More on William Marshall

Since I’ve always been interested in heraldry, and deeply distrust online search results, which so often depend on something unexpected in the search terms, one of my bits of research involved an email to the College of Heralds, asking about William’s coat of arms. I received a commendably prompt and completely unperturbed reply from the Officer-in-Waiting, Rouge Dragon Poursuivant, telling me that:

The left-hand side of the shield, from the viewer’s point of view, should be Or, meaning gold (or yellow). The right-hand side should be Vert, meaning green. The lion should be Gules, meaning red, and it should be rampant, meaning it is upight and standing on its left foot with its right foot slightly raised off the ground.”

You’d think embroiderers emailed for advice every day of the week! Maybe they do, of course…

I had painted a whole series of variants on the design, and then had another thought, namely – maybe I wasn’t exploring all the variations possible. I attempted to do the exploration on my computer, but went to bed that evening with a ligament in my arm squealing. Back to the paintbox!

So I fished out one of my largest blocks of paper, and painted the chateau with a bit more wall on either side, and an actual path, and then painted a separate William, so that I could move him around on the background and experiment with cropping.

I’ve left his shield as white and green in the design for now. I intend to use underside couching for the “sky”, but I’ve not yet decided whether to use couched gold or silk thread on the shield, and making sure the colours are different in the design will help me to remember I have a decision to make.

I’m still havering, but encouraged by Tanya Bentham, who wrote the book that started me on this, I’m thinking about the third of the four options in this post. As Tanya pointed out on Instagram, in the medieval period people messed around with scale and perspective quite cheerfully, so I have no need to make sure my knight will fit through the gate!


  1. Sue Jones says:

    Definitely the third option. This is a picture of Will on a horse, not of a castle gateway except as a bit of background. (A realistic to-scale man on horse on the approach to the gate would be too tiny for any details. Your smallest is much bigger than that. He could be on a convenient hill, a lot nearer the viewer, if you want a rational excuse for his size.)
    You are going to have fun with this.

  2. Carolyn Foley says:

    Yes William should be the main feature in this (and his horse). (I do like Tanya Bentham’s work.)

  3. How wonderful to get such detailed reply, and so promptly.

  4. Jen Mullen says:

    How helpful! Prompt and to the point reply. 🙂

  5. Excellent research. I’d go for the 4th option. He looks a bit like a giant on the third.

  6. Sheryl says:

    This looks like a fun project. I´m interested in Heraldry also and had a kind and prompt reply from the College of Heralds too on my inquiring about coats of arms.