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Family Crest Badges, Mottoes and Coronets of Rank

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The badge may claim a greater antiquity and a wider use than armorial bearings. The "Platagenet" broom is an early example in England, sprigs of it being figured on the seal of Richard I. In the 14th and 15th centuries every magnate had his badge, which he displayed on his horse-furniture, on the hangings of his bed, his wall and his chair of state, besides giving it as a "livery" to his servants and followers.


Such were the knots of Stafford, Bourcheir and Wake, the scabbard - crampet of La Warr, the sickle of Hungerford, the swan of Toesni, Bohun and Lancaster, the dunbull of Nevill, the blue boar of Vere and the bear and ragged staff of Beauchamp, Nevill of Warwick and Dudley of Northumberland. So well known of all were these symbols that a political ballad of 1449 sings of the misfortunes of the great lords without naming one of them, all men understanding what signified the Falcon, the Water Bowge and teh Cresset and the other badges of the doggerel. More famous still were the White Hart, the Red Rose, the White Rose, the Sun, the Falcon and Fetterlock, the Portcullis and the many other badges of the royal house. We still call those wars that blotted out the old baronage the Wars of the Roses, and the Prince of Wale's feathers are as well known today as the royal arms. The Flint and Steel of Burgundy make a collar for the order of the Golden Fleece.



The motto now accompanies every coat of arms in these islands. Few of these Latin aphorisms, these bald assertions of virtue, high courage, patriotism, piety and loyalty have any antiquity. Some few, however, like the "Esperance" of Percy, were the war cries of remote ancestors. "I mak' sicker" of Kirkpatrick recalls pridefully a bloody deed done on a wounded man, and the "Dieu Ayde," "Agincourt" and "D'Accomplir Agincourt" of the Irish "Montmorencys" and the English Wodehouses and Dalisons, glorious traditins based upon untrustworthy genealogy. The often quoted punning mottoes may be illustrated by that of Cust, who says "Qui Cust-odit caveat," a modern example and a fair one. Ancient mottoes as distinct from the war or gathering cry of a house are often cryptic sentences whose meaning might be known to the user and perchance to his mistress. Such are the "Plus est en vous" of Louis de Bruges, the Flemish earl of winchester, and the "So have I cause" and "Till then thus" of two Englishmen. The word motto is of modern use, our forefathers speaking rather of their "word" or of their "reason."

Coronets of Rank

Among accessories of the shield may now be counted the coronets of peers, whose present form is post-medieval. When Edward III. made dukes of his sons, gold circlets were set upon their heads in token of their new dignity. In 1385 John de Vere, marquess of Dublin, was created in the same fashion. Edward VI. extended the honour of the gold circle3 to earls. Caps of honour were worn with these circles or coronets, and viscounts wore the cap by appointment of James I., Vincent the herald stating that "a verge of pearls on top of the circulet gold" was added at the creation of Robert Cecil as Viscount Cranborne. Badges At the coronation of Charles I. the viscounts walked in procession with their caps and coronets. A few days beforethe coronation of Charles II. the privilege of the cap of honour was given to the lowest rank of the peerage, and letters patent of January 1661 assign to them both cap and coronet. The caps of velvet turned up with miniver, which are now always worn with the peer's coronet, are therefore the ancient caps of honour, akin to that "cap of maintenance" worn by English sovereigns on their coronation days when walking to the Abbey Church, and borne before them on occasions of royal state.

The ancient circles were enriched according to the taste of the bearer, and, although used at creations as symbols of the rank conferred, were worn int he 14th and 15th centuries by men and women of rank without the use signifying a rank in the peerage. Edmund, earl of March, in his will of 1380, named is sercle ove roses, emeraudes et ruvies d'alisaundre en les reses, and bequeathed it to his daughter. Modern coronets are of silver gilt, without jewels, set upon caps of crimson velvet turned up with ermine, with a gold tassel at the top. A duke's coronet has the circle decorated with eight gold "strawberry leaves"; that of a marquess has four gold strawberry leaves and four silver balls. The coronet of an earl has eight silver balls, raised upon points, with gold strawberry leaves between the points. A viscount's coronet has on the circle sixteen silver balls, and a baron's coronet six silver balls. On the continent the modern use of coronets is not ordered in the precise English fashion, men of gentle birth displaying coronets which afford but slight indication of the bearer's rank.