Thomas Robson.

The British herald; online

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Online LibraryThomas RobsonThe British herald; → online text (page 1 of 157)
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It has been frequently and very justly remarked, that in this age of universal inquiry and
unbounded literary speculation, the various branches of philosophy and erudition have been
cultivated with a diligence and success unknown to any former period. But although it
would be preposterous to dispute the accuracy of an opinion already so strikingly apparent,
and which is daily rendered more evident by the frequency of discovery and the r&pidity
of improvement in every department of science, as well as by the unexampled excellence of
the works of literature, which are continually issuing from the press ; yet it cannot but be
allowed by every intelligent observer, that the science of heraldry has not, in the present
period, been cultivated with the same degree of earnestness as might naturally have been
anticipated. Amidst the teeming fecundity of the press, and the accelerated progression of
knowledge, no work on the subject of armory, commensurate with this state of things, has as
yet appeared. A wish to supply this hiatus, by presenting to the public a compilation on
heraldry worthy of this enlightened era, has stimulated the author to engage in the present
arduous undertaking.

Heraldry, however, unlike most other sciences, from its principles having been for ages
irrevocably established, precludes that diversity and latitude, in which those who are charac-
terized by inventive power or brilliancy of imagination, love to range ; and, therefore, to such
it can present but few attractions. Its nature is unchangeable; and all that can possibly be
effected by the labourer in this field of intellectual exertion, is to collect, re-arrange, and
embody in a more luminous form, the existing, but insulated materials which are found

scattered throughout the pages of preceding authors.


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When the endless variety which this science presents to the contemplation of the
studious, is duly considered and appreciated, and its inseparable connexion with the
venerable institutions and usages of our established constitution, its history and antiquities,
is clearly understood^ it will no longer excite astonishment, that men so eminently distin-
guished for their erudition and abilities, should, in all ages since the period of its origin, have
devoted so much of their time and attention to its cultivation.

The primary object of the present compilation is to obviate a defect, which, in works of
this description, has been the subject of long and general complaint, viz. the difficulty of
obtaining precise and accurate information respecting any particular family. Individuals, it
has been remarked, wishing to obtain such information, are under the necessity of consulting
voluminous and expensive publications, in which, however arduous their research, they can
seldom find more than obscure and inadequate descriptions, and those, in many instances,
only intelligible to such as are competently versed in the technicalities of heraldry ; not to
mention, that in some cases, the object of their pursuit is completely defeated.

Although Edmondson's Complete Body of Heraldry, the ground-work of the present
undertaking, is undoubtedly a most meritorious performance, and incomparably superior to
those of his predecessors, for arms of English families, in respect of accuracy, amplitude,
and particularity of detail; it is, notwithstanding, extremely defective in some very important
essentials ; the injudicious and perplexing intermixture of the I's and Y's, as also the U's
and V's, so frequently occurring in these letters, and the arranging of such names together
as happen to be similar in sound, without a due regard to their orthographical distinctions,
are sources of considerable embarrassment to the inquirer. These imperfections have been
remedied in this work, by a punctilious attention to the alphabetical arrangement of its
contents, not only of the names of families, but also of the counties in which they reside, so
that any family can be referred to with the greatest facility and certitude.

But independently of the manifest and incontestable advantages resulting from a more
methodical arrangement, which the compiler flatters himself will be found to distinguish this
work from all prior and contemporary productions on the science of heraldry, preceding
authors of celebrity have been carefully investigated, and the available parts of their labours
extracted ; original manuscripts and documents connected with, or illustrative of the science,
sought after and diligently consulted; as well as many personal and epistolary applications
to gentlemen, either remarkable for their proficiency in this species of erudition, or for the
rare and exclusive sources of information which they possessed on the subject of armory.

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with the view of extending the utility of the work and rendering it as perfect as possible.
To these Gentlemen, for the promptitude and liberality of their communications, the author
gratefully acknowledges himself under the strongest obligations; and regrets that he is
unavoidably precluded, by their number, from thanking them individually.

