Fact or Fiction?
Trevathan Coat of |
Arms from Porthcothan, Cornwall, 1600s
Did our family in early times have a coat of arms is an interesting
question. A heraldic consultant in both Australia and in
Cornwall have been consulted and while the Australian firm
produced for one member of our family a lovely crest with a
white and red shield showing three squirrels the Cornish
consultant said that while he has a very comprehensive index of
Cornish heraldry of all periods, he can find no reference to any
coat of arms or crest for Trevethan or Trevathan.
Lysons’ “Magna Britannia”, Cornish section, refers to
Porthcothan or Percothan in St. Merryn parish, “formerly
belonging to the family of Trevethan, for one of whom there is a
memorial in the Parish Church" pictured to the right. Lysons’ was written c.1810.
Thus, this family of Trevethans were presumably of some
substance, minor gentry, who may possibly have used a coat of
arms. St. Merryn along with St. Issey is the area
where our family lived in Cornwall before leaving for New
however arms for the family of Trevarthian,
which Pawley White’s
“Cornish Surnames” derives possibly
from the place named Trevarthian in St. Hilary and Newlyn
East parishes or Trevathan
in St. Kew, the latter being written Trevarthean in 1237. St.
Kew is very close to Wadebridge and St. Issey.
As a result
of extensive research you will have read earlier that our
Cornish Trevethans are in fact the same family as the one that
came from Porthcothan. It gave me a great thrill on my two
visits to Cornwall to see our family’s coat of arms displayed
still today, even if it was up side down, on the wall in the St.
Merryn church (see page on the Trevethans of Porthcothan).
or technical heraldic description, would be: “Argent, on a cross
patty gules, five besants”, i.e. A white/silver shield, with a
red cross with spreading arms bearing five gold roundels. (Besants
were named after gold coins of Byzantium). “Gules” covers any
shade of red.
of steel and in profile, is the type usual for “gentlemen” other
than nobility, and its “mantling” or drapery and the surmounting
wreath are in the main colours of the shield, red reversed
possible that a crest (helmet decoration) originally appeared
above the wreath, but not all coats of arms had such a crest. In
the drawing a curl of mantling has been included over the wreath
to complete the design.
The colour of
the roundels is not absolutely clear, and it is possible, though
somewhat less likely, that they could be white/silver, in which
case they would be described as “plates” rather than besants.
In this, as
in most cases, the reason for adopting this design is probably
not discoverable. Many fanciful tales have been made up in later
years to explain coats of arms, e.g. granted for valiant
service, crosses representing Crusader ancestors, etc., but the
fact is that most were granted or adopted simply as distinctive
family emblems to indicate a certain position in society.
coats of arms were adopted by great feudal lords and military
leaders, but gradually came to be used by anyone with any claim
to social status, and by merchants and various religious and
civic bodies. In Europe arms were widely used among all social
classes, including craftsmen and peasants. Arms are no longer
necessarily associated with social status and are adopted by
many of no particular eminence simply to symbolize their pride
and interest in the family.
establishment of the "College of Arms" College
of Arms in London in 1484, the official view has been that only
arms granted or confirmed by the Royal Heralds, under the
authority of the Earl Marshal, are recognized. However, over the
centuries many individuals, families and bodies have simply
adopted arms for themselves. Adoption of arms identical with
those already in use cannot be justified, unless direct male
descent from the original bearers is provable, but where
official control of heraldry is actually or virtually
non-existent the adoption of new arms is more acceptable.
Our coat of
arms, as far as can be traced, is unique and not identical to
that used by any other family. It would seem however that this
coat of arms was simply adopted by the family as extensive
searches in the grant books and the volumes of Heralds’
Visitations (c1530-1680) held by the College of Arms in London
has failed to find any evidence of the granting of our coat of
arms to William Trevethuan of Porthcothan. Some of the St. Aubyn family of St. Michael’s Mount, etc. used a white shield,
plain red cross with five besants, and some branches of the
family surnamed Cornwall had a white shield with a black splayed
cross with five besants, but these are sufficiently different
from ours to rule out any definite connection.
