The Escutcheon

Volume 15

Number 1 – Michaelmas Term, 2009

Some Heraldry from Trinity College

David Broomfield

  1. Trinity was founded in 1546 by King Henry VIII. Three quarters of the endowment came from the lands of dissolved monasteries one quarter consisted of existing institutions of which Michaelhouse was one. Michaelhouse had been founded in 1323 by Hervey Aungier de Stanton, Chancellor of the Exchequer to King Edward II. It seems not to have been granted arms but instead used the figure of St Michael, rather confusingly shown bearing a shield more suitable to St George.

  2. Another institution swept up in Henry VIII's new foundation was the King's Hall. According to inscriptions seen in Trinity one might be mistaken for thinking the King that founded it was Edward III. In fact he granted its charter. The Hall was founded by King Edward II which is why the arms of the King's Hall are the lions of England differenced by a border engrailed ermine. It was not until 1340 that Edward III quartered the lions of England with the lilies of France and it is these arms that Trinity flies from its flagpole.

  3. At the same time as he founded the King's Hall in Cambridge Edward II also founded another college in Oxford. The arms are very similar. Today the college is called Oriel but it keeps the same arms. This is a picture of a window in Oriel. It shows the College's arms together with those of Edward II and Clare College. The Colleges are "sister" institutions, Clare being endowed by Lady Elizabeth de Clare a niece of Edward II. Both Colleges were dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

  4. Above the Great Gate of Trinity are the quartered arms of King Edward III flanked by rampant lions and beneath it the arms of his sons with their appropriate marks of cadency. William of Hatfield died before such a mark could be granted so his shield is blank. Unfortunately in the case of the Dukes of York and Clarence the distinguishing marks on the labels have faded, they thus look identical to those of their elder brother Edward the "Black" Prince of Wales and this rather defeats the purpose of cadency marks.

  5. Beneath the Great Gate is one of the finest heraldic sights anywhere in Cambridge. Painted onto the roof bosses are the arms of Royal founders and Hervey de Stanton together with the arms of the Masters of Trinity. Between 1546 and 1984 Trinity had 34 Masters and all bar four of them were armigerous either by inheritance or by grant.

  6. John De Redman (1499-1551) began his university studies at Oxford but then moved to St John’s College, Cambridge, where he graduated in 1526. He was made a fellow of St John’s in 1530 and received his DTh in 1537. In 1538 he was made Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity. He was a royal chaplain and served on the convocation that declared Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne of Cleves invalid. The same year, 1540, he was appointed a Canon of Westminster and Archdeacon of Stafford. In 1542 he was made Warden of the King’s Hall and in 1546 he was the first Master of Trinity. He died in 1551 and is buried in Westminster Abbey.

  7. Most Masters have their arms in more than one place about the College. Not so George Macaulay Trevelyan OM CBE (1876-1962). The third son of a Northumberland baronet the family originally came from Cornwall. In fact, legend has it, their ancestor escaped the inundation of Lyonesse by riding a great white horse which deposited him safely on St Michael's Mount. This must be true because it is in his arms. Trevelyan, having been Regius Professor of Modern History was appointed Master of Trinity in 1940 a position he held until 1951.

  8. An item easily overlooked in a tour of Trinity is in the Porters' Lodge. It is the armorial panel from the carriage of Dr William Whewell (1794-1866). If Trevelyan's arms appear only once hardly a wall or ceiling in Trinity is spared those of Whewell. The original family arms showed satyrs' heads Whewell, a Doctor of Divinity, clearly thought those inappropriate and replaced them with heads of the goddess Diana. The arms are impaled with those of his wife Cordelia Marshall.

  9. There is much to see in the Ante-Chapel. The ceiling shows the arms of monarchs connected with Trinity together with benefactors, Masters etc. In the floor are a number of ledger stones, one, uniquely, is to a woman. In fact these are the only arms of a non-Royal woman in Trinity. Elizmar Smith was the sister of Robert Smith, Master 1742-68. Elizmar kept house for her bachelor brother at the Master's lodge. Curiously the arms are shown in the form associated with a man, they are on a shield not a lozenge and are topped with a helmet and crest. They are also not the arms of Smith. Robert appears to have usurped the arms of his cousin Roger Cotes. My theory is Robert was preparing this stone for himself and used it when his sister pre-deceased him. And so it came to pass that the only woman commemorated at Trinity lies beneath a second hand stone, carved with arms to which she was not entitled. To add insult to injury her name was not Elizmar, it was Elzimar.

