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The Saxon Steed and the White Horse of Kent

Page number
James Lloyd

James Lloyd.2017.The Saxon Steed and the White Horse of Kent.Archaeologia Cantiana.138:1.


The Saxon Steed and the White Horse of Kent

james lloyd

In 1933, the College of Arms granted a heraldic achievement to Kent County Council that included, on the escutcheon, a prancing white horse on a red field.1 The White Horse motif is now ubiquitous in Kent, used by most public organizations (e.g. Kent Fire and Rescue Service, Kent Police, etc.) and by many private ones. It is, therefore, a little surprising to note that 1933 was the first time that this symbol was given any kind of official sanction or recognition. Although it had been used before then, its use depended on tradition. It is the purpose of this paper to trace how far back that tradition went and what its original rationale was.

This is not the first attempt to answer these questions. In 1931 and 1932, the Honourable Henry Hannen (who was a consultant to the County Council committee that applied for the coat-of-arms) and an anonymous correspondent known as ‘G.H.W.’ exchanged a series of brief articles in Notes and Queries,2 which later formed the basis of a column in the Kent Messenger.3 R.F. Jessup published a short paper on the subject in Antiquity in 19354 and Georg Schnath gave Kent a paragraph in his definitive history of the Saxon Steed in 1956.5 Most recently, a page devoted to it has been published on the website British County Flags.6

Although this paper does, to a certain extent, repeat its predecessors’ findings, it goes into much greater detail than any of them, while also bringing to bear further evidence that they did not consider.

Ancient kings’ standards

The earliest trace of the use of a horse symbol in some kind of official context in Kent was in Celtic times. Numerous coins struck in Cantium in the century preceding the Roman invasion depict horses.7 This design, however, was not limited to Cantium and derived not from any particular association between the Kentish tribes and horses but from the Celtic devotion to horses in general.8

Very few coins survive from Anglo-Saxon Kent and none of those that do depicts a horse, generally preferring crosses or the minter’s name.9 The Anglo-Saxons were, however, like the Britons whom they had displaced, religiously devoted to horses, for which the principal evidence comes from Kent’s own foundation myth.

The story is a familiar one: Vortigern, the corrupt king of a Britain shaken by its unexpected independence of Rome, hires Saxon mercenaries led by the brothers Hengest and Horsa to fight against his enemies, Irish, Pictish, Germanic and even British. By way of payment, he cedes first Thanet and then Kent but they turn against him and trigger the Germanic invasion and settlement of what would become England. Hengest rested on his laurels in Kent and his descendents would rule it until its conquest by Mercia in the late eighth century.

The story, as drawn cumulatively from Gildas, Bede, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and others, renders into a single narrative what must really have been a complex chain of inter-related and simultaneous events. With the exception of Gildas, who did not name any of the participants, none of these sources was even near-contemporary (the next written source, Bede, wrote nearly three hundred years after the events he was describing) and the gap must have been filled by oral tradition. As a result, modern historians are timid about its details and the names of the founders of the Kentish kingdom, Hengest and Horsa, are particularly suspicious.10

These names mean respectively ‘stallion’ and ‘horse’ (feminine, so implicitly ‘mare’). It is not impossible that the brothers actually had such names, or they may have been nicknames. It is generally felt, however, that names of this nature must have had a symbolic significance and, appearing in two founding brothers, they seem just too good to be true. A connection is commonly made with the apparent religious significance of horses among Germanic tribes11 and the inference is that either the brothers were given these names in honour of a horse-god or they actually were horse-gods, an expression of an Indo-European myth, also represented by the Hindu Aśvins and the Classical Dioscuri, of male twins, consistently associated with white horses, who, in the Germanic tradition, were often remembered as the leaders of migrations.12 Other Anglo-Saxon deities are known to have been demoted to historical humans, after the conversion to Christianity, in order to explain the memory of them (and, perhaps, to sanitize them as ancestral figures).13 Maybe Hengest and Horsa are another example of this practice.

If Hengest was a real man, then the Kentish kings’ supposed descent from him might have given them a rationale to use a horse as their symbol. Alternatively, if the first Kentish had followed a horse cult, of which Hengest and Horsa were a rationalized memory, then their descendents would still have had a reason to use a horse as their symbol and its use would not have been confined to the royal household. In either case, in what medium might this symbol have been expressed?

The ancient Germans, according to Tacitus, believed that their war-god accompanied them into battle and ‘certain totems also and emblems are fetched from groves and carried into battle’.14 Though he did not identify these symbols, it has been suggested that the ‘totems’ were ‘images of sacred animals’ and that the ‘emblems’ were ‘weapons and instruments used by gods’.15 The apparent religious importance of the horse to Germanic culture might make a prima facie case for assuming that these images included an equine motif.

Frustratingly, however, the standard most consistently ascribed to Germanic tribes in written sources was a draco. Widukind of Corvey, describing an episode that took place in the sixth century, refers to a banner in the Saxon camp that the Saxons held as a sacred ensign, on which were depicted a lion and a dragon, with a flying eagle above them.16 Though not associated with Saxony, the Psalterium Aureum, an early tenth-century manuscript from St Gall in modern Switzerland, depicts Jacob going to war against the Syrians and Ammonites with a draco-standard borne before him.17

This tradition was continued by the Saxons in Britain.18 At the Battle of Burford in 752, the twelfth-century chronicler Henry of Huntingdon recorded that the West Saxon and Mercian battle-lines were ‘coloured with banners’19 and that ‘... Æthelhun, who led the way bearing the banner of the king of Wessex, that is, the golden dragon.20 This is apparently corroborated by a local tradition, recorded in the seventeenth century, that the people of Burford commemorated the battle by making a dragon and parading it.21

The golden dragon re-appeared at Ashingdon in 1016, when Edmund Ironside was stationed between it and his personal standard.22 The latter re-appeared at Hastings, where several Norman knights were killed in capturing it.23 Although Henry of Huntingdon did not describe it, this may have been Harold’s banner embroidered with the figure of a warrior that Duke William sent back to the pope after his victory.24 This standard does not appear on the Bayeux Tapestry but two dragons do, one golden and one red, depicted being borne before King Harold.

