Armorial Bearings granted to Robert Lord alias Laward of London in 1510; College of Arms MS L10 folio 105b; copyright of the College of Arms, London. Used by permission.

The Last Word...

The original Lord arms.


The arms of deLaward, alias Lord, given in 1510.


Further research may someday trace the ancestry of Richard Lord of Towcester further and in so doing resolve some of the root origins of these arms, if there be any. Though identified only as "husbandman" or farmer, and "yeoman" one may expect Richard Lord of Towcester to have had some property, for only persons engaged routinely in property transactions would be expected to have need of a seal. His Will certainly provides evidence of his holdings. For this reason we might expect his ancestry to have a higher profile in the records of 16th century England.

Of course, the use of heraldry is not a phenomenon of unlimited historical depth, and we should not expect, neccessarily, to find an unbroken and unambiguous sequence of "Lord" arms stretching into the distant past.

A knight.

True armory is generally accepted as the hereditary use of an arrangement of charges or devices centered on a shield. The concept originated in the feudal society of the High Middle Ages in Western Europe.

Many forceful arguments and categorical statements defining the origin of armory have been offered; and yet the purpose for which it was intended remains obscure. Much favored has been the argument that armory owes its existence to the need for identification in battle. The Bayeux Tapestry depicts Norman knights holding shields decorated with geometric designs or with dragon-like creatures. However, none of these formations has been shown to have become hereditary in any of the Norman families. By the First Crusade in 1096 such decoration may even have been replaced by a plain shield...

In 1127 King Henry I of England invested his son-in-law, Geoffrey Plantagenet, with a blue shield charged with gold lioncels. This same shield later appears on the tomb of Geoffrey's grandson, William Earl of Salisbury. It had thus acquired a significance that enabled it to become hereditary.

Certainly the most provocative evidence recently come to light is the discovery of the original Coat of Arms assigned to any "Lord" family; being in fact the same Coat of Arms to which 19th century writers on heraldry and the Lord armorial evidence referred. This is the arms given to the Norman Robert deLaward in about 1510 and described in a spectacular book published in 1998 by Peter Gwynn-Jones titled The Art of Heraldry - Origins, Symbols and Designs.

The tragopan was granted as a crest to Robert Lord, alias Laward of London, by Sir Thomas Wriothesley, Garter King of Arms, and Thomas Benolt, Clarenceux King of Arms, in about 1510. Improbable though the bird may seem, it is not, as previously maintained, the product of Tudor imagination. The tragopan is a species of pheasant that displays horn-like wattles cleary exaggerated in the Lord grant. How or why a Himalayan bird came to be granted as a crest must remain a matter for further research.

What this finding seems to provide is clear evidence that the arms of Thomas Lord and his line derive from the family of Robert Lord of London in 1510. And it is suggested that the original crest attributable to these arms is the rising demi-bird so often used subsequently, including on the arms which were in my home and were the inspiration for this study.

But it may suggest another fact altogether. It may indicate, as writers have suggested, that when persons had need of, or desire of, a Coat of Arms for whatever purpose, whether in the 17th or 18th century to validate their business transactions, or in the 20th century to satisfy their need to confirm their legitimate roots with some display of heraldry, that in those instances this earliest of Lord family arms was used.

Let's read again a comment used previously in this report, this time in the light of everything we have examined in this study:

Similar remarks apply to the use of heraldic objects which may be thought to point towards ancestral origins, by being in the home, perhaps by inheritance from previous generations.
Great-grandfather may indeed have received the heraldic signet ring from his forebears, but he could, equally, have bought it in a second-hand jewellery shop. A common source of confusion is provided by the heraldic painting or carving which may occupy pride of place in the hall or sitting room. Often the family surname is included below, or in place of, the motto. The item may indeed show the arms which belong to you or to an ancestor, but equally may have been purchased from a firm which supplied paintings of arms to go with a surname without implying any genealogical relationship. Such firms are in business today and were known even in the seventeenth century. No heraldic claim was ever intended, and the article was simply for decoration. The problems arise when the source of the item has been forgotten and the assumption made that the arms displayed belong to that family of the same name.
Stephen Friar, A Dictionary of Heraldry, 1987.

While there is always more to be discovered in a study like this one, I am tempted here to draw conclusions. And the conslusion I feel should be drawn is that there is virtually no evidence, and certainly no proof, that the arms assigned to Robert Lord (deLaward) of London in 1510 have anything to do with Thomas Lord of Towcester, and all his descendents.

That is not to say that Thomas Lord was not in the direct line of descent from Robert Lord of London. We have no way of knowing that at this time. But to point to the similarity of arms used in 1510 and in 1669 and thereafter as proof of that would be to abandon the meaning of evidence.

The clearest indicator of this dis-connect between Robert Lord of 1510 and Thomas Lord of 1610 is that the father of Thomas Lord, Richard Lord of Towcester, used no armorial device other than a ring exhibiting an animal probably a horse or hart. And it appears that Thomas Lord used no seal either, for the initials on the seal on his wife's Willare "R" "L", meaning that if it were used by Thomas, someone earlier in the line of Thomas with those initials would have created the seal. Had his father, Richard, or an ancestor of his, have had the seal, Richard would have used it on his own Will in 1610.

Again, the most elegant explanation is that Richard Lord, the son or the grandson of Thomas of Connecticut, ordered a signet engraved in London for use in commercial dealings here in America. And lacking any evidence of the correct armorial connection, he got a product created by association of sirname, much as one would today if such were ordered. The American family had the original - Robert Lord of London - modified to reflect the totem animal used by their grandfather (or great grandfather) - which was the hind seen in the crest and fesse.

But before discarding this Coat of Arms as irrelevant to any modern descendents of Richard and Joan Lord of Towcester, recall the long and rich association of these arms with this particularly family. I still like to believe that they knew something we don't, and that there was a reason why the arms were chosen to serve this family 330 years ago. This possibility impresses me enough that I carry these arms of 1510 on my webpage border.

So ends (for now) the quest to unravel the mystery of the Lord Coat of Arms.


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