Littell's Living Age/Volume 133/Issue 1714/Quartering the Royal Arms

From The Pall Mall Gazette.


It might well be imagined, by any one who had given no particular heed to the matter, that, outside the limits of the royal family at home and the kingly or princely houses abroad with which it has become allied by marriage, legitimate descent from the sovereigns of England was a very rare distinction indeed. But everybody who has paid even passing attention to genealogical questions is aware that it is, in fact, exceedingly common, and that the persons of all ranks and conditions of life, who share in it are to be reckoned by thousands rather than by hundreds. As Mr. Long says in his well-known work on "Royal Descents" — a leading authority on the subject — "when once you are enabled to place your client in a current of decent blood, you are certain (by a slight Hibernicism) to carry him up to some one of the three great fountains of honor, Edward III., Edward I., or Henry III.; and in families of good, or even partially good descent, the deducing of a husband and wife from all the children of Edward III. and all the children of Edward I. has been successfully established by perseverance and research." Still, although mere royal descents are thus numerous, only a minority of them are of the kind which convey a title to quarter the royal arms. All the males and females of a family have a right to bear the paternal coat of their ancestors. But the paternal coat of one family can be added to the paternal coat of another family only when the ancestress bearing it was an heiress or a co-heiress of some male of the family originally entitled to it. And heiresses or co-heiresses cannot exist unless there are no males of the generation to which they belong, and neither males nor females nor the descendants of males of that or any subsequent generation in the same line. But even the more select class of royal descents are very plentiful, and the right to quarter the royal arms is participated in by what maybe called, with little or no exaggeration, a vast and heterogeneous multitude. Sir Bernard Burke enumerates over sixty members of the peerage who have it, and they with their various relations, lineal and collateral, would of themselves make a formidable array. But it also belongs to a great many families which are not noble in every grade of society, down to those in the humblest circumstances. Yet from the number of those descendants from our old stock of kings who are privileged by inheritance to quarter their arms one very singular exception is to be made — namely, the present royal family. The descent of the House of Brunswick from the Plantagenets through the Tudors and the Stuarts, derives from the electress Sophia, mother of George I., and daughter of Elizabeth, queen of Bohemia, daughter of James I., and neither of these princesses was either an heiress or a co-heiress. The brother of Princess Elizabeth was Charles I., and when his last male descendant, Cardinal York, died, the representation of his line passed to the descendants of the princess Henrietta, daughter of Charles I., and first wife of Philip, Duke of Orleans. Her senior co-heiress is the archduchess Maria Theresa, niece and heiress of the late duke of Modena and wife of Louis, prince of Bavaria. Moreover, even if the princess Elizabeth had been an heiress or a co-heiress, she could not have transmitted the right to quarter the royal arms through the princess Sophia. Her son, Charles Lewis, the elector palatine, brother of the princess Sophia, left a daughter and heiress, who was the second wife of Philip, Duke of Orleans, and his heir and representative by her in the seventh generation is the Comte de Paris. All the descendants of Philip, Duke of Orleans, by both his wives, therefore, must die out before the right to quarter the arms of the Plantagenets can devolve by inheritance upon their successors of the reigning house of England, which, however, as it is in possession of the oyster, may view with complacency the claims of others to the shells.

The royal descents which carry the right to quarter the royal arms, many and various as they are, proceed from only six principal stems, although the quarterings are those of nine branches of the Plantagenet tree. The descendants of Elizabeth of York and of George, Duke of Clarence, the daughter and brother of Edward IV., quarter not only their arms, but those also of Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence, and Edmund of Langley, Duke of York, the second and fourth sons of Edward III. Again, the descendants of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the third son of Edward III., quarter as well the arms of Edmund, Earl of Lancaster, the second son of Henry III. The three other descents with quarterings are those from Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, the fifth son of Edward III., Thomas of Brotherton, Earl of Norfolk, the second son, and Edmund of Woodstock, Earl of Kent, the sixth son of Edward I. These several coats are distinguished by differences which it is needless to specify, but which are of great moment in the art and mystery of blazonry. Of the above personages the senior co-representatives are — of Elizabeth of York, the archduchess Maria Theresa, princess of Bavaria; of George, Duke of Clarence, the Earl of Loudoun; of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, Isabella, ex-queen of Spain; of Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, Lord Stafford; of Thomas of Brotherton, Earl of Norfolk, Lord Stourton; and of Edmund of Woodstock, Earl of Kent, the archduchess Maria Theresa, princess of Bavaria. It is to be observed that one line of royal descent is rigidly excluded by Mr. Long. The Beauforts, the children of John of Gaunt and his third wife, Catherine Swinford, were born out of wedlock, although they were afterwards legitimated by act of Parliament. They bore the arms of their father within a "bordure gobony;" and Mr. Long contends that there is no doubt as to what the "bordure gobony" meant. A propos of the Beauforts, we may notice how comparatively few of the peerage quarter, or rather bear, the royal arms by reason of bastard descent. The illegitimate descendants of the illegitimate Beauforts, Dukes of Somerset, are the Somersets, Dukes of Beaufort. The Dukes of Buccleuch, Richmond and Gordon, St. Albans, and Grafton, and Lord Southampton are the illegitimate descendants of Charles II., and the Earl of Munster is the illegitimate descendant of William IV. — seven in all with the "baton sinister" against sixty odd without it.