In the Introduction is given a succinct, but .comprehensive Inquiry into the Origin of
Heraldry, with an Account of its Rise and Progress in England, and the various institutions
connected therewith ; the diflRerent Degrees of Nobility and Gentry ; Rules of Precedency;
Royal Arms of England, from Egbert the first Saxon king, to his present Majesty William
the Fourth ; Royal Arms of Emperors, Kingdoms, Sovereign and Independent States, Princi-
palities, &c. ; the several Orders of Knighthood, which have been instituted from the earliest
to the present time, together with a description of their respective habits, collars, badges,
mottos, &c. accompanied with engravings of their stars, badges, and collars ; the Armorial
Ensigns of Counties, Cities, Boroughs, Towns Corporate in England and Wales, and Royal
Boroughs of Scotland ; Abbeys, Monasteries, Deaneries, and Religious Houses, founded in
England and Wales ; Archiepiscopal and Episcopal Sees in England and Ireland, and those
formerly established in Scotland ; the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, with the several
Colleges and Halls within the same; also Colleges and Hospitals, Inns of Court and Chancery,
Societies, Bodies Corporate, and Trading Companies, established in London, Edinburgh,
Bristol, Exeter, Chester, and Newcastle upon Tyne ; an Essay on Funerals, &c.

In the next place is given an Alphabet of Arms, under their respective family names,
either in the body of the work, or in the Appendix ; and not only the whole of the peers and
baronets now existing, with their christian names, their different titles, the dates of their
births, the numbers and dates of succession, dates of creation, places of residence, and town
houses ; but also the whole of the English baronets that have been created since the first
institution of that dignity, with their numbers and dates of creation ; including, also, the
arms of the baronets of Ireland and of Nova Scotia; a desideratum frequently attempted to
be supplied, but never before accomplished. The arms of private families, from the intro-
duction of heraldr}*^ into Britain, down to the present time; and the crests and mottos which
were omitted in former works of this kind, so far as they could be obtained, have been

A complete Glossary of the terms used in heraldry, with explanatory engravings, the
method of blazoning arms, together with every other information necessary to a thorough
knowledge of the science, are also included in the present compilation.

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The whole of the Mottos which occur in these volumes, amounting to upwards of seven
thousand, with translations of the same, and annexed thereto the names of the families by
whom they are borne, will be found arranged in their appropriate order ; which, from the
magnitude and completeness of the collection, the author flatters himself, constitutes no
inconsiderable feature of the work.

A copious Appendix has been subjoined, containing the additions, corrections, and
alterations, which have taken place since the former part of the work was printed, in order
to bring it down to the present period. In fine, it has been the author's unceasing solicitude,
not only to give every information on the subject, but so fisur to divest it of its complexity,
as to render it intelligible to all.

Notwithstanding the great expense necessarily attending the publication of a work of
such magnitude, as the one now offered to the public, with its numerous graphic accompa-
niments, and the incessant exertions bestowed upon it by the author during its progress
"through the press, he has not the temerity to think it entirely exempt from inaccuracies and
omissions: such a consummation is neither to be expected nor attained : comparative supe-
riority is all that he has attempted to achieve; and with what degree of ability and success
his aim has been accomplished, it is not the province of the author, but of the public, to
determine; and to their impartial decision, the British Herald is now, with confident, but
respectful deference, submitted.

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Heraldry is not confined exclusively to the rules of coat
armour, nor the honours which they specifically imply ;
but is also used as a characteristic for the proper arrange-
ment and discrimination of the several degrees of rank and
power, that have th^ir basis in the feudal system. This
science being particularly connected with the institutions of
that system, a knowledjie thereof is calculated to elucidate
history, by representing to our view many of the customs
peculiar to the early inhabitants of Europe. The variety
of changes produced by the contingencies of time, have
effected considerable alterations, with regard to the uses of

The warlike habits of our illustrious ancestors, and the
feats of prowess in which they delighted, are now become
obsolete ; but whilst the honours of ancestry form such
prond distinguishments among mankind, the science of he-
raldry will ever be considered with the deepest interest. A
retrospect will evidence its then extensive application, and
shew the relative situation it holds with modern times.

