Coat of Arms

By popular demand – well, at the request of Frank Summers and the Duke of Waltham – I reproduce my Coat of Arms. 

When I was offered a peerage, I had to see Garter King of Arms to discuss and agree my title.  That actually took little time, much to my relief.  (I had heard various stories of new peers running into objections from Garter as to their preferred titles.)   He was keen to explain to me that it was possible to have a Coat of Arms.  The College of Arms is self-financing and designing Coats of Arms is part of their business, not that he said that.  I was initially inclined not to have a Coat of Arms, but decided that as it was a once in a lifetime event and I would have one.  I told Garter what I would like represented on it and he then came up with the design.  His first design was excellent and I accepted it as it stood.  The result is what you see here.

The bee on the top represents industriousness.  The church steeple represents Louth: the town’s St James’ parish church is architecturally outstanding (see Simon Jenkin’s book on the churches of England) and has one of the tallest spires in the country.  It dominates the town and surrounding countryside.  The fleur de lys on the shield represents Lincolnshire.  The gold and white are the official colours of the University of Hull and Garter added the blue to represent the River Humber.  (He obviously has not seen the Humber!)  The ‘supporters’ are owls of learning and the motto denotes my aspirations.

I appreciate it can be argued that Coats of Arms do not have much practical use.  When one colleague asked Garter what use he could make of a Coat of Arms, he received the response ‘Well, I suppose you could have it woven into your carpet’!  I have reproduced my Coat of Arms on a postcard, which doubtless borders on the pretentious but I find it quite useful.  Apart from that, I have framed copies at home and in my office.  They are at least conversation pieces.

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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20 Responses to Coat of Arms

  1. Carl.H says:

    Could well be hung in Hogwarts, Harry Potters school of wizardy.

    I`ve seen quite a few family name Coat of Arms hung in peoples houses, I understand the research is quite expensive and I doubt most are entitled to publicly display them. I did look into ancestory but like a lot of people it becomes complex very quickly and in places very dubious. If I bear anything in common with anyone in history of note it would be of William the Conqueror before he became conqueror. 😉

    We could always bring back jousting to settle debates at least then armorial achievement could have it`s proper place without the need for surfs and peasants bloodshed.

    If I were to be pretentious I`d at least have had Latin inscription. I guess I must be to some extent, my Company emblem is a knight….

    Though thats possibly more to do with instilled Nationalistic pride mixed with History…Who doesn`t like the story of Agincourt it`s more than our football team are likely to win this summer, nonetheless I shall be shouting at the TV as per normal.

    P.S. Yes I do worry that the emblem could be taken wrongly by Muslims but my Nations flag and History are more important than PC.

    • Lord Norton says:

      Carl.H: You are quite right in your assumption about people displaying a ‘family’ Coat of Arms. I understand there is no such thing. Coats of Arms are personal. Bodies that offer to research your family Coat of Arms are not therefore researching anything to which one is entitled.

      Many people do indeed choose to have a Latin inscription. However, as you will appreciate, not being the pretentious sort, I opted for English. 🙂

  2. The Duke of Waltham says:

    Excellent indeed, Lord Norton. Simple, yet distinctive, as a coat of arms should be. I particularly like the treatment of the fleurs-de-lys in the shield; it is called “counter-changing”, namely the reversion of the tinctures of the field (i.e., the shield background). Rivers are usually shown as wavy bars (example link below), but in this case the design may be representing the Humber Estuary as much as providing room for the bottom fleur-de-lys. Joking aside, the use of Azure (blue) is traditional for water, and also contributes to the aforementioned simplicity: only three tinctures are used in these arms.

    I note with some interest that the wreath (the twisted cloth on the helmet) and the mantling (the stylised tattered cloth flowing from the helm and filling the void above the supporters) use different metals (i.e., the two light colours, the white/silver Argent and the yellow/gold Or); in most coats of arms, their tincturing is identical, but I suppose here an effort is made to cover both metals, no doubt due to their joint significance.

    “Once in a lifetime event” is accurate in that one can only get a coat of arms once, but I understand that, if Your Lordship chose not to have one designed, nothing would have prevented you from applying later on. Indeed, Your Lordship probably could have had one designed even without becoming a life peer, on account of your academic career; the main differences (assuming that the same design would have been chosen) would be the absence of the supporters and the coronet, as well as the use of a different type of helm above the shield. When an armiger is raised to the peerage, these elements can be added to the arms at that time, but I certainly find it preferable that the entire coat of arms should be designed as a whole.

    About the uses… I suppose there were more opportunities when sealing wax was still in use, but one can still put it in one’s personal notepaper. Perhaps this is undesirable in light of the popular view of coats of arms; I do not know what the average Briton thinks of them, but given that they are accessible to a wider part of the population than ever before, an association with the upper class is somewhat outdated and paradoxical. A coat of arms can be borne by any gentleman (with the means to pay for it, of course) fulfilling certain criteria, which are not particularly strict. It is no longer a privilege of peers and knights, and indeed, hasn’t been for quite some time. That said, there are more peers and knights than ever before, too.

    • The Duke of Waltham says:

      Oops, forgot the link:

      The coat of arms of the late Humberside County Council. Lord Norton is probably familiar with it, but many of the readers here may not.

      • Lord Norton says:

        The Duke of Waltham: Let’s just say that the River Humber may appear blue on a good day! I’m very pleased with my Coat of Arms. As you say, Coats of Arms are not exclusive to peers. Knights and others can have them, subject – as you so rightly say – to being able to pay for them. The College of Arms stays in business by researching family trees and designing Coats of Arms. One has to study carefully one’s Coat of Arms: I gather members of the College have a sense of humour, so little armourial jokes are apparently occasionally woven into a Coat of Arms.

