Medieval Heraldry in Westminster Abbey

by C.W. Scott-Giles, O.B.E. Fitzalan Pursuivant Extraordinary Coat of Arms nos 51-52, July-Oct 1962
First column, top: St Edward the Confessor, midde: King Henry III of England, bottom: Raymond Berenger count of Provence. Second column, top: Roger de Quincy, middle:Henry de Lacy, bottom: Richard earl of Cornwall. Third ( middle) column, top: earl of Rothesay, bottom: William de Forz. Fourth column, top: John de Warenne, middle: Simon de Montfort, bottom: Roger Bigod. Fifth column, top: Richard de Clare, middle: King Louis IX of France, bottom: Emperor Frederick II.

I. The Ancient Shields in the Nave
The sculptured and painted shields set up in the nave of Westminster Abbey during its rebuilding by Henry III form a short roll of arms in stone. The sixteen shields originally placed in the spandrels of the wall-arcade bore the arms of Edward the Confessor, Henry III, the Emperor Frederick II, Louis IX of France, Alexander III of Scotland, the Count of Provence, and the Earls of Gloucester, Norfolk, Leicester, Surrey, Hereford, Aumale, Winchester, Lincoln, Cornwall and Ross. Some of these were related to Henry by blood or marriage. The Confessor was included as the Abbey’s first founder, and the others are presumed to have been contributors to the cost of rebuilding his church, though this is traditional and there is no actual record of such gifts. Henry began his work at the Abbey with the addition of a Lady Chapel, commenced in 1220. He started to rebuild the Confessor’s church in 1245, and the eastern part of the nave, where these shields are found, was erected between 1258 and 1269. Fourteen of these shields remain. Those on the north side are in their original positions, but on the south side part of the wall-arcade has been destroyed, and the shields numbered 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 below have been reset higher on the wall. All the shields were originally represented as hanging from a guige, or shield-strap, which passed over a head projecting from the wall on each side.

When the western part of the nave was rebuilt late in the fourteenth and during the fifteenth century, twenty-four other nobles and knights of Henry Ill’s time were similarly commemorated. These later shields were also placed in the spandrels of the arcade. However, they were not sculptured but merely painted on flat escutcheons. Above every shield the name and title (in Latin) of the person whose arms it bore was painted on the string-course. Most of the arms and inscriptions in the western part of the nave have become very dim, and some have disappeared altogether. Fortunately William Camden included them in his record of monuments in the Abbey up to 1600, and they were still in fair condition when Henry Keepe described them in his Monumenta Westmonasteriensia, published in 1683. It is therefore possible to include in the following notes those which no longer exist.

It is not known whether names and titles were painted above the shields in the original thirteenth century work, but if so they must have been renewed at a later date. The letter S in front of the name of Louis IX (as recorded by Camden and Keepe) shows that this inscription dated from after his canonisation in 1297; while the erroneous description of the Earl of Ross as Comes Rothesaiae is the result of confusion which is unlikely to have occurred before Rothesay became a titular dignity in 1398.

In the following record the shields dating from the thirteenth century are first dealt with, and since the range of shields is clearly intended to begin with the Confessor, as founder of the Abbey, the shields on the south side precede those on the north. Inscriptions or parts of inscriptions placed in brackets are missing.

Thirteenth Century Work: Sculptured and Painted Shields


1. (S. Edwardus Rex et Confessor):
Azure, a cross paty between five doves or. This is the prototype of the arms assigned to the Confessor. The birds are clearly doves, and not martlets as found in many later representations. The cross is paty in its early form, the ends being splayed into three points which are less pronounced than in the later form called patonce. The guige passes over two eagles’ heads, presumed to symbolise St. John the Divine whom the Confessor held in special reverence. The cross and doves have still a yellow tinge but the blue has disappeared. The edge of the shield is chipped, but otherwise it is in fair condition.

2. (Henricus Tertius Rex Angliae):
Gules, three lions passant gardant in pale or. The left foreleg of the uppermost lion has broken away. Otherwise the shield is in good condition and its colours remain. The guige passes over male and female heads.

