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Plant Heraldry

Plant Heraldry

The PLANT Coat of Arms illustrated alongside is officially documented in Burke's General Armory (1884).
The original description of the arms (shield) is as follows:-
"AR. A LABEL IN BEND AZ. IN CHIEF A ROSE GU."
When translated, this blazon describes the original colours of the Plant Arms as:-
"SILVER; A BLUE LABEL PLACED DIAGONALLY IN UPPER THIRD A RED ROSE."
Above the shield and helmet is the Crest which is described as:-
"STAG TRIPPANT GU." or a "RED STAG WALKING".
I am grateful to Member Number 95 of the Plant FHG, the late Linda Wheeler, and her sister, Ronelle Shields, for producing this colour rendering of the arms.

Possible Explanation

LABELs are generally a sign of cadetship to the head of the family. They are not uncommon, though they are usually appended to the blazon rather than being its initial item. It is also unusual for the label to slope, though the sloping can be interpreted as one of 6 ancient marks of bastardy.

The earliest known evidence that the Plant surname was hereditary in England is in 1279; the first earls of Lancaster owned a castle nearby. The sloping label might allude to an illegitimate cadetship within some such early affinity. It is not certain, however, that the blazon dates back that far and it might even be as late as a nineteenth-century invention, perhaps even designed for Burke's General Armory.

The sloping Plant label raises the question, if the arms were conferred on an individual man, whose illegitimate descendant was he? Even a time-frame eludes. At an early date, descents typically hide in medieval mystery even for the noble, let alone for the issue of less noble intrigues.

In a twentieth-century popular mythology, a ninth-century count Bernard Plantevelu of Aquitaine relates to the Merovingian tradition (see french origins). Contentious detail was elaborated in a so-called Plantard sub-plot, which included the Planta name in England. However, this has been debunked as a passing fiction at best.

Then there is a twelfth-century count of Anjou, Geffrey Plante Genest, connected through a line of English kings, to the fifteenth-century Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York. There are uncertainties concerning the legitimacies of even medieval kings. These have been brought under re-examination in the light of the latest documentary finds and, as yet, a lack of Y-DNA confirmation that their genetic paternities were genuine.

In the nineteenth century, there was a claim that the Plants had descended illegitimately from the Plantagenets though that now seems to lack substance beyond some similarities of names. Geffrey Plante Genest, a twelfth-century Count of Anjou, predates evidence for when Plantagenet became hereditary as a surname. There is extant evidence for the name de la Planta (alias de Plant') in Anjou in a 1202 document but such a name similarity does not convince one of an illegitimate family connection.

At a more modern extreme, I know of no evidence for the Plant blazon before the nineteenth century. This leaves it conceivable that it could be as late as a nineteenth-century invention. In that case, its intention could have been to emphasise illegitimacy, for example, in Plant descent from the Plantagenets which was also documented in the nineteenth century.

Note on the Plantagenet Y-DNA signature. The DNA signature has encouraged some further scepticism of the tradition that the Plantagenets themselves were an intact male-line family, all with a single Y-DNA signature. There are historically sound indications, in original documents, to bring credance to contemporary rumours of false paternity, especially for the better documented House of York. Recently, the noble Beaufort-Somerset family, who have long been attested to be male-line descendants of Edward III, have been found not to match with a skeleton for the last Plantagenet king, Richard III. Also, no Y-DNA matching has been found between the Warrens and the Cornwalls and various others who (rightly or wrongly) have claimed male-line descent from the Plantagenets.

Heraldic roses are not especially uncommon, though it is rather unexpected that the Plant red rose should be appended after the label. As the last item in the blazon, the Plant rose suggests that it is a subsequent badge of allegiance.

