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An Enquiry into a Stewart's Arms

CAPTAIN CHARLES STEWART fought at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, and in 1700 bought Horn Head in Donegal from Captain John Forward and Captain William Sampson. He was High Sheriff in 1707. He married first Anne, believed to have been the daughter of Gustavus Hamilton, 1st Viscount Boyne, and second Isabella, a widow, daughter of the Venerable James Hamilton, Archdeacon of Raphoe.

A reader who had traced his line back to the captain wrote in to ask whether from the mullet in what he believed to be his arms we could decide whether he was the third son of his father or whether some forefather had been a third son and the mullet had then passed on down to the later generations.

Quarterly: 1st and 4th Az. three fleurs-de-lys within a bordure engrailed Or; 2nd and 3rd Or a fess chequy Az. and Arg. within a bordure Gu. charged with eight buckles of the first, overall in the chief centre point a mullet counterchanged. (Note the red comma.)

Armorial Achievement of Stewart of Horn Head
This blazon and the illustration above have been extracted from the 1937 edition of Burke's Landed Gentry. Our correspondent was surprised for he had used Burke's General Armory of 1884 in which the blazon locates the mullet at the fess point rather than the centre chief point and changes the colour from gold (which it had been previously) to quarterly red and gold. Quarterly: 1st and 4th, Az. three fleurs-de-lis Or, a bordure engrailed of the last; 2nd and 3rd, Or, a fess chequy Az. and Arg. on a bordure Gu. eight round buckles of the first; over all in the fess point a mullet quarterly Gu. and Or. The two illustrations below will make the difference plain. (Note here the red semicolon.)
The use of a small mullet as "a brisure for cadency" to indicate a third son was once a well-established practice, but for the generations to follow it was impractical. In theory, the sixth son of a second son of a third son would have on the mullet a very small crescent bearing a very, very, small (invisible) fleur-de-lys. However, for the first generation (England and Ireland ~ Scotland is different) the use of a minor brisure can be a useful genealogical clue. Arms of Stewart of Horn Head - second version
Arms of Stewart of Horn Head - first version

Because there is a critical difference in size between, for example, a mullet used as a charge and a mullet used as a brisure for cadency, a blazon should specify its latter use. So if we look at the first of the blazons above, it ought to read at the end ~ overall in the chief centre point a mullet counterchanged for difference. It does not, but as we can recognise the remainder of the blazon as that of the d'Aubigny Stuarts (their usual spelling), we can safely assume that the mullet is for cadency (that is, to indicate the son's position in the family).

Now note the red comma. If this had been a semicolon, as in the second blazon, then the mullet would have been intended to apply to the whole shield. However, as a comma it ties the mullet to the 2nd and 3rd quarters and implies that the "third son" relationship was at a time when that quarter existed alone (before the d'Aubigny quarter was adopted).

We must now turn to the second blazon and to the illustration on the right, and we must confess that the red semicolon which assigns a single mullet to the fess point of the whole shield was placed there by us. A picture of the arms with a central mullet accompanies this blazon in the 1899 edition of Burke's Landed Gentry of Ireland, and if the picture is correct, which we have assumed, then the blazon requires the correction we have inserted. But look at the size of the mullet. How big should it be? Without the "for difference" added to the blazon, we may assume it is a charge and size it accordingly, but if we assume it is a brisure for cadency (technically a minor brisure) then it would be the size of the mullets in the other illustration.
Now what may we assume from all this in respect of the question our reader asked?
First we should admit that without the correct blazon it is unsafe to deduce anything about Captain Stewart's relationship to his father and to any brothers. Second we may deduce that with at least three variations of the blazon having been found, and with a fourth illustration unrelated to any of the three blazons having been found also, it is unlikely that the arms have been recorded in England or Ireland (they were not in Scotland although they may have been in France). The basic coat is that of the d'Aubigny Stuarts whose chiefs became Earls of Lennox, and placed the arms of that earldom in the 2nd and 3rd quarters and put Stewart of Darnley in place of the d'Aubigny arms. (The d'Aubigny fleurs-de-lys are the French lilies differenced by the golden engrailed bordure, and were taken, as many Franco-Scots did, to demonstrate a loyalty to the Kings of France.)
Arms of Stewart of Darnley
Stewart of Darnley

We shall be delighted if any of our readers can produce further information on Captain Charles Stewart of Horn Head, and on the derivation of his arms, especially if there any other records of the blazon that may help us decide on the correct version.

An article on cadency and differencing is to be added soon to the pages of JAG, the Journalists' and Authors' Guide to Heraldry and Titles.

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The Baronage Content Page January-February 2000
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