Historic Document from the Royal College of Arms (1953) | Object of the Week

Arms and crests, badges and supporters, are granted by letters patent issued by the most senior heralds, the Kings of Arms. They act according to powers delegated to them by the Crown and all grants are therefore made under Crown authority. The Kings of Arms have full discretion over the design of the armorial bearings they grant, but the wishes of the applicant are taken into account as fully as possible. Once the design was agreed with Stonyhurst,  it was checked against all previous arms on record to ensure it was distinct and then submitted to the Kings of Arms for their approval. The vellum was then selected and the arms painted on to it by a College of Arms artist. The text was engrossed by a scrivener, signed and sealed by the Kings of Arms, and a copy of it painted and scrivened into the official College registers.

Paul Woodroffe OS started the process in December 1952,  prompted by his previous work in stained glass in the Top Ref and the stairs leading up to it, in which he designed numerous coats of arms of previous OS. He felt that the College’s own armorial status should be clarified and made official, writing to the Rector, Fr Clark, ‘I have always thought it a great pity that the College had no rightful coat of arms granted by the authority of the College of Heralds.’ . The design was based on the Shireburn arms of Sir Nicholas, which can be seen in the Top Ref, referencing the eagles and lions of the Bayleys and Shireburns of 1373, along with the Shireburn unicorn, which wears a blue collar depicting the arms of Thomas Weld, the donor of the College estate. The red border around the shield refers to the College martyrs, and the St Omers cross recalls our roots at Saint-Omer. The motto ‘Quant Je Puis’ dates back in that wording to the 14th century.

The granting of the arms cost £105 and was granted in the Coronation year of 1953.