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St Edward the Confessor: Cross (1/6)

Published by Carlos da Fonte, em 21.07.12
Edward the Confessor - Attributed Arms

Undoubtedly, this is one of the most respected and known examples among attributed arms. There are many good reasons: their use with actual arms, the mythical figure of England's patron before St George, the survival of artefacts referring his name as the throne, sceptre and crown of the English monarchs or the high esteem that heraldic matters had and still have in the British Isles. A sign of this importance is the apparent care put in the drawing of the arms attributed to him. It totals six semantic levels, each one holding a distinct metonymization for the same referent - Edward the Confessor - a rare thing to see in heraldic parophony. They appeared near the end of the 14th century incorporated in the arms of Richard II, probably inspired on a coin minted at the time of the King-Saint[1].


For the first time we may see the status of the bearer of the arms - king - as the referent's metonymy. On the one hand the cause must have been the importance of the responsibilities assumed by Edward, on the other hand the possible intentional adaptation from the sovereign's currency. It's unreasonable to guarantee that the piece was itself “canting”, as we have observed in other early numismatic and sigillographic specimens[2].


As a matter of fact it seems entirely credible: the thinness of the bars is repeated in the coat of arms, the addition of the fleurs-de-lis is specific to the heraldic language, the ornithological figurations are well diversified being only four birds initially. Such complementarities will be clearer in the next posts. Admitting the mentioned supposition we must infer the use of Old French for the parophonic coins, which isn't too hard to conceive knowing that Edward lived many years in Normandy. He took back some locals with him to England and his own mother was a Norman[3].


Indeed, Latin won't be used in verbalization now but French, or rather Anglo-Norman if the imitation of the coins can't be accepted, contrarily to what we believe, in any case the difference will be minor. It follows from our proposition that the verbalization was made with a language of influence, still not used in the court as it would be later while a language of conquest:


Ce roi (fra. this king) ~ Crois (fra. cross)[4].


Both components to compare - Ce roi and Crois - generate an absolute homophony and a null discretion index after the fortunate intervention of a metonymy. Thus, the alteration of the phoneme /s/ into /k/ happens in accordance with a diverging metonymization:


ce (roi) > ce (this) > [se]

c(roi) < c (letter c) < [se]


This metonymy is divergent for, departing from the same phonetical elements it supplies two distinct interpretations: the change into [se] of both the word ce and the letter “c”. They are together in the denominant, /s/ upstream and /k/ downstream, artificially producing the meaningless croi, only useful for a phonetical pairing with crois. Note that the phonemes' metonymy, being a semantic change, occurs during sematization, not during accommodation, which is fundamentally phonetic in nature.


Ce (fra. this) fulfils an important task during the parophonic process but only sets an elementary monosemy. It refers redundantly that this king is the king we're talking about and that he will be depicted in the parophonized arms. The sematization of the cross is even simpler as we don't have to use any tricks. The cross in the designant furnishes the heraldic trace of a cross, period.


A cross made of gold, bronze, wood or anything yellowish is perfectly adequate. In fact, tinctures agree frequently with materials that are suitable for its figurations, especially when assigned to attributed arms, usually described by “proper”, a term not always adopted. In this particular case, however, colorations result from two distinct and specific semantic levels: one for the azure in the field and another for the or in the charges, as we will see later. That's the reason to include only an outline of the cross in the corresponding picture below.


The customary implicit complements remain the same except regarding the orientation of the cross; exhaustively conformed by our culture, it is plainly obvious that a cross in the generic sense can only stand with two arms parallel to the visual horizon. It is not so for St Andrew's cross but it becomes necessary to specify its name. Crosses bear a strong cultural immanence embedded within their heraldic trace of orientation and in the very word.


It would still be necessary to justify the presence of the fleurs-de-lis ending the cross' arms. There is a huge variety of crosses in heraldry, different by thickness, shape, number, extension but, above all, by the ending of their limbs. Will it be possible that each shape may link to a semantic justification through the referent?


We can't answer the question; this example will keep us occupied for now but all the proposals put forward in the future will authorize an answer for every attribution. Arguments don't always stem from an absolute wish for meaning, they could be a mere complementation but, distinctly from a superficial ornament, they are allowed to connect with the heraldic plot, even if weakly.