If it is true that the continental Saxons had used a draco-standard, then they may have borrowed the idea from the Romans, who used a dragon-shaped windsock as the ensign of a cohort.25 Alternatively, if the standard’s use was confined to the Anglo-Saxons, they may have borrowed the idea (ironically) from the Romano-Britons (it is the origin of the Welsh Dragon), who would in turn have inherited it from the Romans.26

That the West Saxons did not use a horse-standard seems to be certain but this does not rule out the possibility that the Kentish did. The purpose of standards was to distinguish different commanders, a necessity which implies that different militia were headed by different standards.27 The presence of multiple standards at Hastings is hinted at by Guy, bishop of Amiens.28 It is lamentable that this near-contemporary source does not describe any of these banners.29

The fact that the Anglo-Saxon army went to battle in militias drawn from the different shires led James Campbell to speculate that each shire might have had its own banner.30 Since the royal West Saxon draco does not seem to have changed with the whim of each new king but remained consistent over time,31 might Kent have had its own banner, passed on from one king, ealdorman or sheriff to the next for use in battle? If so, would it be too much to suppose, in the light of the tradition represented by Hengest, that it might have been an equus-standard?

It is tempting to identify the recently revived custom of horse-hoodening, long practised around Christmas time in certain parts of Kent,32 as a relic of such a usage but, like the equine motif on ancient British coins, customs similar to horse-hoodening are recorded in other parts of England. Furthermore, it is not traceable, even in Kent, to earlier than the eighteenth century. This does not prove that horse-hoodening does not date back to Anglo-Saxon times but rather a leap of faith is required to assume that it does.

The real problem with the horse-hoodening theory, however, is that it is wishful thinking and in defiance of all historical evidence. The sources attributing a draco-standard to the Saxons, in both Germany and Britain, though not contemporary with the incidents that they narrate, do present a consistent picture, despite their mutual independence and therefore command authority. The only Anglo-Saxon kings known certainly to have used a windsock standard were the kings of Wessex (and possibly Mercia) and they used a dragon, borrowed from the Britons or the Romans. To believe that the kings of Kent, being impressed by the draco-standard of the Romano-Britons, decided to adopt a similar motif but adapted it to denote their own equine patronage, something that the only Anglo-Saxons known to have imitated the draco-standard did not do, is to derive rather a lot from nothing at all.

Another reason against assuming the antiquity of a windsock standard in Kent is its association with the Saxons, whereas other nations have different standards ascribed to them.33 According to Bede, Kent was settled not by Saxons but by Jutes.34 Although not all historians accept Bede’s scheme for the settlement of Britain into Anglian, Jutish and Saxon areas as perfectly accurate,35 the archaeological evidence does seem to show that the inhabitants of west Kent were culturally distinct from the inhabitants of east Kent but indistinguishable from the Saxons of Surrey, Sussex and Essex.36 Conversely, brooches and bracteates found in east Kent, the Isle of Wight and southern Hampshire (settled, according to Bede, by Jutes) do, very generally, show affinities with Frankish/North Sea styles from the mid-fifth century to the late sixth, in contrast to the north German styles found elsewhere in England.37 The fashions of east and west Kent did not converge ‘until well on in the 7th century’.38

These changes in culture reflect changes in politics. It was not until the reign of Æthelberht that west Kent was subordinated to the east but even thereafter it occasionally enjoyed its own kings, several of whom were East Saxon kings or were related to the East Saxon house.39 To describe the Jutes as actually from Jutland may be a simplification40 but they were definitely non-Saxon and their dominance in east Kent is important, since the evidence for the use of a windsock standard is mainly associated with kingdoms of Saxon descent and is nowhere associated with the Jutes.41

Even the evidence supplied by Hengest is not as strong as it seems. When Kent converted to Christianity, not only would the horse-cult that he apparently represents have ceased to be a patriotic movement but it might actually have become an object of embarrassment. While a purely military standard might survive the conversion, any equine iconography would have been regarded primarily as a religious symbol, in which case it would likely have been among the idols destroyed in 640 by order of King Earconberht.42

Any possibility that the horse was a royal ancestral symbol is also ruled out by the fact that the kings of Kent, who were based in the east, did not take their name from Hengest. Instead, they were known as the Æscingas, from Oisc, suggesting that the legend of Hengest and Horsa may not have been as significant to them as it had become by the time Bede recorded it. Bede himself seems to have been unconvinced by the historicity of the whole account43 and the tradition that he recorded ‘... looks like someone’s attempt to combine two rival origin legends’.44 This merger is believed to have taken place under Æthelberht’s aegis, after the subordination of west Kent (and its Saxon traditions) to the east.45

Finally, Campbell’s case for the consistent use of shire banners overlooks the complexity of Anglo-Saxon military organisation. The draco-standard remained consistent because it represented an office, the Crown of Wessex, which continued to exist regardless of changes in personnel.46 Campbell’s hypothetical subsidiary banners would therefore have represented these offices, not their contingents and the offices qualified to lead a militia were bewilderingly varied, including ealdormen, sheriffs, thegns and even bishops, each of whom, presumably, would have had his own banner.47 Furthermore, the Anglo-Saxon army was not discretely organised into one shire per commander but one commander might have multiple shires fighting under him and under his banner, or one shire might have multiple potential commanders with multiple banners of their own. Once Kent had become absorbed into the West Saxon dominions, there would have been no standard, no matter what might have existed thitherto, which might be described as the Kentish standard. Even if we do assume that the ancient Kentish kings had carried a horse-totem into battle (and there really is very little reason left to do so), this tradition is unlikely to have survived all the changes in administration that befell Kent after its conquest by Mercia.

