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.
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
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
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.
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
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