|George Washington's inkwell in Gilbert |
Stuart's "Lansdowne" portrait.
Note GW arms with griffin crest
on sauce-type boat.
[T]here is not a shred of evidence that the one [Washington's coat of arms] had anything to do with the other [U.S. flag].This ex cathedra dogma took my breath away.
Jeremiah 5:21 came into my head: "O foolish people ... which have eyes, and see not..."
Seven Shreds for Mr. McMillan
Below I serve up for Mr. McMillan Seven Shreds of Evidence beyond my 2012 Huffington Post article.
Does it matter whether Washington's arms contributed to the creation of the Stars and Stripes? Yes, it does. It helps us appreciate why Washington was first among the Founding Fathers, and gives us a peek into how he looked at the world.
1. GW's Arms Are Widely Tied to the U.S. Flag. The connection between the GW arms and the U.S. flag was and is widely believed. Four examples:
- GW's estate custodians believe it. At Sulgrave Manor in Northamptonshire not far from Oxford, the Washington arms are paired with a shield showing the stars and stripes.
|Sulgrave Manor pairing, GW and|
U.S. shields. Photos by JT Marlin.
- In New York City's Penn Station, a revolving historical tableau was created by George Mossman Greenamyer in 2002 showing George Washington crossing the Delaware with an eagle on a staff bearing the Washington arms, shown with three five-pointed stars ("mullets" in English heraldry). However, the stars on the flag in Penn Station are blue rather than the red (gules) of GW's arms. This makes a direct connection to the U.S. flag's canton with its white stars on a blue background. It shows that GW's coat of arms is linked in the artist's imagination with the stars and stripes.
|The circling tableau, erected in 2002, shows|
The Crossing of the Delaware.
Detail below. Photos by JT Marlin.
- The red-and-white flag of the nation's capital is clearly derived from the Washington family coat of arms.
- In other places such as Washington County, Va., the Washington shield shows blue stars instead of red ones, helping to connect the Washington arms with the U.S. stars and stripes.
|Detail of Washington's Arms in an artist's |
version of The Crossing of the Delaware.
The Washington coat of arms and the U.S. flag include colors and symbols with meanings. The white (argent) background signifies peace and sincerity. The stars (mullets) imply a divine quality from above.
Paragraph added May 7, 2016: This meaning of the stars was provided by George Washington himself in the story told by J. R. Manship below. When a devout Christian complained to GW that dropping the Union Jack from the canton of the United States flag would mean the loss of the crosses of two saints–Sts George of England and Andrew of Scotland–GW replied: "But we are adding the stars of heaven."
The red (gules) stripes mean a warrior or martyr, military strength and magnanimity. Blue (azure) signifies truth and loyalty.
When Washington's ancestor adopted a coat of arms it did not imply that a family was a nobleman,. ility; that did not come until English heraldry started being supervised by the Crown with the creation of the College of Arms. This negates the argument that GW could not have promoted his coat of arms because he was a modest man who disdained the trappings of office, etc.
In fact Washington used his coat of arms a great deal–in bookplates, silver, letterheads and other artifacts, certainly more than any later president. He even changed his arms, substituting a griffin for the traditional raven. The artist who worked on the Crossing of the Delaware shows the coat of arms on an eagle, another version of the crest. Titles, yes, are forbidden in the Constitution (Article 1, Sections 9-10):
No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state. No state shall...grant any title of nobility.
|Gilbert Stuart's 1796 portrait of GW. The|
inkwell below his right hand is enlarged in
the detail at top of this post.
3. A Story of the Two Red Stripes (Bars) is Stirring. A Washington, D.C. source dates the origin of the two red stripes on the Washington shield back to a battle between the Danes and the English in 979 during which the Danish king was killed. The English king allegedly honored the soldier who slew the Danish king by dipping two fingers into a wound on the Dane, and drawing two lines across the shield of the soldier. That became the soldier's coat of arms. (The stars came later.) The source of this fine theory is Rick Snider in his blog "Monumental Thoughts", October 2012.
