Wednesday 1 March 2023

Queer Achievement: Arms For A Price

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

It’s been a while since I did an in-depth look at the heraldic achievement of a specific individual, so I’ll rectify that today with a look at the full coat of arms of the British actor Dennis Price (1915-1973). His arms are these –

It’s more than 30 years since I began researching and drawing the coats of arms of famous people. Dennis Price was one of the first ones I did (at about the same time that I did Jeremy Brett’s). I didn’t know at the time that they were both bisexual.

The arms shown above are scanned from my original artwork, which was made before I had access to a computer, which I’ve “tweaked” and tidied up.

Dennis’s full name was Dennistoun Franklin John Rose Price. All except the name John were names of families that feature in his ancestry. I won’t go into the full genealogical profile today but skim through it to tell you where the names came from. Through his paternal grandmother Dennis is descended from the Dennistoun’s of Colgrain near Argyll in Scotland. Franklin is the family name of his paternal great-grandmother (sister of the explorer Sir John Franklin). Rose was the name of the family from whom Dennis’s ancestors inherited Rose Hall on Jamaica (yes, we have to acknowledge that both the Price and Rose families were slave owners). Even though the Dennistoun, Franklin and Rose families all have a coat of arms, none of them were passed down to the Prices through heraldic heirs. This leaves us with just the Price coat of arms.

The Price family is of Welsh origin. Dennis can trace his male line ancestry back with certainty to Capt. Francis Price who was the first member of the family to settle in Jamaica in 1655 after Oliver Cromwell (the Putin of Britain during the, thankfully, brief period when we were a republic) decided to invade Jamaica. Capt. Price probably descended from the Prices of Brecknock in Wales, or at least claimed some family association because the coat of arms granted to Captain Price’s grandson are very similar to theirs. Here are some of the arms known to belong to Price families in the Brecknock area. The earliest, on the left, dates to 1546.

The similarities (spearheads, chevron and black background) do not necessarily indicate a family blood relationship but are frequently adopted and granted with changes, even today, where there is a geographical connection or the same family name.

The specific coat of arms that Dennis Price inherited were granted to an ancestral uncle, the grandson of Capt. Price mentioned above. He was Sir Charles Price (1708-1772), Speaker of the Jamaica House of Assembly, who was created a baronet (hereditary knighthood) in 1768.

The arms were granted to Sir Charles on 13th August 1766 by the College of Arms and included a special limitation, a clause which indicates if other members of the family are allowed to inherit it. This is now common practice. If I were granted a coat of arms it could be extended to include all descendants and heirs of my paternal grandfather. Sir Charles had only one child, a son, who died childless. So, Sir Charles’s youngest brother, John, inherited this coat of arms and passed them down to his descendants, which included his 3-times great-grandson Dennis Price.

Usually, there are other symbolic explanations for every object in a coat of arms. The shield, as I’ve said, is probably to indicate some sort of connection to the Brecknock family. The dragon’s head in the crest was granted specifically to Sir Charles Price and his heirs. It may have been symbolic of the family’s Welsh ancestry. The bloody hand may indicate that Charles was a baronet, as a red hand is the badge of this particular order of knighthood and often appears on a little shield placed somewhere on the main shield.

Next we come to the star and the bird. These are both cadency marks, something placed on a shield to indicate which son in the family you are. I am the third son of my father, so I would have a star. Dennis descends from the third son of the above-mentioned John Price. Added to this, Dennis is descended from that third son’s fourth son (confused?), so he places a special bird called a martlet on top of the star. Technically, new cadency marks would be added generation after generation, but in practice they are often reduced to just one or omitted altogether to stop the arms from becoming cluttered with cadency marks.

Usually, if a husband and wife (now also same-sex married couples) both have a coat of arms they place them side by side on one shield, the husband’s on the viewer’s left (each person in a same-sex marriage can put their own arms on the left and their partner’s on the right). During his brief marriage to Joan Schofield (1920-2017) Dennis Price could have displayed his marital coat of arms as below. Joan’s family name was Temperley, and arms she could have used are those shown on the memorial plaque to her paternal uncle Rev. Canon Arthur Temperley. If there are cadency marks both the husband and wife can omit them, as I’ve shown.

Lastly there is the motto. This is in Welsh and translates as “All Depends on God”.

For heraldry fans, there's my annual Heraldic Alphabet to look forward to in June.

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