  10. In the Chapel itself there are coats of arms carved above the choir stalls. Above the Master's stall are those of Richard Bentley, Master from 1700 to 1742. A great classicist he was also the most controversial and hated Master of any College, ever. Quite an accolade. His attempts at reforming the College administration seemed to centre on ways of making the Master richer. The College's endowment was producing an income far in excess of its expenditure and the rules said that the surplus should be divided between the Master and the Fellows. Bentley wanted a larger share. The debate became so acrimonious that at one point his enemies had him stripped of his degrees and he had to go to the House of Lords in order to get them back.

  11. The Senior Combination room has many interesting shields running around the frieze, sadly most of these are hidden beneath a veil of tobacco tar. One shield that has survived better than most are the arms of Walter Rouse Ball (1850-1925). Rouse Ball went to University College School and then to University College, London, graduating MA and winning a gold medal for mathematics. In 1870 he went to Trinity where he graduated BA in 1874 as 2nd wrangler and 1st Smith’s prizeman. He was elected a fellow in 1875. Though called to the Bar in 1876 he went back to Trinity in 1878 as a lecturer and was tutor from 1880 until 1905. He devoted the rest of his life to the College, its students, finances, boat club and history. He also wrote books about the history of mathematics. In 1892 he published “Mathematical Recreations” (13th ed published 1987) dedicated to mathematical puzzles and problems. He was popular with both colleagues and students for his hospitality (he built a billiard room and squash court at his house just for his students). After his death he was commemorated by the Rouse Ball professorships in English Law and of Mathematics at both Cambridge and Oxford, all endowed under the generous terms of his will. He formed a collection of portraits of mathematicians and founded the Pentacle Club for those interested in conjuring.

  12. The heraldry of many college Halls tends to be the product of one, usually late 19th century, rebuilding. Not so at Trinity where one can find heraldry of many different periods and styles. These arms are dated 1830 and are typical of a style originating in the last quarter of the 18th century and soon to be replaced by a more robust and certainly less "Gothick" style. The Duke of Rutland had been at Trinity 1836-39. Thomas Pelham-Holles 1st Duke of Newcastle (1693-1768) was actually a graduate of Clare College. He followed his younger brother as Prime minister in 1754 and was one of the great power brokers of 18th century British politics. He was Chancellor of Cambridge University from 1748. Unfortunately these are not the arms of Thomas Pelham-Holles. The arms are those of the Clintons and thus are those of Henry Pelham-Clinton, Earl of Lincoln who married the 1st Duke's niece and succeeded to the dukedom of Newcastle by special remainder and to the estate at Clumber. This is a rare example of Trinity getting it completely wrong.

  13. This shows the arms of Sumner impaling those of the See of Winchester. Charles Richard Sumner (1790-1874) went to Eton in 1802. While a schoolboy he wrote a sensational novel called, "The White Nun or the Black Dog of Dromore". He sold it to a local printer for £5 who published it as being by "a gentleman of Note" (Eton backwards). He went to Trinity in 1810 and graduated BA in 1814 and was ordained in 1817. An introduction to King George IV at Brighton led him to being made a royal chaplain and librarian. Such was the King’s liking for Sumner that he refused to let him become Bishop of Jamaica as he wished to keep him close at hand. In 1826 he was made Bishop of Llandaff and a year later, at the age of only 37, Bishop of Winchester. The King said he wished to see a gentleman in the position. However, his support of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill of 1829 cost him the King’s support. He proved to be a vigorous administrator carrying out ten visitations of his See, it was said there had only been eleven in its history up till his appointment. His elder brother John (d. 1862) was Archbishop of Canterbury and there were those who wished for Charles to succeed him however a stroke in 1868 led him to resign his bishopric in 1869 and he died five years later. The arms show the effects sunlight can have on heraldic glass, the red chevrons of Sumner have changed to gold.

  14. The glass in the Hall at Trinity commemorates politicians, judges, bishops, scientists, poets and historians. To the left the arms of Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-92) who came up to Trinity in 1827, he won the Chancellor's medal for a poem in 1829 but his father's death in 1831 meant he had to leave Cambridge without taking a degree. After achieving fame and fortune he twice declined a baronetcy eventually accepting a barony from Gladstone in 1884.

