Heraldry and The Crusades, part 7.

Edward IV
The most ancient of all of the Heraldic symbols dating to the time of the crusades is the ‘bezant’ or gold coin. The term Bezant is of Eastern origin being derived from the name Byzantium, the gold roundel representing a Byzantine coin. The bezant is found upon the Coat of Arms of Burlay of Wharfdale, Gules a bezant or. The De Vere family Coat of Arms is a shield divided in four quarters in red and gold with a silver star in the first quadrant; Quarterly gules and or a mullet argent. The Arms recall an oft recouted fable of the crusades, On a dark night a band of Christians were engaged by the Turkish enemy and “God willing the safety of Christians showed a white star….. on the Christian host, which to every man’s sight did light and attest upon the standard of Aubrey de Vere, there shining excessively.”

The story of De Vere saving the band of Christians may have been exaggerated and it is more likely that the star was introduced by a junior member of the family to distinguish his Arms from those of the elder line. The same star of the De Vere’s was the cause of their defeat at the battle of Barnet in the War of the Roses. King Edward met Warwick at the battle of Barnet in 1471, image above. On Warwick’s side was De Vere, whose men were wearing the silver star from the times of the crusades on their armor. Warwick, seeing through the mist the star of De Vere, mistook it for Edwards Silver Rose, and charged against his own supporters. During the confusion the Earl of Oxford fled, Warwick was slain and the battle was lost. Soon after befell Tewkesbury, the murder of Henry VI and the destruction of the House of Lancaster. The writer Drayton tells of the incident in the following verse.
“ The envious mist so much deceived their sight,

That where eight hundred men, which valiant Oxford brought,

Wore comets on their coats, great Warwick’s force, which thought

They had King Edward’s been, which so with suns were drest,

First made their shots at them, who, by their friends distrest,

Constrained were to fly, being scatter’d here and there”
De Vere Coat of ArmsThe same star of De Vere also appears, with other emblems, in the shield of Kensington, where the De Veres were Lords of the Manor from the time of the Norman conquest in the 11th century until the beginning of the 16th century. The Saracen’s head crest of the Dawnay family among others is an obvious reminiscence of the Holy Wars, but here again the emblem as passed into the regular stock-in-trade of the Herald, and does not always denote a crusading ancestor. Bragging Arms such as these are said to have brought about the demise of Sir Reginald de Chatillon. Having personally beheaded three Saracen chiefs, he depicted their heads on his shield. Captured by Saladin, his Coat of Arms proclaimed his exploit too plainly and he was promptly beheaded


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