Semel et Semper

Above the door of Sessum Cleveland Hall in Sewanee is the following heraldic device:

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 8.06.25 AM

According to A General Armory of England, Scotland, and Ireland by John Burke and John Bernard Burke of London (as cited here), the Cleveland coat-of-arms is described as “Per chevron sable and ermine, a chevron engrailed counterchanged. Crest–A demi old man proper, habited azure, having on a cap gules turned up with a hair front holding in the dexter hand a spear, headed argent, on the top of which is fixed a line proper, passing behind him, and coiled up in the sinister hand.” Beneath the shield is the Latin motto, SEMEL ET SEMPER, “Once and Always.”

The motto is a nice once–alliterative and pithy. I really don’t get why there is a “demi old man” as a crest. Every time I look it up on Google, all I get are hits about Demi Moore, who has nothing to do with heraldry. (Actually, I do get that “demi” means that we only see his head and torso in the crest.) still, this requires more looking into!

Postscript. OK, according to the Encyclopedia Americana (1919), p. 549:

“The name Cleveland is, in truth, not the name of this great American family, but rather the designation of the immense estate they once possessed in England, where these folks were known as “De Cleveland of Durham, England. This French nobiliary predicate “de” formed a part of this family name up to the 13th century, some genealogists claiming their ancestry French and hence the French word “of” prefacing the name. The Clevelands have an armorial bearing which dates back to the remote period of the 12th century and the crest, which represents a spearman, is in token of Sir Guy de Cleveland, who commanded the spearman at the famous battle of PoiclienPoitiers of 19 Sept. 1356.”

I gotta say, this explanation seems retrofitted to the iconography rather than real. Why does the spear have an attached line? The old man looks more like a harpooner or spear-fisherman to me than a medieval warrior, especially in other renderings of the crest.

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About Uncomely and Broken

I am a classicist in Sewanee, Tennessee.
This entry was posted in Emblems, England, Sewanee, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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