Arms of Norman d’Arcy


From the Dering Roll (c. 1270-1300)

Blazon: Argent three cinquefoils gules

There’s not a whole lot of information on Norman d’Arcy, who has got to be the third or fourth Norman in that family. Probably born around 1220 in Nocton, where his father was the lord, he died after a fairly uneventful (or at least unrecorded) life around 1314. He was the fourth son, which may make you wonder why the arms aren’t differenced, but it looks like he was the oldest (and maybe the only) son left alive when the Dering Roll was compiled.

(And yes, Austenites, this could conceivably be *the* Darcy’s coat of arms.)

Arms of Bleddyn ap Cynfyn

Bleddyn ap Cynfyn

(? – 1073)

Blazon: Or a lion rampant gules armed and langued azure

Bleddyn “inherited” Gwynedd after the death of his half-brother Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, by which I mean that Harold Godwinson installed Bleddyn as ruler in 1063 after defeating and killing Gruffydd. Bleddyn swore allegiance to Harold, as did his brother Rhiwallon ap Cynfyn, who was granted rule of Powys. Their allegiance didn’t last five years; by 1067, the ap Cynfyn brothers were invading Godwinson’s home base in Hereford. Two years later, Rhiwallon died, and Gruffydd’s sons challenged their half-uncle for the throne. Bleddyn won. In 1073, Rhys ab Owain of Deheubarth killed Bleddyn and took over both Gwynedd and Powys. Gwynedd ended up going to Trahaearn ap Caradog, but Powys eventually passed to Bleddyn’s third son, Maredudd ap Bleddyn, establishing the House of Mathrafal. (Please insert the usual disclaimers about the improbability of Bleddyn using these arms during his lifetime, given the nascent-to-nonexistent state of Welsh heraldry at the time.)

Arms of Ralph Basset

Ralph Basset

From the Dering Roll (c. 1270-1300)

Blazon: Or four palets gules a canton ermine

In a delightfully convenient turn of events, the Ralph Basset featured on the Dering Roll is also fairly well-known, and the timelines line up perfectly. His father, also named Ralph, was also part of the Second Baron’s War on the losing side, and died at Evesham. Simon de Montfort had named the senior Ralph Baron of Drayton, and the title eventually passed, or was regranted, to this Ralph in 1295. This may or may not have had something to do with Ralph Jr.’s service as the governor of Edinburgh Castle under Edward I.

Some depictions of the Basset arms have paly of six or and gules instead, and by the time of this Ralph’s grandson (yet another Ralph, because why mess with a good thing?) towards the end of the fourteenth century, it looks like the arms had morphed into or three piles points meeting in base gules, a quarter ermine – but the visual similarity is still very strong.

Arms of Rhys ap Tewdwr

Rhys ap Tewdr

(c. 1040 – 1093)

From Encyclopedia of Heraldry by John Burke and John Bernard Burke (1844)

Blazon: Gules a lion rampant within a bordure indented or

This week, we’re going from the almost-historically-grounded arms attributed to Llywelyn ap Gruffudd to the absolutely spurious arms attributed to Rhys ap Tewdwr and the House of Dinefwr. It is a pretty common attribution, but given that the power of Dinefwr and their realms of Deheubarth had faded considerably by the time heraldry started to gain traction in Wales, I’m somewhat skeptical that these arms have any basis in historical fact.

Anyway. Given that Rhys ap Tewdwr died in literally the eleventh century, we don’t have a whole lot of information about him. He was descended from Rhodri the Great via Cadell ap Rhodri and Hywel Dda. His last wife, Gwladys ferch Rhiwallon of Powys, had a daughter named Nest, whose descendants include the families of FitzGerald and de Barry. Unfortunately, Rhys’ death led to the breakup of his lands, with his heir Gruffydd ending up with some, and the Normans ending up with a whole lot more.

Arms of Robert FitzRoger


From the Dering Roll (c. 1270-1300)

Blazon: Argent a lion rampant sable

So, I’m not really sure what’s going on with this. There is a well-documented Robert FitzRoger of Clavering Castle, son of Roger FitzJohn of Warkworth Castle, who lived at precisely the same time as the Dering Roll was compiled. However, he is also cited in the Falkirk Roll, compiled in 1298… with completely different arms (per quarterly or and gules, a bend sable). The Burkes cite the latter arms in their A genealogical and heraldic history of the commoners of Great Britain and Ireland enjoying territorial possessions or high official rank; but uninvested with heritable honours, but I’m not sure how much credence to give that. Either one of those rolls is wrong, or the Dering Roll is representing another person with the same name who has somehow escaped all other historical notice. The quarterly or and gules a bend sable had to have been used fairly early on, since it seems to have carried over into other cadet branches of the family with some modifications. I don’t have a good idea of where the lion could have come from; my best guess is the Earls of Dunbar, the family of Robert’s mother Isabel, but I’m not very confident in that. They bore gules a lion rampant argent, which means the tinctures would have been pretty mangled. Oddly, it doesn’t seem like this specific blazon is used by any other family. I think I’ll just have to chalk this up to the inconsistent documentation of the thirteenth century.

Arms of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd


(c. 1223 – 1282)

From Encyclopedia of Heraldry by John Burke and John Bernard Burke (1844)

Blazon: Per quarterly or and gules four lions passant guardant counterchanged

Llywelyn ap Gruffudd was the great-great-grandson of Owain ap Gruffudd, and the last sovereign prince of Wales. Just to give you an idea of the… lack of priority the Burkes give to fact-checking, they give Llywelyn’s date of death as 1272 – one decade earlier than he actually died, at the Battle of Orewein Bridge. Orewein Bridge marked the final victory of Edward I over the Welsh, and the effective end of Welsh independence.

This is actually not as unfounded as the other arms of the Welsh tribes. Llewelyn lived right about the time that we start seeing evidence of the use of heraldry in Wales, so it’s not out of the question that he might have used arms. I can’t find any solid evidence that he used these arms, but they’ve developed a pretty strong association with the Kingdom of Gwynedd and Wales in general. There’s evidence (actual evidence!) that Owain Glyndŵr (c. 1359 – c. 1415) used the very similar per quarterly or and gules, four lions rampant counterchanged. Since 1911, the arms of the Prince of Wales have used the arms the Burkes attribute to Llywelyn as an escutcheon of pretense. Moreover, the arms of the Gwynedd County Council, until 1996, had a chief party of three, I and III or a lion passant guardant gules armed and langued azure, II gules a lion rampant or.

Arms of Owain ap Gruffudd

Owain ap Gruffudd

(c. 1100 – 1170)

From Encyclopedia of Heraldry by John Burke and John Bernard Burke (1844)

Blazon: Vert three eaglets displayed in fess or

Again, these arms are retroactively (if commonly) attributed to Owain, but there is zero evidence he used a coat of arms at all, let alone this particular one. If this were legitimate, it would actually be pretty decent evidence against heraldry as we understand it being used at this point in Welsh history; if that had been the case, I’d expect to see some similarities between the arms of the father and those of his eldest (surviving) son and heir.

Anyway, Owain spent the first several years of his reign pushing the borders of Gwynedd outwards. However, he lost several territories when Henry II of Ireland invaded in 1157. Owain did eventually regain his conquests after Henry’s main Welsh ally died, and a second English invasion failed due to terrible weather.