The case for the antiquity of the White Horse of Kent is unsustainable. The historicity of Hengest and Horsa is dubious and their role in the foundation of the kingdom of Kent is likely to be a retrospective confection. The latter consideration also makes it difficult to attribute the reputed horse-cult that they might personify to the Jutes or to their Æscing kings, who in any case would have renounced its symbolism at their conversion to Christianity. Finally, though there is evidence for the use of a draco-standard by some kings of Saxon descent, there is no contemporary evidence anywhere for the use of a horse-standard by the Angles, the Saxons or the Jutes.

The Saxon Steed

It is, however, true that the origin of the motif lies in Saxony. Albert, co-Duke of Brunswick and Lüneburg (a title shared simultaneously amongst several members of the House of Welf),48 began using the horse on his seal from his father’s death in 1361; over the next decade, it was adopted in all three main lines of the dynasty.49 Initially the horse was depicted courant but Duke Magnus’s seal of 1369 changed its position to salient and this became standard.50 In the generations that followed, more branches of the family adopted the symbol as their seal, crest or escutcheon.51 The vicissitudes of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw the Duchy dissolved and its territory partitioned between several successor states, which inherited the Saxon Steed. Since 1945 it has been used by the state of Lower Saxony, which comprehends the territory of the old Duchy.52

In the mid fifteenth century, the archbishop of Cologne, as duke of Westphalia, started using the symbol.53 It would be inherited by the Prussian province of Westphalia and ultimately by the modern state of North Rhine-Westphalia.54 Numerous towns and districts in these states use or have used the symbol.55 It is also used in the Netherlands, as one of the quarters of the arms of Renkum56 and as the flag of the region of Twente.57

At the first appearance of the full achievement of the Saxon Steed on a heraldic text in 1380, it was described as an ancient symbol of Brunswick58 and the possibility of an unrecorded earlier use of the symbol in a context other than heraldry has been entertained by some commentators59 but not only is there no real evidence for its use before 1361 but it is not even found before that date in contexts where one might have expected it.60 Schnath, whose investigation of the matter is the most thorough written to date, went as far as to recognize the Heldenburg, Duke Albert’s now ruined castle in Salzderhelden, as the actual birthplace of the arms of Lower Saxony.61 Perhaps it should also be recognized as the birthplace of the arms of Kent.

The reason why this symbol was adopted and what the rationale behind the design was are subjects of dispute. One suggestion is that it is a misinterpretation of the English crest62 (the English escutcheon had inspired the original symbol of the dukes of Brunswick: a lion)63 or that it was based on the seal of the count of Schwerin (a knight on horseback).64 A particularly interesting suggestion was made in the early fifteenth century65 by the German historian Gobelinus Person. It deserves extensive quotation:

Now, the leaders of that army who set out from Saxony to Britain were the sons of the duke of Angria or Enger, one of whom (as Bede says) was called Hengest and the other Horsa,66 the cant of whose names in the vulgar tongue signifies a royal horse of outstanding strength and beauty, which princes mainly use in jousts and tournaments. And it is perhaps for that reason that the arms of certain dukes of Saxony are a white horse, for they have received such arms from their progenitors since ancient times. And thus have the names of the princes agreed with the names of their arms since ancient times, just as even today in Westphalia the names of certain knights agree with the names of or terms for their arms.67

Gobelinus belongs in a tradition of continental scholars who elaborated considerably on the bare bones of the legend of Hengest and Horsa as given by Bede.68 His own connection of the Saxon Steed with the brothers has an obvious relevance to this paper but, although several more recent authorities have accepted his explanation,69 Schnath dismissed it70 and the evidence considered in the preceding pages should be added to his argument. It is quite apparent from the quotation that Gobelinus was not considering evidence now lost but was making an inference based on Hengest’s name and the heraldic tendency towards canting. It was not an unreasonable inference but it was wrong nonetheless. It was, however, a mistake that was already common currency71 and was almost certainly intended by the symbol’s true designer.

The real cause was the Golden Bull of 1356, which clarified the procedure for electing the Holy Roman Emperor, assigning the Saxon vote and the administration during an interregnum of territory where Saxon law applied to the House of Ascania, dukes of Saxe-Wittenberg, at the expense of the dukes of Brunswick and Lüneburg, who had claimed both those rights and who, as descendents of Duke Henry the Lion, felt entitled to a higher precedence in the lands of Old Saxony. It was this humiliation, coupled with the Emperor’s promise to the duke of Saxe-Wittenberg of the succession to the Lüneburg lands, that inspired Duke Albert, upon his accession in 1361, ‘... to assume the steed on his seal as the supposed symbol of the Old Saxons, to show the world to whom by rights the leading position in the old duchy of Saxony (fallen to the Wittenbergers) belonged’.72 Duke Albert was well educated, widely read and intelligent and designed the motif as a reference to Saxon history.73 Whether or not he realized that the Welfs’ connection with Hengest and Horsa was unhistorical, it was a connection that he expected other people to make. Duke Albert had, to put it crudely, dug a trap for historians and Gobelinus fell right into it.

