Sunday 21 June 2009

When a difference makes no difference.

Earlier this month I made reference to the widow Legh of Adlington and her desire to forego the expensive luxury of an armorial funeral and it brought to mind the fact that students of Cheshire heraldry often encounter curiosities which are probably not unique to the county but which nevertheless illustrate that the science of armory was not invented in a complete and finished form  but evolved and continues to evolve to this day. Let us take but one example of the various armorial bearings of a number of Cheshire Leigh/Legh/Lee families; that of Legh of Adlington.

Illustrated below are the arms recorded in the 1580 Visitations and those later recorded in 1663.

Adlington Differences

Setting aside, for the moment, the fact that the pronominal arms (1st & 4th quarters) are not those of Legh, we must surely notice that the second quarter, which is the coat of Legh, has changed, ever so slightly, over the intervening eight decades.

The armorial bearings of this family are those of Venables (Azure, two bars Argent), differenced by the bend (or bendlet) gobony, to mark the fact that the male line is actually descended from the Venables barons of Kinderton. John de Venables assumed the name of Legh after inheriting the Adlington estates from his mother's family.

The Visitations of 1580 have a number of entries for the arms of Leigh of Adlington: They are first mentioned in the pedigree of Leigh of High Ligh, of the West Hall, where they are recorded as belonging to Robert Leigh of Adlington - Azure, two bars Argent, over all a bendlet gobony Or and Gules. N.B. here the arms have a bendlet the tinctures of which are Or and Gules. Next mentioned in the same Visitations are the arms of Leigh of Adlington as illustrated above viz:
Arms: Quarterly -
1 & 4 Azure, a plate between three ducal crowns Or, within a bordure Argent [Corona]
2 Azure, two bars Argent, over all a bendlet gobony Or and Gules [Legh of Adlington]
3Argent, a cross flory Sable [Belgrave]

Crest: A unicorn's head Argent, couped Gules, armed Or

Here again, the arms feature a a bendlet gobony Or and Gules and yet the next entry, one for Robert Leigh of Adlington, records the arms as being Azure, two bars Argent Over all a bend gobone Or and Gules. The bendlet has become a bend but we must bear in mind that without recourse to the originals this, or any of the others, could be  due to a transcription error.

The Visitations of 1613 record the arms of Legh of Adlington as recorded by the same family in 1580 with a bendlet as illustrated on the left above. Move forward another half century and not only has the bendlet put on weight with age but the tinctures are reversed and are now recorded as Gules and Or (as illustrated above on the right).

Does it matter?

In my view, no. These arms tell a story which, to their original owners was a proud indication of their origins. They are essentially the arms of Venables differenced.  I don't think that for the purposes of differencing the original arms there is sufficient difference between a bend and a bendlet to make any difference whichever is used and if that is the case, it really doesn't matter what order the tinctures come in either.

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