The Arms of Cambridge University and Its Colleges
by C. W. Scott-Giles, M.A. (Cantab.)
Coat of Arms No. 11&12, July-October 1952

In his article on the heraldry of Oxford University, Mr. Brooke-Little points out that "most colleges bear the arms of their founder or founders undifferenced." At Cambridge the position is rather different, for while most of the colleges bear arms based on those of their founders, only five use the founder's arms without difference. All but three of the colleges bear their arms by authority, some having had ancient arms confirmed at the Visitations while others have received grants. Seven grants to colleges, and also that to the University, were made by Robert Cooke, Clarenceux, between 1570 and 1588.

The University of Cambridge bears arms granted in 1573: Gules a cross ermine between four lions passant gardant or, and upon the cross a closed book gules, edged, clasped and garnished gold.

The colleges founded by royal persons and bearing regal emblems in their arms are King's. Queens', Christ's. St. John's, and Trinity.

In the following notes the colleges are grouped according to the character of their arms, whether regal, episcopal, religious or commemorative of private founders or benefactors.

King's College

Founded in 1441 by Henry VI, bears arms granted by letters patent in 1449 : Sable three roses argent, a chief per pale azure and gules charged on the dexter side with a fleur-de-lis and on the sinister with a lion passant gardant both gold. The grant sets out that the stability of the black field signifies that the college shall last for ages to come ; the roses indicate that it shall bring forth flowers redolent of every kind of learning to the honour of God and the Blessed Virgin; while the chief declares its royal foundation.

Queens' College

(originally Queen's College) was first founded in 1448 by Margaret of Anjou, Queen of Henry VI, in emulation of her husband's foundation, and was refounded in 1465 by Elizabeth Widville. Queen of Edward IV. The college first bore the arms of Queen Margaret without difference, and in 1575 these were granted with the addition of a bordure. The arms are : Quarterly of six, Hungary, Naples, Jerusalem, Anjou, Barr and Lorraine, all within a bordure vert.

Christ's College and St. John's College

Were both founded by Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII, the former in 1505 and the latter in 1511. Both bear the Beaufort arms undifferenced : Quarterly France Modern and England within a bordure compony argent and azure.

Trinity College

Founded by Henry VIII in 1546, bears arms confirmed at the Visitation of 1575 : Argent a chevron and three roses gules, and on a chief gules a lion passant gardant between two closed books all gold.

Two colleges founded by Bishops of Ely bear arms (in each case granted in 1575) consisting of the founder's coat within a bordure derived from the arms of the See of Ely : (Gules three crowns or). These are :

Peterhouse

Founded in 1284 by Bishop Hugh de Balsham : Or four pales gules within a bordure gules charged with eight gold crowns. (Balsham's arms contained only three pales.)

Jesus College

Founded in 1496 by Bishop John Alcock : Argent a fess sable between three cocks' heads erased sable combed and wattled gules, all within a bordure gules charged with eight gold crowns.

Corpus Christi College and St. Catharine's College bear arms of a religious character having reference to their dedication :

Corpus Christi College

Founded in 1352 by the Cambridge Guild of Corpus Christi and the Blessed Virgin Mary : Quarterly gules and azure, in the first and fourth quarters a pelican in its piety and in the second and third three lily-flowers slipped and leaved all argent. These were granted in 1570.

St. Catherine's College

Founded in 1473, by Robert Woodlarke, Provost of King's College : Gules a Catharine wheel or. The college has sometimes been credited with Woodlarke's arms : per pale indented azure and gules, in chief a fleur-de-lis and in base a lion passant gardant both gold; and the Catharine wheel has been either impaled with this coat or placed above it as a crest. At the Visitation of 1684 the wheel alone was recorded as the arms of the college.

The colleges which (in addition to Christ's and St. John's) bear the arms of their founders without difference are :

Pembroke College

Founded in 1347 by Mary, daughter of Guy de St. Pol and widow of Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke : Barry of ten argent and azure, an orle of martlets gules (for De Valence), dimidiated with, Gules three pales vaire and a chief or with a label of five points azure (for St. Pol). This coat was confirmed to the college at the Visitation of 1684.

