heraldry - The Feudal Herald header



An Online Newsletter from The Baronage Press
featuring Heraldry and related subjects

Vol. 3, No. 2, August 2001

The Baronage Press Website
may be reached directly at


Copyright (c) 2001 by Pegasus Associates Ltd and The Baronage Press



* A Welcome
* Letters to the Editor
* The Tombs of Great Men
* Genealogical Problems
* Estoile's Scrapbook
* The Chief of MacEwen
* FAQs
* Badges from Humix
* The Visitors' Book
* Lost Readers
* Postscript


The purpose of this newsletter is to link regular BARONAGE readers to those articles in the magazine that might interest them, so in it you should find mention of the art, symbolism and meaning of heraldry, and, from time to time, of the history, politics, warfare, chivalry, books, cinema and other entertainment to which heraldry has thematic links.


"Some day I'd like to read an account of what's actually been going on." ~ wrote Thomas Wallis in the Visitors' Book. And from Mike Oettle, Editor of Armoria in South Africa, came the following ~


I visited the website which has been attacking the reputation of Baronage and attempted e-mail communication with the people who run it. They were quite obstinate in their opinions and sneered at my "naïvety" in accepting your bona fides.

One point they were firm on was their belief that the Editor claims the title Earl of Carrick. In their ignorance they are probably unaware that this title is automatically the property of the heir to the British throne, as is the title Duke of Cornwall.

I nonetheless feel it would be worth your while to tackle this slander head-on with a public denial.

Apart from denying that we have for sale an unidentified feudal barony allegedly priced at US$250,000 (which denial was to emphasise, for the benefit of our readers, that Baronage does not sell "titles"), we have followed a policy of not dignifying the libels with any form of response at all. (De nobis ipsis silemus.) However, this accusation anent the earldom of Carrick, affecting as it does someone unconnected with the Baronage editorial team, should perhaps, as our South African correspondent proposes, be tackled head-on.
The libellous website uses for its platform the notion that the Baronage operation is a scam based on the use of a man, Alan Blacker, posing as a lawyer to attack the sellers of "feudal titles" and to recommend to potential buyers that they purchase their new titles from The Baronage Press. Mr Blacker, a lawyer practising in a court of arbitration in the north of England, is a cadet of an Irish family, the Blackers of Carrickblacker. On that basis alone, that "Carrick" forms the first two syllables of "Carrickblacker" (which estate, of course, is totally unconnected with Carrick, the earldom), the libellous website accused him of posing as the Earl of Carrick (in addition to being a bogus lawyer in a fictitious court).
Now, as the Editor of Armoria informs us, this accusation has been switched across to the Baronage Editor.
There are four Carrick earldom titles. The first, the most famous, is that settled forever on the firstborn son of the Scottish monarch. Today that Earl of Carrick is Charles, Prince of Wales. The second is the Earldom of Carrick in the Peerage of Ireland that belongs to the Butler family. The third is the "Earldom of Carrick (in Orkney)" that was settled on the second surviving son of Robert Stewart, Earl of Orkney, an illegitimate son of James V, and is now extinct. The fourth is that held by one of the principal characters, a tulip collector, in the historical novels of Sara Donati (the second of which, "Dawn on a Distant Shore", was published earlier this year).
Arms of Earl of Carrick (Scotland) Arms of Earl of Carrick (Ireland) Arms of Earl of Carrick (in Orkney) Arms of Earl of Carryck (fictional)
There is substantial doubt about which of these four earldoms Mr Blacker, initially, and now the Editor, are supposed to have appropriated. If the first, the Editor could be charged with treason; if the second, with theft; if the third, with lèse majesté (for only the monarch can resuscitate extinct titles); and if the fourth, with breach of copyright. Life for the Editor has become very complicated indeed.


In the January 2000 newsletter we printed Count Otto von Lomello's description of the opening of Charlemagne's tomb at Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) by Emperor Otto I, and a reader wrote to us to comment on the reverence and awe the conduct of the visitors manifested. A recent visit to Normandy caused the Editor to reflect that our great men have not always been treated with such honour.

When William, Duke of the Normans, King of the English, died at Rouen 87 years later, his treatment then, and on various occasions since, was very different. He had been engaged on the destruction of Mantes when his horse, startled by embers falling from a burning house, staggered and threw William's excessively corpulent body against its saddle's high pommel, inflicting a lethal rupture. He was carried through the intolerable heat of high summer to Rouen where, after a few days of intense pain, he died in the priory of Saint-Gervais.
An anonymous monk has left us a stark description of what occurred, and Orderic Vitalis, writing in greater detail fifty years later but agreeing with all the monk had written, has filled in the gaps from his conversations in earlier years with men who were present.
After the Duke had made his final decisions as to which of his sons would receive what (Robert to have Normandy, William Rufus to have England, and Henry, the future King Henry I, to have money), he received the Last Sacrament and passed through the night of September 8th-9th peacefully. He woke at dawn to hear the great bell of the cathedral and asked its significance.
When his attendants replied that it was the bell of St Mary ringing for Prime, he raised his eyes, lifted his hands, said, "I commend myself to Mary the Holy Mother of God, my heavenly Lady, that by her intercession I may be reconciled to her Son our Lord Jesus Christ ......." and died.
C H A O S ! Those about his corpse lost their wits.

The wealthiest mounted their horses and sped away to secure their properties. The lower orders, noting the disappearance of their masters, seized the arms, plate, linen and furniture, and ran off, leaving William's corpse near naked on the floor.

Duke William's marriage to Matilda of Flanders had earned him excommunication, and this had been revoked at the price of his building at Caen the Abbaye-aux-Hommes, whose church was dedicated to St Etienne (St Stephen). It was here he wished to be buried, and accordingly his body was taken by ship down the Seine and subsequently borne overland to the city. The pomp and circumstance of the distinguished body of mourners that accompanied the procession was interrupted by panic when a fire broke out among the houses it was passing and then, having reached the abbey church, there was another undignified interruption when a local merchant protested that he had been robbed of the land chosen for the interment. (He was satisfied with 60 sous.)
Slab on Duke William's tomb
This was only the beginning. As his attendants tried to force William's heavy body into his stone coffin, his flesh broke and filled the church with such an insupportable stench that the priests had to accelerate the service. His son, William Rufus, arranged the decoration of the tomb, and the Archbishop of York added the epitaph ~
Rex magnus parva jacet hic Guillelmus in urna:
Sufficit huic magno parva domus domino.

(Here William, the great king, lies in a small urn:
A tiny dwelling is sufficient for this great lord.)
Tomb of William the Conqueror
He rested thus until 1522 when a Cardinal came from Rome to authorise the opening of the tomb. The body was examined and reinterred with appropriate ceremony, but in 1562 the Calvinists devastated the church, destroyed the monuments, looted the tomb, and scattered its contents. Only a thighbone was saved.
In 1642 the miraculously preserved thighbone was reburied in a new tomb in the centre of the choir, but this was later judged to be inconvenient for the processions and Louis XV granted permission for the thighbone to be moved to a vault in the sanctuary. Then in the revolutionary riots of 1793 this too was violated, but in 1802, when life was quieter, what was left of the Duke's remains were covered with a simple marble slab to record the final resting place of the "Invincible William, Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, King of England".

Sic transit gloria mundi.

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