One might argue that, in order for Albert’s plan to work, it must have already been generally believed that the symbol of the Saxons was a horse but it must be reiterated that it is only after his time that this myth is recorded and there is evidence that he was not wholly successful in persuading people of its truth. An alternative explanation was given by Conrad Bote in 1492, who recorded a legend that Widukind, king of the Old Saxons, carried a shield depicting a black horse, which he changed to a white horse after his conversion to Christianity in 785.74 The district of Herford, now part of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and believed to contain Widukind’s burial place, uses the black horse on a white field as its arms75 and the symbol was formerly also included in the arms of Renkum (the counts of which were supposedly descended from Widukind).76 Although this legend has been taken seriously in some quarters,77 it too is unhistorical and may have been invented to explain the arms. What it does demonstrate is that the Hengest explanation was not universally known or believed.

The Saxon Steed motif was invented in 1361 as a faux ancient symbol for the Saxons, inspired by the myth of Hengest and Horsa and all of the historians, ancient and modern, who have taken its connection with the legendary brothers seriously have made exactly the mistake that Duke Albert intended. This is the final proof that the kings of Kent would not have used a horse as their standard or as any other kind of symbol: it is a late medieval German invention, inspired not by genuine ancient usage but by the myth thereof.

Yet, ironically, although it was the founders of the kingdom of Kent who had given the dukes of Brunswick the idea for the Saxon Steed, Kent itself was surprisingly dilatory in copying their example. Bede might have been read in Germany but Gobelinus was not read in England and the transferral of the Welfs’ symbol to Kent was a separate and much later development.

The Saxon Steed gallops to Kent

A favourite pastime of medieval heralds was the retrospective attribution of coats-of-arms to historical figures78 but only one medieval heraldic roll is known to have assigned coats-of-arms to the kings of Kent. This was the so-called ‘Kings of Britain roll’, the first comprehensive catalogue of the attributed arms of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, as well as other historical and mythical figures (Brutus of Britain, Hector of Troy, etc.). Unfortunately, the roll does not survive in its original form but only as a copy, made circa 1580 (Figs 1 and 2).79 The roll also includes the genuine coats-of-arms of various medieval lords and the original has been dated to the mid-fifteenth century by the latest escutcheons and titles that it cites.80


Fig. 1 Arms attributed to early medieval British and Anglo-Saxon kings. College of Arms MS Vincent 170, p. 33. (Reproduced by permission of the Kings, Heralds and Pursuivants of Arms).

Fig. 2 Arms attributed to early medieval British and Anglo-Saxon kings. College of Arms MS Vincent 170, p. 34. (Reproduced by permission of the Kings, Heralds and Pursuivants of Arms.)


The scribe attempted to assign coats-of-arms to all of the kings to have ruled in Britain or any part of Britain, even to the extent of repeating escutcheons for successive kings but his approach was cack-handed. He made numerous omissions and attempted to plough through contemporaneous kings simultaneously, regardless of their location, in a roughly chronological order, though some names still seem to be out of their proper sequence. The Old English names have been abominably Latinized, turning some into a different name and rendering others unintelligible. These techniques, coupled with the fact that many Anglo-Saxon kings had the same name, make it difficult to work out which kings (and arms) pertained to which kingdoms.

Some kingdoms are identifiable by the repetition of an escutcheon but even here there are inconsistencies and no standard escutcheon routinely appears for identifiably Kentish kings. Indeed, no horse, of any colour or in any configuration, appears on any of the escutcheons, for a suspected Kentish king or otherwise. The only arms that can be assigned with confidence to Kentish rulers are those attributed to ‘Engest’ but even here there are difficulties, for the scribe has assigned arms not to one Hengest but to three.

The first, apparently the brother of Horsa (the arms are given just after those of Vortigern), is assigned an escutcheon in two halves. The top half depicts a white lion on a red field. The bottom half is white, with a blue diagonal stripe with three white martlets on it (Fig. 3a).81 Later on the same page this escutcheon is repeated, again under the name ‘Engest’ but this time the lion wears a golden crown (Fig. 3b). One can only assume that the herald imagined the first version as being Hengest’s original arms and the more regal variant an adaptation he made after establishing himself as king of Kent.

No such rationale, however, explains the third ‘Engest’, who appears a little later on and who is assigned a completely different escutcheon.82 It is again in two halves but this time vertically, with a toothed border. The left half is ermine, while the right is completely black and without charge (Fig. 3c).


Fig. 3a First attributed arms of ‘Engest’.

Fig. 3b Second attributed arms of ‘Engest’.


Fig. 3c Third attributed arms of ‘Engest’.

These three Hengests are most curious, for the name is almost unique to the founder of the kingdom of Kent. The only other Hengest mentioned in any Old English source is a mercenary who appears in the text known as the Finnesburh Fragment and in an episode of Beowulf, both recounting the same event.83 It is most unlikely that it is this Hengest who is intended in the Kings of Britain roll. Both Beowulf and the Finnesburh Fragment were obscure, forgotten texts in the fifteenth century, yet to come to scholarly light. Furthermore, some commentators have identified this Hengest with Horsa’s brother.84

It is impossible now to recover what was going through the scribe’s mind or what sources he used for these coats-of-arms.85 As interesting as these questions are, however, they are irrelevant to the enquiry in hand. The important point is that the Kings of Britain roll is the only medieval roll known to have attributed arms to the kings of Kent and it did not attribute them the Saxon Steed.

The lateness of the association in English thought between the Saxon Steed and Kent is further indicated by the surprising silence of other authorities. William Lambarde, Kent’s first historian, made no reference to the Saxon Steed at all in his Perambulation. Likewise, in 1586, William Camden, after remarking on the role horses played in the Saxons’ divinatory practices, theorized

And this may possibly be the reason why the Dukes of Saxony bore in their Arms a horse. But why our Hengist and Horsa were called so from an horse (for both these names in Saxon signifie an horse) is a mystery to me; unless perhaps designed to portend their warlike courage ...86

Gobelinus’s association of the Saxon Steed with Hengest should have been an obvious point for Camden to make, yet he ignored it. One can only assume that he was unaware of it.

