Milner are two "springbok," and the same animal (an "oryx" or "springbok") is the sinister supporter of the arms of Cape Colony.
Goats are the supporters of the Earl of Portsmouth (who styles his "chamois or wild goats"), of Lord Bagot and Lord Cranworth, and they occur in the achievements of the Barony of Ruthven and the Marquess of Normanby. The supporters of Viscount Southwell are two "Indian" goats.
Rams are the supporters of Lord de Ramsey and Lord Sherard. A ram is also one of the supporters attached to the Barony of Ruthven, and one of the supporters used by the town of New Galloway. These arms, however, have never been matriculated, which on account of the curious charge upon the shield is very much to be regretted.
The supporters of Lord Mowbray and Stourton afford an example of a most curious and interesting animal. Originally the Lords Stourton used two antelopes azure, but before the seventeenth century these had been changed to two "sea-dogs." When the abeyance of the Barony of Mowbray was determined in favour of Lord Stourton the dexter supporter was changed to the lion of Mowbray, but the sinister supporter still remained a "sea-dog."
The horse and the pegasus are constantly met with supporting the arms of peers and others in this country. A bay horse regardant figures as the dexter supporter of the Earl of Yarborough, and the horses which support the shield of Earl Cowper are very specifically detailed in the official blazon: "Two dun horses close cropped (except a tuft upon the withers) and docked, a large blaze down the face, a black list down the back, and three white feet, viz. the hind-feet and near fore-foot." Lord Joicey has two Shetland ponies and Lord Winterstoke has "two horses sable, maned, tailed, and girthed or."
The arms of the City of London are always used with dragons for supporters, but these supporters are not officially recorded. The arms of the City of London are referred to at greater length elsewhere in these pages. The town of Appleby uses dragons with wings expanded (most fearsome creatures), but these are not official, nor are the "dragons sejant addorsed gules, each holding an ostrich feather argent affixed to a scroll" which some enterprising artist designed for Cheshire. Dragons will be found as supporters to the arms of the Earl of Enniskillen, Lord St. Oswald, the Earl of Castlestuart, and Viscount Arbuthnot. The heraldic dragon is not the only form of the creature now known to armory. The Chinese dragon was granted to Lord Gough as one of his supporters, and it has since also been granted as a supporter to Sir Robert Hart, Bart.
Wyverns are the supporters of the Earl of Meath and Lord Burghclere, and the sinister supporter of both Lord Raglan and Lord Lyveden.
The arms of the Royal Burgh of Dundee are quite unique. The official blazon runs: "Azure, a pott of growing lillies argent, the escutcheon being supported by two dragons, their tails nowed together underneath vert, with this word in an escroll above a lilie growing out of the top of the shield as the former, 'Dei Donum.'" Though blazoned as dragons, the creatures are undoubtedly wyverns.
Wyverns when figuring as supporters are usually represented standing on the one claw and supporting the shield with the other, but in the case of the Duke of Marlborough, whose supporters are two wyverns, these are generally represented sejant erect, supporting the shield with both claws. This position is also adopted for the wyvern supporters of Sir Robert Arbuthnot, Bart., and the Earl of Eglinton.
Two cockatrices are the supporters of Lord Donoughmore, the Earl of Westmeath, and Sir Edmund Nugent, Bart., and the dexter supporter of Lord Lanesborough is also a cockatrice.
The basilisk is the same creature as the cockatrice, and in the arms of the town of Basle (German Basel), is an example of a supporter blazoned as a basilisk. The arms are: "Argent, a crosier sable." The supporter is a basilisk vert, armed and jelloped gules.
The supporters of the Plasterers' Company, which were granted with the arms (January 15, 1556), are: "Two opinaci (figures very similar to griffins) vert pursted (? purfled) or, beaked sable, the wings gules." The dexter supporter of the arms of Cape Colony is a "gnu."
The zebra, the giraffe, and the okapi are as yet unclaimed as supporters, though the giraffe, under the name of the camelopard, figures in some number of cases as a crest, and there is at least one instance (Kemsley) of a zebra as a crest. The ass, though there are some number of cases in which it appears as a crest or a charge, does not yet figure anywhere as a supporter, nor does the mule. The hyena, the sacred cow of India, the bison, the giant-sloth, and the armadillo are all distinctive animals which still remain to be withdrawn from the heraldic "lucky bag" of Garter. The mythical human-faced winged bull of Egyptian mythology, the harpy, and the female centaur would lend themselves well to the character of supporters.
