[from Proc IoMNH&ASoc vol2 #3 1923]



Read 25th, May, 1916.

With the exception of one, of whose heraldic character there cannot be any doubt, the shields of the Maughold Cross have been always condemned as ' not heraldic.' The Three Legs shield has been regarded as the only heraldic device among five fanciful decorative ones whose meaning was obscure, and whose raison d'être was obscurer. This view has always struck me as quite illogical, simply because, so far as I know, no sound reason has ever been advanced in support of it. It seems fairly obvious that if one of these shields is heraldic, the five others ought to be likewise. It seems to me that not only one but all these shields have been put up with deliberate intent as a display of shields of arms. This, however, is only my opinion, but I hope the following notes may serve as a basis for discussion.

Passing over the tre cassyn as not admitting of any doubt, we come to the Southern Shield. Report No. 4 of the Archæological Survey says that ' it contains a square figure with vertical grooves, below which is set a conventional leaf possibly intended for the Palm with a symbolic reference to the Blessed Virgin.'

This reference is, of course, quite possible, as such references are quite common in armoury. ' A square figure with vertical grooves,' correctly describes what I. certainly took the device to represent, the last time I saw it not very, long ago, viz., a gridiron. This, as it happens, is a heraldic device, though not very common, and it is also a well-known religious emblem, and if the leaf is a palm, which is very doubtful, it may refer to a blessed saint and martyr as well as to ' the Blessed Virgin.' I may say that I have compared the illustration in the Report with all the charges and heraldic devices in Edmondson's Complete Body of Heraldry' - his list of illustrations is exhaustive-and this thing on the cross, while strongly resembling a gridiron, resembles nothing else. It is natural to find in Glover's ' Ordinary of Arms ' as the coat of arms of the Laurence family-a chevron between three gridirons. Strange to say both Glover and Edmondson give these same arms to one branch of the Scott family-the devices and colours being identical. Gridirons figure on the coat of arms of the Girdlers' Company, and St. Laurence is their crest. The leaf on the shield which covers the handle of the gridiron is, I suggest, an oak-leaf, as oak-leaves and oak-branches enter so much into the decoration of this cross as to suggest that a sprig of oak was the badge or crest of someone connected with the Cross. An acorn was the badge of Arundel in the time of Edward IV. Such names as Oake, Oakover, etc., have generally oak-leaves in their coats of arms.

The Report says : ' The Western Shield displays a circular ring surmounted by a plain crosslet, and encircling a cinquefoil device of heart-shaped leaves.' Heraldically we may describe it as ' A cinquefoil within an annulet which is surmounted by a crosslet.' The crosslet may be a difference. Compare with the above the following examples from Glover's ' Ordinary.' I leave out the colours, etc.:

(1) Three cinquefoils within as many annulets. Dameck.
(2) A cinquefoil within a bordure. Daungerville.
(3) A cinquefoil within an orle of cross crosslets. Umfreville.

There is no single feature of the Western Shield that is not heraldic.

As regards the North Shield, the Report says: ' The North Shield has a chalice, the base of which exhibits the pointed claws of the period.' It is suggested in ' Manx Antiquities ' that this charge has a reference to the ecclesiastical character of the donor. The difficulty is that chalices are often found on lay- shields, and it is not always easy- to discriminate between heraldic chalices, cups, and flagons. The following are from Glover's ' Ordinary':-

' Two Chalices. Emerle.'
' A cup between 3 uncovered cups. Candishe.'
' A cup covered between 2 cinquefoils and as many crosses patteé. Botiller.'

The various branches of the Butlers-Botiller, Bottellers. etc., generally bear covered cups.

As there does not appear to be anything not heraldic about these shields, it seems to me that it would be very unreasonable to deny a heraldic character to the two others above them. One of these bears a rose, which flower is a common device. But it has been contended that this is a Tudor rose. This would, of course, affect the estimated age of this monument. In No. 7 ' The Ancestor,' of October, 1903, there is a 15th century Roll of Arms with reproductions of the original tricks. On one shield-name unfortunately not given-silver 3 roses grilles and a chief gules with 2 cygnets silver. The roses are very similar to the one on the Maughold Cross Shield, proving, I think, that the latter is not a Tudor rose.

The remaining shield which the Report does not consider heraldic, may be said to be divided per fesse in the lower half a sprig of oat:, in the upper four wings on a staff surmounted by a mullet (?) As some early 14th century heraldic bearings puzzle even experts, we might be content to give this shield the credit of being heraldic until we can prove it is not, In some respects it is the most heraldic of all.

I suggest that casts of these shields should be sent to some expert on family arms, for his opinion.

December 1, 1915. FRED SWYNNERTON.


In what appears to be a complete list of the coats of arms of British Abbeys in Edmondson's ' Complete Body of Heraldry ' (1780), it is rather remarkable that while there are croziers, mitres, and crosses, and even the Virgin Mary, and the Crucifixion, used as charges, there are no ' chalices.' But there are ' cups,' which, most likely, were meant for chalices in purely ecclesiastical coats of arms. In fact it appears that, unless expressly stated, there is nothing to distinguish a heraldic ' cup ' or ' flagon ' from a 'chalice. This being so, it is just as likely as not that the so-called ' chalice ' on the Maughold Cross is merely an ' uncovered cup.' As it has been suggested that this object has ' probably a reference to the donor of the Cross ' inferentially an ecclesiastic, the point is worth mentioning, though it must be observed that there seems to be absolutely nothing to warrant this assumption.