Magdalene College

Founded in 1542 by Thomas Lord Audley of Walden : Quarterly per pale indented or and azure, in the second and third quarters a gold eagle displayed, over all a bend azure charged with a fret between two martlets all or.

Sidney Sussex College

Founded in 1596 under the will of Frances Sidney, widow of Thomas Radcliffe. Earl of Sussex : Argent a bend engrailed sable (for Radcliffe), impaling, Or a pheon azure (for Sidney). The arms appear to have been granted in 1675, but to have escaped proper recording at the College of Arms. They are frequently displayed on a lozenge as they were borne by the foundress in her widowhood.

The following colleges bear arms based on those of their founders, but with a difference :

Clare College

Founded in 1326 as University Hall and re-founded in 1338 by Elizabeth, sister and co-heir of Gilbert, Earl of Clare, and widow of John de Burgh : Or three chevrons gules (for Clare), impaling, Or a cross gules (for De Burgh), all within a bordure sable charged with golden drops. The lady's arms are to the dexter, she having been of the greater estate. In this case the bordure, which differences the college arms from the impaled coats of wife and husband, dates from the foundress's lifetime, having been added as a sign of mourning in her widowhood.

Gonville and Caius (Keys) College

Founded as Gonville Hall by Edmund Gonville in 1348. and re-endowed by John Caius, M.D., in 1557 : Argent a chevron between two chevronels indented sable, the chevron charged with three escallops or (for Gonville), impaling, Or semé of flowers gentil, in chief a sengreen above two serpents erect and respecting one another all proper, the serpents' tails bound together and resting on a square stone of green marble in base, and between the serpents a closed book sable edged gules and clasped and garnished gold (for Caius) ; all within a bordure compony argent and sable. The personal grant to Dr Caius. dated 1560, states that the book betokens learning, the serpents and stone " wisdom with grace founded and stayed upon vertue's stable stone," and the sengreen and flowers gentil " immortalitie that shall never fade." The arms were granted to the college in 1575. The story of the origins of this remarkable Tudor coat of arms is dealt with by the Editor in a separate article. ( link)

Trinity Hall

Founded in 1350 by William Bateman. Bishop of Norwich : Sable, a crescent within a bordure ermine. In the Bishop's personal arms the bordure was engrailed argent.

Emmanuel College

Founded in 1584 by Sir Walter Mildmay : Argent a lion rampant azure holding in the dexter forepaw a wreath of laurel proper and above its head a scroll azure bearing the word EMMANUEL in letters of gold. This coat was granted in 1588. Mildmay's arms were, Argent three lions rampant azure.

Downing College

Founded in 1800 under the will of Sir George Downing, Bt. : Barry of eight argent and vert, a griffin rampant or, all within a bordure azure charged with eight silver roses. This was granted in 1801. The bordure differences the arms of the college from those of the founder.

The more recent foundations were not well covered by Mr Scott-Giles, not least because many did not exist in 1952. They are dealt with alphabetically by the Editor:

Churchill College

A collegiate memorial to Sir Winston Churchill was conceived in 1958 and received a grant of arms in 1959, based on Churchill’s arms. The only difference being the omission of the first Duke of Marlborough augmentation of honour, which was replaced with a book. The arms are thus: quarterly 1 &4, sable a lion rampant argent, on a canton argent a cross gules; 2 &3 quarterly argent, and gules a fret or, over all on a bend sable three escallops bendwise argent; over a an open book argent.

Clare Hall

A graduate college founded in 1966 its arms reflect those of its founder, Clare College: chevronny or and gules, on a chief sable foive gouttes, three and two, argent.

