“Eleanor” has been my favorite girl’s name ever since I read about twelfth-century diva Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122 – 1204). When her father the Duke of Aquitaine died, Eleanor inherited half the territory of France. After the Pope annulled her first marriage to King Louis VII, Eleanor eloped with Henry Plantagenet, Duke of Normandy, a great-grandson of William the Conqueror. Two years later, Henry II and Eleanor were crowned King and Queen of England.
Eleanor was described by her contemporaries as perpulchra – more than beautiful. In an era when women had limited autonomy, Eleanor carved out an extraordinary career as a political player and as a patron of the arts.
Many folks encounter Eleanor of Aquitaine in the 1968 movie The Lion in Winter, which depicts a stormy Christmas gathering of Plantagenet family and friends. Katharine Hepburn won her third Oscar for playing Eleanor. (Technically Miss Hepburn tied with Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl). Peter O’Toole played Henry II. In their youthful film debuts, Anthony Hopkins played King Henry’s heir Richard the Lionhearted, and Timothy Dalton played the family’s political rival (and Richard’s secret ex-lover) Louis’ successor King Phillip II of France.
However, I first learned about Eleanor of Aquitaine from the charming biography A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver, by beloved children’s author E.L. Konisburg.
When Eleanor was born my ex and I gave her the same middle name as both her grandmothers: Eileen. And we hyphenated her surname: Leishman-Lehmann.
As a result, my daughter’s full signature – Eleanor Eileen Leishman-Lehmann – is an endless whorl of L and E.
|Fig. 2: Tomb of Sir Anthony Ashley, Bt. (1555 - 1628) at St. Giles Wimborne Church|
It’s a hyphenated heraldry story.
|Fig. 3: Classic heraldry reference textbook by the second son of ironmonger Tom Davies and “Maria Jane Fox, the daughter and coheiress of Alderman John Fox, JP”|
I’ve always been fascinated by the rules for designing and describing coats of arms. As I previously confessed, the book that has survived the longest on my shelves is a battered pocket Manual of Heraldry that I found in a used bookstore in Vancouver while still in elementary school.
My ancient primer still covers all the basics. But fortunately for readers – or unfortunately – nowadays I also have desktop access to Google Images, Wikipedia, and the exhaustive Complete Guide to Heraldry by eminent Victorian Arthur Charles Fox-Davies, Barrister-at-Law.
When a family obtains their first coat of arms, they usually start with something simple. Then as descendants proliferate, different branches of the family can distinguish themselves by adding additional features. For example, the emblem of an ermine “cinquefoil” (a five-petaled flower) on a blue background has long been associated with English names like Ashley and Astley. The gentleman represented by the Ashley arms pictured above has added an ermine border.
In the shield below, another Ashley branch has instead added three gold stars, which are called “mullets” in the strange Franglais of medieval heraldry:
|Fig. 5: Azure, a cinquefoil ermine between three mullets or|
In addition to increased complexity as descendants divide, family unions also can complicate a coat of arms’ design. One of marriage’s primary purposes is to consolidate wealth. A lucrative merger justifies commissioning a new shield that highlights both families’ contributions. Family arms can be combined in various arrangements depending on aesthetics and emphasis, such as side to side, top to bottom, superimposed, or quarterly.
For example, Sir Anthony Ashley, Bt. had a younger brother, Sir Francis Ashley, MP. Sir Francis’s daughter and heir Dorothy Ashley married Denzil Holles, 1st Baron Holles of Ifield. Their son Francis Holles, 2nd Baron Holles, was born a year before the death of his great-uncle Sir Anthony. Lord Holles chose a coat of arms that combined the Holles family shield, in the top left and bottom right quadrants, with the Ashleys’ cinquefoil in the top right and bottom left corners:
In heraldryspeak the term “quartering” is not literal. To the contrary, quartering can refer to any number of individual “fields” added to a shield.
