The Heraldic Arms

queens’ college armsThe arms of Queens’ College Cambridge are adapted from the arms 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:

Whereas the Quenes Colledge of St Margaret and St Barnard in Cambridge was incorporate by the name of President and fellowes of the same Colledge by Margaret Quene of England doughter of the Kinge of Sicile and Hierusalem, and wife unto Kinge Henry the sixte in the xxvith yere of the same Kinges raigne, at which tyme she did also graunt unto the saide president and fellows and their successors her armes to be used in the saide Colledge, as they stand depicted in this margent and thus blased, That is to saye, Quarterly, the first quarter, barry of eight argent and gules, the second asur semy flower de lucis gold, a labell of thre points argent [mistake, should be gules]; the third argent, a cross batune [potent] between fower crosses gold; the forth asur, semy flower de lucis golde, a border gules; the fifte asur, two lucis indorced, semy crosse crosselettes [omission, should be fitchy] golde; the sixte gold on a bend gules thre egles [usually alerions] displaide argent; all the which sixe cotes are inclosed within a border vert; Yet nevertheless for divers good consideracions me moving, and at the request of William Chaderton now doctor of divinitie and President of the said Colledge and the fellowes of the same Colledge, I have assigned, geven, and graunted unto these their saide armes the Creast or Cognoiscance hereafter following, Videlicet uppon the healme, out of a croune golde an Egle rowsant sable, wings golde, manteled gules dobled argent as more plainly apperith depicted in this margent, …
[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.] 

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 six quarters, in detail:

Quarters 1 to 3, in the upper row, represent Kingdoms:

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, at the time of writing (2016), the college flag is incorrect, and the arms painted in Old Court are incorrect, 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.

Quarters 4 to 6, in the lower row, represent Dukedoms:

The fourth quarter (Duchy of Anjou) consists of the arms of France with a red border as a mark of cadency.

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.
  • Arms
    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.

College armsA full depiction of the college arms, including the helm and mantling, was made by Dorothy Mary Buckmaster (née Dyer) (1885–​1969), some time in the first half of the 20th century. It was used as Plate 12 in 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, and reproduced widely afterwards.

Unfortunately, this depiction incorporates a significant error: in the first quarter, the tinctures of argent and gules have been incorrectly swapped (see the discussion on quarter 1 above). This error has been propagated to all representations of the arms that used this one as a reference, including the current college flag, and the painting of the carved stone arms in Old Court.

Queens' arms design from 2017Another full depiction of the arms of the college was produced for the 2017 edition of the college Statutes. This version corrects a number of errors in earlier versions, and even manages to get the mouths of the barbels to surround the foot of the cross crosslet fitchy above. This version was designed and painted by Timothy Nicholas Milner, M.A., Fellow of Darwin College.

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 origins of this device are shrouded in considerable uncertainty and even possible downright error. Most of the explanations commonly heard today are the inventions of early historians, reproduced uncritically down the centuries, with little or no clearly established basis in verifiable fact. There has been a succession of heraldic authors each giving a different description and colouring of the design: the currently accepted colouring (shown here) appears to have evolved as recently as 1894.

Today, this badge is widely used by College sports clubs, and also appears in connection with food or dining: it is commonly seen engraved on college cutlery and silverware.

Boar's HeadThe earliest known depiction of this design is on a page in the 1572 Catalogus Cancellariorum… of Archbishop Matthew Parker, displaying the purported arms of the University and colleges. In early editions, this page had several errors (e.g. arms of Peterhouse, arms of the University), and it was revised a number of times in subsequent editions, so its reliability as an authority 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 gave no information on the tinctures to be used in this design.

Boar's HeadParker’s boar’s head design was 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).

In this depiction, the badge as printed is tricked to show tinctures argent on gules (silver on red), and coloured versions of the map have been so coloured. It is not known what the authority was for these colours.

The ca. 1640 plan of Cambridge sometimes attributed to Wenceslaus Hollar reproduces the same design and tricking for the arms of Queens’ College.

The historian Fuller based his 1655 description of the Queens’ College arms on this depiction in Speed’s 1610 map. He made two speculative suggestions on the boar’s head design:

... This I humbly conceive bestowed upon them by Richard the third (when undertaking the Patronage of this foundation) in allusion to the Boar which was his Crest; and wherein those Church implements disposed in Saltyre or in form of St. Andrews Crosse, might in their device relate to Andrew Ducket so much meriting of this foundation.
[The History of the University of Cambridge, by Thomas Fuller, 1655, Section V, ¶36]

It is to Fuller’s humble conceit, rather than any factual evidence, that we owe the tradition of ascribing the boar’s head to Richard III. Many later historians quote Fuller uncritically on this point, although few accept the suggested reference to Andrew Docket implied by the saltire arrangement of cross and crozier. 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?

