One charge that fascinates (and disturbes) me is (are ?) animal heads that have Fleur de Lys coming out of their mouths, etc. (Jessant de Lys). Does anyone know where this comes from? If the Fleur de Lys is a spear head, as some suggest, is it possible this represents an animal killed in the hunt? Though, whatever the explaination, they are about the creepiest charges I've seen. (excluding severed heads, of course)
Here's the trusted Woodward on the topic (p.225):
"A curious combination of the leopard's head (often reversed) with the fleur-de-lis occurs in several old english coats. Gules, three leopards' heads jessant de lis or, appear to have been borne by the family of Cantelupe in the 13th century [I can think of canting arms for these people, but it wouldn't be as dignified :-) -Ed.]. Of this family was Thomas of Cantelupe, bishop of Hereford, 1275-82, and the arms since borne for that see are the arms of the prelate only differenced by the leopards' heads being reversed. M. Planche, in his _Pursuivant of Arms_ pp. 103, 104, shows that the original arms of the Cantelupes were the fleur-de-lis alone; and though it is quite possible that the leopards' heads were added intentionally to mark an alliance or sub-infeudation, it yet appears probable that, as his engravings show, the charge may have developed out of a variation in the drawing of the fleur-de-lis. Sable, three leopard's heads reversed jessant de lis are the arms of Woodford. Sable, three leopard's heads or jessant de lis argent are those of Morley. Gules, three leopard's heads or, jessant de lis azure, over all a bend of the last, are the arms of Tennyson, and probably are only a variation of the similar arms of Denys, or Dennis. Lord Tennyson, the poet-laureate, has a grant of the following coat: Gules, on a bend nebuly between three leopard's heads jessant de lis or, a laurel wreath in chief proper."
Note that the leopards are of the English kind, i.e. natural as opposed to Continental leopards (which are lions passant gardant).
Here's the OED on the word Jessant. Interestingly, the first meaning is different (corresponding to brochant in French heraldry).
jessant , a. Her. Forms: 6 iesaunt, iezante, gesante, 8 gessant, 7- jessant. (See also jacent a. b.) [In sense 1, a. OFr. gesant (later gisant) lying, pr. pple. of ge'sir:-L. jacere to lie. Sense 2 is perh. a different word.] 1. Said of a charge represented as lying over another and partly covering it, so that the latter appears on both sides of, or above and below, the former. 1610 Guillim Heraldry iii. xv. (1660) 194 A Lyon Jessant..is not subjected to the primary Charge, but is borne over both the Field and Charge, and is therefore called a Lyon Jessant, jacendo, because of such lying all over. 1706 [see jacent b]. 1725 Bradley Fam. Dict., Jessant, a Term in Heraldry, when in a Coat of Arms, a Lyon or other Beast is born over some Ordinary..that Lyon or Beast is blazoned Jessant or Jacent, that is, Lying over all. 2. Said when a charge (as an animal) is represented with another (as a branch or flower) in its mouth or as if issuing from it.Jessant stands between the two names, e.g. a hart gessant a branch of dittany, as if agreeing with the first and governing the second; but it is explained by Chambers and later writers as if agreeing with the second, and = Shooting or springing forth (? for Fr. issant, issant). jessant-de-lis, abbrev. of jessant a fleur de lis, or in pl. jessant fleurs-de-lis. 1572 Bossewell Armorie ii. 58, G. Beareth Sable, a Dromede passante d'or, gesante a branche of the Date tree propre. 1572 Bossewell Armorie 59 An Harte regardante d'Argente, iezante a branche of Dictamie propre. 1610 Guillim Heraldry iii. xxvi. (1660) 257 The Field is..a Leopards head..Jessant a flower de lis. 1727-41 Chambers Cycl. Jessant, in heraldry, is applied to a flower-de-luce, or the like figure, seeming to spring, or shoot out of some other charge... The word is formed from the obsolete French jesser, to rise or spring out. 1766 Porny Heraldry (1787) Gloss., Jessant, this word signifies shooting forth, as vegetables do; it is also used to express the bearing of Fleurs-de-lis coming out of a Leopard's head, or out of any other Bearing. 1882 Cussans Handbk. Her. vi. (ed. 3) 103 Jessant: Shooting, or springing out of.
On the ghoulish side, how about the counts and princes of Schwarzenberg: quarterly: Paly of eight argent and azure; Or, a raven sable collared of the field, perched on the head of a dead Turk, picking out his eye.
Return to the Main Heraldry Page.François R. Velde