Camden’s silence should be contrasted with the garrulousness of Richard Verstegan87 on the topic. Verstegan was an interesting character. Born Richard Rowlands, he was the grandson of a Dutch immigrant and matriculated at Christ Church in 1564. However, he converted to Roman Catholicism and left Oxford and eventually England. Having reverted to his grandfather’s surname, he settled in Antwerp, where he wrote most of his works. These included A Restitution of Decayed Intelligence: In antiquities, concerning the most noble and renovvmed [sic] English nation, published in 1605.

His passage on Hengest and Horsa is accompanied by an illustration, introduced with the words ‘... I thought fit heer in pourtraiture to set down ... the banner or ensigne first by them spred in the field’.88 On the opposite page, he gave the first depiction in an English context of the Saxon Steed, showing Hengest and Horsa (in what a Stuart imagined early medieval garb looked like) with their banner carried behind them (Fig. 4), which Verstegan justified associating with the brothers by use of a lengthy argument that is worth quoting in full:


Fig. 4 Hengest’s and Horsa’s arrival at Ebbsfleet, in Verstegan, Restitution of Decayed Intelligence, p. 117. (Detail reproduced courtesy of the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury.)

Hingistus was doubtlesse a Prince of the chiefest blood and nobillitie of Saxonie and by birth of Angria [sic] in VVestphalia vulgarly of old tyme called Westfeilding (wherein vnto this present a place retayneth the name of Hengster-holt) his wapen or armes beeing a leaping whyte horse or Hengst in a red feild; or according to our mixed manner of blasing armes in broken french and english put together, A horse argent rampant in a feild gules: which was the ancient armes of Saxonie, that the chief Princes and dukes haue there long since for many ages together borne. And albeit the dukes of Saxonie haue of later years changed that cote, yet doth Henry Iulius now duke of Brunswyke (a moste ancient Saxon Prince) who somtyme bore the whyte horse in a red feild, now beare the whyte horse for his creast, hauing for the chief cote of his armes, the two Leopards, which by Richard Cordelion king of England was giuen vnto his anceter Henry the Lion, duke of Saxon, who had maryed with Mathilda the said kings sister, by the Emperor Frederic Barbarossa; had in bereft of his armes and tytles of honor. Moreouer Charles Emanuel the now duke of Sauoy, who is lineally descended from the ancient prince Beral who came out of Saxonie into Sauoy in the yeare of our Lord 998, and was the third sonne of Hughe duke of Saxonie, which Hughe was brother vnto the Emperor Otho the third, doth yet beare for one of his cotes thesaid leaping whyte horse in a red feild.

And very likely it is that this armes was in ancient tyme of paganisme espetialy chosen in regard of some diuine excellencie belieued to bee in this beast, for the old Germans as saith Tacitus, had a certain opinion that a whyte horse neuer hauing bin brydled or any way vsed, but taken out of the woods and put to draw a sacred chariot, the Priest or Prince following it; did by the neighing thereof foretel things to come.89

There can be no doubt that it was Verstegan who first brought the connection between Hengest and Horsa and the Saxon Steed to the attention of an English audience. Indeed, he seems to have been under the impression that he had discovered the connection himself, since he cited a wealth of evidence in its support. This is not the action of someone merely reiterating an established theory. This is the action of someone making a new argument and it suggests that he, like Camden, had not read Gobelinus.90 Nearly two hundred years later, Edward Hasted, in his own discussion of the arms of Hengest, would cite Verstegan as his authority (see below).

Verstegan also made, despite his lengthy argument, a significant omission. If he had wanted to prove that Hengest and Horsa had used the horse motif, its contemporary use by the kingdom they had founded would have been the capping stone to his argument, yet instead he made the relatively incidental point of its use in Brunswick and Savoy. This is not an argument from silence. This is an argument from the wrong kind of noise and proves that the association of the motif with Kent is not an ancient survival from the fifth century.

Once imported by Verstegan, the idea that Hengest and Horsa had used the Saxon Steed quickly gained currency. In 1611, John Speed used the motif several times in his atlas Theatrum Imperii Magnæ Britanniæ.91 Its title-page depicts representatives of the five nations to have inhabited Britain, the Britons, the Romans, the Saxons, the Danes and the Normans, each accompanied by a coat-of-arms. Above the Saxon hangs a red shield with a white horse on it. The frontispiece depicts the Royal Arms of James VI and I, surrounded by a border containing the arms of various rulers to have governed Britain, or parts of Britain, in the past. In the middle at the top is an escutcheon labelled ‘Kentish Saxons’, depicting a leaping white horse on a red field.

The final example is Speed’s map of the Heptarchy, surrounded by scenes from their history.92 On the left is a column of founding kings and on the right a column of kings being converted to Christianity. The founding kings are accompanied (on the bottom left or right corner) by their imagined escutcheons but on the opposite column some of these kings are shown to have changed their arms upon converting. Hengest is in the top left corner holding his shield (with the horse round the wrong way) and just below him the Kentish escutcheon, coloured in the familiar fashion. On the top right corner, however, Æthelberht’s escutcheon has a light blue background. The map itself imposes the escutcheons on each kingdom and in Kent the blue or red versions are used in different editions (Fig. 5).93


Fig. 5 Britain at the time of the Saxon Heptarchy, in Cambridge, University Library, Atlas.2.61.1, Speed, J., The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine [cartographic material], 1603-1611. (Details reproduced by kind permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library.)


