The Heraldic Arms

queens’ college armsThese arms are those of the first foundress Queen, Margaret of Anjou, which she derived from those of her father René, Duke of Anjou (as they had been at the time of her marriage), with the addition in 1575 of a green border, a crest, a helm (not shown), and mantling (not shown). The six quarters of these arms represent the six lordships (either actual or titular) which he claimed:

Quarterly of six:

  1. Barry of eight argent and gules (for Hungary);
  2. Azure semy of fleurs-de-lis or, a label of three points gules (for Anjou Ancient or Naples/Sicily);
  3. Argent, a cross potent between four crosses crosslet potent or (for Jerusalem);
  4. Azure semy of fleurs-de-lis or, a bordure gules (for Anjou Modern);
  5. Azure semy of crosses crosslet fitchy, two barbels haurient addorsed or (for Bar);
  6. Or, on a bend gules three alerions displayed argent (for Lorraine);

all within a bordure vert (added 1575).

The crest was added in 1575:

  • Out of a coronet or, an eagle rousant sable, wings or.

In the discussion here the 1575 grant refers to the visitation of Robert Cooke, Clarenceux King of Arms, who formally granted arms to the College. His stated intention was to confirm the college’s right to bear the arms of Margaret of Anjou, but he made some mistakes in describing Margaret’s arms, and also granted some extensions (border, helm, crest, mantling) which were not in the original.
[Transcript in The History of the Queens’ College of St Margaret and St Bernard in the University of Cambridge, by William George Searle, Vol. 2, 1871, pp. 322–​3.]

The first quarter (Kingdom of Hungary) is shown here barry argent and gules (silver at the top), as used by René himself [MS Egerton 1070 Pt 2 f. 4v], and by his daughter Margaret [her Prayer Roll detail], although the Árpád stripes are more usually seen in Hungarian contexts as barry gules and argent (red at the top). But it has to be said, in the context of the arms of College (descended from René, Margaret, and confirmed in the 1575 grant), only the former is correct, and the latter is a 20th century aberration. The earliest modern example found so far of the incorrect gules and argent is in Oldfield’s 1931 book [The Arms of the University and Colleges of Cambridge, by Richard William Oldfield, 1931], followed by Plate 12 of Browne & Seltman [A Pictorial History of … Queens’ College Cambridge, 1952], which has unfortunately been used as a guide for later reproductions of the arms in College. So, today, the college flag is wrong, and the arms painted in Old Court are wrong, amongst others.

In the second quarter (Anjou ancient, or Kingdom of Naples [modern name], or Kingdom of Sicily [contemporary name]) there is historical evidence for the label being red, although it was mistakenly blazoned as silver in the 1575 grant of arms: both versions can be seen in representations of the arms around College. Both René and Margaret used red [see examples in previous paragraph]. In those times, the word Sicily could apply both to the island, and to the southern mainland ruled from Naples: Margaret, on her royal seal, was able to describe herself as daughter of the king of Sicily …, by virtue of her father claiming the kingdom of Naples, not of the island of Sicily. He also lost Naples itself in 1442.

The third quarter (Kingdom of Jerusalem) uses gold on silver, a combination which is rare in heraldry, being an exceptional breach of the Rule of Tincture. The four small crosses are here shown potent, although versions with plain crosses can also be found: René and his predecessors used plain crosses, but crosslets potent were used in some contemporary representations of the arms of Margaret [Royal MS 15 E VI, f. 3r at right margin], in her Royal Seal, and in the first seal of the College; in the 1575 grant these small crosses are not described as potent, but are drawn potent in the marginal painting, and appear potent in the 1575 carved coat of arms in Old Court.

In the fifth quarter (Duchy of Bar), the barbels are an allusion to Bar.

