[Achievement – the name given in heraldry to the full pictorial representation of a coat of arms.]
One of my favourite historical lgbt people is Sir FrancisBacon (1561-1626). He was a true man of many talents – a statesman, a
scientist, a philosopher and a writer. Before I go into his coat of arms you
may like to read about his philosophical credentials in his entry in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Basically, Sir Francis Bacon was among the first
champions of the belief in proper investigation, observation and
experimentation of the natural world. He was also a leading statesman of his
time and his coat of arms shown below illustrates that.
Francis Bacon was born in 1561, the son of Sir Nicholas
Bacon, a prominent statesman at the court of Queen Elizabeth I. On 22nd
February 1568 Sir Nicholas and his brothers were granted a coat of arms which
was inherited by their descendants including, of course, Sir Francis Bacon.
Below is his full achievement of arms.
The shield show two coats of arms quartered together. In the
top left and bottom right quarters are the arms of the Bacon family, and in the
other quarters are the arms of the Quaplode family. The Quaplodes were a landed
family in Norfolk whose heiress married into the Bacons. Their descendants
inherited both arms in this configuration. This would also be the coat of arms
used by Sir Francis’s older brother Anthony Bacon. Both used cadency marks to
indicate which son of Sir Nicholas they were. Anthony, as the 4th
son, would have put a small bird called a martlet on his shield. Sir Francis,
as 5th son, put a small circle called an annulet on his. I have not
shown this annulet in my painting because Sir Francis is the only member of his
family who was entitled to use any of the other devices you can see.
What can we see that tells us that this is the specific coat
of arms of Sir Francis Bacon and not anyone else in his family? We need to
follow his political career to decode the design. With each new appointment the
paraphernalia surrounding the shield changed. Originally Sir Francis would have
used a shield, including his cadency mark, with a simple helmet like the one is
shown in Michelle Dumaresq’s achievement. In 1603 Francis was knighted, which
meant he changed his helmet for one with an open visor, as used by other
knights such as Sir Elton John.
In 1617 Sir Francis was appointed Lord Keeper of the Great
Seal. This high office of state would have enabled him to show a representation
of the Privy Purse which contained the Great Seal below his shield. I’ve tried
to find a good quality image of the Privy Purse he would have used to no avail,
so I haven’t show it.
Sir Francis was appointed Lord High Chancellor of England
and was created a peer of the realm with the title Baron Verulam. This was the
highest position in the state that any member o f the lgbt community had held
since Sir Piers Gaveston, King Edward II’s lover, was appointed Guardian of the
Realm in 1307.
The Lord High Chancellor is still one of the highest offices
of state. If you have ever watched coverage of the State Opening of Parliament
you would have seen the Chancellor of the day hand the speech to the Queen from
the steps of the throne in the House of Lords. You would also have seen an
Usher carrying the ceremonial mace which is placed in front of the Queen. Sir
Francis was entitled to show this mace, 2 of them, behind his shield.
On being created a Baron Verulam Sir Francis would have
changed his helmet again. As a peer he used the more elaborate helmet with a
gold barred visor you see here. Modern peers are entitled to place a coronet
sitting on top their shield to show their rank of nobility. During his lifetime
there was no coronet for a baron. But in 1621 he was promoted to a viscount
with them title Viscount St. Albans. His boss, King James I, authorised the use
of a coronet for viscounts, and this is the one I show.
Right at the top of the painting, on top of the helmet, is
the crest. You may think that the boar is a pun on the family name of Bacon,
bit it isn’t. The boar crest was actually that of the Quaplode family and in
the grant to Sir Nicholas’s father in 1568 replaced the original Bacon crest
which was a griffin. The family motto at the bottom translates as “Mediocrity
Sir Francis resigned as Lord High Chancellor in 1621 over a
bribery scandal and the use of the maces behind his shield was stopped.
However, I like the look of the maces and it reminds me that members of the
lgbt community have been involved in the government of England for centuries.