Thursday, April 16, 2015

Heraldry Follow-Up

Thanks to all of you who have been helping me unlock the clues of the Petit Point Heraldic mystery I mentioned last post.  Since then, we have had many discussions about potential ideas for what images used within the embroidery might mean.

I took Rachel Wright's advice and wrote to the College of Arms in London.  I had no idea that such an institution exists.

The officer in waiting, Clive Cheesman, responded within a day, which is very impressive in itself.

I repeat it for you in full as it's quite interesting...

Dear Ms. Elliott,

Thank you for your enquiry to the College of Arms, which has come to me as officer in waiting at the time of its arrival.

This is certainly a very lovely item; I can see why you were drawn to it.  You are quite right that the lion and unicorn supporters recall those of the the Royal coat of arms, and indeed that must have been a quite conscious reference on the part of the person who did it.  But other than that I am inclined to agree with your husband that it is not genuine heraldry, but a heraldic-style fantasy.  Points to note are:

  • the shield and crest between the supporters are not those of the Royal arms, and (though this could just be a mistake) the lion on the shield faces the wrong way for heraldry;
  • the supporters hold banners which they do not in the Royal arms (except the Scottish version of the Royal arms, where however they are the other way around -- unicorn on the left);
  • the items on the banners are not clear but do not resemble anything from the Royal arms, and the banner on the right does not observe the heraldic rule against colour-on-colour by having a central blue stripe on a red background;
  • the shields in the lower corners are roughly mirror versions of each other with a couple of other differences, which suggests to me they were chosen and disposed for aesthetic reasons (and perhaps as a test of embroidery) rather than as true representative heraldry.
The prominence of the date 1526 is a bit odd and makes me think that something more than just a heraldic-style jeu d'esprit or whim is going on here, and it would be interesting to see if that leads to anything ( doesn't offer anything terribly promising, I must admit).  But even if it commemorates some event it does not make me think that the heraldry is genuine; for one thing, in 1526 the kingdoms of England and Scotland were still quite separate and the lion and the unicorn had not come together as supporters.

Sorry not to be more help.  But it still is a very interesting item, and well worth a bit of research and thought.

Yours sincerely,

Clive Cheesman

C.E.A. Cheesman, MA, PhD, FSA
Richmond Herald
College of Arms
Queen Victoria Street

There seems to be a consensus that the embroidery is a decorative piece of some sort and I suspect it isn't too terribly old.  As petit point goes, it's quite lovely and perhaps it was a souvenir kit brought back from a trip to England by someone or it was just a pretty kit with a tapestry feel to it as some of you have suggested.

When I get a few minutes, I plan to call the Antique Mall and see if I can track down the woman I bought it from.  Perhaps she can shed some light on its prior owner.

Thanks again to all of you for helping.  It's been a fun exercise.  


Rachel said...

I didn't think they'd be that quick - I'm really very impressed!

Mary Ann Tate said...

Thank you for the link to the College of Arms. I have a question for them myself:)

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