During a remodel of the Temple family seat at Stowe, Sir John Soames designed an Armorial with 726 quarterings that represented the distinguished ancestors of the Duke of Buckingham & Chandos. The Armorial combines the arms of the Temple, Nugent, Brydges, Chandos, and Grenville families, which include ten variations of the English Royal arms, as well as the shields of other famous nobles from English history like Spencer, Mowbray, Mortimer, Percy, and De Grey.
|Fig. 7: Detail from plans for the ceiling of the Gothic Library at historic Stowe House (1805)|
The name Ashley is an example of a “topological” or geographic surname because it was first used by Anglo-Saxon families who lived near ash trees. Other English surnames reflect occupational, patronymic, or descriptive origins, like “Smith,” “Johnson,” and “Short.” Regardless of the original source of a surname, however, family history often focuses on real property. Plus sexism.
The lavish seventeeth-century tomb of Sir Anthony Ashley, Bt., Figure 2 above, is topped by Sir Anthony’s coat of arms at the time of his death. The thirteen fields on his escutcheon collectively tell the story of historic St. Giles House and its attached 5,000 acres of Dorset, sort of like a visual title search report. Despite passing through the grip of various profligate gamblers as well as a few distinguished statesmen, for over a thousand years the property has changed hands only by inheritance and never by purchase.
Early records show the property was owned by a family named Malmayne. However, the Malmaynes eventually ran out of male heirs, and the property passed to the Plecy family when Matilda Malmayne married Sir John Plecy. By 1375 the manor was known as St. Giles Upwymbourne Plecy. The Plecy arms feature six red “annulets” or rings arranged on a silver background (argent, six annulets gules three two and one).
Unfortunately, Sir John’s son Sir Edmund died without a male heir. The property passed to Joan Plecy, who married Sir John Hamelyn, Sheriff of Somerset. The Hamelyn arms consist of three bulls on a silver field (argent, three bulls passant sable armed and unguled or). John’s only heir, the euphoniously named Egidia Hamelyn, married Robert Ashley in 1438. It was a well-timed and lucrative merger. Robert brought wealth. Egidia brought the St. Giles Wimborne house. The estate has belonged to the Ashleys, Ashley Coopers, and Ashley-Coopers ever since.
With the benefit of Egidia and Robert’s combined fortunes, the family thrived under the Lancasters, Yorks, and Tudors. When Robert’s great-great-great grandson Sir Henry Ashley III died, St. Giles House passed to his cousin Anthony Ashley, a gay government bureaucrat.
|Fig. 8: Detail from the tomb of Sir Anthony Ashley, Bt. (Fig. 1)|
By the time of his death in 1628, the new owner of St. Giles House had married, produced a daughter, and been named a knight-baronet by James I. Sir Anthony’s family escutcheon became cluttered with a total of nine non-Ashley quarterings on the shield. There’s also a superimposed miniature “inescutcheon” featuring one red hand, which is the arms of Ulster (argent, a hand couped gules). All baronets are allowed to add the Ulster shield as an “honorable augmentation” to remind everyone the fees from the crown’s initial creation of the rank of baronet went to King James’s efforts to subdue Northern Ireland and fill it with Protestants.
A quartering containing the traditional Ashley cinquefoil-on-blue has the prime position in the top left corner of the shield, and is repeated in the bottom right corner. Two of the other fields on the top row each shows three black bulls. The bulls represent Sir Anthony’s Hamelyn ancestors. The first herd, in the top left corner, is set against a silver background, while the second threesome cavorts on a gold field. Between the bulls is a quartering representing Sir Anthony’s wife Jane Okeover, the mother of his daughter and sole heir Anne: an ermine background topped with three gold coins on a red band. Like the Ashley quarterings, the Okeover arms repeat in the bottom row (ermine, on a chief gules three bezants or).
Presumably the remaining quarterings on Sir Anthony’s shield represent other brides whose dowry justified a trip to the College of Heralds to update the family arms, including the Malmayne family who originally bought or stole the St. Giles Wimborne estate.
Fig. 9: Detail from John Guillim’s A Display of Heraldrie (1660)
Gules, a bend engrailed between six lions rampant or, as an Honourable Distinction the arms of Ulster
“Cooper” originated as an occupational surname for someone who made barrels. Sir Anthony Ashley’s grandson and namesake Anthony Ashley Cooper inherited the Baronetcy of Rockbourne when young Anthony’s father Sir John Cooper, Bt. died in 1629.
The younger Sir Anthony also inherited his father’s simple Cooper coat of arms, Figure 9. He used dad’s red-with-gold-lions-and-wiggly-stripe shield until King Charles II elevated Sir Anthony to the peerage in 1661.
