I am quite confident that those of us who share heraldry/armory as a hobby would be quite pleased to have some armorial trappings at our funerals and over the years I have seen one or two tasteful and colourful displays of armory endeavouring to brighten up an otherwise sombre occasion. It probably won't surprise my reader to learn that, although I myself have not gone so far, I do know more than one heraldry enthusiast who has either commissioned or been given their own hatchment in what hopefully will be a long held off anticipation of the acceptance of their mortality. Mind you, I can't see my wife sanctioning my commissioning of a hatchment and, possibly because I might question motives, I'm somewhat relieved that no one has ever felt the need to present me with my own!
Why, you may well be asking yourself, is he talking about heraldic funerals?
Well, I am just about up to begin the re-hashing of the Leigh arms from the earliest of the Visitations and it reminded me that in her will, dated 1700, Joanna, wife of Thomas Legh of Adlington, daughter of Sir John Maynard, Serjeant-at-law, left instruction that "it is my will and mind that noe Heraldry bee provided or used at my ffuneral nor any drinking to bee made or had." This final request came at a time when heraldic funerals remained practically compulsory but in reality were fading from history. During the time of Queen Elizabeth the College of Arms controlled all of the funerals of the nobility and it placed considerable financial burdens on the family of the deceased but a couple of centuries later the rituals had to all intents and purposes died out.
At its zenith, some funerals, especially those of the higher nobility such as dukes and lesser peers, cost extravagant sums of money and clearly came to be seen as wasteful and unnecessary. No doubt Joanna saved her heirs a bob or two by omitting heraldry and alcohol but it's a pity the pomp and colour was lost.
The armorial bearings of the husband of Joanna Leigh of Adlington, who predeceased her by nine years, are recorded in the 1663 Visitations as being:
Quarterly 1 & 4 Azure, a plate between three ducal coronets Or, a bordure Argent [Legh]; 2 Azure, two bars Argent, overall a bend gobony Gules and Or [Legh]; 3 Argent, a cross patonce Sable.
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