  • In the 1575 grant the barbels were incorrectly described as luces (pikes).
  • The crosses crosslet for Bar should be fitchy, as shown above, and as depicted in the Royal Seal of Margaret and the first seal of the College, but the 1575 grant failed to state this: versions both correctly fitchy and incorrectly non-fitchy can be seen around College. In this respect, the arms in Old Court, at the north end of Old Hall, and in Chapel are incorrect, amongst others.
  • René himself [MS Egerton 1070 Pt 2 f. 4v], sometimes used cross crosslets fitchy at foot [Les princes militaires de la Maison de France, by Amédée Renée, p. 207], but that style has not been seen in any depictions of the arms of Margaret.
  • Another characteristic of the arms of René [MS Egerton 1070 Pt 2 f. 4v] is that, almost always, each barbel has in its mouth the foot of the cross crosslet fitchy above, with the cross crosslet fitchy rotated if necessary to fit the mouth below. There is, in the Old SCR at Queens’, one piece of stained glass of the arms of Henry VI and Margaret which reproduces this detail. With good enough eyesight, one might convince oneself that the same detail appears on Margaret’s Royal Seal and the first seal of the College.
  • Broomfield [The Heraldry of Queens’ College, 2016] points out that the cross crosslets fitchy should be shown semy, or sown, in this field so that some of them are cropped by the margins (as with the fleurs-de-lis in the second and fourth quarters): in this respect the illustration above on this page is not quite correct. Both styles can be seen in representations around college.

In the sixth quarter (Duchy of Lorraine), the alerions are an allusion to Lorraine. An alerion is supposed to appear similar to an eagle with no beak or claws, but in many instances of the college arms they look more like eagles. In the 1575 grant, they were described as Egles.

The green border added in the 1575 grant appears to be intended as a heraldic difference, to distinguish the college arms from those of Margaret herself. One may speculate that this use of green might be the origin of the green used in the college scarf and for sports kit colours.

Within weeks of the grant from Robert Cooke, the college erected its new coat of arms, carved in stone, in Old Court, over the entrance to the dining hall.

The College badge

boar's head badgeThese are not actually arms of the College, but, rather, a badge.

  • Sable a cross and crozier in saltire or surmounted by a boar’s head argent.

The silver boar’s head was the badge of King Richard III of England. Richard’s wife Anne Neville was the third Queen consort to be patroness of the College. Both Anne and Richard were great benefactors of the College, although their benefactions were subsequently lost to King Henry VII.

An inventory of the college silver taken in 1544 records:

  • Item antiquum sigillum argenteum ex dono Ricardi sc̃di R. Anglie insculptum porcellis seu apris.
  • Item: an ancient silver seal given by Richard the Second, King of England, engraved with a little pig or boar.

Here, the abbreviation sc̃di for secundi (second) is clearly a mistake for tertii (third). The seal does not survive, and no impression of it has ever been found, so it is not known whether its appearance was anything like the badge now used, nor whether it was ever used as the college’s corporate seal.
[Seals of the Colleges and of the University of Cambridge, by William Henry St John Hope, in Proc. Soc. Antiquaries of London (2nd Ser.), 10, pp. 242–​244]

The earliest known depiction of this design is on a page in the 1572 Catalogus… of Archbishop Matthew Parker, purporting to show the arms of the University and colleges. In early editions, this page had errors (e.g. arms of Peterhouse, arms of the University), and it was revised a number of times in subsequent editions, so its reliability might be in question. No trace has been found of this boar’s head design in the buildings or records of the College originating before 1572, and it is not known from where Parker obtained his information. Parker’s boar’s head design appears to have been reproduced in Speed’s map of Cambridgeshire of 1610 as being the arms of Queens’ College, although the college had long since been re-granted the arms of Margaret of Anjou in 1575 (and John Hamond’s 1592 plan of Cambridge showed Queens’ as bearing the arms of Margaret of Anjou). The historian Fuller based his 1655 description of the Queens’ College arms partly on the depiction in Speed’s map. Many later historians quote Fuller uncritically. There were several college seals in use in the 15th and 16th centuries, of which impressions survive: none of them feature a boar’s head. Would the college have displayed a Ricardian symbol during Tudor times?
[The History of the University of Cambridge, by Thomas Fuller, 1655, Section V, ¶36]

It is said that the gold cross stands for St Margaret, and the gold crozier for St Bernard, the two patron saints of Queens’ College. Fuller suggested that the saltire arrangement of these (like the St Andrew’s Cross) is an allusion to Andrew Dokett, founder (in fact if not in name) and first President of Queens’.

Today, this badge is widely used by College sports clubs, and also appears in connection with food or dining.

The College scarf

queens' college scarfQueens’ College scarves are green with two white stripes. When made to the traditional colours, the green in Queens’ College scarves is darker than the green in Girton College scarves. Other scarves for clubs within college are here.


