The leopards of England and the Channel Islands

From theislandwiki
Jump to: navigation, search

This article was first published in the 1943 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise. This is an edited version suitable for online reproduction, omitting some of the details and illustrations in the original.

Societe logo.jpg

I - Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose

The Leopards of England are strange beasts which, placed one over the other, invariably march past in a column of threes. A naturalist submitting one of these beasts to a scientific examination would refuse to classify it as a Felis pardus.

Firstly he would find that it is an anatomical impossibility; secondly that it possesses neither spots nor whiskers; thirdly that it has an abnormally long tail curled over its back like a flattened 'S'; fourthly that it owns a heavy and dishevelled mane; fifthly that its coat is of beaten gold; sixthly that its claws and tongue are blue; seventhly that it only appears on a red background; and eighthly that its outline is subject to perpetual change.

During the eight centuries of its existence it has undergone a vast number of metamorphoses while retaining only one constant charateristic, namely, an attitude which is supposed to express stealth, wariness and readiness to strike.

If at one time it resembles a nightmare, at another it has the appearance of a dachshund that has had trouble with a steamroller; yet and nevertheless it has ever remained a Leopard of England. The more it has changed, the more it is the same.

Inconstancy of form, moreover, was not the only disability endured by the Leopard. Throughout the first 300 years of its life it was merely a Leopard, but in later days the post-Tudor heraldic writers began to provide it with complicated aliases composed, apparently, in the heady atmosphere of "Ye Olde Englyssche Tea Shoppe."

To the Anglo-Norman rhymster who wrote the Roll of Caerlaveroc in the year 1300, it was a "Lupart". To the Bailiff of Jersey it was a "Leopard passant"; a "Lion passant guardant" ; a "Lion leoparde" a "Leopard passant gardant"; a "Lion leoperdised passant guardant"; and a "Lion leoparde passant guardant".

The story of the Leopards of England in the Channel Islands is difficult to present to readers who are not acquainted with the aims and objects of medieval armory. Obviously I cannot attempt here to write a treatise on the subject. But I can suggest to the patient and curious enquirer that he study the article on heraldry in the XIVth edition of the "Encyclopedia Britannica" before consulting any of the popular heraldries published during the 17-19th centuries.

I give no reasons for this suggestion; but the enquirer, if he follows my advice, will see why I have offered it.

Particularly is he advised to read with care the remarks made by Oswald Barron, the author of the article, on the subjects of Leopards and Lions and the origin of the King of England's arms. He will learn then that nearly all the verbiage which, since the 17th century, has accumulated round the Royal Leopards has arisen from a lazy disregard of authentic sources, or from a lack of the critical faculty, or from the unbridled exercise of an undisciplined imagination, or, in some cases, from all three put together.

Mediaeval armory was simple, useful and beautiful, and the language and symbolism connected with it were commonly comprehensible. They were not designed to confuse the laity nor to impart an air of snobbish superiority to those who made use of them.

Banner of Arms of the King of England. Designed by the author of this article and made by the Royal School of Needlework for the States of Jersey on the occasion of the Royal Visit, June 1921

II - How King Edward I granted a Royal seal of office to his Bailiffs in the islands

The connection between the Leopards of England and the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey begins when Edward I, in 1279, despatched to his Bailiffs in the Islands a specially cut seal of office bearing the royal arms.

Though the letter announcing this regal gift makes heavy reading, it is necessary that I should reproduce it in full. The Latin version of the desparch (not reproduced) was copied from the Rev Philip Palle's Caesarea or an Account of Jersey. The translation has been kindly made for me by Dr R R Marett, Rector of Exeter College, Oxford.

