Commoners' Arms in England

The following armory is compiled from two sources. The first is Sylvia Thrupp: The Merchant Classs of Medieval London, Chicago, 1948, whose appendix A lists information for all aldermanic families, that is, families who counted aldermen. The entries are quite detailed, and mention the existence of an armorial seal when applicable. The other source is the Catalogue of Seals in the Public Record Office (compiled by Roger Ellis, 1978-81, HM Stationery Office). It contains descriptions of seals found on deeds, mostly from the 13th and 14th c. When the document to which the seal is attached permits it, a description of the individual's rank or occupation is included. Seals may or many not have shields with armorial bearings (many have merchants' marks). Some of the individuals are well-known, and one finds dukes and earls. But there are many other people as well: many knights, esquires, knights bannerets.

Entries marked with a star are for names which only appear in the Catalogue of Seals, and it may be presumed that the individual was never an alderman. For the other entries, the date following the blazon is the date of the document on which the seal can be found. The reference, if any, (in the form of P followed by a number) is to the Catalogue. Unless specified otherwise, the arms are taken from a seal used by the individual.

It is interesting to note that arms were often hereditary, and that they can also be found used by an individual long before he became alderman. In fact, very often the seal was used 20 or 30 years before the individual's death or end of public life, which implies that the coat of arms was assumed early on in professional life.

A few of the coats have apparently survived to the 19th c., and they are mentioned in Burke's Landed Gentry (Poultney and Weld). Burke's General Armory mentions a few more, but it is not clear whether they are cited for historical reasons or because families still bore them.

(ald.=alderman of the City of London)

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François Velde

Last modified: May 09, 1999