Darwin College

Established for graduates in 1964 in the Cambridge home of the Darwin family it was initially known simply as “Darwin”, becoming a college in 1976. The arms were granted in 1966 and incorporate the arms of Darwin and those of Rayne, a major benefaction having been given by the Max Rayne Foundation: argent, on a bend gules cotised vert between two mullets, each with an annulet gules, three escallops or; impaling, per fess dancetty azure and gules, a caduceus palewise and in chief two roses or; all within a border or.

Fitzwilliam College

Originally a non collegiate hall of residence, Fitzwilliam Hall, later House. Fitzwilliam House Boat Club obtained permission from Earl Fitzwilliam to use his arms. Lozengy argent and gules, adding thereto a chief of the arms of the University ; This composite shield came to be regarded as the arms of the College when it was founded in 1966, and in 1974 the arms were officially granted.

Girton College

A graduate college founded in 1966 its arms reflect those of its founder, Clare College: chevronny or and gules, on a chief sable foive gouttes, three and two, argent.

Quarterly vert and argent, a cross flory counterchanged between in the first and fourth quarters a roundle ermine and in the second and third a crescent gules.

Homerton College

This teacher training college was approved by the University in 1976 and became a college in 2010. Arms were granted in 1954: Argent a leopard’s face jessant de lis sable between three grifffins’ heads erased gules, on a border azure eight open books proper.

Hughes Hall

In 1948 women were first permitted to be undergraduates in Cambridge. Hughes Hall was established in 1949 as a graduate hall for women. It admitted men from 1973 and in 1985 became a full college within the university. The arms were granted in 1980: per fess gules and ermine, a pale counterchanged; on the gules in chief two owls and in base a torch, all or, the torch enflamed proper.

Lucy Cavendish College

Named after a notable campaigner for the education of women, this womens’ hall achieved collegiate status in 1984, having been granted arms as a hall in 1973 which borrow from the arms of Lady Lucy Cavendish. Per fess enarched azure and sable, in chief two bars wavy argent, over which, issuant from the fess line, a water lily argent slipped vert; in base a bucks head caboshed and between its attires a lozenge, both argent; on the lozenge an escallop sable.

Murray Edwards College, formerly New Hall

A hall of residence for women from 1954 which was granted collegiate status in 1972, having been granted the previous year the arms: sable a dolphin palewise with head downwards to the dexter, in chief three mullets and a border embattled, all argent. The dolphin was chosen as an emblem of intelligence and sociability.

Newnham College

The second of the educational institutions for women in Cambridge, incorporated in 1880, it attained the status of a college in 1948. The arms were granted in 1923, a mélange of the arms of early benefactors: Argent a chevron azure between in chief two crosses bottony fitchy and in base a molet all sable, and on the chevron a gold griffin's head erased between two silver mascles.

Robinson College

Founded by David Robinson in 1977. Its arms: azure, in base two bars wavy argent, over all a pegasus rampant goged with a crown rayonny gules.

St Edmunds College

The University’s most recent graduate college, granted its charter and arms in 1996, had its basis in a catholic institution, St Edmund’s House. Established by the 15th Duke of Norfolk in 1896. The College uses a differenced version of the Duke’s arms, sensibly covering the Flodden augmentation on the Howard quartering with a variant on the arms of St Edmund: quarterly: 1, gules a bend between six crosses crosslet fitchy argent, on a canton or, a cross patonce between four martletts gules; 2, gules three lions passant guardant or, a label of three points argent; 3, chequy or and azure; 4, gules a lion rampant argent; all within a border argent.

Selwyn College

Founded by public subscription in 1882, was named after George Augustus Selwyn, Bishop of Lichfield, and uses his arms : Per pale gules and argent, a cross potent and quadrate between four crosses formy all countercharged (a version of the arms of the See of Lichfield), impaling. Argent a bend cotised sable thereon three gold annulets, and in chief a crescent gules, all within a bordure engrailed gules (for Selwyn).

Wolfson College

Originally University College, a graduate college founded in 1965, it was refounded in 1973 as Wolfson after a bequest by that family. The arms are based on those of Wolfson: ermine a chevron gules between in chief two lions passant guardant or, and in base a handbell proper.