Royal Heralds were authorized to make “visitations” of the
various counties of England and Wales, up to approximately the
end of the 17th century, and when the Court of Chivalry was
actively functioning, there was some official control, but since
then this is virtually non-existent.
is somewhat different in Scotland, where Lord Lyon King of Arms
has full statutory powers, and some heraldic authorities
elsewhere have theoretical control, more or less enforceable.
arms are still made in the U.K. to anyone prepared to pay the
fee (currently some 1,200 pounds in England and Wales) provided
the applicant is not of notoriously unsuitable character.
All of this
most interesting information was supplied by a heraldic
Dennis Ivall, of Cornwall who also drew the drawing
of our coat of arms from a photo I took while in the St. Merryn
church at the time of our visit.
research takes our family back into the 1400’s with the marriage
of John Trevithven and Margaret Roche and the discovery that an
interesting coat of arms for this branch of our family exists.
this coat of arms came to me within the past ten years from
Barry Trevethan in Devon who is a very distantly related to our
family. He told me that it had been collected by his now
deceased father and that it was reported as possibly having some
connection with our family.
|Trevithven Coat of Arms,
Arms of John & Margaret Trevithven (nee Roche)
or technical heraldic description for this quartered Arms is: 1.
Vert, griffin segreant between three fleurs-de-lys Or. 2. Azure,
three roaches naiant in pale Argent. 3. Or, on a bend sable
three mascles of the first. 4. Azure, on a chevron Or, three
Or = gold.
Vert = green. Azure = blue. Gules = red. “Segreant” is the same
as rampant, when referring to a griffin. “Tinctures” are the
colours and metals. “naiant” means swimming, i.e. when a fish is
horizontal, not leaping or diving. “In pale” means the objects
are above one another, in the form of a vertical paling. “Of the
first” means the same colour or metal as the first mentioned
(for that quarter).
I have a
lovely coloured photocopy of the original which I referred to
Dennis Ivall, the heraldic consultant from Cornwall. He reported
that one quarter of this coat of arms appears in “Burke’s
General Armoury” under Trevithern. Burke’s General Armory gives
the griffin and the fleuss deilys as “or” = gold, but this is
probably a slip of the pen. Of the other three quarters of this
shield, the second he confirmed as being for the family of
Roche which has branches in both Devon and Cornwall. The Roche
arms also appear in “Burke’s General Armory” with the same
The xe "Coat
of Arms:Roche"Roche coat of arms
is the three fish presumably representing roaches, as a pun on
the name. Quite a number of coats of arms are recorded for the
name Roche, in various spellings, mostly showing the three fish,
but some in different colours.
Of the bottom
two quarters the left one with the bend (diagonal band) he
thought could be for Burges. There are a dozen or so coats of
arms for this name in Burke’s General Armory and interestingly
enough there is a Treveth
an Burges marriage 120 years latter
when Henry Trevethan married Grace Burges. The Burges coat of
arms are not exactly the same but very similar. The forth
quarter he was unable to identify.
The xe "Coat
of Arms:quartering"quartering or
joining together of family coat of arms is not uncommon but the
theory is quite complicated. The basics are that the children of
an armigerous man marrying a daughter of an armigerous family
could quarter her coat of arms with his, provided that she had
no brothers surviving to bear the arms. In these circumstances
she was described as an “heraldic heiress”. Furthermore, if her
family already had additional quarterings from previous
marriages in her family these quarterings too could be adopted
by her children.
need not be limited to four, but could run into dozens, or even
hundreds on occasions!
four-quartered coat of Trevithven could
represent a marriages
between Trevithen and Roche and
later on with two other
“heraldic heiresses”, or with
Margaret Roche whose family
already had two other
quarterings in their Arms. In fact, in
this case, that is what
of the College of Arms in London confirm that this
four-quartered Coat of Arms were those of xe "TREVITHVEN,
John" John Trevithven who married
xe "ROCHE, Margaret" Margaret
Roche. Her father, xe "ROCHE, William" William
Roche had three children, Henry, Margaret and Jane. Henry died
without issue thus making both his sisters, Margaret and Jane
“heraldic heiresses” and therefore able to transmit the xe "Roche
Arms" Roche Arms and any
quarterings to their husbands arms.
complicated enough if all the various arms were officially
granted or confirmed, but families could take on the quarterings
without official say-so, and were not always too fussy as to the
genuineness or accuracy of the arms they quartered, or even of
quarter is therefore for the family of xe "Polmarva Arms" Polmarva
and it is necessary to go back around a hundred years to
Margaret Roche’s three greats grandfather, who’s wife was a
Polmarva, to establish how the family came to have these arms
quartered into the Rouche Arms. It was Margaret’s grandmother xe
"PAGE, Katherine" Katherine
Page who bought forward the forth quarter to make up the total
Arms used by John Trevithven.
of Arms made three
visitations to Cornwall in the years 1531,
1573 and 1620. At the time of the first visitation the Trevithven family were considered gentry and were, therefore,
included though at the time no Arms were recorded for them. By
the time of the second visitation Arms were recorded and these
are the ones in the illistration above. When the
third visitation was made the family were not recorded as being
in the county an interesting fact worth some extra research.