3. (Alexander Tertius Rex Scotorum):
Or, a lion rampant within a double tressure flory counter-flory gules (missing). Alexander III (1241-85) was son-in-law to Henry III, having married his daughter, Margaret, in 1251. This shield was recorded by Camden and Keepe, and also by Crull in his Antiquities of St. Peter’s Westminster, published in 1711. Presumably it was removed in the latter year, or soon after, as its place is occupied by the monument to Thomas Knipe who died in 1711. Its loss is an heraldic tragedy since it must have been one of the earliest representations of the Royal Arms of Scotland.

4. (Raimundus Comes Provinciae):
Or, four pales gules. Raymond Berenger IV, Count of Provence (d. 1245), was the father-in-law of Henry III, who married Eleanor of Provence in 1236. Raymond’s other daughters were married to Louis IX of France and Richard, Earl of Cornwall (Henry Ill’s brother), who are both represented in this range of shields. The shield is in good condition and retains its colour. The guige passes over the heads of a man (possibly a blackamoor) and a lady.

5. (Rogerus de Quincy Comes Wintoniae):
Gules, seven mascles conjoined 3, 3, 1, or. Roger de Quincy (d. 1264) succeeded as second Earl of Winchester in 1235. In right of his wife, the daughter of Alan, Lord of Galloway, he was Constable of Scotland. The shield is in good condition but the guige and heads are missing.

6. (Henricus de Lacy Comes Lincolniae):
Quarterly gules and or, a baston sinister sable and a label of five points argent, all within a narrow bordure sable. Henry de Lacy (c. 1250-1311) succeeded as third Earl of Lincoln in 1257 and was invested with the earldom in 1272. The de Lacy family was one of the group connected, through the de Veres, with Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex, and bearing arms based on his shield, Quarterly or and gules. Henry’s grandfather, the first Earl of Lincoln, bore the Mandeville arms doubly differenced, i.e. Quarterly or and gules, a bend sable and a label of five points argent. Henry’s shield in the Abbey shows further differences, the tinctures of the quarters being transposed, the bend narrowed to a baston and placed sinisterwise, and a bordure added. These were the arms he bore in his early years, but later he perhaps felt that a great nobleman should bear something more distinctive than a differenced form of the arms used by several contemporaries, for he abandoned this shield and adopted new arms: Or, a lion rampant purpure. On the shield in the nave the middle point of the label is broken and part of the bordure is missing. The supporting heads have disappeared though part of the guige remains. The painting of these arms by Camden in a copy of his book in the Abbey Library incorrectly shows the bend dexter-wise and omits the bordure, and the same errors occur in Keepe’s record.

7. Richardus C. Cornubiae:
Argent, a lion rampant gules crowned or within a bordure sable bezanty. Richard, Earl of Cornwall and Count of Poitou (1209-72), was the second son of King John and brother of Henry III. He was elected King of the Romans in 1256 and was crowned at Aachen, but did not succeed in establishing his authority permanently. The point of the shield is chipped but otherwise it is in good condition and has retained its colours. One of the heads over which the guige passed is missing. The remaining one is that of a lady.

8. (R. Comes) Rothesa(iae):
Gules, three lions rampant argent. The inscription is erroneous. The arms are those of an Earl of Ross, but that title was rendered in Latin as Comes Rossensis and not Rothesaiae. Furthermore no Earl of Ross in the thirteenth century had a Christian name with the initial letter R. Rothesay only became a peerage title in 1398 when the eldest son of Robert III of Scotland was created Duke of Rothesay. It appears, therefore, that the inscription was painted (or perhaps earlier lettering was renewed) in the fifteenth century or later, perhaps at the same time that the inscriptions were placed over the shields in the western part of the nave; and that confusion then arose between two titles with the result that the arms of the Earl of Ross were incorrectly attributed to Comes Rothesaiae. The arms presumably represent Farquhar MacTaggart who was made Earl of Ross about 1225. He witnessed the agreement between Henry III and Alexander II at York in 1237 (when the Scottish king resigned his claim to the northern counties of England) and in 1244 was one of those who notified the Pope of the treaty. The point of the shield is damaged but otherwise it is in good condition and the colours remain. The guige and head are missing on one side

Henry de Lacy, Roger le Bigod, Simon de Montfort, Richard earl of Cornwall

9. (Fredericus Secundus Imperator):
Or, an eagle displayed sable. The Emperor Frederick II (1194-1250) became brother-in-law to Henry III when he married, as his third wife, Isabella, daughter of King John, in 1235. No colours remain on the shield. The eagle’s head is damaged but enough remains to show there was only one head. The left claw has broken away. Of the heads supporting the guige, one is damaged and the other missing.