In the earlier ages, when Europe was emerging from a
state of barbarism, and a general ignorance of written lan-
guage prevailed, heraldic devices were designed to record
the exploits of the noble and brave. These devices embel-
lished the shield and vestment in war, and were also intro-
duced amidst the appurtenances of grandeur and magni-
ficence in the intervals of peace : they enriched the most
splendid apparel, and formed decorations the most estimable
to the dwellings of the great. In the hall of the fortified
castle were displayed pensile against the spacious walls,
the shields and helmets of its warrior lord ; ornamented
with these honourable trophies, which addressed the ima-
gination in the most impressive manner, they acted as a
memento of past achievements, and as a powerful stimulus
to a performance of the like heroic actions.

In the middle ages, the bold and romantic adventures in
search of fame, with which we are amply furnished by the
history of the Crusaders, added to the pomp of chivalry,
then at its acme, led farther to the advancement of heraldry
as a science. Devices then became more general, and were
transferred to more durable materials, appropriated to use
as well as ornament. Applied as monumental, and placed
over the dormitories of the dead, they commemorate the
honours of the deceased. Many of our venerable Gothic
piles still contain these relics, which, to the scientific and
cultivated mind, are pleasing reminiscences of antiquity,
and illustrations of family and natioual history.

System, the foundation of science, gradually operating
on heraldry, has caused it to attain that interesting and
useful form, which at present it possesses. It is rendered
classical, and almost infinitely various in its forms, by the
most scientific rules, which even extend themselves to the
graphic arts. These regulations are particularly calculated
to point out the different ranks and degrees of society, and
preserve the necessary subordination among mankind. Ar-
morial ensigns aggrandize the bearer, represent his honours,
and are important marks of family dignity. The specific
distinctions which point out the common device of the col-
lateral branches of a family, have frequently proved service-
able in tracing genealogies, ascertaining consanguinity, and
evincing right of inheritance, when lineal descendants were
wanting. Thus it is apparent, that heraldry, as a science,
still concentrates utility and interest in the highest degree ;
although its ancient customs and applications differ widely
from modern times.

The opinions of early historians and antiquarians, con-
cerning the origin of heraldry, have been various. Some
of the admirers of this once cultivated study, not finding
indubitable proof when to date its rise, have been carried


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away by the power of fancy to form the most absurd con-
jectures ; thus have originated the unfounded suppositions,
that it was of divine origin, and proceeded from the laws
of order which rule in heaven. With such hypothesis may
also be classed the arguments of those who consider the
subject in question, as immediately emanating from reason
and the light of nature ; and further adduce, that marks of
distinction were first used by the posterity of Seth, that
they might be distinguished from the descendants of Cain.

It would be uninteresting and useless to give a detail of
all the statements of such writers, who, unable to establish
them with certainty, founded their histories on a hypothet-
ical basis. It will be necessary, however, to take a cursory
view of the customs prevalent in the first ages, of using dis-
tinguishing symbols on standards, ensigns, shields, signets,
&c. which, although not heraldic, according to the modern
acceptation of the term, yet they formed a species of ancient
heraldry, which eventually laid the foundation of that style
of coat armour now in use, assigned to individuals by their
sovereign as honourable distinctions of merit, and used by
tbeir posterity to witness their ancient and worthy descent.
The apparent similarity, which exists between those dif-
ferent usages, has caused a variety of opinions ; for, by
confounding them together, several authors and men of
erudition have consequently erred concerning the origin of
heraldry. We shall, therefore, describe those customs of
the ancients, and set them in comparison with those of a
more modern date ; and, from the latest and most approved
disquisitions, fix the most probable epoch, whence we may
trace the rise and progress of heraldry.

After separate nations began to be formed, ambition,
with its concomitant, envy, soon produced contests and
wars; these, no doubt, pointed out the utility of elevating
conspicuous figures, as mustering points, whereby the dif-
ferent nations might arrange themselves under their respec-
tive leaders. The benefit which such marks would produce
in the emergencies of war, would cause a repetition and
improvement of them ; and establish the use of military
and national ensigns, standards, and banners.

