Something you might have missed in our Church
By chance, the subject of this article must have an introduction very similar to that of our previous choice (the memorial to Francis Garratt) inasmuch as it probably does not get as much attention from regular or occasional visitors as it might, because of it’s position above the flat roof of the wooden porch which shelters the main door into the Church. Usually, when leaving the Church, the visitor is anxious to look where they are going, so you have to stop shortly before you get to the door, and look up to see what looks like an old picture in a dark wooden frame.
If you are able to spend a few minutes looking closely, you will see that some of the objects and mottos you see are familiar, being used on many occasions and items connected with the Crown, such as all kinds of memorabilia, and everyday items from coins and postage stamps. This is because the picture you are looking at is of the Royal Coat of Arms, and not just any Coat of Arms – it is Marldon’s Royal Coat of Arms. More specifically, they are the Royal Coat of Arms of William IV, who reigned from 1830 to 1837.
After the English Church’s break with Rome, in 1534, Henry VIII became Supreme Head of the Church of England, and ordered that the Royal Coat of Arms be displayed in all parish churches, in a prominent place, to remind his subjects who now had authority over the Church. During the English Civil War many churches (including Marldon) were vandalised by Cromwell’s troops and sympathisers, and most of the Royal Arms were removed or destroyed. Consequently, most of the Royal Coats of Arms which can be seen in Churches nowadays relate to the period after Charles 11 was restored to the throne in 1660, when Parliament allowed the Royal Arms to be reinstated, but it was not compulsory for parish Churches to display them.
Marldon’s Royal Coat of Arms
Most Royal Coats of Arms in rural Parish Churches were made and painted locally by local tradesmen, and so some may appear a little “amateurish”. Many appear dark from years of dust and neglect, and are usually painted on a square board, and hung quite high so that all the churchgoers and other visitors to the Church could see them. Although most were of a basic nature and construction, as is Marldon’s, there are examples painted on canvas, made in cast plaster or stone, carved wood and cast iron. It seems therefore that the finished article would depend on what the rural Parish Church, through its benefactors and Parishioners could afford (very much like today in many ways).
Marldon’s Arms date from 1835 and it is not known if Marldon had any Arms at an earlier time which might have suffered under Cromwell. However, we do know that it survived the Victorian “restoration” of the late 19th C when many Parish Churches, including Marldon, were “restored”, losing many splendid and admired features in the process. Fortunately, William’s Royal Coat of Arms was spared and retained.
The main elements of Royal Arms are common to all examples, but being individually made and painted, often by local tradesmen and painters, no two Arms are the same. The main elements are the shield, which is divided into quarters, two of which contain three golden lions (England), another containing a red lion rearing (Scotland), and the fourth containing a golden harp on a blue background (Ireland).
The shield on Marldon’s Arms is in the centre of the Arms, slightly oval, and is supported by the lion on the left, and the unicorn on the right. The motto around the shield is “Honi soit qui mal y pense” – “Evil to him who evil thinks”. Underneath is the Sovereign’s motto “Dieu et mon droit” – “God and my right”.
Marldon’s Royal Arms conforms to what appears to be the standard size of most Arms (if there were such a requirement).
The frame measures slightly more than 32” x 34”, and the actual “picture” is about 24” square.
Finally, below all of the above, are the names of the two Church Wardens who were possibly the sponsors or promoters of the Arms on behalf of Marldon Church at the time the Arms was made. They were Francis Coaker and George Browse, and the date is 1835. Both were substantial farmers, Mr. Coaker farming at Stanter (Stantor) and Mr. Browse at Westerland.