It is unclear if this distinction in background was intended to represent the conversion to Christianity or was an irrelevant fancy.94 It is also possible that Speed was inspired by German precedents, since some of the towns there that use the Saxon Steed put it on a blue, rather than red, background.95

Speed also employed the arms (in monochrome) in his atlas’s companion piece The History of Great Britaine, which uses the same title-page as the Theatrum. The White Horse arms illustrate his Anglo-Saxon royal family trees (along with the other attributed arms), his chapter on the kings of Kent and his catalogue of Bretwaldas, among whom he included Hengest, as well as Æthelberht. Speed cited Verstegan as his authority for this usage and quoted extensively from the same passage as is given above.96

A note of discord, however, was struck by Michael Drayton, author of the thirty-volume Poly-Oblion (first eighteen volumes published in 1613; with another twelve in 1622), a poetical traipse through the history and geography of England. The first batch was accompanied by learned notes by John Selden. The frontispiece, which resembles Speed’s, depicts Britannia, holding sceptre and cornucopia, sitting in a classical arch and surrounded by figures of Brutus, Julius Caesar, Hengest and William I, with the now-obligatory coats-of-arms, Hengest’s being the increasingly familiar horse.

As originally published, the frontispiece is monochrome, with the colour-scheme provided by the accompanying poem, which describes these coats-of-arms. Hengest’s is related thus:

… the Saxon sable Horse,

Borne by sterne Hengist …’.97

Selden’s footnote explains the design:

Hengist hath other Armes in some traditions, which are to be respected as Old wives fictions. His name expresses a Horse, and the Dukes of Saxony are said to have borne it anciently, before their Christianity, Sable: therefore, if you give him any, with most reason, let him have this.98

This commentary contradicts the argument of Verstegan, followed by Speed, that Hengest’s horse would have been white (‘argent’) and alludes instead to Conrad Bote’s legend of Widukind. This disagreement proves that the attribution of arms to Hengest was still an ongoing debate in the early seventeenth century.

Duke Albert’s exercise in manufactured tradition might not have achieved its political objective but he certainly deceived generations of historians, beginning with Gobelinus in the early fifteenth century. The myth of Hengest’s steed was re-discovered by Verstegan in 1605, who transmitted it to England. This did not, however, automatically make the White Horse the symbol of the modern county of Kent. That happened later and would be triggered, appropriately, by another member of the House of Welf.

The Steed as the county symbol

Though he followed Verstegan as far as the Heptarchy is concerned, it is significant that Speed’s map of contemporary Kent itself,99 though it depicts the coats-of-arms of Canterbury, Rochester and past earls of the county, does not depict the Saxon Steed. Indeed, none of his maps of any modern county featured any arms attributed to its Anglo-Saxon rulers.

This should occasion no surprise. Coats-of-arms are the attributes of people, not of places. It was only in the sixteenth century that corporations, such as the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, became armigerous and it should be recalled that even today the officially recognized coat-of-arms of Kent does not in fact belong to the geographical area at all but to the County Council, a corporation and as such a legal person. Speed believed that the Kentish kings had used the White Horse as their arms but that dynasty was destroyed by the Mercians in the eighth century and the very title ‘king of the Men of Kent’ is last known to have been used, jointly with the title ‘king of the West Saxons’, by Æthelred I of Wessex (866-71).100 The symbol was not the White Horse of Kent but the (hypothetical) White Horse of the kings of Kent and, when Kent ceased to have kings of its own, so the logic ran, the use of their arms expired. The modern county had no automatic right to the arms of its erstwhile rulers or, indeed (being a portion of space, rather than a person), to any arms at all.

This fact is confirmed by Drayton, whose poem The Battaile of Agincourt (published in 1627) describes the county militia of Henry V’s army marching aboard ship for the crossing to France, each preceded by a banner.101 He described their devices in turn, as well as providing footnoted explanations of their symbolism:

First, in the Kentish Stremer was a Wood,

Out of whose top an arme that held a Sword,

As their right Embleme; and to make it good,

They aboue other onely had a Word,

Which was; Vnconquer’d; as that freest had stood.102

The footnote rationalizes this as a reference to the Battle of Swanscombe, when the Men of Kent, using foliage to seem greater in number than they were, ambushed Duke William and forced him to concede, in exchange for their acceptance of him as king, the continuation of their laws and liberties.103 The whole scene is pure fiction, modelled on similar scenes in Italian poetry.104 Drayton included the Welsh counties that would not be created until 1535.105 Some of the designs do pre-date Drayton, being taken from the coats-of-arms of the counties’ capital cities or principal families but for the rest of the motifs, including Kent’s, there is no earlier evidence and the natural assumption is that Drayton invented them himself.

This passage reveals two points relevant to the present discussion. First, it is even more evidence that Kent was not yet using the White Horse symbol (or, indeed, any symbol) in 1627. Secondly, that Drayton had to contrive a symbol himself, even though he was well aware of the attribution of a horse motif to Hengest, suggests that it was not yet thought that the supposed symbol of the ancient kingdom might be used by the modern county.

Such a usage has been claimed of the horse device on four tradesmen’s tokens issued in Kent in the middle of the seventeenth century106 but these are almost certainly irrelevant. Many such tokens were payable at inns and so bore the inn’s sign. Three of the tokens in question explicitly identify themselves with public houses that used a horse for their sign and this may also be the rationale behind the fourth.107

The only certain instances of an association between the White Horse symbol and Kent in the seventeenth century were again on maps, based on Speed’s, which used it only in an antiquarian context. One was the fourth volume of Dutch cartographer Joan Blaeu’s Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, printed in 1645, which re-cycles, with some stylistic variation, Speed’s title-page and map of the Heptarchy.108 The second was the monochrome map of the Heptarchy included in Edmund Gibson’s translation of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, published in 1692.109 By contrast, Richard Harris’s map of the modern county presented at the start of his History of Kent (published in 1719) is surrounded by the escutcheons of its nobility and gentry.110 The White Horse is nowhere to be seen and perhaps its absence is only to be expected. This would soon change.

