Kirby Coat of Arms revisited

As mentioned recently, our family’s version of the Kirby crest seems bogus, or at least that’s the opinion of a Bluemantle Pursuivant at the of the College of Arms back in ’95. He suggested it was “probably a charming and late example of the outrages that the painter stainers/undertakers/stationers were carrying out on an unsuspecting public”, but then explained how he could petition for it’s registration for a mere £2,200 (see more here).

Kirby Coat of Arms
Kirby Coat of Arms

His feedback was actually a great insight into heraldry despite the arcane prose. Basically, he could see no “rhyme nor reason” for the way that the different elements of the bookplate had been “illogically thrown together”. He explained that the arms attempt to give the impression of “impaled arms” or “arms of a marital achievement” with the husband’s heraldic elements on the left and the wife’s on the right. Apparently, the crest of a talbot’s head with a spear through it’s neck has never before been registered in English Heraldry. I don’t think he meant this as a good thing.

Neither had the dexter half of the shield (right side), “that is to say on the bend between two maunches and 3 mullets”. I thought the dexter half was on the right, but maunches are the handkerchief-like devices that are suposed to represent a lady’s sleeve. According to the Somewhere in Tyme site it became used in heraldry from the custom of the knights who attended tournaments wearing their ladies sleeves. The maunch was the symbol for a man whose heart had been captured by a maiden. It is a symbol of devotion, and it also symbolizes victory in tournament. A mullet is a 5-pointed star. Represents divine quality bestowed by God. May also symbolize the third son.

The arms on the “sinister side” of the shiled had been used before, but bogusly by the Kaynall family, according to An Ordinary of British Armorials (1874). As far as I’m aware we are not related to the Kaynalls, but maybe we should contact them and start a college of bogus arms, our rates would be considerably more competitive than those quoted above.

Turns out that the motto Principiis obsta (meet the danger as it approaches) is also in use by the Ffolkes family, who are baronets from Norfolk. This would be consistent with the sets of arrows, which can symbolize martial readiness. It’s difficult to make out what the heads are. They might be lion heads, which would be a symbol of valiance.

Anyway, it seems like our coat of arms has been thrown together from a number of disparate elements, which to me looks like how most coat of arms of thrown together. The upshot being that the Coat of Arms isn’t likely to be much help in helping us trace our Kirby ancestors. There were a whole host of unofficial coat of arms and crests being knocked up in the 18th and 19th century based on a variety of different reference sources, such as Burke’s General Armory (1840), Robson’s The British Herald (1830), Nisbet’s Heraldry (1778) and Deucher’s British Crests (1817). Apparently, Fairburn and Burke tried to catalogue the various “unofficial” coat of arms and crests, but new varieties are still being knocked up so it’s unlikely they’d ever be a definitive list.

However, at least the originator of our coat of arms managed to create a design that hasn’t been registered before, but seeing that the college of arms views coats of arms as being an honour, rather than an entitlement, there doesn’t seem much point in registering it despite it’s apparent “charm”.


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