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Old Screeds

Origins 5 [9 February 06] King Stephen's Wemic

It's neat to think that the wemic has been independently created at least three times over the ages. When Dave Sutherland invented the wemic for Dungeons and Dragons in 1982, was he aware of the ancient Assyrian urmahlullu? And did King Stephen of England have it in mind when picking his own coat of arms? Most likely, I think, no to both.

I found out about King Stephen last June -- his coat of arms depicts a wemic. I blogged about that then, but had no art to post. Since then, I did some more poking around and found this post on a history and heraldry bulletin board:

The mss LI4, lodged at the Royal College of Heralds says that King Stephen's coat of arms was gules, a sagittary or. A sagittary is a half man half lion figure similar to those used to depict the star sign Sagittarius, the man half with a drawn bow.

I tracked down the author of that post, a gentleman named Richard Hayton, of, who told me this:

My source for the reference to King Stephen's coat of arms comes from "Kings and Queens of England" edited by Lady Antoina Fraser, heraldic consultant J.P. Brooke-Little, Richamond Herald of Arms, 1975 edition, p. 52. The reference number is an internal one for the archives of the College of Arms, to whom you will need to make personal application should you want to confirm the source. This device is very very rare in heraldry, most dedicated glossaries and dictionaries do not have entries for it, so, having the College of Heralds as THE source, it would seem therefore to be impeccable.

Thanks again to the marvel of Google's effort to scan every book in existence, I found the reference in Lady Fraser's book! Here is a quote from page 46 of the new revision of The Lives of the Kings and Queens of England:

Stephen's arms are illustrated beside those of the Normans and consist of a gold sagittary on red. This coat is given in College of Arms manuscript L14 but a coat consisting of three sagittaries firing over their shoulders is also frequently used.

I took the liberty of taking a screen snapshot of this page from Google, so that you can see it yourself, and more interestingly, the following page, which illustrates the coats of arms she describes. Here's what it looks like:

Sagittary Coat of Arms.

For a future screed -- find an illustration of the version that has three wemics shooting over their shoulders!

Update [13 Feb] Fixed a few typos, rewrote the lead a bit, added a Wikipedia link on King Stephen.

Home | This page last modified: 13 February 06