The main English Plant family is found in east Cheshire from around 1360 and its first known location is at the Black Prince's vaccary at Midgeley, on the Cheshire-Staffordshire county border. There are also some well-separated early records for Plant in SE Lincolnshire and these have an apparent early association to the red rose. Though they have not been established to belong to the main Plant family, there is a 1279 document for early Plants at Burgh near Bolingbrook Castle in SE Lincolnshire which was in the ownership of the first earls of Lancaster. Their red rose is believed by many to date back to that early.

A possible recipient of the arms

The Plant heraldry could perhaps be associated with a Sir John Plant of the times of the Wars of the Roses. There are three explicit documents for him, with a date range of 1469-84. These can perhaps be associated with another record for a moderately high status John Plant jnr in a 1445 attestation for the main English Plant homeland. Sir John Plant is documented in Dublin, in a prominent role as head of the household of the Archbishop primate of Ireland who was, at least according to English secular authority, under the Yorkist Primates of Ireland at that time.

We could perhaps suppose that Sir John received his augmentation, with the red rose, under the Lancastrian Queen Margaret of Anjou around the times of the 1459 Battle of Bloor Heath, which was in the main Plant family's homeland. Though Sir John's dated presence in Dublin coincides with a succession of Yorkist Primates of Ireland, we may note that, when George of Clarence was the Primate, he was accepted back into the Yorkist fold, after he had joined the 1469-71 Lancastrian rebellion. We can also consider that the red rose might have been appended to Sir John's arms after the victory of the Lancastrian King Henry VII at Bosworth Field in 1485, before the Lancastrian fervour diminished with Henry's marriage to Elizabeth of York. Given the lack of direct evidence, we can only guess at a political circumstance.

Note on George, Duke of Clarence. Richard, Duke of York is reputedly the first royal to have used Plantagenet as his family name. He had been demoted, in the eyes of the English, from being Lieutenant of France to Lieutenant of Ireland; his son George was born in Dublin Castle. After 1460, George was the only surviving brother of Edward IV and he who became Richard III. George is popularly known, following Shakespeare, as one of the famed three sons of York.

There are also other records suggesting a possible context in the main Plant homeland.

Rudyerd Arms
It is known, from the earliest available records around 1360, that the Plant name was settled in Macclesfield Hundred in east Cheshire and also in the adjoining Leek parish to the south. This parish contained Gratton Manor of the north Staffordshire Audley family whose heraldry was a yellow fretty on a red background. Out of 80 arms illustrated in John Sleigh's book the Ancient Parish of Leek, only one has a rose and none a label. This more monochrome rose is found on a canton on a monochrome fretty as the heraldry of the Rudyerd family of Leek. It is written that a Ralph Rudyerd was granted this heraldry in recognition of his slaughter of the last Yorkist king, Richard III, at Bosworth Field in 1485. It is disputed, at least, that he acted alone. In 1504, a Laurence Plonte was involved in the transfer of property in Leek parish to Ralph Rudyerd.

An artistic rendering of the Plant blazon

Blazon in a Seal Ring
This ring can be used to imprint an artistic version of the Plant blazon into a wax seal. It was made by a Plant in Australia who is a hobby jeweller and who modestly prefers to remain anonymous. It is made of silver, gold and a ruby.

An inherited casting of the Plant arms and crest

Plant arms casting
The inscription "England 1127" on this inherited casting is consistent with the nineteenth-century claim of a link between Plant and Plantagenet. In 1127, Geffrey Plante Genest of Anjou married the heiress to the English throne. Though there may well be no genetic connection to living Plants, known dated documentary evidence places Geffrey's legacy alongside the Plant name in Anjou in a 1202 document. Following on from this, there is strong name distribution evidence to suggest that the early Plants were under a Longspee-Audley feudal authority which descended from William Longspee, who was an illegitimate grandson of the aforesaid Geffrey Plantagenet. Photograph of the 15cm metal casting is by courtesy of a group member in Australia.

A commercial site offering products bearing the Plant arms

Commercial rendering of arms

Though I do not generally condone advertising and I cannot speak for the reliability of this company, it offers a range of products bearing this rendering of the Plant coat of arms: coadb.com


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