Courtenay Arms at the Devon and Exeter Institution

Devon & Cornwall Notes and Queries vol. VII, (1912-1913), Exeter: James G. Commin. 1913, illus. pp. 208-209.


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Prepared by Michael Steer

The Note relates to Ethel Lega-Weekes’ article on the topic, (Note 60, p. 81-87 of this volume). The original Coat of Arms of Courtenay are: Or, three torteaux. This was apparently adopted by Renaud de Courtenay before his death in 1190 and before the separation of the family into French and English branches, as the arms are used both in France and England.  The article, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.

Note 147. COURTENAY ARMS AT THE DEVON AND EXETER INSTITUTION (VII., par. 60, p. 81.) - Heraldically this is incorrect, and yet there is something to be said for it, as the Bishop is wedded to his See, and yet in this case it is really the See that grants the civil order ; therefore it should have followed the proper course and have been like a Knight of any order on a separate shield adjoining his wife's paternal coat. Some would say, Why was this not done? Simply because if the Courtenay was made the "Baron" and the See the "Femme,” the Prelate of a civil order would take precedence of the See which grants him the Order. Then how about the mitre, if there were two shields, the See does not require one, though it is ordinarily ensigned over the party line, but it would be borne over the Courtenay shield, since being a “Femme" he cannot bear his family Crest; and perhaps the attitude of the mitre was intended to show that the See participated in the order. The supporters of both shields are quite out of order, as Miss Lega-Weekes proves, and the only suggestion I can give is that the Bishop, not being allowed a crest, this charge was substituted. I think a difference should be drawn from what Dr. Woodward says about supporters, viz., whether the See impales the Bishop's coat, or whether it is only his personal coat with supporters. Of the first, I cannot find that he gives an example, but of the second he has many, yet as a Knight of the Order he was entitled to have them. The Bishop of Norwich could not have borne on the label "torteaux," since it would be heraldically wrong, unless the tincture of the label was altered to ermine, and this leads one to correct the blazon on p. 82, where in the third line of the paragraph, beginning " The personal arms," 'azure' should come after pendants and before the bracket. But what is interesting and not correct is the See coat, which is just reversed, the keys should be in bend and the sword in bend sinister. Does this not prove that it was copied from the matrix of a seal, and the sculptor forgot that it would be right when used, many cases of this being known.                 F. WERE.