As to how or
when the family aquired the griffin segreant between three
fleur-de-lys design this can not be established. It was not
necessary for the College of Arms to keep a central register of
Arms until 1530 when Henry VIII made this a requirement of the
gentry who not only had to pay to have their Arms and pedigree
recorded but also had to pay a tax for having a Coat of Arms. It
was not until 1673 that the College decided to keep a copy of
the text verbatim of all Letters Patent issued granting Arms.
During the Visitation period it was up to the gentry to satisfy
the visiting Herald that he had a Right to Arms, but the Herald
rarely recorded what evidence had been produced to satisfy him.
The only record the College of Arms has, therefore, for the Arms
of Trevithven is in the Visitation of 1573.
|Quartered Coat of Arms
for the Trevithven|
Family of St. Merryn, Cornwall, 1573
Quarters: Trevithven, Roche, Polmarva, Page
griffin segreant between three fleur-de-lys design was used
some 100 years later by xe "TREVETHAN, John"John
Trevethan, xe "Mayor of Penzance"Mayor
of Penzance in 1663 on his trade token. If a family has a Coat
of Arms that can be quartered, one is quite at liberty to show
just the paternal Coat (namely, the one in the first quarter)
and not all quarterings. It would appear that the Mayor of
Penzance was related to the family recorded in the Visitations
but it is not apparent how.
More Discoveries.tc "More Discoveries."
Trevathan coat of arms has come to light. This time in an
American book which states that the illustration on the next
page is officially documented in “Burke’s General Armory”. The
original description of the arms is as follows:-
Ar. A boar
pass. Gu. Armed or betw. Three mullets of the second.
translated the blazon also describes the original colours of the
Trevathan arms as silver; a red boar walking, with gold tusks
and hoofs, between three red stars.
This coat of
arms below have no connection with our family belonging
to the family of Trevarthian and our name seems to have simply
been added to suggest it belongs to the Trevathan family
presumably to help sales.
of arms for our collection would be xe "Coat of
Cornwall who bore a volule shield with a Cornish chough in
natural colour. This appears in “General Armory Two” which is a
list of additions and amendments to”Burke’s General Armory” by
Arthur Morant (19th Century). This chough coat of arms is also
in “Burke’s General Armory” under Trenethin.
went on to say that these similar names to our own could be
connected, but he doubted if all of them originated with the
same family. Beginning with “Tre-” they all certainly started
off as place names, any of which could have given rise to one
or more distinct families. The similarities do of course provide
the “arms dealers” with the opportunity to palm off their
wares, by suggesting the possibility of a connection.
two other references to the Trevethan family having a coat of
arms. The other two references can be found in two wills. One of xe "Coat of Arms:Thomas Trevethan"Thomas
Trevethan 1526 - 1596 from St. Eval and the other of xe "Coat
of Arms:Richard Trevethan"Richard
Trevethan from Perranzabuloe who died in 1718. Thomas’s will
mentions the leaving to his son Pascoe his best brasse panne
because of the name of the Trevithuans suggesting to me
there was a coat of arms on the plate. Richard’s will on the
other hand is signed and sealed with a heraldic seal.
Regrettably we cannot now see this seal as the will is yet
another that was lost in the Exeter bombing during the last war.
A Coat of Arms that do not belong to the Trevethan / Trevathan family. The College of Arms in London has no record of these Arms for our family.
Line drawing of the same Coat of Arms.
Another drawing of the same Coat of Arms.
Quartered Arms for Trevarthian, Carminow, Heligan and Bodrugan familes of 1396. Note this is the same Arms as those to the left.
Yet another Coat of Arms nearly the same as the others but this time for the Trefethan family.
Very old drawing of Trevithven Family Coat of Arms 1573. This family became the Trevethan family of today.
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