"Edward by the Grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland and Duke of Aquitaine, to the Bailiffs of Jersey and Guernsey Greeting. Whereas our men of the aforesaid Islands have oftentimes hitherto suffered divers losses and no slight perils sometimes at sea through shipwrecks sometimes on land by robberies and other hazards of the road, on that account especially because in those Islands we have up to now had no Seal, with or by which the Briefs/Writs of the meri in those parts might be confirmed by sealing or their transactions there be furthered: We, for the common benefit of the men of those parts, desiring that provision be made by a suitable remedy for perils and losses of this kind, have caused to be made ready a certain Seal of ours which as for the rest (otherwise) we have willed to use there and which we despatch to you, so that for the future the Briefs/Writs which the men of the aforesaid Islands have been accustomed to obtain in our Chancery in England and as for the rest have been willing to obtain, and the Agreements and contracts which happen to have been made there by way of mutual pledge and hitherto were wont to be made only by word of mouth and not in Writing, may otherwise be confirmed by the same Seal. Wherefore we charge you that you receive that Seal and cause 'to be proclaimed throughout the whole territory of the aforesaid Islands that all those of those Parts who from now shall have been willing to have our aforesaid Writs do obtain them there in accordance with the ancient Register of those parts, just as hitherto they were wont to do in our Chancery. And, ye aforesaid Bailiffs, do ye cause the Briefs/Writs of this sort and the Agreements and Contracts to be confirmed in due form with the same Seal; and do ye send to us a copy of the aforesaid Register under Seal; and do ye cause all that is here laid down to be otherwise maintained in those Islands and to be steadily observed in (after) the aforesaid form.
"In witness whereof we have caused these Letters Patent to be made, bearing witness in our own person at Westminster the 15th day of November in the Seventh year of our reign.
Variations on the leopard theme used in the Channel Islands, including a leopard from the shield on Lempriere's 1694 map (top left), and variations used on various coins, tokens and flags in the 19th and 20th centuries

Referring to the Patent Rolls, it will be found that the grant of the seal is recorded as follows:

"Whereas the men of the Islands of Geresey and Gernesey suffer much by wreck at sea and by depredations on land and in many other ways, chiefly because the king has no seal in those islands, wherewith writs of men of those parts might be sealed and their business expedited, the king has provided a seal, which he sends to the bailiffs of those islands to seal writs which heretofore the said men had to obtain in the Chancery of England, and agreements and contracts which heretofore they used to make only by word of mouth and not by writing. The said bailiffs are to make proclamation of the said seal, and that all men of those islands who wish to have the king's writs may have them according to the old register of those parts, as they used to have them in the Chancery: and the bailiffs are to send a transcript of the said register under their seal."
Entered under the date 15 November 1279

From the confusing prolixity with which the King clothes his letter to the Bailiffs of Jersey and Guernsey, two important facts emerge. The first fact is that the seal sent by the King is a Royal Seal and the second fact is that the use of the seal is limited to the confirming of writs and contracts.

Had these facts been recognised by post-Tudor islanders, the story of the Leopards of England in the Channel Islands would have been easier both to write and to read.

Five varieties of the seals of office of the Bailiffs are displayed. The plate appeared originally in the Cartulaire des Iles Normandes: Recueil de Documents concernant l'Histoire de ces Iles conserves aux Archives du Departement de la Manche et de Calvados, de la Bibliorheque Nationale du Bureau des Roles, du Chateau de Warwick, etc.

III - The seals of office of the Bailiffs of Jersey and Guernsey

While preparing this work for publication, the editors, G F B de Gruchy, R R Marett and E T Nicolle encouraged me to study its heraldic and sphragistic aspects. The results of this study were incorporated in the Cartulaire under the title of L'Art heraldique du Cartulaire.

Impressions of the Bailiffs' seals of office on documents dating back to the beginning of the 16th century are not uncommon in these Islands. Earlier impressions are rarer. Age, moreover, combined with rough usage, has blurred in nearly every instance one or more important details of their designs and rendered them unsuitable for reproduction.

In order to gain a first-hand knowledge of the best preserved impressions of the seals mentioned in the Cartulaire I accompanied E T Nicolle to St Lo, (Manche), where so many ancient documents relating to the Channel Islands are housed in the Departmental Archives.

Having selected a series of impressions of the five different seals issued to the Bailiffs by Edwards 1, II and III, we had them photographed by a local man who, unfortunately, had had no previous experience of this type of work and the results he obtained were not, perhaps, as effective as they might have been.

Nevertheless the picture shows with sufficient clarity that the leopards of the three kings varied little in treatment. The shape of the shields on the seals is noteworthy, for the sides of the shields converge very little and the bases are broad and rounded. This treatment of the shield, which has no heraldic significance, permitted the seal cutter to deal fairly with the lowest leopard, an unfortunate animal which in normal shields had to endure severe compression.