My Comment: As Robert Crichton was reported by Jules Feiffer at Crichton's memorial service as having said: "Never investigate an interesting fact." However, I must investigate. Rick Snider's theory needs to be rethought. I found no corroboration anywhere of a battle in 979 or a Danish king dying in battle. So the legend as told is questionable. But this disproves not necessarily the story, only the date and battlefield. (Quick summary: During the 900s, the individual kingdoms unified under the rule of Wessex into the Kingdom of England. The Kingdom opposed the Viking Danelaw, kingdoms established from the century before in the north and east of England. The year 979 was the second year of the long reign (978-1016, 38 years) of Ethelred II, "Ethelred the Unready". Ethelred was defeated by invading Danish King Sweyn in 1013. But Sweyn died in 1014 and Ethelred II–far from having died in battle–was restored to the throne for two more years. In 1015, Sweyn's son King Canute invaded again, ending the following year with an agreement between Canute and Ethelred's successor, Edmund Ironside, to divide England between them. However, Edmund died in November 1016, so England was reunited under Danish rule for the next 26 years. In 1042 Harthacanute– son of Canute and Emma of Normandy, widow of Ethelred the Unready–died and left no heirs. He was succeeded by his half-brother, Ethelred's son, Edward the Confessor and the Kingdom of England was independent of foreign domination for 24 years, till Edward died without an heir and the Normans took over in 1066.)
4. Two Oxford Connections with the Washington Family. The Washington Family is connected both with Trinity College and Brasenose College, Oxford.
The Washington coat of arms appears in the Trinity College old library. It is believed by the Trinity College library staff to have been moved to the Old Library from the chapel after the previous Durham College was disestablished by Henry VIII and a new college was established under Mary Tudor by Sir Thomas Pope.
One of Pope's jobs (despite the fact that he was a devout Catholic) was to value the various monastic properties that Henry VIII took over and then to sell them. One technique by which Sir Thomas Pope became rich was that he reportedly would require a prospective tenant to pay a substantial entry fee, enough for Sir Thomas to utilize to buy the property for himself.
The Shelby Abbey, Yorks., version has the same design as the one in the Trinity College Old Library with the stars (mullets) and stripes (bars) clearly colored red (gules) on a white (argent) background.
A document headed in Latin as being for “Lawrence Washington” is a sketch of the Washington arms. (See photo at left.)
| Details on Washington crest, likely|
sent from UK.
The lower coat is that of the Washingtons. Though undated, the document is written on paper whose watermark dates from the middle of the 17th century, being a shield and fleur de lis–the mark of the English papermaker Thomas Gunther. The instructions were “gallicé, latiné & anglicé,” i.e., in French, Latin, and English, and show the positions, colors and arrangements of the various elements of the quartered coat of arms. It also gives a “Carmine Heroico,” or heroic verse, below the third illustration.
One explanation for these instructions is that they were sent by Reverend Lawrence Washington in Oxford to those who emigrated to the United States. George Washington was proud of his family’s heraldry and used his coat of arms on his bookplates, seals, china and silver. He later changed the raven to a griffin.
Where did George Washington and other members of the family get the griffin?
Three griffins appear on the coat of arms adopted by Thomas Pope when he was knighted in 1535 and were then passed on to Trinity College for its use along with properties that he donated such as Wroxton Abbey. Why would the Washingtons have used the griffin in the United States and how would they have known, if they did, of the connection between the Washington family and Trinity College? Could both Pope and Washington have picked up the griffin from a common source?
They both might have used it after 1555 to recognize the successor institution to Durham Cathedral's institution at Oxford, Durham College, and the re-establishment of the college as Trinity College in 1555. Sir Thomas, in his Grant of Arms, was allowed to use three "griffons" [sic] in his coat of arms (see Number II, http://ota.ox.ac.uk/text/5313.html). The Washington family may have felt the griffin was a more appropriate (and meaningful) bird for them than the raven, establishing a connection between them and a living college at Oxford instead of a dead one.
How would the Washington family have known anything about the establishment of Trinity College? It could have come from a second Oxford connection, Rev. Lawrence Washington (b. 1602), son of Lawrence Washington (1568-1616) and the father of the two Washington boys who emigrated to the Virginia Colony.
Rev. Lawrence Washington (1602-1653), was a Fellow of BNC, Oxford. He was also Rector of Purleigh. This Oxonian Reverend Lawrence Washington is the common ancestor of all the American-based Washingtons. In the early days when they wrote back asking about their family crest, they would be writing to him. He would be well acquainted with the Trinity College griffin, as Trinity was at the time on the verge of producing three prime ministers in fairly quick succession – Lord Wilmington (1673-1743), Pitt the Elder/Lord Chatham, (1708-1888), and Lord North (1732-1792).
|Washington family silver cup – similar to, could |
have been from, Trinity College, Oxford.