    Thomas Babington 1st Lord Macaulay (1800-59) was educated at Trinity between 1817 and 1821 winning the Chancellor’s Gold Medal and many other prizes for poetry. In 1830 he was elected an MP and spoke in favour of parliamentary reform. He was Secretary to the Board of Control 1832 to 1833. In 1834 he went to India and served on the Supreme Council 1834 to 38, on the voyage home he learned German. A year after returning to Parliament in 1838 he was made Secretary at War. He was defeated as MP for Edinburgh but re-elected in 1852, resigning in 1856. Macaulay was a founder Trustee of the National Portrait Gallery. He was created a baron in 1857 but died two years later. As an author he was most famous for the “Lays of Ancient Rome” a collection of ballads that included “Horatius and the Bridge”. He published the first two volumes of his “History of England from the Accession of James the Second” in 1848 and two more in 1855. He died before he could complete it, the series being completed by his sister Lady Trevelyan. Both of these arms illustrate the rather puzzling decision of the artist to include the coronet of rank (in this case baron) as part of the crest and not sitting on top of the shield with the helmet sitting within it. It has the unfortunate affect a making the crest top heavy and, at times, simply ridiculous. Coronets (unless specifically mentioned in the grant of arms) should not be included where they don’t belong.

  15. The Wren Library is distinguished by coats of arms carved, by Grinling Gibbons, at the end of each bookcase. Each bookcase cost £45 and, in an early example of corporate sponsorship, if you paid £45 you had your arms placed at one end. Charles Seymour 6th Duke of Somerset contributed £540 and so had his arms, his crest and his monogram repeated four times all down one side of the Library. The Duke was also Chancellor of the University from 1689 to 1748.

  16. A set of guest rooms overlooking Neville's Court have plaster ceiling rich in heraldry. They are the Vernon-Harcourt Rooms named after Sir William George Granville Venables-Vernon-Harcourt (1827-1904). In the male line he was a descendant of the 1st Baron Vernon and via an heiress he was related to the Harcourts of Nuneham Park which he inherited in 1904. He entered Trinity in 1846, was a member of the Apostles and graduated senior classic. Having been Whewell Professor of International Law he was elected to Parliament and went on to serve as Chancellor of the Exchequer. He introduced death duties in 1894 to fund increases in Navy expenditure, this was ironic as his inheritance of the Harcourt estates followed by his demise left his heir with a sizeable tax bill. The ceiling shows the arms of Harcourt quartering Vernon and Venable surrounded by the peacock crest of the Harcourts and the boar's head of the Vernons.

  17. Another coat of arms off the beaten track but not to be missed is in Angel Court. These are the arms of Edgar 1st Lord Adrian OM (1889-1977). He attended Westminster School before studying Natural Science at Trinity. He completed his medical degree in 1915 and treated soldiers for nerve damage. On his return to Cambridge he began his studies of nerve impulses. By using cathode ray tubes to amplify the signals he was able to record the electrical impulses of individual nerve fibres. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology in 1932 for his work on the function of neurons. He was Professor of Physiology at Cambridge between 1937 and 1951 and was President of the Royal Society 1950-55. He was Master of Trinity from 1951 to 1965 and Chancellor of the University 1967 to 1975. He was awarded the Order of Merit in 1942 and created Lord Adrian in 1955. The Adrian family arms were a green field charged with three silver estoiles. The crest combines red roses from the arms of Trinity with the symbol of Mercury, quite appropriate for a man who studied how messages are conveyed to and from the brain. The pentacles, symbols of alchemy, also make an interesting allusion to his field of study.

  18. Perhaps the most unusual room in Trinity is a bedroom decorated in the Strawberry Hill Gothic style of the late 18th century which has in its ceiling no fewer than 21 coats of arms all painted on plaster. The arms in the centre of the ceiling of those of William John Bankes (1786-1855), explorer and collector. At Trinity he was a friend and contemporary of Lord Byron. Many of the other arms can be linked to relatives of William Bankes but some remain unidentified.

Photographs by the author.
This summarises the talk delivered by the author to the Society on October 25th, 2009.

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