The Cartulaire is composed of 365 documents or groups of documents and covers a period extending from the first half of the 11th century to the middle of the 16th century. 28 of the documents bear, or bore, seals of office affixed by the Bailiffs of the Isles; by the Bailiffs of Jersey; or by the Bailiffs of Guernsey. Each seal carries or carried the King of England's shield of arms, (three leopards). Each original / seal-matrix, therefore, was cut before 1340 when Edward III began to quarter on his shield the lilies of France and the leopards of England. .

Of the 28 documents four were sealed with the seal granted to the Bailiffs of the Islands; 16 were sealed with the seal granted to the Bailiff of Jersey; and nine were sealed with the seal granted to the Bailiff of Guernsey.

A statement of special significance is to be found in the document referred to under the number 22, for its seal is described by the King as 'Our seal which is used in the island of Guernsey. The expression 'Our Seal', it will be remembered, occurs in the grant of 1279. To draw attention to this ownership of the seal ought to be unnecessary, for the only possible proprietors of the Leopards of England are the Kings of England.

In these small and remote islands, however, there exists a double necessity for emphasizing it; (or since the 17th century the people of both our Bailiwicks, befogged in the darkness which descended here more densely than elsewhere upon armory after armour had gone out of use, developed a firm belief that the seals of office entrusted to their Bailiffs bore, not the arms of England, but arms which actually belonged to each of their own beloved agglomerations of rocks and islets.

Further, they clung to this foolish belief with such tenacity that in the end a Bailiff of Jersey induced a tactful King of England apparently to reject the advice of his heraldic experts and accede to their unrighteous and preposterous claim. This dubious triumph will be discussed in Part V.

The seal of office issued to the king's bailiffs in the islands in 1279 continued to be used until 1291 at least; that is to say for a year or so after the seal of office of the Bailiff of Guernsey had appeared.

The exact date of the issue of the Bailiff of Jersey's seal of office is not recorded, but the year 1290 may be a reliable approximation for the apparition.

The seal now in the keeping of the Bailiff of Jersey is not, as might have been expected, the one in use in 1367; for the 'stop' on the present seal is a star similar to that of the seal functioning in 1329.

This diminutive design has become a sort of national emblem in Guernsey, where it is popularly supposed to be a bunch of laurel leaves awarded to the islanders by Edward I for their prowess in an action concerning which history remains obstinately silent.

The metamorphosicians, whose dealings with the royal leopards were mentioned in the Introductory Note, did not neglect also to experiment with the blossoming twig and during the past 150 years have evolved from it many a varied vegetal form.

The one on the larger Guernsey coin is a group of three leaves on one stem, while that on the smaller coin shows nine leaves on two stems. Moreover, the seal used by the Bailiffs of Guernsey between 1884 and 1938 bears a sprig adorned with seven leaves.

In these instances, therefore, it is clear that Guernsey has added to her laurels. In 1938 the blasts and chills of a rigorous autumn seem to have descended and the disastrous effects of this climatic catastrophe are at once apparent in the newly minted edition of the ancient seal.

We now see, in place of the blooming old twig, a wintry, naked and inartistic bough rising gaunt and stark from the King of England's shield. This horrid object purports to be a replica of the sprig borne on a suppostitious seal of 1472, which seal, it is said, was issued to replace the seal of 1290.

One other argument put forward to favour the theory that a new seal was cut in 1472 was that its legend, or circumscription, is not contained in the customary double ring, for, it was averred, the inner ring is absent.

In making the 1938 edition, therefore, an inner ring was omitted by the engraver. I happen to possess nine documents ranging in date from 1523 to 1830, each of which is sealed with the so-called seal of 1472.

From the notes that follow it will be seen that the suppression of the inner ring cannot be justified. Also I do not hesitate to add that to make a drawing purporting to be a true restoration of the representations of the sprig borne on these seals would be impossible, and if concocted, would be dishonest.

The attempted restoration of the sprig in the 1938 edition of the seal is completely out of keeping with 15th century sphragistic tradition and I confidently assert that no medieval craftsman, with the 1290 design before him, could possibly have made such a hash of it.

The whimsical manner in which the sprig has been treated and the pother which was linked with the existence or non-existence of an inner ring, serve to show how complicated the facts connected with so simple a thing as a Bailiff's seal of office can be made.

