Monday 30 January 2017

Queer Achievement : A Pioneering Campaigner

[Achievement – the name given in heraldry to the full pictorial representation of a coat of arms.]

In 1955 when John Wolfenden was chairing the committee which would influence the decision to partially decriminalise homosexual activity in England only 3 self-identifying gay men agreed to come forward to give evidence. One of them was a highly respected eye surgeon called Patrick Trevor-Roper (1916-2009).

One of Patrick’s suggestions to the committee was the equalisation of the age of consent which in 1955 was 16 for heterosexuals. The committee finally decided on 21 years for homosexuals. Even after the Sexual Offences Act 1967 was passed Patrick Trevor-Roper continued to campaign for the equal age of consent. This was finally achieved only in 2001.

Patrick was also a co-founder of the UK’s AIDS organisation the Terrence Higgins Trust which held its first meeting at his home.

Patrick came from a family that can be traced back to ancient Welsh dynasties. His heraldic achievement and that of his brother, historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, Baron Dacre of Glanton, is illustrated below. The shield is divided into quarters which show the arms belonging to their ancestors, the Trevors and the Ropers.
The 2nd and 3rd quarters are the arms of the Trevor family – a lion rampant on ermine. The Trevors are an ancient Welsh family that can be traced with certainty back to the family of a man who is referred to these days as Tudor Trevor. He lived exactly 1,100 years ago. The traditional Welsh genealogies of that period give him a royal ancestry. Despite his name there is no direct male-line connection with the future Tudor kings and queens of England.

Tudor Trevor can best be described as a chieftain of an area on the modern English-Welsh border. In the 9th and 10th centuries when he lived there was no such thing as heraldry as we know it today. When it developed several hundred years later the heralds devised coats of arms for all the royal and noble families from their past. These are called attributed arms because there’s no way those families of the past could ever have used them. Think of it like cell phone companies listing phone numbers for people like Queen Victoria, George Washington, Confucius or Cleopatra.

Another modern concept that was absent in early medieval Wales was hereditary surnames. By the time surnames came into common usage in Welsh dynasties there were many descendants of Tudor Trevor who adopted different names (e.g. the present Trevor, Mostyn and Lloyd-David families, among others) but they all adopted the same attributed coat of arms.

One addition made by Patrick’s ancestor was the square to the corner of the Trevor arms and the adoption of a wyvern as crest. Both of these seem to have originated in 1809 when Patrick’s great-great-grandfather Cadwallader Roper inherited the Trevor name and arms from a cousin. Neither of them seem to have been used by the Trevor family prior to this. One later alteration made for Patrick and his brother Hugh was to change the colour of both the corner square and the wyvern from black to sanguine, a shade of red that is rarely used in heraldry. This is to distinguish their coat of arms from that of a distant cousin, Baron Teynham, who is also a Trevor-Roper.

The Roper coat of arms in the 1st and 4th quarters date back to the late 1200s. The earliest member of the family recorded as bearing them, or at least being attributed to him by later heralds, was Edwin Roper in the reign of King Edward I. As with the Trevor crest, the Roper crest of a lion has been changed from black to sanguine.

The Latin motto of the Roper family is shown below the shield. In translation it reads “My hope is in God”. As with previous achievements I’ve coloured the back of the motto scroll in appropriate lgbt colours. This helps to distinguish it from the arms of his straight brother, Lord Dacre of Glanton.

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