The Lady on the Crest

 The Lady on the Crest 

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A Description of the Eglinton Crest by James M. Montgomery (CMSI Life #19)

This is the description of the Eglinton crest in Burke’s Peerage for 1889 [translation from the heraldic terms in brackets]:

“A female figure, proper [natural color] , anciently attired azure [blue] , holding in her dexter [right] hand an anchor Or [gold] , and in her sinister [left] hand the head of a savage, couped [cut off with no neck showing] , of the first [facing the viewer] .”

At that time there seemed to be a clear understanding of just who the lady represented. This is the crest of Sir Graham Graham-Montgomery of Stanhope in the 1883 Debret’s Illustrated Baronetage: “A female figure representing Hope supporting in her dexter [right] hand an anchor proper [natural color] and in her sinister [left] a human head couped.”

About that head: The “savage” is hardly unique to the Montgomerys in heraldry. Friar’s “Dictionary of Heraldry” (1987) defines a Savage or Wild Man as “ — a long-haired, bearded man, wreathed with leaves about the loins and temples, and carrying a club.” Franklin's “Heraldry” (1972) says, “[supporters on either side of shields include] Saracens, savages and blackamoors. The last are inclined to be expressed by their heads alone (always couped)... Both Saracens and savages are of the white race and are bearded... savages are naked and wreathed with foliage about both the temples and the loins.”

Monty Perkins (CMSI Life #84), in one of her earlier newsletters, reproduced engravings from early Montgomery symbols, indicating a savage’s head used alone as the crest. The supposition was that c.1400 Sir John Montgomery of Otterburn fame adopted it from his mother’s Douglas family. Indeed the savages still figure on some Douglas arms as supporters. Monty took the illustrations from her much-envied copy of “Memorials of the Montgomeries”.

The “wreath” or “torse” upon which the crest stands represents alternating twists of material, showing the primary metal and primary color of the arms. There are three twists of each, beginning with the metal. For Montgomery that would be gold and blue.

See also:  Scottish heraldry.  The colors used to emblazon a coat of arms.  Internet Archive BookReader - Memorials of the Montgomeries, Earls of Eglinton. The BookReader requires JavaScript to be enabled in your browser.

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