I now record an equally unnecessary complication which arose quite recently in Jersey over part of the hirsute adornments of the third or lowest leopard on the King of England's shield.

A microscopic examination of the Bailiff of Jersey's seal of office by two careful investigators disclosed the fact that this third animal did not possess the same sort of full-bottomed mane as those which decorated his two larger companions. He owned, the investigators found, only a kind of Newgate Fringe.

Whether this defect be due to the comparative smallness of mane-space in the third leopard, or to the wear and tear of the seal throughout many centuries, is, heraldically speaking, immaterial. It does not imply that the beast belongs to a different brood or breed, nor indeed, let me add, does its dropped hind leg.

The local authorities, nevertheless, gave an official recognition to this Newgate Fringe and shortly after its discovery caused it to be immortalized in bronze and stone in three representations of the King of England's shield, or, as they would have it, of the shield of arms of the Bailiwick of Jersey.

The first of these representations is to be seen at the end of the Victoria Pier, St Helier, where a bronze plaque commemorates the completion of recent harbour improvements. The second and third are to be found on the new States Buildings and the new Telephone Offices, respectively. Otherwise all three are admirable pieces of work.

As it would be unfair to Guernsey to draw attention only to this one defect on the Jersey seal, I took the trouble to see if I could find another. In 1931 the Bailiff of Jersey, aware that the ancient seal matrix had been for many years too worn to reproduce satisfactory impressions and wishing to prevent the further deterioration of this venerable emblem of office, decided to withdraw it from common use. He placed it, therefore, in honourable retirement, and in its stead caused a replica of it to be fashioned by the Royal Mint.

I have handled an impression of this replica as well as the replica itself and I find that the replica is not a replica of the ancient seal, for the outer ring enclosing the legend is not recorded upon it and the inner ring is only faintly indicated. These rings are quite clearly defined in the photograph of the 1329 seal and, indeed, on all the good impressions of the seal preserved in the manuscript collections of La Société Jersiaise. The danger of making and using a replica of a worn seal matrix need not be stressed, for it is obvious that the replica will reproduce and perpetuate all the imperfections acquired during the wear and tear of centuries.

It may be observed that in all the foregoing remarks I have not described the wording of the legends encircling the seals. The omission was intentional. I have left the subject to the last, not because it is a thing apart from the Leopards, but because it is responsible, in part, for the claim which will be discussed in Part V.

The legend on the seal of 1279 runs thus:

  • S' BAILLIVIE INSVLAR VM PRO REGE ANGLIE. (Seal of the Bailiff of the islands for the King of England).

The letter accompanying the grant of this seal is addressed, however, to the Bailiffs of the islands, - Ballivis insularum - and not to the Bailiff of the islands.

The legends on the other seals are worded :-

  • S' BALLIVIE INSVLE DE GERNEREYE
  • S' BALLIVIE: INSVLE: DE IERSEYE
  • S' BALLIVIE. INSVLE: DE IERESYE
  • S' BALLIVIE: INSVLE: DE IERSEYE

Herein is no mention of the King of England. One seal is the seal of the Bailiff of Jersey and the other seal is the seal of the Bailiff of Guernsey. It might be inferred, therefore, by armorially uninstructed persons, that each seal bears either the personal arms of the Bailiff who used it, or the arms of the territory under the administration of the user.

It is this latter inference, I suspect, which has inspired post-Tudor islanders to claim as their own the arms which are the inalienable property of the King of England.

IV - Royal seals issued for the use of minor officials between 1272 and 1327

No local historian has drawn attention to the fact that the Bailiffs of Jersey and Guernsey were not the only minor officials to whom the use of royal seals was granted in the 13th and 14th centuries.

To remedy this oversight and to examine cursorily the technique of some of the Edwardian seal-cutters I obtained from the British Museum in 1937 the admirable series of impressions illustrated on the right. I offer now a short description of these seals and compare them, as far as I can, with the imperfect impressions of the Bailiffs' seals of office illustrated above.

There can be no doubt as to the ownership of the seals on the right, for each obverse (two obverses in the upper picture are missing) bears the legend "Seal of Edward King of England etc", or "Seal of the Lord Edward King of England etc", while each shield of arms or lozenge of arms, bears the leopards of England. The royal beasts figure conspicuously on the reverses also.