As Sir Anthony Ashley, Bt.’s tomb decoration exemplifies, what starts as a simple family coat of arms – like the Ashley ermine cinquefoil on a blue background – can easily become cluttered by strategic mergers among the nobility.
Few families generate anything like the hundreds of quarterings on the Gothic Library Armorial at Stowe House that is depicted in Figure 7. That took centuries. Nevertheless, look what happened in only three generations between the arms of the 1st Duke of Marlborough, who died without heirs through a male line (Fig. 10), and the arms of his grandson the third Duke:
|Fig. 11: Arms of Charles Spencer, 3rd Duke of Marlborough (1706 - 1758)|
Eventually someone has the bright idea of consolidation. A similar process happens with law firms. For example, after a series of earlier mergers and renamings, Seattle’s Davis, Wright, Jones & Todd merged with Portland’s Ragen, Tremaine, Kreiger in 1990. Their combined name was selectively pared down to Davis Wright Tremaine – my former firm.
As you can see from Figure 17 below, at some point between the tenures of the third Duke of Marlborough and his grandson the fifth duke, someone quietly deleted all their ancestors’ quarterings except for Spencer and Churchill. Then in 1817, the Prince Regent authorized George Spencer, 5th Duke of Marlborough, to “use the surname Churchill, in addition to and after that of Spencer.” The purpose of the crown’s license was to perpetuate the surname of the duke’s “illustrious ancestor” who “by long series of transcendent and heroic achievements” had added “imperishable lustre” to the Churchill name.
The Prince Regent also directed the College of Arms to register a quarterly shield that reversed the positions of the Churchill and Spencer arms, and added the Honourable Augmentation of a superimposed royal shield representing the former royal manor of Woodstock, now Blenheim Palace – the gift of Queen Anne and a grateful nation after the first duke’s dazzling military victories.
The fifth Duke of Marlborough’s descendants have used this shield as their coat of arms ever since:
|Fig. 12: Detail from gates of Blenheim Palace, originally displayed in the Crystal Palace at the Great Exposition (1851)|
|Fig. 13: Arms of Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (1874 – 1874)|
As with merging law firms and royal licensees, when families level up they have the opportunity to tidy the letterhead. After King Charles II promoted Sir Anthony’s grandson Lord Ashley from a baron to an earl in 1672, the Earl of Shaftesbury asked the College of Arms for a family shield that simply combined Ashley with Cooper:
During the family’s heraldic consolidation, Lord Shaftesbury abandoned his grandfather’s Ashley cinquefoil-on-blue shield. Instead, out of all his maternal forebears, the earl chose the Hamelyn triple bulls to represent the Ashley side of his family. Then he doubled down on the new theme by adding a black bull with gold horns and hooves as his crest on top, as well as yet another bull as one of the supporters holding up the shield. (The second supporter is a tablot hound, a predescessor of the beagle.)
Perhaps his lordship’s choice was purely artistic, or it reflects an allergy to the fur or flower in the traditional Ashley shield. Sometimes you’re in the mood for something more butch. Or maybe he wanted a reminder that the best thing the Ashleys ever did was marry into the Hamelyn family and acquire lovely St. Giles House. As someone who happens to be both an Ashley and a Taurus, I’m glad he picked the bulls.
|Fig. 16: Detail from the Ashley Cooper arms|
Argent, three bulls passant sable, armed and unguled or
In addition to simplifying his family coat of arms, the Earl of Shaftesbury also formally adopted the double name that his descendants continue to bear today: Ashley Cooper.
In the Anglo-American tradition, a “double name” is a surname that consists of two separate words as a single unit. They’re pronounced with a single primary emphasis, like “Mayflower’s” rather than “May flowers.” In contrast with your first and middle name or names, a double surname automatically passes to your descendants.
The practice was particularly common in Wales because the Welsh only had a handful of surnames to choose from (Jones, Lloyd, Davies, Williams, etc.). You can therefore safely alphabetize each of the following personnel files under the letter that begins the “penultimate” or second-to-last word: David Lloyd George, Ralph Vaughn Williams, and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
In England, double surnames are generally referred to by the intimidating nickname of “double-barreled” names. Double-barreled surnames resulted from a shotgun wedding of sorts among the gentry. An expanded surname can preserve to some extent an illustrious family name that would otherwise have gone completely extinct along with the last male descendant bearing the name – just like so many of the family names represented by the quarterings illustrated in Fig. 7 and Fig. 8 above.
