Thursday, 19 May 2011
I’m sure most people have encountered those business that peddle items emblazoned with ‘your family coat of arms’, determined purely by surname, not by any genealogical research. With the Court of Chivalry no longer sitting, this can be regarded as a harmless bit of fun, appealing to the gullible and the heraldically ignorant (online ones particularly aimed at the American market, it seems, about which I make no further comment) – but on no account should they or their dubious claims be taken seriously.
The Kingston Arms currently has this on its signboard.
When I first saw it, I was puzzled. ‘What has the Duchy of Brabant to do with this pub?’ I wondered. But a little searching reveals that it’s nothing to do with the Low Countries at all: a number of these ‘family heraldry’ companies offer this as the coat of arms belonging to the surname Kingston. No pedigree, no genealogy, just the shield: sable a lion rampant or.
But does it have anything to do with the pub?
Of course not! It took a little intelligent digging (more than went into the selection of this device for the pub, obviously), but I finally found out that the Kingston family entitled to bear these arms were lords of one of the manors of Kingston Bagpuize in far-away Berkshire (Oxfordshire since 1974). The line became extinct in 1515 and the manor was sold out of the family in 1545. Well, at least there’s no one alive to challenge the appropriation of their arms.
The Kingston from whom the street and the pub take their respective names was in fact one Thomas Kingston, known locally as ‘Miser’ Kingston, who owned houses in nearby Sleaford Street. He wore shabby clothes, had a long beard, and frightened children, apparently. He also had a reputation for watering the farm workers’ beer, which is not really the sort of reputation that a self-respecting pub would want to associate itself with, but there you go.
He was not, however, an armiger, so the very name of the pub is a bit fake to start with, a fakery which the present sign compounds.
Gray, R., and D. Stubbings, Cambridge Street-names: Their origins and associations. CUP 2000