Royal Arms in Parish Churches were erected as tokens of loyalty to the
Crown and to the Sovereign as the earthly head of the Church.
Most of them date from after 1534 when Henry VIII assumed the
title 'Supreme Head on Earth of the Church of England'. In many
churches the royal arms were erected on top of the chancel
screen or above the chancel arch, as in St Katharine's Church,
Loversall. This would have been difficult in
St Mary's where unusually there is a window above the
During the reign of the Roman Catholic Mary Tudor (1553-1558) and again
during the Commonwealth in the 17th Century, many examples of
the royal arms were destroyed. With the Restoration of the
Stuart monarchy in 1660 when Charles II became king, a statute
required royal arms to be displayed in all churches. In the next
century, in 1714, George, the Elector of Hanover, inherited the
British crown, even though there were 57 people who had a better
genealogical right: they were excluded from the royal succession
because they were Roman Catholics. So concerned were the
Hanoverians with the Stuart Pretender (there were major Jacobite
threats in 1715 and 1745) that many Stuart arms in churches were
repainted with the arms of Hanover. The practice of installing royal
arms in churches was eventually discontinued in Queen Victoria's reign.
It is an example of the Hanoverian royal arms which is displayed in St
Mary's above the north door. We do not know if this is a
repainting of the Stuart arms, but the letters 'GR' (Georgius
Rex) are clearly visible and 'C' (for Charles) can easily become
Only one of the four quarterings is different from the royal arms borne
during the second half of her reign by Queen Anne, George I's
predecessor and the last Stuart sovereign. George's arms were
used after him by his son (George II) and his great-grandson
(George III), in all for a total of 87 years. The Garter motto
Honi soit qui mal y pense
surrounds the quarterings.
1st quartering (top left) shows the three lions of
England, impaling (which means 'joined to') the single lion of
The 2nd quartering (top right)
is the three fleur-de-lys of
France, and it is curious that even in the
18th Century the British crown was
claiming some sovereignty across the Channel.
Calais, our last
France, had been lost in the
reign of Mary Tudor.
The 3rd quartering (bottom
left) displays the harp of Ireland.
quartering (bottom right) is the Hanoverian addition, and there
are four parts to it:
1. The two
lions of Brunswick.
2. The lion and
hearts of Lüneburg.
3. The horse of Hanover.
Superimposed at the point where the first three meet is the
of Charlemagne. This
represents George I's position as the
Arch-Treasurer of the Holy Roman Empire
(which, by this time, as
Voltaire put it, was neither holy, Roman, nor an Empire!) founded
by Charlemagne many centuries before.