Saturday, 17 January 2015

Coat of Arms: Tell Your Story

On 17th January, 2015 we were granted a Coat of Arms by the College of Arms in the City of London.

Creating a coat of arms has been a fascinating and thought provoking process, in our case under the skilled guidance of the Windsor Herald, a post that has existed since 1364 and is currently occupied by William Hunt.

Historically, coats of arms were used by medieval knights to identify the wearer in battle and tournaments, so that you didn't bash someone on your own side over the head! Today I look at a coat of arms as a way of telling your story. Hundreds of years in the future one of your descendants might wonder who you were and what you and your family stood for. The challenge that I and my brother, Roland, faced was to come up with a heraldic design that tells our family's story and that is what I feel we have achieved.

I will explain the various elements to you, but first and most significant is the fact that it was granted today, the 17th January. Today is our elder brother, Jim Stanfield's birthday. If you know me at all you know that our big brother died way too early in 2012 after a short illness. But he is still our guide and inspiration and we wanted to anchor this coat of arms to his birthday so that forever more if anyone wonders what the roots of it are, it will lead straight back to the great man himself.

At the heart of our Arms is a Griffin. A griffin has the head of an eagle and the body of a lion. My brother and I and also our father are leos, born in July/August hence the lion. Our father was Nigerian and even though the eagle is not the official national bird of Nigeria, it is closely connected with the country - even the football team are the Super Eagles. So a griffin captures us well.

In our case we have a Sinister Griffin i.e. it faces left instead of right. It is very unusual for the central beast on a coat of arms to be sinister, because if it was on a shield and you were riding into battle your fearsome beast would be facing the wrong way and look like it was trying to escape! However, we don't actually plan to carry shields into battle (perhaps the occasional meeting...). We chose a sinister griffin because both my brother and I are left-handed.

Above the helm is a stag. The stag represents Richmond upon Thames. Richmond is know for stags and deer in Richmond Park. We are a Richmond family. Our great grandparents moved here over a hundred years ago. Our grandparents grew up here. Our mother grew up here. We grew up here. Our children are growing up here. Five generations in the same borough and no plans to move! We love the borough and wherever any of us travel in the world we always find our way back here.

The stag is holding a lightening bolt and has its hoof on a ball. The lightening bolt represents me and my career in technology and my fascination with science. The ball is a cricket ball and represents Roland's lifelong passion for cricket.

On one side of the griffin is a oak branch with acorns. Acorns are used to signify learning. Education is a theme that runs through our family, starting with our mother who was a teacher for over 30 years in the UK, Uganda and Nigeria. Literally hundreds of students have sat in her classrooms and she taught in a teacher training institute for many years so her impact is being felt by generations of students.

There are five leaves on the branch. They represent the five brothers and sisters, Liz, Jay (Jim), Sue, Tom (me) and Rol. We are a tight unit and always will be, even though Jay is no longer with us.

On the other side of the griffin is a branch from the Okha tree. My father was born in a tiny village deep in the countryside in Nigeria called Uokha. This means "near the Okha tree" so this branch represents him and his roots. Actually I wasn't sure what an Okha tree looked like so I contacted Kew Gardens and asked them. The librarians at Kew did an excellent job in researching the question and sent me diagrams and explanations which I forwarded to the College of Arms to produce the design.

We have chosen the colours carefully too. Red and white is for England. Green and white is for Nigeria. Black, gold and green is for Jamaica because co-incidentally both Roland and I married British women with Jamaican origins, so Jamaica has become very much part of our family.

We wrestled for months, literally, with the motto before settling on Tua Fabula which is Latin for Your Story.

It is really hard to sum up ones philosophy of life in three or four words. try it! I ended up going back to a parable that I occasionally bore my children with (just to watch them roll their eyes!). It says "until lions have their own storytellers, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter".

If you don't tell your story, someone else will and they will tell it from their perspective. But Tua Fabula goes deeper than that. We want to encourage our family to live lives full of stories worth telling. Don't be boring. Never do what you are "supposed" to do. Go out there, explore the world and everything it has to offer. Live, love, laugh and be fabulous. Fill your lives with stories and then tell Your Story.

Tua Fabula

1 comment:

eileen ilube said...

I love it. Mum