10. (S. Lodovicus Rex Franciae):
Azure semy-de-lis or. Louis IX (1214-70) succeeded to the throne of France in 1226. He married Margaret of Provence, sister of Henry Ill’s Queen. Louis twice took the cross, and died on his second crusade. He was canonised in 1297. No colours remain on the shield, but otherwise it is in perfect condition. One of the heads which supported the guige is missing.

11. (Richardus Clare Comes Glocestriae):
Or, three chevrons gules. Richard de Clare (1222-62) succeeded as second Earl of
Gloucester and sixth Earl of Hertford in 1230. The shield is somewhat chipped at the edges but is otherwise in fair condition and the colours remain. The guige passes over two grotesque heads.

12. (Rogerus Bigod Comes Norfolciae):
Or, a cross gules. Roger Bigod III (c. 1213-70) succeeded as Earl of Norfolk in 1225. In right of his mother, Maud, eldest daughter of William the Marshal, first Earl of Pembroke, he became Marshal of England in 1246. The shield with its guige and supporting heads is complete and has retained its colours.

13. (Simon de Monteforti Comes Leicestriae):
Gules, a lion rampant double-tailed argent. Simon de Montfort (c. 1208-65), fourth son of Simon, Lord of Montfort, Earl of Leicester, Count of Toulouse and Duke of Narbonne, was invested with the earldom of Leicester in 1239. He married Eleanor, sister of Henry III. As he took arms against the King in 1264 and was slain at Evesham in the following year it is assumed that this shield was set up in the Abbey before that date. The shield is chipped at the top but otherwise, with the guige and supporting heads, is in good condition and the colour remains.

14. Johannes Comes Warennae et Surriae
Checky or and azure. John de Warenne (c. 1235-1305) succeeded as Earl of Surrey and Warenne in 1240. He married Alice de Lusignan, Henry III’s half-sister, in 1247. The shield is mutilated, its dexter side having been cut into to make room for an ornament (since removed) on the eighteenth century monument to Viscount Dunbar, and the guige and supporting head on this side have disappeared. No colours remain.

15. (Humfridus de Bohun Comes Herefordiae et Essexiae)
Azure, a bend argent cotised or between six lions rampant gold (missing). Humphrey de Bohun (d. 1275) succeeded as Earl of Hereford and Constable of England in 1220. His mother was the daughter of Geoffrey FitzPiers, Earl of Essex, and after the death without issue of her two brothers Humphrey was created Earl of Essex in 1228. The shield was presumably destroyed on the erection of the monument to Sir Thomas Livingstone, Viscount Teviot (d. 1711). A piece of the guige and one of the heads can still be seen.

16. (Guil) de Fortibus C. Albemarlae
Gules, a cross paty vaire. William de Forz III (d. 1260) succeeded his father (also William) as Count of Aumale and Lord of Holderness in 1241. Part of the top of the shield has broken away, and the vaire of the cross has crumbled.


The Painted Shields

17. Guil. C. de Ferrariis de Derbiae
Vairy or and gules. William de Ferrars II (d. 1247) succeeded as Earl of Ferrars and Derby in 1190. The existing shield is painted on the wall under the arch of the arcade and the inscription is on the moulding above it. These replace the original shield and inscription which were lost when the monument to Sir Charles Harbord and Clement Cottrell (d. 1672) was erected. Below the shield is the record: This Escocheon was like the rest of the flat ones in Place and Antiquity. According to Keepe, the title in the original inscription was “de Ferrariis et Derbiae”. The shield as repainted is “vairy in pale”, but the painting in Camden’s book in the Abbey Library shows the usual form of vairy.