Further research into mediaeval family coat armour may prove that the Maughold Cross was not a donation, but a memorial monument. At any rate, we must keep this possibility in mind, as we know really nothing about why and by whom it was erected. In the absence of other evidence we are justified in trying whether the Cross as it stands cannot be made to tell us something of the secret it has held so long. If it be a memorial monument, its position probably indicates that it was erected to someone of importance in the Isle of Man, and more particularly in this parish. But not in this parish alone, because the Archæological Report tells us that the Cross is of St. Bees sandstone, and that it is the only one of its kind in the Isle of Man. Moreover, we are told that St. Bees had some connection with this parish. These points suggest that the person to whom the Cross was erected was doubly connected with the Isle of Man-witness the coat of arms of the Lord of Man-and with St. Bees. Moreover, the Cross was most likely made at St. Bees, both because no other work of the kind is found in the Island, showing that the sculptor did not practise his art there, and because it would have been much easier and cheaper to bring over and erect the finished monument, than to bring over the rough material and the sculptor and to make the Cross in Man. The base must have originally borne an inscription, but on the other hand, he, she, or they who put up this Cross may have thought that the coats of arms upon it would of themselves for ever save from oblivion the name of the person to whose memory it was erected. Such an idea may prove to have been well-founded-it has hardly as yet been put to the proof. The main thing at present, it seems to tries is to get rid of the paralysing ' non-heraldic ' idea which leads nowhere, or to challenge those who cling to this idea to bring forward another example of a 14th century cross upon which a genuine well-known coat of arms is associated on equal tertres with other shields bearing mock-heraldic devices. Upon the face of it the thing is improbable.

In regard to the South Shield (above the kneeling figure), of which the Report says that ' it has a fanciful device as of two chiefs wavy,' it must be pointed out that more than one chief, wavy or otherwise, on the one shield is a heraldic impossibility, and that the field being clear between the top of the device, and the top of the shield effectually prevents the device being- any form of chief whatever, fanciful or otherwise. This is not the only obscure heraldic device that has puzzled antiquaries, I do not consider that the. difficulty of determining its heraldic character is at all insuperable. But it is certainly no possible form of chief, and as most of the other shields bear common heraldic charges, this one cannot, in reason, be regarded as ' fanciful.'

Allowing this Cross to be a memorial monument, the number of coats of arms upon it may easily be explained by one of the practices of early heraldry. Originally impaling, quartering, etc,, of different coats of arms on the one shield was trot practised. This is seen on the seals atitxed to Magna Charta. But it was even so late as the end of the 13th and the beginning of the 14th centuries. In his useful ' Heraldry,' p. 191, Hulme says: 'One early snore-it-merits separate coats of arms denoted the different honourable alliances of the family' (the italics are. mine), ' as, for instance, on the tombs of the Earls of Pembroke in Westminster Abbey. The arms of husband and wife are on separate shields, instead of being impaled. We often find agroupments of allieu amts amidst the Gothic tracery in wood carvings, or stained glass. . . . on mediæval seals.' I have quoted this at length, as I think it fits the case of the Maughold Cross, and it may be taken as good evidence as to what period the Cross belongs, Unfortunately, by treating the Maughold Cross shields as ' non-heraldic, very valuable evidence as to the age of the Cross has too long been ignored. Hulme also gives the seal of Aylmer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke as an example of the display of five allied coats of arms, two impaled on one shield, and three on separate shields, all of which at a later period would have been quartered on the one shield.

Taking the foregoing facts into consideration, we are justified in presuming that the various coats of arms on the Maughold Cross denote the different honourable alliances of the family of the knight whose effigy is upon the Cross, and they suggest, even if they do not prove, that the Cross cannot belong to a later period than the end of the 13th or the beginning of the 14th century, when this practice was still in vogue,

It has, moreover, struck me that as this Cross was the most important and costly monument ever raised up to that time in Man (it reminds one of the crosses raised to the memory of Queen Eleanor by Ed.II, if a memorial, the person to whose memory it was erected must have been some very great personage indeed. It is not easy otherwise to account for the arms of the Lord of Man being so conspicuously displayed on the Cross, The possibly earlier display of the Three legs is found only upon the Sword of State, or, I believe, upon the seals of the Lord of the Isle. This coat of arms seems to me to bring the Maughold Cross into close relation to the Lord of Man, which we are apt to overlook in these days when it is used indiscriminately, One wonders if it is impossible that the Cross was raised to the memory of a Lord of Man by the St. Bees authorities

In regard to the Three Legs on the Cross being ' set in a contrary direction to that of recent times.' as stated in the Report, it is hardly supported by the 18th century coins ot which the Three legs are set sometimes in one direction, sometimes in the other.

In the above-mentioned list of the arms of British Abbeys given by Edmondson, those of Rushen Abbey, Isle of Man, are stated to be : A rgent a cross sable frette or. I do not find any mention of this very pretty and apparently 13th or 14th century Manx coat of arms in ' The Manx Note hook,' or in ' M aux Antiquities,' but I presume it was published by the Manx Society' Edmondson points out that very frequently abbeys bore the coat of arms of their founders. This is worth noting, as this coat- trav reveal the name of the actual founder of Rushen Abbey, if it is not yet already known.


Rome, 20th March, 1916,

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