In those days few people could read. The seals' legends, therefore, would convey nothing to the populace at large. The meaning of the leopards, however, would be understood by all and in these beasts the inhabitants of England, the Channel Islands and the King's French territories would recognise without difficulty the emblems of royal authority.

The King's arms appear on the obverse only, of the seals issued to the Bailiffs of Jersey and Guernsey. The reverses of the seals were reserved for counter-sealing with the Bailiff's personal seal, if any. If none, a bailiffian finger print had to suffice.

The seals shown opposite were in the keeping of Customs Officers responsible for the control of the exports of wool and hides in certain selected cities and their ports: eg Winchester and Southampton: York and Hull. From the duties levied by these Officers the Crown benefited substantially, especially after 1275, when an increase on duties was sanctioned by Parliament.

The seals illustrated bear, on their obverses, the name of a staple town or its port, as for example; "Sigill Edwardi Regis Angl apud Wynton" - The Seal of Edward King of England at Winchester: and on their reverses the purpose governing the use of the Seal; thus : "Pro lanis et coreis liberandum" For the release of wool and hides.

In examining and comparing in detail the designs and lettering of the seals certain differences in style and finish may be detected without much difficulty and from these it may be possible to separate the work of different craftsmen. I suggest that the seals in the upper picture and those of Carmarthen, the reverse next to it, Salop and Winchester in the lower picture, were cut by the same hand. Five other craftsmen produced the remaing seals .

The impressions of all these seals are so clear that a comparison between them and the blurred impressions of the five Channel Islands seals cannot produce conclusive results. Nevertheless the comparison must be attempted.

When trying to visualize the original appearances of the royal seals used in the Channel Islands it is necessary to remember that when these early impressions were made the seal matrices were new and sharp. Impressions made from sharp matrices, however, are not necessarily sharp themselves, for carelessness in the act of sealing will produce, almost certainly, distortions and other blemishes.

The wear and tear of six and a half centuries may not be, therefore, the only agencies responsible for the lack of definition in the surviving seal impressions.

Each individual seal cutter imparted to his leopards and lettering his own style and mannerisms. No official sealed pattern cramped the freedom of his hand, though his work was influenced by what might be termed the fashion of the period. The fashions, of course, overlapped; but in spite of that it is possible to fix an approximate date to any given Edwardian leopard. Conversely, it should be possible to assign a distinct type of leopard to any given period of time.

On these grounds I have attempted in the illustration (below left)to restore four of the insular seals. Figs. 6 and 7 are inserted for three reasons. Firstly for the shapes of the shields; secondly for the shapes of the leopards; and thirdly to show that if Jersey and Guernsey claim to be the rightful owners of the King of England's arms, Faversham and Appleby with equal reason could advance a similar claim.


The seal of Faversham bears on its obverse the legend :-" Regis ut arma rego libera portus ego "-" As, at my own expense, I provide the King's armament, I am his port". On the reverse the 'legend runs: "<Sigillum Baronum de Faversham." The shield on the seal of Appleby hangs from a prolific apple tree-a punning allusion to the name of the place. Mediaeval seal cutters were much addicted to this form of humour. Indeed, the bunch of greenery on the seal of" Gernereye " may be another example of it.

Four Bailiff's seals of office restored. Top left, seal granted in 1279 to the Bailiffs of the islands; top right, a Guernsey seal dated 1291; bottom left, a Jersey seal from a 1329 document; bottom right, a Jersey seal from a 1332 document

V - How a Bailiff of Jersey laid claim to the arms of the King of England and how the King dealt with the claim

The claim that Jersey owned territorial arms and the manner in which the claim was presented to and received by the Home Office are embodied in the Actes et correspondence au sujet de l'emploi par le Vapeur Duke of Normandy de Pavillons distinctifs, published by J T Bigwood in 1907 under the authority of the Committee of Piers and Harbours, States of Jersey. 150 copies of this 32-page pamphlet were issued.

The correspondence covers a period extending rather over two and a half years, from 1 March 1905, to 10 October 1907. Its length, in time and space, is partially due to the trammels and hindrances imposed by official procedure. A Bailiff cannot write officially direct to a Department of State. His communication has to meander along a correct channel and pass through the hands of minor, as well as major officials, before it reaches its goal. The reply has to follow the same course in reverse. Lengthy, complicated, and even ridiculous, the contents of the pamphlet, must now be reviewed.