What particular nation first made use of these, has not
been sufficiently proved ; though a general inclination is
prevalent, in the researches of antiquity, in favour of the
Egyptians. Diodorus Siculus confidently affirms them to
be the inventors of military ensigns, and relates that the
different animals that were borne as such, afterwards came
to be worship])ed as deities. There is no doubt that tbey
were early used by that ingenious nation ; for^^ in elucida-
tion of this subject, several rabbinical writers have been
quoted, who assert that the history of the Jews is a full
proof that marks of distinction were used by the Egyptians
previous to the departure of the Israelites from their land.
They deduce their arguments principally from their law-
giver, Moses, assigning, by the divine command, to each of
the twelve tribes, a particular device,' whereby they might
be distinguished and separated in their march through the
wilderness. But with how much propriety these writers
arrange these devices is a matter of much speculation. See
GeneiU, chap. XIX.

The divine appointifient made known by Moses, that
"every man of the children of Israel should pitch by his own
standard, with the ensign of his father's house," has caused
several of the cabalists to suppose that each separate family
was at that time distinguished by a particular appropriate
device depicted on a flag ; but on referliiig to the subse-

quent part of the declaration made in that chapter, it may
be seen that the whole of that nation was marshalled into
four squadrons, consisting of three tribes each, and placed
so as to surround the tabernacle ; from which it may be
inferred, that each squadron were commanded to follow a
particular standard in their march, and each tribe to
pitch their tents by their respective ensigns. But what
renders the argument, that hereditary family distinctions
were unknown to the Jews, more conclusive, is, that no men-
tion is made in their history of any such tokens being used
by them in after times. It has also been remarked, that
devices used for similar purposes, as the seals of adminis-
tration, or the arms of kings, or incorporated societies, and
of cities, were in use in the remotest ages ; several examples
of which have been qnoted from the sacred and profane
writings. It is said in the book of Daniel, "the king sealed
it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords.**
And again, in the book of Kings, that Jezebel "wrote letters
in Ahab*s name, and sealed them with his seal.*' Many
other quotations to the same purport might be given ; but
it is to the other symbols of the ancients that they bear
analogy, and not to modern heraldry.

As men became civilized, the in u ate desire for glory in
the noble mind rendered the invention of personal embel-
lishments necessary, for the sake of distinction. To the
principal heroes and warriors in those days, the surface of
the massive shield, and other parts of personal armour,
afforded ample scope for this purpose ; and we are informed
that, in imitation of their national standards, they depicted
particular devices thereon, to illustrate their individuality,
whereby they might be known by their friends, and rendered
more terrific to their enemies, in the hour of action.

It has been contended, that the origin of these devices
might be traced to the Egyptian hieroglyphics, which were
similarly designative ; and that armorial distinctions were
first used by An u bis and Macedo, sons of Osiris, under the
emblems of a wolf and a dog. Here we might also notice
various arguments brought forward in favour of nations
springing from the Scythians, the Medes and Persians, the
Assyrians, and various others ; but such discussion is un-
necessary, since the only resemblance which their rude
devices possess to modem armorial bearings, consists in
each generally indicating some memorable event, or virtuous
and heroic action, arranged by no fixed rule, nor even con-
sidered as hereditary. The last proposition being conclusive,
it may be opposed to the assertions of those writers who
maintain that such symbols are synonymous with gentilitial
devices, and have applied them to coat armour, from sup-
position only.

We may also refer to some of the Greek writers, who
have remarked on the embellishment of the shields of their
heroes. It has been inferred from Homer, that arms were
used by the Grecian nation, previous to the Trojan war ;
but the inconsistency of these ideas is evident, having no
foundation except in the exuberance of the imagination.
In imitation of him, other Greek writers have employed
their ideas in illustrating the shields of their gods, demi-
gods, and heroes ; many of their devices bear great sem-
blance to modern blazon. Amongst those, the instances

Online LibraryThomas RobsonThe British herald; → online text (page 1 of 157)