The Kentish Post was founded in 1717. Its original ornamentation was simply a floral block but from 1721 the masthead included a vista of Canterbury, with the city’s arms,111 to which ensemble the White Horse escutcheon had been added by 1726 (Fig. 6).112 This is a highly important moment in the history of the symbol, for two reasons. Gobelinus, Verstegan, Speed, Blaeu and Gibson had no connection with Kent. They were not born in the county, they never lived in the county and, for all the evidence that they thought they had found for a connection between Kent and the Saxon Steed, they do not constitute evidence that this feeling was shared in the county itself. The Kentish Post is the earliest known appearance of the White Horse motif in a source of Kentish provenance and as such is the earliest evidence that this foreign symbol, associated with Kent by external academics, had now been accepted by the county that was supposedly its ancient home. Even more importantly, not only had Kent accepted it as part of its history but it had adopted it as part of its iconography, for this is the earliest known use of the motif as a symbol of the modern county, outside the context of the kings to whom it was attributed.


Fig. 6 Masthead of the Kentish Post, with detail of White Horse escutcheon to left. (© The British Library Board, PENN.P32.)

It is possible that this was simply a natural development out of the earlier line of thinking, just as the attributed arms of the kingdoms of Essex and Sussex are now used by the modern counties but the timing in Kent’s case is suspicious. It has already been demonstrated that the White Horse of Kent is really the Saxon Steed of the House of Welf, which was used, in one form or another, by many of the branches of that dynasty. In 1714, a member of the House of Welf, Georg Ludwig, Prince-Elector and Duke of Brunswick and Lüneberg, became King George I of Great Britain and he brought the Saxon Steed with him.113

The arms of the elector of Hanover (as the co-Duke based in that town was compendiously but unofficially known) included the Saxon Steed, though courant, rather than salient. These were merged with the Royal Arms of Great Britain for the duration of the personal union. In this context, the Saxon Steed appeared on official documents and was displayed in parish churches (Fig. 7).114 Furthermore, the flag of the electorate was almost identical to that which is now recognized as the flag of Kent, depicting a white horse charging on a red field.

Fig. 7 Royal Arms of King George I, Church of St Peter and St Paul, Charing. (Reproduced by kind permission of John Salmon.)


In 1751, George II issued a Royal Warrant on regimental uniforms,115 ordering the Horse of Hanover to be depicted on the flap of grenadiers’ mitre caps, on drummers’ caps and guidons of cavalry regiments and on the caps of the Royal North British Dragoons and the housing and holster caps of the 3rd Regiment of Dragoons. Although this order applied generally throughout the British Army,116 one military unit associated with Kent, the East Kent Militia,117 tweaked it to depict the horse salient, rather than courant, presumably in reference to the attributed arms of Hengest.118 Though this would not have lasted long (another warrant in 1768 replaced mitre caps with bearskins, with the Royal Crest on a silver plate on the front),119 the tradition of displaying the White Horse on Kentish uniforms was established. Similarly, officers of the West Kent Militia120 wore sash buckles that depicted the horse salient.121

In 1768, the Kentish Post was absorbed by the Kentish Gazette, which had been founded only four weeks earlier.122 From the beginning it had, like the Post, depicted two escutcheons on its masthead, the White Horse on the left and the arms of Canterbury on the right. As of its second issue (28 May 1768), the escutcheons were labelled ‘Kent’ and ‘Canterbury’ respectively, with the Royal Arms (including the Horse of Hanover) in between them.

In 1794, merchants’ tokens, payable variously at Brookland, Goudhurst, Hawkhurst and Staplehurst, were minted with the horse motif on one side.123 In contrast to the seventeenth-century examples (see above), there were no White Horse Inns in any of these villages and the Brookland and Goudhurst issues say around the rim ‘Kent halfpenny’, implying that the symbol had regional, rather than only local, relevance. The Goudhurst issue even has the arms of Canterbury on the reverse (Fig. 8), so forming a diptych of symbols comparable to (and perhaps inspired by) the usage of the Kentish Gazette.


Fig. 8 Tradesman’s token, payable at Goudhurst. (Reproduced by kind permission of David Stuart.)

These examples make it quite clear that it was in the eighteenth century that the White Horse was raised from being the attributed arms of the kings of Kent, of only antiquarian interest, to being the symbol of the modern county, from obsolescence to (supposed) revival. It may be sheer coincidence but one cannot help suspecting a causal link between the Hanoverian Succession of 1714 and the subsequent popularity of the White Horse as a symbol of Kent.

George I was not universally welcomed and his coronation was marked by riots in at least twenty towns in England.124 Kent, however, had good reason to welcome him. The county has a strong Protestant tradition125 and it was George’s Protestantism that qualified him for the throne.126 Although the Horse of Hanover and the attributed arms of Hengest were not quite identical (the former being courant and the latter salient), their similarity and common origin were still obvious. By purportedly reviving a symbol so clearly related to George I’s ancestral arms, the Men of Kent advertised the ancient links between their county and his homeland and, more importantly, flaunted their Protestant credentials and their support for the Protestant king.127

Nonetheless, even at the end of the eighteenth century the symbol had still not quite achieved the synonymity with the county that it has now. In 1797 Edward Hasted wrote:

The wapen, or arms of Hengist, according to Verstegan, were a leaping white horse, or hengit [sic], in a red field; similar to which are the present arms of this county, the only difference being the colour of the field; which, in the latter, is blue.128