Sir Bernard Burke's "List of Peers and Peeresses in their own right who are entitled to quarter the Royal Arms of Plantagenet" does not in some instances quite agree with that which is either explicitly or implicitly given by Mr. Long. Sir Bernard Burke includes the Earls of Abingdon, Granville and Stamford and Warrington, who are not named by Mr. Long, and excludes the Earl of Essex and Lord Manners, who are both mentioned by him. For the rest, Sir Bernard Burke and Mr. Long are at one. The Dukes of Athole, Bedford, Buckingham and Chandos, Northumberland, and Sutherland, the Earls Brownlow, Dunmore, Ellesmere, Loudoun, and Jersey, Lord Egerton of Tatton, and Baroness Nairne (Dowager Marchioness of Lansdowne) quarter the arms of Elizabeth of York, and the Marquis of Waterford and the Earl of Huntingdon quarter the arms of George, Duke of Clarence. Lord Herries is the only peer who quarters the arms of John of Gaunt, and consequently of Edmund, Earl of Lancaster. The arms of Thomas of Woodstock are quartered by Marquis Townshend, Earl Ferrers, Viscount Hereford, Lords Hatherton and Teynham, and Baronesses Berners and Burdett-Coutts. The arms of Thomas of Brotherton are quartered by the Dukes of Norfolk, Manchester, and Richmond and Gordon, the Marquis of Exeter, the Earls of Berkeley, Carlisle, Devon, Effingham, Somers, Spencer, and Suffolk and Berkshire, and Lords Arundell of Wardour, Bray broke, Clifford, Dorchester, Eliot, Howard de Walden, Howard of Glossop, Lanerton, Petre, Stourton, and Suffield, and the arms of Edmund of Woodstock are quartered by the Duke of Rutlapd, the Earls of Abingdon, Bradford, Essex, Howth, and Tankerville, Viscounts Falkland and Gage, and Lords De Ros, Lyttelton, Manners, Scarsdale, Vaux, and Wentworth. Several of these families are entitled to quarter many of these arms through different and distinct descents. But we have ranged them under the best of these — that is, under the one by which they are most nearly connected with their Plantagenet ancestors.

These descendants of the Plantagenets are all of them of more or less eminent position. But among those who are mentioned by Mr. Long there are some whose rank and fortune are very dissimilar from theirs. Descended from and quartering the arms of Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, by the second marriage of his daughter and heiress Anne Plantagenet with William Bouchier, Earl of Ewe, are John Penny, the only surviving son of Stephen James Penny (late sexton of St. George's, Hanover Square), who in 1845 was apprenticed to Mr. Watson, saddler, of Windmill Street, Haymarket; and his uncles, William John Penny, foreman to Messrs. Baker, upholsterers, of Lower Brook Street, Grosvenor Square, and Thomas Penny, shoemaker at Brompton. Sir John Bouchier, a younger son of the Earl of Ewe, married the heiress of Sir Richard Berners, and was summoned to Parliament as Baron Berners. His great-granddaughter and heiress married Edmund Knyvett, serjeant porter to Henry VIII. In the sixth generation from him the male line of the Knyvetts became extinct, and the barony of Berners fell into abeyance between the two daughters and co-heiresses, Elizabeth and Lucy, of John Knyvett, of Norwich. Baroness Berners descends from the marriage of the elder co-heiress with Henry Wilson of Didlington, and the Pennys descend from the second marriage of the younger co-heiress with John Field, carpenter, of Reading. Among the descendants of Edmund of Woodstock, Earl of Kent, entitled to quarter his arms are Joseph Smart, butcher, of Hales Owen, and George Wilmot, the keeper of the turnpike-gate at Cooper's Bank, near Dudley. They are among the co-heirs of Frances, eventually heiress of Ferdinando Lord Dudley, the wife of Walter Woodcock, whose first and second daughters and co-heiresses were respectively the mothers of Joseph Smart and George Wilmot. They are thus co-heirs of the old barony of Dudley, created by writ in the reign of Edward II. Their royal descent and quarterings they derive direct through the Wards, the Suttons, the Tiptofts, the Cherletons, and the Hollands from Joan Plantagenet, the "Fair Maid of Kent."