18. Guil de LogaSpata C. Sarum
Azure, six lions rampant or. This may represent William Longespee I (d. 1226), bastard son of Henry II, who was created Earl of Salisbury in 1198; or his son, William Longespee II (c. 1212-50), who was styled Earl of Salisbury though not invested with the earldom. This shield, like the last, is painted on the wall under the arch, and there is a similar note showing it to be a replacement of a lost original.

19. (Guilielmus de Valentia Comes Penbrochiae)
Barry argent and azure, an orle of martlets gules (missing). William de Valence
(c. 1225-96) was half-brother to Henry III, being the son of Isabella of Angoulême, King John’s widow, by her second husband, Hugh de Lusignan, Count of La Marche. He married Joan, niece and co-heiress of Anselm Marshal, sixth Earl of Pembroke, and after the Earl’s death William was styled Earl of Pembroke though not invested with the earldom. The missing shield was blazoned by Keepe as “barry of ten”, but the number of bars and martlets varies in different representations of the arms. The shield on William’s effigy in St. Edmund’s Chapel is barry of 28 pieces and has 19 martlets.

20. Rogerus de Mortuomari
Barry of six or and azure, an escutcheon argent, on a chief or a pale between two gyrons azure (missing). Of more than one person of this name, this is presumed to have been Roger de Mortimer, Lord of Wigmore (c. 1231-82) who succeeded his father in 1247.

21. Guilielmus de Percy
Or, a lion rampant double-tailed azure (missing). William de Percy (c. 1183-1245) succeeded as sixth baron Percy in 1244. The blazon is from Keepe, and the Percy lion is not usually given as double-tailed, nor is it so drawn in Camden’s book in the Abbey Library. In fact William probably bore the former Percy coat: Azure, five fusils in fess or. The lion coat is believed to have been adopted by his grandson, Henry, first Lord Percy of Alnwick, after his marriage with Eleanor, daughter of John Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel. Probably when the shield was painted in the Abbey the later, and by that time better-known, coat of Percy was attributed to William. The remains of the escutcheon may be seen over the door to the Cloister.

22. Rogerus de Clifford
Checky or and azure, a fess gules (missing). Roger de Clifford (d. 1285) was lord of Kingsbury and Justice of the King’s Forests south of Trent. The escutcheon is to be seen over the Cloister door.

23. (Rogerus de Somerey)
Or, two lions passant azure (missing).

24. (Johannes de Verdon)
Or fretty gules (missing). John de Verdon (d. 1274) was the son of Theobald Butler who took the name de Verdon on his marriage with Rohese, daughter of Nicholas de Verdon.

25. (Robertus de Thwenge)
Argent, a fess gules between three popinjays vert. Robert de Thweng, c. 1205-68. The shield has been repainted but the colour of the popinjays has faded

26. (Fulco Filius Warini)
Quarterly per fess indented argent and gules. Of several successive persons of the name, the shield may represent Fulk FitzWarine III (d. 1256?) or Fulk IV (d. 1264). The shield has been repainted.

27. Roge. de MonteAlto
Azure a lion rampant argent. Roger de Montalt, Lord of Mold (Mons Altus), who died in 1260, was Steward of the Earldom of Chester, the lordship having been originally one of the baronies of the County Palatine. The shield and inscription were repainted in 1954. It will be noticed that this shield and the next, and the two on the opposite side of the nave (nos. 39 and 40 below) bear the arms of four of the eight barons of the Earldom of Chester.

28. Rogerus de Venables
Azure, two bars argent. Roger de Venables (d. about 1261) was baron of Kinderton in the County Palatine of Chester. The shield and inscription were repainted in 1954.



29. (Edmundus Comes Lancastriae)
England with a label of five points azure on each point three fleurs-de-lis or (missing). Edmund (1245-96), second son of Henry III, was created Earl of Lancaster in 1267. He married firstly Aveline, daughter of William de Forz III, Count of Aumale (see shield no. 16), and secondly Blanche, daughter of Robert, Count of Artois, brother of Louis IX of France. It is presumed that he differenced his arms with the labelof France after his second marriage.

30. (Hugo) de Vere C. Oxoniae
Quarterly gules and or, in the first quarter a molet argent. Hugh de Vere (c. 1210-63) succeeded as Earl of Oxford and Hereditary Great Chamberlain of England in 1221. His arms belong to the group of basically similar shields showing a connection with Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex (see note on Henry de Lacy, no. 6)The first quarter of the shield has been defaced and the molet has partly disappeared.