The comedy opens on 1 March 1905 when the Bailiff of Jersey writes direct to the Secretary of the Admiralty and asks for a Warrant authorizing the steam tug, Duke of Normandy, owned by the Local Government of Jersey to fly both or either of two distinguishing flags. One of these is the Blue Ensign and the other a curiosity described as The Jersey Flag bearing Jersey Arms in Shield under Royal Crown as Office Badge and distinguishing sign in the fly.

The Duke of Normandy is a slow but stout tug of 22 tons; but lest this description should give a false impression of the vessel, I quote from another letter written by the Bailiff in which it is stated that on occasions the Duke of Normandy is used for public purposes and: practically, as a government yacht, as it were.

A month and two days after the Bailiff had applied for the warrant, the official rebuke arrives accompanied by copies of letters from the Admiralty, (8 April), and from the Home Office, (30 April).

The Lieut-Governor tells the Bailiff that he should have submitted his request in the first instance to the Home Office and not direct to the Admiralty. He adds that if the Bailiff were to write to him explaining why he wishes to fly a flag of the design submitted, he would forward the letter and recommend the flag.

The Admiralty in their letter of 8 April see no reason why the tug should not wear the Blue Ensign and Jack with Badge, the Badge being the "Badge of Jersey", placed in a circle in the centre of the Jack.

To the Home Office, (30 April), it appears that the Admiralty must take action under Section 73 (I) of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, as the States are not "a Public Office" nor a "colony". Further, the Home Secretary finds that the phrase "the local Government of Jersey" is not clearly understood by him.

In this involved manner the fight for the flag opens and in so far as the flag itself is concerned, I shall follow it no further. In so far, however, as one of its details is concerned, I refer to the "Arms of Jersey", I shall follow it to the end.

Spring, summer, autumn and winter 1905 come and go and the fight for the flag continues. On 3 March 1906 the Bailiff launches a violent spring offensive on the "Arms of Jersey" sector. On 15 December 1905 the Home Office had written to the Bailiff, via the Deputy Lieut-Governor, and had stated that Mr H J Gladstone, the Home Secretary, had been in correspondence with Garter King of Arms on the subject of the arms of Jersey and that Garter had given him to understand that Jersey had no official arms. It was suggested that application might be made through the Home Office for a Royal Warrant appointing Arms for Jersey.

Before passing on to the Bailiff's counterblast of 3 March, I must point out that Mr Gladstone's action was the first and only sensible demarche yet taken in the controversy. In effect Mr Gladstone said:

"All you people have been talking for months about Arms of Jersey and Badges of Jersey, yet none of you has troubled to find out whether or no Jersey possesses such things. Like all of you, I have but a vague acquaintance with armory. Consequently I have sought the opinion of the highest authority in the land and he tells me that Jersey has no arms."

The Bailiff's letter of 3 March may now be examined. To prove that Jersey does possess arms, the Bailiff produces the following evidences, which I group under six heads in the order in which they occur in the letter and quote verbatim. The remarks which follow each evidence are my own.

The Bailiff's first evidence

The ancient Arms of the Channel Islands were naturally those of the Province and Duchy of Normandy, of which they originally formed part. William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy and his three sons, Robert Courthose, William Rufus and Henry I (Beauclerk) bore the arms of Normandy 'Gules, two leopards passant or'. Eleonore of Aquitane brought to Henry II the Arms of that Province: 'Gules, a lion passant guardant, or', which he added to his two Norman leopards, converting them then into lions like that of Aquitaine, for uniformity's sake.

But the Abbe de la Rue, an eminent Norman antiquarian, was clearly of opinion that the ancient arms of Normandy were neither lions nor leopards, but a composite imaginary animal, with the head and mane of the lion and the body spotted like a leopard, in French heraldic language styled 'lions leopardes'.

Remarks: When the Channel Islands were politically part of the Duchy of Normandy, heraldry did not exist, and William the Conqueror and his three sons, Robert, William and Henry, all died before the science had established itself. They could not, therefore, have borne the arms of Normandy as Normandy possessed none. Richard the Lionheart, who succeeded Henry II, is credited with being the first King of England to display the three leopards as his royal arms, and John, who followed after him, lost Normandy.

