3

I understand that the family motto appears below the escutcheon on a coat of arms. While I've found a couple of (somewhat-different) escutcheons for my family -- Field -- I've not been able to find a family motto. Does anyone have any ideas of what it might be, or where I could find out, please?

8

There is no such thing as a family coat of arms (or whatever). Arms are granted to specific people and may then descend to eldest sons etc. Anyone else with that surname is not legally allowed to carry those arms. Hence your different escutcheons will have been granted to different people and have nothing to do with each other.

This refers only to the United Kingdom.

The one exception in the UK is the family crests in Scotland which are explicitly allowed to be used by all members of that clan. Even there, there are specific rules about which variation of the crest can be used by ordinary clan members.

Picking up on the Original Poster's description of the Field coat-of-arms that he's seen ("sable, a chevron engraved between three garbs argent"), this is the escutcheon used by "Field of Laceby and Ulceby" according to volume 55 of "Lincolnshire Pedigrees" - specifically "Sable, a chevron engrailed between three garbs argent". Note that the term is "engrailed", not "engraved" (personal note: no, I didn't know either). Engrailing is effectively a scalloped edge with the points of the chevron pointing out into the surrounding background.

Burke's Landed Gentry of Great Britain & Ireland (1886) (digital copy in my possession) has two Field families, viz: "Field of Laceby" and "Field of Ashurst Park". Unfortunately neither describe a coat of arms.

The Coat of Arms Database site (which, to give it credit, does explain "The term family crest is a misnomer. For the most part, arms belonged to individuals and not families or surnames") has 9 different coats of arms for the name Field. The first three appear to be variants on "Field of Laceby and Ulceby" referred to above, differing only in the crest (or not). The others are radically different. None show any trace of a motto.

Whether or not the College of Arms would permit both "sable, a chevron engraved between three garbs argent" and "sable, a chevron between three garbs argent" (i.e. a plain chevron) I have no idea, but it must be distinctly possible that this is an error that's crept in.

As for mottoes, the chapter on mottoes in "A Complete Guide to Heraldry" (of 1909) appears to suggest that in England & Wales (but not in Scotland), mottoes are just a personal add-on to the arms, are not hereditary, are not defined by the Letters Patent creating the arms and it's entirely up to the person with the arms what they use and how.

  • Thank you, I appreciate that. However, I have only found two instances, and they're remarkably similar. Both are black with a white chevron and three wheatsheaves (or if you prefer, sable, a chevron engraved between three garbs argent.) The chevron has in one case straight edges and in another wavy, and both are placed slightly differently; and the wheatsheaves are slightly different in shape, as are the two escutcheons themselves. Other than that, the two instances are pretty-much the same. All that aside, the family motto should, I imagine, remain the same throughout the family. – Mike Field Oct 30 '18 at 1:51
  • Yes - what I have no idea about is how precise heraldic descriptions are. In other words: are your 2 sheaves the same heraldically speaking, because a sheaf is a sheaf is a sheaf? The edges to the chevron sound a bit more important, however, but, as I say, I have no knowledge how exact descriptions are. I don't know where you found your examples but if in a book like Burke's Landed Gentry and there is no motto there but there is on the others, then I'd be inclined to think that there is no motto associated with that coat of arms. – AdrianB38 Oct 30 '18 at 7:16
  • @MikeField - I have updated my answer having failed to find anything particularly useful on my Burke's CD, but did find some extra items elsewhere. – AdrianB38 Oct 30 '18 at 20:51
  • Wow! Thanks you for all your research, Adrian. It's really appreciated. And no, I didn't know the word 'engrailed' either. But a search on Wiki shows all sorts of field boundary-line shapes, including engrailing. It seems your resources far outweigh mine. Thank you for employing them on my behalf. As Chenmunka suggested, I've also asked my question of the College of Arms, and I'll post whatever reply is elicited. – user8608 Oct 31 '18 at 1:59
  • I offer a slight correction to @AdrianB38 's excellent answer: mottoes are sometimes included in the Letters Patent. I am looking at an example now in which the motto is clearly shown in the depiction of the arms. It is not mentioned in the text of the document, however. – JeremyC Dec 7 '18 at 12:45
2

The official keeper of the history of coats of arms in Britain is the College of Arms.

They have an enquiry service and would be the ultimate reference. Anything beyond a simple enquiry is liable to attract a fee, so check with them before committing to anything.

Don't forget, not all arms have a motto. Although I believe the great majority do.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.