The Battle of Hastings and the Norman Conquest part 2
Duke William of Normandy had the sanction of the church for his expedition, and this is shown heraldically by the banner depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry; a red cross on a white background with a blue border. This was the flag that received the blessing of Pope Alexander. Although enjoying the support of the Church, William was by no means subservient to the Pope’s wishes, as in later years he said the following to Pope Gregory: “ Fealty I never willed to do, nor do I will to do it now. I have never promised it, nor do I find that my predecessors did it to yours.” Another Norman banner represented in the Bayeux Tapestry may have been the famous raven of the Norsemen. This emblem recalls the descent of the Normans from the fierce and adventurous Scandinavian people who harried the shores of Britain and Ireland and established themselves firmly in Northern France during the ‘dark ages’ after the fall of Charlemagne’s Empire. It suggests that the Normans acknowledged their origins and emphasizes the fact that the Anglo-Saxon kingdom finally fell not to a new and unexpected foe, but to a branch of that race which had for generations sought to conquer it.
An armed knight holding a red banner containing two golden lions ( the traditional arms of the Conqueror) supports the shield of the Delaval family, and represents Guido de la Val, said to have been a cousin of Duke William of Normandy, and to have borne his head banners at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Other families that cling to the legend of an ancestor that fought at the Battle of Hastings seek to support their claim by a liberal interpretation of the bearings in their Arms. A branch of the St. Johns who display three wagon horses’ collars profess to be descended from the master of William’s baggage- wagons; and the Ferrers family seek the origin of their name, and the horseshoes in their shield in the office of chief farrier to the Norman army. The surname Fortescue is attached to a romantic story from the Battle of Hastings. Richard le Fort, it is told, flung his shield before Duke William at a critical moment in the battle, saving William from certain death. For this service to the Duke, Fort received the addition of escue to his name, and to this day the Fortescues bear the punning motto Forte scutum salus dictum --“ A strong shield is the leader’s safeguard.” A badge of the family is a shield bearing the word “Fort”. The need for certain families to establish a Norman ancestor has been responsible for many such fables, and to correct this is an apt quote from the foremost authority on heraldic matters, Arthur Fox-Davies in his book Armorial Families: “If any ordinary individual tell you he is descended in the male line from someone who figures upon the glorious roll of Battle Abbey, or that his ancestor ‘came over with the Conquerer’, write him down a perverter of the truth at once.”
Heraldry and the Crusades part 4, Richard the Lionheart
Islington, a borough of North London, recalls in its Coat of Arms its ancient association with the crusaders through the Knights of St. John, who once held the manor of Highbury, the gold cross potent on a red field in the first quarter of the borough shield being taken from that of the Arms of Jerusalem. Hackney’s Arms include a quartering divided horizontally in black and white ( like the Templars’ banner) and containing an eight pointed cross, white on the black half of the ground and red on the white half, in token that the Manor was once held by the Templars, and afterward by the Hospitallers. The nails of the Cross also appear in early Heraldry. The Anstruthers explain their three black piles on silver field as a conventional representation of Passion nails, Henry, Lord Anstruther accompanied St. Louis to the Holy Land on the early crusades.
Contemporary writers compared the crusader King, Richard I, to a lion. Richard of Devizes said of him that “he raged like the fiercest lion, and vented his anger in a manner worthy that noble beast.” Passages of writing such as this, as well as his famous nickname Coeur-de-Lion, have reference to the King’s habitual use of a lion as a badge or banner; though the name has the usual explanatory fable which tells how Richard, being attacked by a lion, tore out with his hands the royal beast’s heart.
The first Great Seal of Richard, used during the crusading period of his reign, represents him with a single rampant lion on his shield. But as the lion faces the center of the shield, of which only half is visible, there has been conjecture that there was another lion on the hidden half, and consequently Richard I has been credited with the Arms of two gold lions combatant ( facing each other fighting) on a red field. There is strong evidence to suggest that Henry II bore two lions on his Coat of Arms; we know with certainty that his son John bore two lions; and the evidence is in favor of the theory that in the earlier part of his career Richard also bore two lions. The fact that Richard’s lions are “rampant combatant” while John’s are “passant reguardant” supports this view as the brothers would naturally have borne their paternal lions in different attitudes so that their Arms would be different. On his return from the crusade, Richard adopted the three lions “passant guardant” as his Coat of Arms and these have been the Royal Arms of England ever since and hold the premier place in the Regent’s shield. Richard embodied these Arms in a new Great Seal and obtained considerable sums of money from his subjects by requiring all existing charters to be confirmed under the new seal.
Heraldry in Ireland part 5, Tribal Society
As mentioned in our earlier blog post on totemism, http://www.heraldicjewelry.com/2/post/2012/10/the-symbolism-of-heraldry-part-3-totemism.html tribal societies the world over define themselves by animal totems from the aboriginals of Australia to the Native American tribes of North America. Ancient Ireland was no different and tribes connected by blood identified with animals. In the epic Irish story The Cattle Raid of Cooley for example we hear of the Partraighi “ the people of the stag”. In Southern Ireland many families from the province of Munster revered the stag, defining their borders by the routes of stag hunts and choosing their rulers based on their prowess at hunting stags.
The system of Heraldry that was brought to Ireland by the Anglo-Normans was not widely adopted by Gaelic chieftains until the 15th century, and when they did adopt this heraldic system many of them incorporated the animal symbolism that had already been in use by their ancestors. This is the reason that the MacCarthy and O’Sullivan families from counties Cork and Kerry respectively have Stags on their Coat of Arms. Other families used different symbols that they also incorporated into their Coat of Arms. In Connaught, the Western province of Ireland druids had for generations planted Oak trees near forts and the Oak Tree had become a symbol of reverence for people. Thus Oak Trees appear on the Arms of many of the prominent families of Connaught including the Flanagans ( image above), O’Beirnes, and O’Connor Don. The famous red hand of Ulster was the symbol of the sun god Bolg and was also equated with the hand of Heremon, which, according to legend, he cut off and threw ashore so he could be the first Milesian to have touched Ireland. The red hand is incorporated int their Coats of Arms by many of the leading families of Ulster including O’Neill and Donnelly.
As stated in a previous post, when responsibility of Heraldic affairs passed to the Irish Free State in 1943, Edward Mac Lysaght was appointed to the newly created office of Chief Herald of Ireland. Mac Lysaght wrote that: “ we were at first inclined to adopt the British attitude in heraldic matters; but after a few years the peculiar conditions existing in Ireland, politically and historically, induced a modification of outlook …” The main difference between the old British system of Arms and the new Irish one pertained to the Arms of the Irish Septs, the great families. Ireland took a new approach whereby the Coat of Arms pertained to all members of a Sept and not to only one person, thus a group with a common name and common ancestor were all entitled to bear the same Coat of Arms, whereas the old British system made it very clear that Arms could only be used by Male descendants of an ancestor to whom the Arms were granted.
Heraldry in Ireland part 3,
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