The Bailiff's claim that the ancient arms of the Channel Islands were naturally those of the Duchy of Normandy - two gold leopards on a red ground, does not, therefore, seem to have been too well founded. Nevertheless, had he continued to claim for the islands the arms of Normandy instead of claiming the arms of England, his case at any rate would have been more reasonable.

As for the Abbe de la Rue's "composite imaginary animals", the least said the better. The Armorial Zoo, already overstocked with monstrosities, must refuse to admit them within its borders. Should, however, anyone of my readers intend to write a book entitled Heraldry pour rire, I would hasten to recommend these beasts to his favourable notice.

The Bailiff's second evidence

On the "new and accurate map by Lempriere, the Philomat", appended to Falle's "account of the Isle of Jersey, the greatest of those Islands that are now the only remainder of the English Dominions in France" (Edition 1694) there is engraved a shield with the legend, above: "The Arms and Seal of the Island and Bailiwick of Jersey - Given by K Edward I, Anno Regni 70" and underneath: "Gules, Three Leopards, passant, gardant or".

Remarks: Lempriere the Philomat mistook the grant of a royal seal of office for a grant of arms and erred in engraving an inaccurate statement above the inaccurate shield of arms with which he had embellished his inaccurate map. If he had copied faithfully the seal itself and described it as "The Seal of Office of the Bailiffs of the Islands given by Edward I, Anno regni septimo", he would have recorded a simple fact. As it was, however, he published a perversion of fact and misled, over two centuries later, persons holding high office who waged, what was to some of them, a momentous controversy.

His spotted leopards were probably the first of their kind to be seen in the archipelago. Their progeny became popular in the 19th century, notably on insular coins, tokens and medals. How came these leopards of gold by their spots? Early in the 17th century English engravers on copper adopted a system by which tinctures were indicated in armorial engravings. Thus red, (gules), was represented by vertical lines ; blue (azure) by horizontal lines ; black (sable) by a cross¬hatch of vertical and horizontal lines ; and green (vert) by transverse lines. Surfaces or figures of silver (argent) were left bare; and surfaces or figures of gold (or) were dotted.

And so our leopards were shown spotted, not because they were leopards, but because they were gold. Lempriere the Philomat, though an engraver, turned what should have been small dots, indicating gold, into large blots, indicating Leopards. O philo mat! The errors that you made live after you. Your pards were not interred with your bones.

The Bailiff's third evidence

King Edward I had, indeed, granted the use of a public seal (quoddam Sigilus nostrum) to the islands of Jersey and Guernsey. It is addressed Ballivis Insularum de Jersey and Guernsey. The Herald's College was only incorporated in 1484. King Edward's grant of the Seal dates from I279. This may be one reason why they have no record there of the Jersey Arms, and Jersey, probably, would not have come within the limits of any heraldic visitation that might have been subsequently held. Gustave Dupont describing this seal says: "il erait aux armes de la Normandie trois lions leopardes passant guardant".

Julien Havet (Les Cours Royales des Iles Normandes) says: "le veritable sceau de I279 n'exist plus", but describes an impression still fairly distinct at the foot of a deed of 1286 preserved in the Archives de la Manche. Fonds du Mont St Michel. The description of the shield on that seal tallies exactly with the shield shown on Falle's Map. The legend on it reads: S Ballivie Insularum pro Rege Anglie, but round the shield of the Jersey Seal, still in use and in my official custody as Bailiff of Jersey are the words: S Ballivie Insule de Jersey whilst round the Guernsey seal, which is surmounted with a sprig of laurel, are the words: S Ballivie Insule de Gernseye.

Remarks: One reason, the Bailiff suggests, why the Heralds College has no record of the arms of Jersey is that the College was only incorporated in 1484, (1483), while Edward I's seal had been in use since 1279.

As well might he have said that because the Great Pyramid was built some five thousand years before the British Museum was founded, it would be useless to apply to the Museum for information about the Pyramid.

Possibly he did not know that the Heralds College is a repository of heraldic lore and possesses first-to-last records of the science. Heraldic Visitations were made in England in the 16th and 17th centuries, but none ever was made in the Channel Islands. Nevertheless, a case which came before the Court of Chief Pleas in Jersey in 1567 shows that the influence of the College of Arms was not unknown here. In a dispute as to the rightful ownership of certain arms, one disputant said that the matter must be settled by the "King of Heralds" as it concerned not the Bailiff who was incompetent to judge armorials.