Triple surnames are possible but uncommon. The five-hyphenated record is usually credited to the nobleman whose heritage inspired the extravagant armorial in Figure 7: Richard Plantagenet Campbell Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, 3rd (and last) Duke of Buckingham & Chandos, 2nd (and last) Marquess of Buckingham, 3rd Earl Temple of Stowe, 5th (and last) Earl Nugent, 7th Viscount Cobham, and 10th Lord Kinloss.
Sometimes when a man marries an heiress he has enough confidence in his masculinity to append her surname to his own. Or at least to add it to his children’s surname.
In the United Kingdom, double-barreled names can be either hyphenated or unhyphenated, which easily causes confusion. File Kristen Scott Thomas under S, Phoebe Waller-Bridge under W, and Helena Bonham Carter under B (although Ms. Bonham Carter has been quoted as saying her hyphen is optional). Autism researcher Sir Simon Baron-Cohen hyphenates. His Kazakhstani cousin Sasha does not.
Modern Ashley-Coopers now insist on hyphens. In contrast, as Fig. 17, Fig. 13, Fig. 14, and Fig. 15 suggest, dropping the hyphen can be the final step before switching to a favourite single surname.
|Fig. 18: Leishman family mug available for purchase online|
Shield: Gules, three swans argent; Motto: Industriae manus (“hands of industry”)
Here in the States, double-barreled surnames are generally called “hyphenated” names. Our modern phenomenon uses sheer punctuation to unite two families, without any cash or real estate directly involved. Just the names, and the families, and the rest of their baggage.
|Fig. 19: Or, rose gules, seeded or, barbed vert. Aber auf Deutsch.|
As Arthur Fox-Davies noted in A Complete Guide to Heraldry, traditionally the most important name in any double-barreled surname was the last name in the series, like placing the verb at the end of a German sentence:
In the coat of arms for a double name, the arms for the last and most important name are the first and fourth quarterings. By a rare exception Lord Shaftesbury bears the arms of Ashley in the first and fourth quarters, and Cooper in the second and third.
Before literacy, elementary school queues, phone books, and the internet, no one really made alphabetizing a priority, and husbands called all the shots. Things are very different nowadays. Google any random bridal website and you’ll learn “there are no set rules or etiquette when it comes to deciding exactly how your hyphenated last name will read.” According to Brides magazine, “The only decision is which surname sounds better before the hyphen and which should come after.”
|Fig. 20: Quarterly, 1 & 4 gules, three swans argent (for Leishman); 2 & 3 or, rose gules, seeded or, barbed vert (for Lehmann)|
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If we knew then what we know now, we probably would not give Eleanor her hyphenated surname. “Leishman” and “Lehmann” are too similar, yet no one can remember which ends with the double nn. Regardless of word order or hyphenation, our combined surnames sound like they belong in the PBS sponsorship for a Wall Street brokerage firm.
In any event, filling out forms with a long hyphenated name is an invitation to a lifetime of own-goal confusion. Let’s just say that after a few years’ real world experience we gave both of the other kids the plain surname “Leishman.” Eleanor’s unique double surname gradually disappeared as a practical matter, with no sign of the Lehmann barrel except on formal documents. A few years later my ex got married and changed his surname anyway.
Despite my personal preference for keeping things simple, I hope Eleanor marries some earnest hippie boy who insists on keeping both his parents’ surnames. For example, Figure 21 represents what a joint coat of arms would look like if my daughter married someone named “Harry Ashley-Churchill.”
I look forward to spoiling my quadruple-hyphenated grandchildren. Tom Daley can teach me to knit heraldic onesies. Nevertheless, in contrast with the demands of my seventeenth-century namesake and fellow homosexual Sir Anthony Ashley, Bt., no one will need to be named Roger, Ashley, or Leishman as a condition of staying in the will.
|Fig 22: Arms of the last Duke of Buckingham & Chandos (1823 – 1889), located in the ceiling of the Headmaster’s Study at The Stowe School|