Further reading

1429–​61: Le Roy de Sesille, in Armorial de l’Europe et de la Toison d’or, f. 100. [Arms of René of Anjou] 

1442–​3: Book of Hours, Use of Paris (The Hours of René d’Anjou), f. 4v. [Arms of René of Anjou] 

1572: Catalogus Cancellariorum, Procancellariorum, Procuratorum, ac eorum qui in Achademia Cantabrigiensi ad gradum Doctoratus aspiraverunt, by Archbishop Matthew Parker, pp. 41–​2;
1572: within the above, the illustration of Coats of Arms, and a more legible amended copy from a later edition;
1729: Edition as Academiae Historia Cantebrigiensis appended to De Antiquitate Britannicae Ecclesiae, by Samuel Drake, p. xx;
1729: within the above, the illustration of Coats of Arms, reproduced from an earlier Catalogus version than either of the above two.

1655: The History of the University of Cambridge, by Thomas Fuller, Section V, ¶¶31–​39, pp. 79–​82;
1840: Edition by James Nichols, pp. 120–​3;
1840: Edition by Marmaduke Prickett and Thomas Wright, pp. 161–​6.

1841: An application of Heraldry to the illustration of various University and Collegiate antiquities, by Henry Annesley Woodham, Part the First, Cambridge Antiquarian Society Quarto Publications IV;
1842: Part the Second, CAS Quarto Publications V;
1846: both parts reprinted in CAS Quarto Publications Volume 1 1840–​1846. (OCLC 265821210)

1848: Les princes militaires de la Maison de France : contenant les états de services et les biographies de près de 300 princes, l'histoire généalogique et héraldique des diverses branches de la dynastie capétienne depuis Robert-le-Fort jusqu'à la Révolution française, by Amédée Renée, pp. 207–​14 for René and arms of Bar, p. 203 for arms of Hungary, p. 199 for arms of Anjou Ancient. (OCLC 763243302)

1871: The History of the Queens’ College of St Margaret and St Bernard in the University of Cambridge, by William George Searle, Volume 2, 1560–​1662, pp. 322–​3. [transcript of grant deed of 1575; latune is a misprint for batune, or potent]

1885: Seals of the Colleges and of the University of Cambridge, by William Henry St John Hope, in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of London (Second Series), 10, pp. 225–​252, Queens’ at pp. 242–​244.

1894: On the Armorial Ensigns of the University and Colleges of Cambridge, and of the five Regius Professors, by William Henry St John Hope, in The Archaeological Journal, Vol. 51(1894):299–​324;
1895: and again in Proc. Cambridge Antiquarian Society, Vol. VIII(1891–​94):107–​133.

1909: The Arms of the College, by E.W.B. [possibly Edward Walter Barker (1887–​1918)], in The Dial, No. 6, Lent 1909, pp. 238–​41. (OCLC 265448755)

1915: The Book of Public Arms, by Arthur Charles Fox-Davies, Revised Edition, pp. 640–​1.

1921: The Armorial Bearings of Queens’ College, Cambridge, by Leonard Galley. (UL catalogue) [offprint, with slight changes, from The Dial No. 40 of Mich. 1921. Some of his assertions need revising in the light of later research. See also 1948.]

1931: The Arms of the University and Colleges of Cambridge, by Richard William Oldfield, pp. 22–​3. (OCLC 7790425)

1936: The Arms of King René, by Arthur Stanley Oswald, in The Dial, No. 82, Lent 1936, pp. 19–​23. (OCLC 265448755) [Arms found in Suđurađ, Šipan, Croatia] 

1948: The Armorial Bearings of Queens’ College, by Paul Ronald Ninnes Fifoot, in The Dial No. 97 Easter 1948, pp. 50–​53. (OCLC 265448755) [see also 1921]

1951: A Pictorial History of the Queen’s College of Saint Margaret and Saint Bernard, commonly called Queens’ College Cambridge, 1448–​1948, by Archibald Douglas Browne & Charles Theodore Seltman, plates 12, 13. (OCLC 7790464)

1952: The Arms of Cambridge University and Its Colleges, by Charles Wilfred Scott-Giles, in The Coat of Arms, Vol. 2, No. 11, pp. 89–​91, and No. 12, pp. 141–​5; Queens’ at p. 90. (ISSN 0010-003X)

1985: The Cambridge Armorial, edited by Cecil Humphery-Smith, Heather E. Peek, Gordon H. Wright, and Charles Wilfred Scott-Giles, pp. 58–​63. (ISBN 978-0-85613-871-3)

1987: Le Roi René et la seconde Maison d’Anjou : Emblématique Art Histoire, by Christian de Mérindol. (ISBN 978-2-86377-057-3)

2016: The Heraldry of Queens’ College, Cambridge, by David Broomfield.

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