A white boar (the complete beast, not just the head) was indeed 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]

Boar's HeadIn 1661, the fanciful and somewhat discredited Sphere of Gentry described this design as:

Queens Colledge … beareth Saturn [black] an Episcopal staff Luna [silver]; ensigned with a cross patee Sol [gold], and Crosier in saltire, in like manner over all a Bores Head couped of Gold … Which is the Arms of the Deanary of Essex
[The Sphere of Gentry, by Sylvanus Morgan, 1661, Vol. 3, p. 77] 

In 1716, a similar description was used:

Sable, an Epiſcopal Staff Argent, enſign’d with a Croſs Patee Or, a Croſier in Saltire in like manner over all, a Boar’s Head couped, Or.
[Fasti ecclesiæ anglicanæ, by John Le Neve, 1716, p. 430] 

Boar's HeadIn 1729, Samuel Drake published a new edition of Archbishop Parker’s 1572 page of University and college Arms (see above). The hatching used indicates that the colours were gold on black, although that information could not have been gleaned from the original 1572 version.
[Academiae Historia Cantebrigiensis appended to De Antiquitate Britannicae Ecclesiae, by Samuel Drake, facing p. viii] 

Boar's HeadAround 1733, the Boar’s Head badge was carved in wood as part of the new panelling in the Hall. It has been re-painted many times since then, so we cannot say what the original colourings were. This is, in fact, the earliest known depiction of the Boar’s Head badge in or on the buildings of the College.

Boar’s Head badge 1825, coloured.In 1825, this coloured depiction of the Boar’s Head badge appeared as part of the frontispiece to an Atlas of Estate Plans of the college. The cross and crozier are shown the wrong way around. The boar’s head itself remains gold, as had been consistently described since 1661, but the tinctures of the cross and crozier are reversed from the 1661 and 1716 descriptions, with the cross now being silver, and the crozier now being gold.

In 1841, Henry Annesley Woodham published a description of the badge which was consistent with the tinctures used in the 1825 picture:

The other coat which attracted Fuller’s attention is more accurately blazoned thus, Sable, in bend dexter an episcopal staff ensigned with a cross pattée, argent, surmounted of a crosier in bend sinister or, over all, a boar’s head couped, in fesse, of the last.
[An application of Heraldry to the illustration of various University and Collegiate antiquities, by Henry Annesley Woodham, Part the First, p. 54] 

Photo of Boar's Head badge in stained glass 1854In 1854, the boar’s head badge was recorded in stained glass in the oriel window of the Old Hall, showing that the accepted tinctures at that time remained gold on black.

Boar's HeadIn 1894, William Henry St John Hope wrote:

It is properly blazoned as: sable, a cross and crosier in saltire or, surmounted by a boar’s head argent. The boar’s head is usually represented gold, but is obviously derived from Richard III.’s badge of a white boar, and should therefore be silver. The two staves are the cross generally borne by St. Margaret, and the crosier of St. Bernard.
[On the Armorial Ensigns of the University and Colleges of Cambridge, by William Henry St John Hope, in The Archaeological Journal, Vol. 51(1894):299–​324] 

Thus, Hope unilaterally, and without any statement of authorities, established the tinctures used today, as a departure from previous practice: most earlier descriptions had the boar’s head in gold. He also appears to have been the first author to suggest a connection between the two ecclesiastical staves and the two patron saints of the College, but gave no authority for this idea. In the accompanying depiction of the badge, the appearance of the cross had changed: previous depictions were fairly unanimous that it was a cross pattée, but he appears to have changed the cross to look more like the cross borne by St Margaret of Antioch in depictions of that saint. One wonders whether he did that to artificially reinforce his theory connecting the staves with the saints.


Suppose, just suppose, that Matthew Parker, in 1572, had been incorrect in showing the arms of Queens’ College to be the boar’s head device, and that the college only adopted it retrospectively because so many historians kept telling the story? Might Parker have been confused by the legend of the boar at The Queen’s College Oxford?

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.

At many colleges, the colours of college scarves and ties were derived from the colours of the Boat Club, and that seems to be the case at Queens’. The original colours of the QCBC were green and black up to and including the 1896 season [The Cambridge University Almanack and Sports Register 1897, pp. 220–​1]. From around 1897 onwards, the QCBC colours changed to green and white.



Further reading

1429–​61: Le Roy de Sesille, in Armorial de l’Europe et de la Toison d’or, f. 100. (OCLC 945147498) [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; (OCLC 43136186)
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; (OCLC 752917426)
1840: Edition by James Nichols, pp. 120–​3; (OCLC 6928511)
1840: Edition by Marmaduke Prickett and Thomas Wright, pp. 161–​6. (OCLC 1977548)

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] 

1879: Pedigrees of Cambridgeshire Families, &c., from the Visitation of that County by Sir Henry St. George, Knight, Clarenceux King of Arms, 1684, ed. Walter Charles Metcalfe (1828–​1905), in The Genealogist, Vol. 3, p. 231. (OCLC 46993513)

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 Elinor Peek, Gordon Herbert Wright (1918–​2019), 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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