Gustave Dupont's statement is wrong. Normandy's arms were two gold leopards set on red, never three. Julien Havet's description of the arms on the seal of 1279 is correct, and therefore it does not tally with the Philomat's misrepresentation on Falle's map.

On referring to Havet's Cours Royales des Iles Normandes, I find the following: Le sceau de chacune des deux ties, comme le sceau prive du roi et comme le sceau donne aux ties en 1279, est rond, et porte l'ecu d' Angleterre, aux trois leopards passants, avec une legende circulaire entre deux filets.

Perhaps the Bailiff overlooked this paragraph?

The Bailiff's fourth evidence

This consists of a long extract taken from Miss Edith Carey's The Channel Islands. In this extract the arms on the seal are described as the "three leopards passant of England", but as the authoress does not claim them to be the arms of the Bailiwicks, her evidence tends to damage the Bailiff's case.

The Bailiff's fifth evidence

The Bailiff here gives instances of documents ranging in date from 1495 to 1771 in which the seal is described variously as: Commun Sceel de la dire Isle; Sceau de la Baillye de cette Isle; Sceau du Bailliage de cette dite Isle; Sceau comun de la dite Isle and Le Sceau de l'Isle.

He then writes: "The arms which it (the seal) bears and which have been in use here, practically from time immemorial for all public purposes, are therefore and by implication recognised as the arms of the Island.

Remarks: Recognised by whom? Certainly not by Garter Principal King of Arms.

The Bailiff's sixth evidence

They (the arms) have, moreover, been officially described and recognised as such in other matters, notably as regards the local coinage. On reference for instance to the Acts of the States of 26 October 1812, 12th December same year. 20 March 1813 and 26 July, same year, and also to the coinage Committee Acts of the year 1876, and to the local coinage itself (both the obsolete and that in use), whether of silver, of copper, or as now exists of bronze metal, it will be seen that the silver pieces (3 shillings and one shilling and a half) bear on the obverse a shield with the arms of Jersey (the three leopards or lions leoperdised passant guardant) surrounded by the words "States of Jersey" and the millesim 1813, and on the reverse an inscription of their face value as tokens, surrounded by wreaths of oak leaves (distinctive of this island as the laurel sprig is distinctive of Guernsey), whilst the subsequent issues of copper and bronze coins bear on the obverse the head of the Sovereign and on the reverse the Arms of Jersey with the legend: "States of Jersey".

The old Guernsey "doubles" and other Guernsey coins bear on the obverse the arms of that Island surmounted by the sprig of laurel and on the reverse the value and year between wreaths of laurel. The designs on all the coins of the various issues have received in due course, Royal and Official Sanction and recognition.

In conclusion, Jersey, possessing Arms of old there does not seem to be any necessity or justification for applying for a Royal Warrant to appoint Arms for this Island.

Remarks: This is the weightiest evidence produced by the Bailiff, and if it cannot be accepted as proof that Jersey and Guernsey possess arms, it can be accepted as proof that the English authorities displayed ignorance and negligence in sanctioning the use of the heraldic designs borne on the coins. The wreaths of oak leaves on the Jersey coins and of laurel on those of Guernsey, to which the Bailiff attaches special importance, are modem fabrications, offshoots of the heraldic technique of 19th century stationers.

With these remarks my criticisms end.

It remains but to quote an extract from a letter dated 2 January 1907, addressed by the Lieut-Governor of Jersey to the Bailiff of Jersey:

"The Secretary of State has recently submitted to His Majesty for decision, the question of the continued use by the Island of Jersey of the Arms at present claimed, and His Majesty has been graciously pleased to sanction their continued use."

A letter couched in similar terms had already been received by the Bailiff of Guernsey from the Lieut-Governor of that island.

Though the islanders are now satisfied that their territories are really and truly armigerous, I cannot share their satisfaction and do not hesitate to suggest that King Edward VII's sanction should be submitted to competent official authorities in England for reconsideration.

Personal tools
other Channel Islands
contact and contributions
Donate

Please support theislandwiki.org with a donation to our hosting costs