the seal of the medieval priory
The Guardians' Grant of Arms


Fr Fynes-Clinton was very interested in heraldry, and very knowledgeable on the subject. In 1945 he paid for a grant of arms for the College, incorporating the ancient Priory arms, and wrote the following article for Our Lady's Mirror in the Spring Number of 1945.

THE ARMORIAL BEARINGS OF OUR LADY

Strange! A shield of Arms for the Queen of Peace! How did this come about? The ascription of a 'coat of arms' to saints and to Blessed Mary comes down to us from the days of chivalry, the code and ideals and traditions of knighthood. These ideals were high and Christian, enshrined and blessed in the Catholic Church; though, alas ! as in the case of all ideals among fallen men they were honoured too often in name only.

The tradition of chivalry was that of honour—in truth, fidelity, honesty and courage; of manners and courtesy; and of Service. 'I am among you as he that serveth.' And this tradition is that of the English gentleman to-day.
Service of others was no degradation but rather an honour. Boys of the highest rank were educated as pages in the houses of nobles; and to wear their 'livery' and especially that of the King was a mark of honour, as is the 'King’s uniform' to-day. This 'livery' of service is a distinction of members of the great city companies: the habit of a religious is a livery of service; and the scapular, a part of it signifying holy obedience, in its miniature form, such as that of the Immaculate Conception worn by our own Society of Walsingham, is given as a token of devoted service to the Queen of Heaven.

Chivalry went hand in hand with Holy Church, when Our Blessed Lady was held in highest honour. This devotion to the All Pure Mother of God did so much for the elevation of the status of women and for its gradual evolution to the Christian standard.

The knight was a warrior and bore his shield and helmet with its crest. The distinctive design painted on the shield, by which he was recognised, became the sign of his dignity and honour. He must bear his shield unstained. And so this sign of honour was naturally assigned to saints and to Our Lady, just as we picture her with crown and sceptre of queenship. Among such 'Arms' the Red Cross of St. George is familiar to us, as is also the winged and pierced heart on Our Lady's banner, for instance, outside the Shrine.

THE ARMS OF WALSINGHAM

The ancient arms of the Priory of Walsingham, which can be seen in the window of the Lady Chapel in the Parish Church and elsewhere, can almost be looked on as the Arms of Our Lady of Walsingham. The College of Guardians of the Holy House, as a corporate body owning part of the ancient property of the Priory and formed to carry on its work, might claim a sort of moral right to the use of these Arms. But the use of a Coat of Arms and Crest is limited by strict rules and is under the jurisdiction of the College of Arms, with the authority of the Earl Marshal and the King.

Feeling, therefore, that it would be proper for the Guardians to have the right to their own arms, one of them has provided the necessary fees and obtained a grant of the ancient Priory Arms with a 'difference', viz : a representation, in the corner of the shield, of the Holy House. It is a gift in honour of our Benefactress and our Queen.

THE ARMS OF THE COLLEGE OF GUARDIANS

In heraldic language the full achievement is: upon a choir mantle azure, lined gules, ensigned on left shoulder with the escutcheon of the college, a shield argent upon a cross sable, five lilies of the first slipped and seeded proper; a canton azure, charged with a Holy House or. Upon a helm mantling of the colours, and crest, issuing from a celestial crown of 12 points and stars, or, three lilies argent seeded or. Motto: Domus Dei: porta caeli. The House of God: the Gate of Heaven.

We may regard these arms as the banner under which we all serve Our Lady of Walsingham. Let us consider them as emblematic of our devotion :—
The silver shield—Our Lady’s purity. The black Cross—Her suffering in the dark hour of the Passion. The five lilies—the five joyful mysteries of the Incarnation in her Rosary. The canton of Mary’s blue showing the Holy House, the 'House of Gold", speaking of the lowliness of the Incarnation. The celestial crown of the crest—the glory of her Crowned Motherhood in heaven, and the three lilies—her purity, lowliness and charity. The motto also speaks of earth and heaven— 'Domus Dei', 'This', amongst us, 'is none other than the House of the God-Child';
'Porta Caeli', 'this is the Gate of Heaven', which we indeed find the Holy House to be as we enter the presence of the mystery of the Incarnation in the Blessed Sacrament.

H. J. FYNES-CLINTON