31. Johannes de Dreux (Comes Richmondiae)
Checky or and azure, a bordure of England and a canton ermine. The arms are thus blazoned by Keepe and drawn in Camden’s book in the Abbey Library, but part of the checky has disappeared and no lions can now be seen on the bordure. The first person known to have borne the arms with the bordure of England is John de Dreux, or de Bretagne (1266-1334) who was created Earl of Richmond in 1306. His father, John de Dreux (1239-1306), Earl of Richmond (later Duke of Bretagne), who married Beatrice, daughter of Henry III, appears to have borne the arms with a plain bordure gules, though Raphe Brooke (Catalogue of Nobility, 1619) credits him with the bordure of England. As the younger John was only three years old when Henry Ill’s work at the Abbey ceased, the shield probably refers to the elder John de Dreux.

32. Henricus de Hastings
Or, a maunch gules. This may be Henry de Hastings who died in 1250 or his son, Henry, who died in 1268.

33. Rogerus de Mowbray
Gules, a lion rampant argent. Roger de Mowbray of Axholme, d. 1266. The shield is almost indecipherable.

34. (Robertus de) Stafford
Or, a chevron gules (missing). Robert de Stafford, who succeeded his brother in the lordship in 1240, was the younger son of Hervey Bagot and his wife, Millicent, sister and heiress of Robert de Stafford, temp. Henry II. The stone escutcheon on which the arms appeared may still be seen.

35. Robertus (de Ross)
Gules, three water-budgets argent (missing). Robert de Ros (d. 1285), first Baron. The shield presumably disappeared during the erection of the monument to Robert Killigrew (d. 1707).

36. Robertus Filius Walteri
Or, a fess between two chevrons gules (missing). Robert FitzWalter (d. 1235), Lord of Dunmow and Baynard’s Castle and one of the executors of the Great Charter; or his grandson Robert (1247- 1325) who was summoned to Parliament as a Baron in 1295. Half the escutcheon on which the arms were painted remains.

37. Johannes de Balliol
Gules, an orle argent (missing). John de Balliol (d. 1269), of Barnard Castle, was one of the Regents of Scotland during Alexander Ill’s minority. He and his wife, Devorguilla, daughter of Alan, Lord of Galloway, were founders of Balliol College, Oxford. Only the outline of the shield can be seen.

38. (Gilbertus Talbot)
Bendy of ten pieces argent and gules. Gilbert de Talbot (d. 1274) was governor of certain castles and justice itinerant in the county of Hereford. The above arms are those which he bore before his marriage with the daughter of Rhys ap Griffith, Prince of South Wales, when he took the arms of her family: Gules, a lion rampant within a bordure engrailed or. The shield has been repainted.

39. (Warinus de Vernon)
Or, a fess azure (missing). Warine de Vernon IV (living 1240-50) was baron of Shipbroke in the earldom of Chester. The arms are those of Vernon in their early form, i.e. before the addition of the three gold garbs on the fess. The shield probably disappeared when the monument to Major General Laurence (d. 1775) was erected.

40. (Guilielmus de Malpas)
Gules, three pheons argent (missing). William de Malpas was grandson of William le Belward who took the name of Malpas on inheriting from his mother part of the barony of Malpas in the earldom of Chester. This shield also probably disappeared when the Laurence monument was put up.

With one notable exception, all Henry Ill’s near relatives who were living when the Abbey was being rebuilt are represented in this range of shields. We find the arms of his brothers and brothers-in-law, his younger son and his sons-in-law, but not those of his elder son, Prince Edward. If these arms represent benefactors, it would seem that Edward did not contribute to the cost of the work, and it may be that he was not in sympathy with his father’s lavish expenditure on the Abbey. This seems to be consistent with Brayley’s comment that, as King, Edward “was by no means distinguished by his attachment to the church…. With the exception of the estates which he granted to found the anniversary for Queen Eleanor [of Castile], his donations to this foundation were but few, and chiefly consisted of the Scottish regalia … and certain reliques of saints and martyrs”.