Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Heraldic Congress

This weekend  the Heraldry Society has been holding its bienniel Congress, with the theme of Heraldry in the Tudor Age, here in Oxford at St Catherine's college, and I was very pleased to be invited to both speak to them last night about heraldry in Oxford colleges and this morning to give them a guided tour of the early twentieth century heraldic glass in the Hall of my own college, Oriel.
Last night I spoke both about the arms used by the colleges - the older ones usually those of their founder, and probably assumed by the colleges without a specific grant, the newer ones examples of the herald's artistry - and about arms of alumni as found in the colleges and also about unusual examples of the Royal Arms in the colleges. These include a nineteenth century version of the conjoint arms of King Philip and Queen Mary over the fireplace in the Hall at Trinity, which was founded in the year of their marriage, the Stuart arms with those of Queen Henrietta Maria in Canterbury Quad at St John's and the very masculine Unicorn supporting the same Stuart arms in the Hall at Brasenose.
In the tour of Oriel this morning I concentrated on the heraldic glass installed in the Hall between 1908 and 1935 which tells the story of the college through its alumni and benefactors as well as the changing arms of the Sovereign as Visitor.  It is the work of Sir Ninian Comper, and several windows include his strawberryleaf badge. In my, slightly biased, opinion as an Orielensis (but only very slightly biased) this is by far the finest display of twentieth centuruy heraldic art in one place in Oxford. One piece is older - the arms of Robert Pierrepoint Earl of Kingston who as an old member was a benefactor to the rebuilding of the college in the 1630s, and whose portrait hangs in the Hall. His arms, with their punning motto Pie Repone Te, figure in the story of Newman's Fellowship examinations in Hall in April 1822.

Hall set out for banquet

Oriel Hall
Image: Oriel College website

I was also able to show some of the Society the very recent grant from the College of Arms to Oriel, the Oriel Society and the Oriel Boat Club of the heraldic badge of a tortoise azure and argent. The splendidly illuminated grant is framed and on display in the Porter's lodge.

We returned to St Catherine's for lunch and another chance to ook at the exhibition mounted by members of heraldic art, and there were some very fine examples of modern armorial painting and calligraphy on display. I stayed for the afternoon papers. The first was by Dr Andrew Grey on how the upwardly mobile new gentry of Tudor England managed to acquire pedigrees and arms to enhance their social standing. The second, by Dr Adrian Ailes looked at King Henry VIII and his heralds, notably his long serving Garter King of Arms, Thomas Wriothesley, and the varied functions of the Heralds and Pursuivants at the Henrician Court. I was particularly interested in the fact that  Pursuivants wore their tabards short at the front, rather like folded chasubles in Lent. I wonder if there is some link - the folded tabard being possibly a conscious imitation, or perhpas it is a case of equifinality.

This was a most enjoyable weekend with interesting and knowlegeable people, and one which stirred again my long-standing interest in things heraldic.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

I'm a member of the the Heraldry Society and saw this advertised but didn't go because it seemed very expensive. You can tell me about it next time I pop up to Oxford.