[Achievement – the name given in heraldry to the full pictorial representation of a coat of arms.]
There are not that many lgbt Olympians who are entitled to a
coat of arms, as far as my research has shown. There’s Francilia Agar (included
in my first Heraldic Alphabet article) and Dan Veatch (in my 2016 article).
Another is Mark Chatfield (1953-1998), and I thought I’d do his full
achievement to celebrate what should have been the Olympics this week. Here is
Mark Webster Chatfield represented the USA in swimming at
the 1972 Munich Olympics, coming 4th in the 100 metres breaststroke final.
However, he broke the Olympic record by winning his heat, a record which lasted
until the final. He was a Pan-American Games champion, and went on to train and
compete with the West Hollywood Aquatics gay swimming team. He won 6 gold
medals at the 1990 Vancouver Gay Games. He died in 1998 from lymphoma.
The coat of arms I’ve illustrated is based on those used by
his direct ancestors, the three Chatfield brothers, George, Thomas and Francis,
mentioned in my article about William Plaine, the first colonist to be executed
for sodomy in America. These are the arms of the middle brother, Thomas
Chatfield (1620-1686), as recorded in “Crozier’s General Armory”, edited by
William A. Crozier and published in 1904.
The Chatfield brothers were the great-great-grandchildren of
Richard Chatfield (1500-1586) of Chichester, England. He is the person to whom
the coat of arms were originally granted in 1564. A complete line of descent is
documented from him down to Olympian Mark. As well as the three brothers who
settled in America there’s another Chatfield, their grandfather’s brother
Thomas, who married in the Netherlands and had descendants there, the Chatvelt
family, who used the same coat of arms (as recorded by Jean-Baptiste Rietstap
in his “Armorial Général” published in 1861). Over the centuries the arms have
been represented with slight alterations.
Sometimes you can guess how old a coat of arms is by its
design, usually because a lot of Heralds had distinctive styles or the period
had a specific artistic look. The earliest coats of arms had simple shapes and
lines, or perhaps a lion or eagle. What the Chatfield arms said to me when I
first saw it was “Tudor”. This is because of the band across the top, called a
chief. Originally the chief was a plain band but in the Tudor period in England
heralds began to place various objects on them more frequently. Of course, this
is not an assumption that can be made every time you see a chief with objects
on it, but in this case I just happened to be right.
The griffin is a traditional heraldic beast (the term used
to describe mythical monsters and hybrid animals in heraldry). On a side note,
the griffin in English heraldry is always female. The male griffin (always
named as such) is unique to English heraldry and is the same eagle-lion hybrid
but has no wings and is covered in tufts of sharp spines.
Another heraldic beast is featured in the crest, an
antelope. It’s not a natural antelope, but a heraldic depiction of one, with
straight serrated horns, a down-turned horn on its nose and sharp fangs. This
resulted from medieval heralds drawing something they’d never seen but heard
vague descriptions of.
Two different mottos have been recorded for the Chatfields.
The one shown above translates as “Faithful to the end”. Crozier records
another, “Que sera sera”. Like all the colours and objects in the full
achievement we have no explanation for the choice of motto.
Although directly descended from Richard Chatfield, Mark is
not from a senior line and, technically, would have to include all the cadency
marks indicating which son of which son, etc., he descends from Richard. This could
produce a very overcrowded coat of arms obscured with dozens of cadency
emblems. People in this situation often ignore cadency and may change the
colours or quarter their arms with any they inherit from heraldic heiresses (as
in the case of Michele Duramesq’s ancestors). Also, a person could display an
unaltered coat of arms with any medals or badges of chivalry they possess
hanging below the shield. This last example is the one chosen by a famous actor,
a junior member of his family, in the photo of his arms which he sent to me
many years ago.
It is this last example which influenced my choice for Mark
Chatfield. With no state heraldic authority in the USA I would not be breaking
any heraldic convention by incorporating Mark’s Olympic medal into his full
In 2017 the World Olympians Association created an
initiative which awarded the post-nominal letters of OLY after the name of
living Olympians, past and present. The award is not automatic and athletes
have to apply personally. Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh are a couple of lgbt
Olympians who have been granted the OLY.
At the moment there’s no provision for deceased Olympians to
receive the letters. I think they should be given them automatically. In the
absence being able to refer to him as Mark Chatfield OLY I’ve chosen to
incorporate the Munich Olympic participation medal beneath his shield (all
Olympians get a participation medal). The medal has no ribbon or chain so I’ve
created a ribbon in the official Munich Olympic colours.
I hope you like my painting of Mark Chatfield’s achievement.
It’s a design I find very appealing, distinctive and eye-catching, all the
requirements of a perfect coat of arms, and a fitting tribute to Mark’s
contribution to lgbt participation at the Olympic Games.