Finally we must introduce the definition of aspect, a concept related with figurations, mainly those that own a geometrical character. It's similar to the classic notion of attitude designating the stance of animals. The aspect is the part of a figuration, which consistently distinguishes it from other similar figurations. Other than an independent figuration itself, the aspect helps to identify various models or types within the same shape. Blades and bows of keys, petals and thorns of flowers, ears and ribs of scallops, wavy or indented fesses will suffice to exemplify.


We come back to our need for justification. Although roi textually describes the king, the association of this concept with the sight of a simple Greek cross is far from being apparent. Furthermore, most of the already studied royal parophonizations verify the application of such heterogeneous analogies between language and image. The easier way to designate a king through an artefact is to use a separate crown; otherwise we rarely see the trace of aspect characterized by the inclusion of one or more crowns.


Singularly for the king in discussion we may find a relevant historical illustration: St Edward's Crown[5]. The existing artefact is a jewel of the British Crown, copied from an older one perhaps used by the referent. If this actually happened it's not too important to know, only that the author of the arms should have been convinced of the crown's authenticity or representability. As St Edward's Crown has four fleurs-de-lis around its circumference, they must complete the heraldic cross abiding by the metonymization:


king > crown > St Edward's Crown > four fleurs-de-lis

king > Edward > St Edward's Crown > four fleurs-de-lis


The metonymy is convergent, meaning a composition of two semantic contiguities that arrive at the same idea. It also happened in Salernum ~ Sal eremum regarding the sun. Additionally, fleurs-de-lis are frequent and characteristic elements of crowns and even if the said artefact didn't exist it would be possible to establish a connection; certainly with less expressive flair. The figuration we now study also appears under the form of a cross patonce, with concave arms growing outwards and shorter flowers, the external petals confined by the boundary. There is no reason to change our analysis but we may comment that, in this circumstance, each flower could be seen as an oversimplified crown, beyond the most obvious fleurs-de-lis.


[1] HERALDIC TIMES - The Arms of Edward the Confessor - s. d. : Accessed 18 July 2012, (now unavailable).


[2] MICHELSEN, Mike - The Coat of Arms of Edward the Confessor - Mikes passing Thoughts Blog - 2010 : Accessed 18 July 2012, available here.


[3] LUARD, Henry H. (ed.) - Lives of Edward the Confessor. La Estoire de Seint Aedward le Rei. Vita Beati Edvardi Regis et Confessoris. Vita Aeduuardi Regis qui apud Westmonasterium requiescit - London: Longman, 1858 : Accessed 18 July 2012, available here.


[4] GODEFROY, Frédéric - Dictionnaire de l'Ancienne Langue Française et de tous ses Dialectes du IXème au XVème Siècle - Paris, 1880-1895 : Accessed 18 July 2012, available here.


[5] SIDDONS, Michael - Regalia et Cérémonies du Royaume-Uni - Bulletin du Centre de Recherche du Château de Versailles, nº 2 - 2005 : Accessed 18 July 2012, available here.


 Edward the Confessor - Cross  
Attributed Arms R Edward the Confessor
Status M King
Language of influence V French
Denominant A ce roi
Redundancy S ce
S this one depicted here
Simple monosemy S this king
S this king depicted here
Diverging metonymy S ce (roi) > ce (this) > [se]
S c(roi) < c (letter c) < [se]
Graphemization A C | R | O | I
Phonemization A k | R | w | a
Pairing A k | R | w | a
A k | R | w | a
Coefficient of transposition A 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.0
Coefficient of character A 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.0
Coefficient of position A 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.0
Addends A 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.0
Discretion index A k = 0.0
Phonemization A k | R | w | a
Graphemization A C | R | O | I | S
Designant A crois
Artefact E cross
Simple monosemy S cross
S cross
Tincture H Azure
Number H 1 a
Figuration H cross cross
Symmetry C radial
Orientation C immanence
Centrality C fess point
Converging metonymy S king > crown > St Edward's Crown > 4 fleurs-de-lis
S king > Edward > St Edward's Crown > 4 fleurs-de-lis
Aspect H king flory
Placement C ending each arm of the cross
Orientation C bottoms inwards
Symmetry C = cross
Placement H cantoned with
Number H four
Figuration H martlets
Connective H and
Number H another
Placement H in base
Tincture H or


(next article in this series is II/VI)

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Published at 13:44

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Julho 2012