      • The Duke of Waltham says:

        They do indeed, Lord Norton, but these jokes, too, have their uses. Given that mediaeval heralds had to remember many coats of arms and to whom they belonged, incorporating puns into arms made their job easier and thus didn’t take long to become an established practice. It is still done: those who remember the Queen Mother’s arms will note that they reflect Her Late Majesty’s maiden surname by featuring bows and lions. Some of the references are rather more obscure (a surname may be cognate with an obsolete word for an animal or plant), but it still gives a coat of arms that extra layer of meaning.

        Which is why having a Latin motto is not necessarily pretentious. It is a language peculiarly suited to this purpose (by virtue of its brevity), and if used properly it can facilitate all sorts of puns and hidden meanings.

  3. Frank W. Summers III says:

    Lord Norton,

    It is very fitting and appealing. It is a tribute to you and to Garter and also makes my affinity for your ideas more pronounced as Blue and White are colors on a different set of arms than on my gravatar which I use and the Fleur de Lys will almost have you recognised as a cousin anywhere around here. I worship ususally at St James Chapel in Esther, Louisiana. I almost feel by now that we are tenth cousins separated at birth or something…

  4. Lord Norton says:

    Frank W. Summers III: Many thanks. I have researched my family tree, though not before the early 19th century, and my forebears, especially on my father’s side, are very much rooted in Lincolnshire. Mind you, many of the Founding Fathers set sail from Lincolnshire…

  5. Frank Summers says:

    Alas, It would have to invovle some fairy tale shenanigans for it to be related to the arms. Because the side of my family (the Summers) that migh most readily have married into Lincolnshire families are not the ones that ever bore any armorial similarity to your Lordship. On the other hand a Chevalier et Petit Chef De Gremillion ( my mother’s maiden name is Gremillion) had many elements in common with it. Most of the early Summers came into the Chesapeake region and several seem to have been rather poor. On not in my direct line rose to be a member of the Cincinatti decades after arriving in the colonies but paid for his passage with indenture. To be in the Cincinatti means he was an officer in the Continentals or a regular state force in the Revolution. One came with arms not before me which I have not verified to my satisfaction but they did not much resemble your Lordships. Now at twenty-fifth cousins it gets more probable without the fairies swapping babies.

  6. Croft says:

    One minister has his coat of arms on the side of his car – though I fear Lord Norton that they don’t extend the same privilege to commuter trains from Hull to London!

    • Lord Norton says:

      Croft: It’s probably best not to start putting ideas in my head… 🙂

    • The Duke of Waltham says:

      Coats of arms in this context generally denote personal ownership, which is probably more than what Lord Norton can say about the Hull–London train. However, if His Lordship had a badge, it might conceivably be used to indicate his regular seat, if it were considered desirable by the train operators to honour him thus.

      PS: On which door of the car is the coat of arms emblazoned? I understand that many armigers who do this use the wrong door.

      • Lord Norton says:

        The Duke of Waltham: Oh, I don’t know. Given the number of times I use Hull Trains, perhaps one day I will get to keep one of the carriages. 🙂

        I do indeed have a badge.

      • The Duke of Waltham says:

        Ah, but you hadn’t told us about that before, My Lord. Assuming that it was granted with the same Letters Patent as the coat of arms, I think it would be appropriate to post a reproduction of it here, if convenient.

        The public has the right to know.

      • Croft says:

        The Duke of Waltham: Well the ‘arms’ are supposed to be over the door used by the owner (so back seat if chauffeured and front seat if self driven). These days it seems custom has shifted and now arms are rarely used but the crest instead. There are some examples online. The peer I mentioned has them – if my eyesight is correct – just past the wheel arch before the door.

      • Croft says:

        I don’t think the public has the right to know – they might be interested but that’s another matter. Either way grants are matters of public record and can easily enough be found out.

        After a little effort I’ve found a photo of our minister’s coat of arms on his racing car!

      • The Duke of Waltham says:

        You are right, of course; I was joking there. And, as you say, a person sufficiently interested can do some research and find out.

        I am not sure why you are putting “arms” within quotation marks, Croft, but I am surprised to hear that there are cases where just the crest is used. Then again, I haven’t actually seen any vehicles with heraldic insignia, and I suppose a crest may be more discreet and convenient in certain cases. It’s better for the practice to adapt rather than die out, in any case.

        I have often found it frustratingly difficult to search for information on a coat of arms on-line, but a motto always makes things easier. The car and arms in your link’s photograph belong to Lord Dryson, the Minister of Science. It makes sense, considering that the said motto is “Seek Knowledge” and the shield features a rather original charge: DNA helices. I’ve seen a few coats of arms granted in recent years, and I quite admire the skill heralds exhibit when making contemporary references so tastefully. The helices here look a bit like ribbons, and the whole design is still perfectly within the limits of mediaeval symmetry and style.

        The sense of innovation that distinguishes it also reminds me of this rather more industrial coat of arms:

        (Yes, I know I like a lot to this website; it’s pretty comprehensive and there’s a great variety of designs in there. Plus, the blazons are also included, so it’s instructive as well.)

      • The Duke of Waltham says:

        (That was intended to be “link”, not “like”. Not so much until now, but I’ll continue to if this discussion keeps going.

        Why isn’t there an “edit” button in this blog, anyway?)

  7. Pingback: My next post in the People to Watch & Other Matters | Franksummers3ba's Blog

  8. Reblogged this on Franksummers3ba's Blog and commented:
    I once wrote on salary for periodicals more than I do today. In recent years this has greatly diminished. So I am trying a few new ways to show how I connect at least with the larger internet. This is my first re-blogging ever and I am considering hosting a contributing blogger now and then.

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