John Washington, son of Rev. Lawrence Washington, was GW's great-grandfather. John had a son Lawrence Washington who was born in 1659 and died in 1698. He was the grandfather of George. And George’s brother, from whom he inherited Mount Vernon, was also named Lawrence.
So the bird at the top of the Washington family crest, traditionally a raven, was changed by the Washington family in the colonies, into a griffin. Later, the bird morphed into the American eagle - see next section.
|Thomson's design of the Great Seal|
For our purposes, that Great Seal looks a lot like the Great Seal the White House uses today. It also has the major elements of the Washington coat of arms - a bird, stars, and stripes. The bird has become an American bald eagle and two main additions have been made:
- The eagle is the carrying the olive branch in one talon and a "bundle of arrows" in the other. Note that in this sketch Thomson has the eagle's head looking in the direction of peace. This was reversed in the final version, and was reversed again when President Truman decided that the United States should show itself intent on peace, not war.
- In the eagle’s beak, Thomson placed a scroll with the first committee’s motto: E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One).
The ancestry of George Washington shows how the honors to the family accumulated. The names in bold face have already been mentioned. Here is a genealogy. (In the comments I provide a source that takes the ancestry back further, with some authority.)
1 g17grandfather of George Washington - Patric FitzDolfin de Offerton, c. 1145-1182. His son
2 g16grandfather William FitzPatric de Hertburn, c. 1165-1194. In 1183, William de Hertburn procured the village of Wessyngton, not far from the border between England and Scotland. He changed his surname to his new land, i.e., William de Wessyngton. The "Wessyngton" evolved to "Washington" and “Washington.” Their status as a knightly family allowed the family to adopt a coat of arms, i.e., two silver/white (argent) bars and three five-pointed mullets of red (gules). At the crest, the raven rested in the crown (corona) of gold (or). William served the bishop of Durham, and in 1185 was granted the manor of Washington in return for the service of attending the episcopal hunt with four greyhounds. The family lived on the estate for 400 years, but in 1613 the estate was returned to the church with (a source says) compensation for the improvements.
3 g15grandfather William de Washington, c. 1180-1239
4 g14grandfather Walter de Washington, c. 1212-1264Here
5 g13grandfather William de Washington, c. 1240-1288
6 g12grandfather Robert de Washington, 1265-1324
7 g11grandfather Robert de Washington, c. 1296-1348
8 g10grandfather John de Washington, c. 1346-1408
9 g9grandfather John de Washington, c. 1380-1423
10 g8grandfather Robert Washington, 1404-1483
11 g7grandfather Robert Washington, 1455-1528
12 g6grandfather John Washington, 1478-1528
13 g5grandfather Lawrence Washington, 1500-1583
14 g4grandfather Robert Washington, c. 1544-1623
15 g3grandfather Lawrence Washington, c. 1567-1616 - Sulgrave Manor
16 g2grandfather (Rev.) Lawrence Washington, Fellow of Brasenose, 1602-1653
17 greatgrandfather (Col.) John Washington, c. 1631-1677
18 grandfather Lawrence Washington, 1659-1698
19 father Augustine Washington, 1694-1743
20 #(President) George Washington, 1732-1799.
George Washington knew that the family coat of arms (as he confirmed in a response to Mr. Heard) had been brought to Virginia about 135 years before by John and Lawrence Washington. These two sons of Rev. Lawrence Washington of Brasenose, Oxford and grandsons of Lawrence of Sulgrave had their arms granted by the Clarenceux King of Arms. The Sulgrave family arms sometimes show the mullets and bars in blue (azure) instead of red (gules), as is done for the mullets in chief in the Penn Station arms.
7. The Washington Headquarters (Personal Position) Flag (added May 7, 2016). The Washington Headquarters Flag was a blue field with six thin-pointed asterisk-like (*) white stars, as noted in the excellent comment below by J. R. Manship. It is well described here. The fact that the stars as used in the Stars and Stripes were five-pointed makes the connection even stronger because it explains the Betsy Ross story. The Betsy Ross story is puzzling if you think about it. The fact that one cut creates a star is not persuasive when one thinks of all the steps that are needed to fold the cloth! The Betsy Ross story makes sense only as a beard to cover the mutation of the six-pointed stars in the general's personal position flag to the five-pointed stars that correspond to the general's ancient arms.
See also: More Shreds of Evidence. Even More Shreds. Hey, Still More Shreds.