Robertson of Struan has no supporters matriculated with his arms, and it is difficult to say for what length of time the supporters now in use have been adopted. But he is chief of his name, and the representative of one of the minor barons, so that there is no doubt that supporters would be matriculated to him if he cared to apply. Those supporters in use, viz. "Dexter, a serpent; sinister, a dove, the heads of each encircled with rays," must surely be no less unique than is the strange compartment, "a wild man lying in chains," which is borne below the arms of Struan Robertson, and which was granted to his ancestor in 1451 for arresting the murderers of King James I.
The supporters belonging to the city of Glasgow are also unique, being two salmon, each holding a signet-ring in the mouth.
The supporters of the city of Waterford, though not recorded in Ulster's Office, have been long enough in use to ensure their official "confirmation" if a request to this effect were to be properly put forward. They are, on the dexter side a lion, and on the sinister side a dolphin. Two dolphins azure, finned or, are the supporters of the Watermen and Lightermen's Livery Company, and were granted 1655.
BIRDS AS SUPPORTERS
Whilst eagles are plentiful as supporters, nevertheless if eagles are eliminated the proportion of supporters which are birds is not great.
A certain variety and differentiation is obtained by altering the position of the wings, noticeably in regard to eagles, but these differences do not appear to be by any means closely adhered to by artists in pictorial representations of armorial bearings.
Fig. 671 ought perhaps more properly to have been placed amongst those eagles which, appearing as single figures, carry shields charged upon the breast, but in the present case, in addition to the shield charged upon it in the usual manner, it so palpably supports the two other escutcheons, that we are tempted to include it amongst definite supporters. The figure represents the arms of the free city of Nürnberg, and the design is reproduced from the title-page of the German edition of Andreas Vesili's Anatomia, printed at Nürnberg in 1537. The eagle is that of the German Empire, carrying on its breast the impaled arms of Castile and Austria. The shields it supports may now be said both to belong to Nürnberg. The dexter shield, which is the coloured seal device of the old Imperial city, is: "Azure, a harpy (in German frauenadler or maiden eagle) displayed and crowned or." The sinister shield (which may more properly be considered the real arms of Nürnberg) is: "Per pale or, a double-headed Imperial eagle displayed, dimidiated with bendy of six gules and argent."
The supporters of Lord Amherst of Hackney are two Herons: "On either side a heron proper, collared or."
Fig. 671.—The Arms of Nürnberg.
The city of Calcutta, to which arms and supporters were granted in 1896, has for its supporters Adjutant Birds, which closely approximate to storks. Two woodpeckers have recently been granted as the supporters of Lord Peckover.
- Plate XI. Fig. 10, Laing's "Catalogue," No. 29. At each side of the King's seated figure on the counter-seal of Robert II. (1386) the arms of Scotland are supported from behind by a skeleton within an embattled buttress ("Catalogue," No. 34).
- Armorial bearings of William Speke, Esq.: Argent, two bars azure, over all an eagle displayed with two heads gules, and as an honourable augmentation (granted by Royal Licence, dated July 26, 1867, to commemorate the discoveries of the said John Hanning Speke), a chief azure, thereon a representation of flowing water proper, superinscribed with the word "Nile" in letters gold. Upon the escutcheon is placed a helmet befitting his degree, with a mantling azure and argent; and for his crests: 1. (of honourable augmentation) upon a wreath of the colours, a crocodile proper; 2. upon a wreath of the colours, a porcupine proper; and as a further augmentation for supporters (granted by Royal Licence as above to the said William Speke, Esq., for and during his life)—on the dexter side, a crocodile; and on the sinister side, a hippopotamus, both proper; with the motto, "Super æthera virtus."
- Arms of Glasgow: Argent, on a mount in base vert an oak-tree proper, the stem at the base thereof surmounted by a salmon on its back also proper, with a signet-ring in its mouth or, on the top of the tree a redbreast, and in the sinister fess point an ancient hand-bell, both also proper. Above this shield is placed a suitable helmet, with a mantling gules, doubled argent; and issuing from a wreath of the proper liveries is set for crest, the half-length figure of St. Kentigern affronté, vested and mitred, his right hand raised in the act of benediction, and having in his left hand a crosier, all proper. On a compartment below the shield are placed for supporters, two salmon proper, each holding in its mouth a signet-ring or, and in an escroll entwined with the compartment this motto, "Let Glasgow flourish."