The most visible use of the arms at this date was still on monochromatic newspaper mastheads, which explains why Hasted appealed to the relatively esoteric Speed for the colour-scheme. The symbol was also shunned by the county’s officials, who used their personal seals for public business, when they used any symbolism at all.129

It was in the nineteenth century that the White Horse truly galloped out of control and achieved its modern universal recognition as the symbol of Kent. It would be tedious to list all of the different contexts in which it was used but a few representative examples should suffice to illustrate its rising acceptance. Hop-pickers printed it on their pockets130 and at least one hop-picker used it on his tokens.131 From its foundation in 1802, the Kent Insurance Company displayed the horse (appearing for the first time alongside the motto ‘Invicta’) on fire marks, fire policies, firemen’s uniforms, the façade of the Company’s offices and even on commemorative silverware.132

In 1828, the genealogist William Berry blazoned the arms of Kent in his Encyclopædia Heraldica as ‘gu. a horse, salient, ar.’133 and two years later depicted them as such on the title-page to the Kentish volume of his County Pedigrees series.134 It was increasingly used on the front covers or title-pages of books about the county.135 Archaeologia Cantiana has used it on its title-page (and, until rec-ently, on its cover) since its first issue in 1858.

Despite Berry’s blazon, it became more usual to depict the horse forcene and so it appears on the southern abutment of Blackfriars Bridge, erected in 1864, as part of the insignia of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway (Fig. 9). It was put on the steam engines of Aveling and Porter Ltd. from 1865.136 In the same century, stained glass windows depicting the attributed arms of Anglo-Saxon kings were installed in the Chapel Corridor at Ightham Mote, including the White Horse on a blue field, labelled as Æthelberht’s arms.137


Fig. 9 Insignia of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway, Blackfriars Bridge, London. (Photo James Lloyd.)

The Kentish regiments continued to use it in various contexts, usually on a red background, though occasionally on a blue.138 It was also used on the coats-of-arms of institutions based in Kent. The escutcheon of Kent College, Canterbury (founded in 1885), uses the White Horse with a red background in the lower canton. Conversely, Kent College, Pembury, has used the blue variant on its lower canton since its foundation in 1886.139 The uniform of Oakwood Park Grammar School has, since its foundation (as the Maidstone Technical High School for Boys) in 1918, depicted the escutcheon of Maidstone alongside the blue version of the Kent escutcheon.140 Perhaps these examples show a nascent tendency to treat the blue version as proper to west Kent and the red version to east141 but this rule was not strictly maintained. In 1953, Tonbridge Grammar School adopted the red version for one half of its escutcheon.142

Despite its lack of official recognition, the escutcheon was included in books of heraldry on the strength of traditional usage.143 It was flaunted by Kent County Council, which used it on its seal from its foundation in 1889 (Fig. 10),144 on its official documentation145 and even as a watermark in Council notepaper.146 Since the current front wing of Sessions House was built in 1913,147 the escutcheon has been displayed both on the public façade (Fig. 11) and in the Council Chamber.148 The Canterbury City War Memorial, unveiled in 1921, includes a sculpture of the arms of Kent (among others), though it is uncoloured.149


Fig. 10 Wafer impression of the original seal of Kent County Council, used from 1889, in C/A3/3C/7, New Seal, 1936. (By kind permission of Kent History and Library Centre, Maidstone.)


Fig. 11 Pediment of Sessions House, Maidstone. (Photo James Lloyd.)

By 1930, the original seal had deteriorated and the County Council took the opportunity to apply for a full heraldic achievement, which could glorify the replacement.150 Although there was considerable debate about the crest, helm and supporters, there was never any question but that the charge on the escutcheon should be the White Horse,151 with a carved shield displayed at Maidstone Museum being used as the model (Fig. 12).152 The arms were formally granted in 1933 and the new seal made in 1936 (Fig. 13).153

Fig. 12 Fireplace in Maidstone Museum and Bentlif Art Gallery.

(Photo James Lloyd, taken with permission.)


Fig. 13 Wax impression of the new seal of Kent County Council, used from 1936, in C/A3/3C/7, New Seal, 1936. (By kind permission of Kent History and Library Centre, Maidstone.)


The horse also appears as a charge, crest or supporter on the arms of many towns and boroughs in (or formerly in) the county.154 Interestingly, several of these arms were granted before Kent County Council’s, the earliest being Margate’s in 1858. In 1967, the University of Kent was granted arms featuring the symbol.155

The Kent Messenger, successor to the Kentish Post and Kentish Gazette, cont-inues their tradition of displaying the White Horse on its masthead. The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (Queen’s and Royal Hampshire’s), which has absorbed most of Kent’s previous militias and regiments, features the White Horse on its collar badge. Kent County Football Association, Rugby Football Union and Cricket Club all use the White Horse, the first two against a blue background, the last against blue shading artistically into red. In 2003 the controversial (and rather avant garde) white horse was cut into Cheriton Hill near Folkestone. Indeed, one can hardly walk down a lane or drive down a road somewhere in the county without seeing it, be it appended to a notice from the County Council, functioning as a town sign or crowning the weather-vane of an oast-house.

The White Horse of Kent is actually the White Horse of Brunswick. Whatever standard or banner the kings of Kent might have used in reality (if any), there is absolutely no reason to believe that it might have been a white horse and good reason to believe that it was not. The symbol, though inspired by the legend of Hengest and Horsa, is actually an artificial tradition, invented in Germany in 1361 and not applied to the kings of Kent until the early seventeenth century.

Perhaps this attribution was bound to lead to the symbol’s adoption by the modern county sooner or later but it seems credible to hypothesise that this process was actually initiated, or at least hastened, by the Hanoverian Succession, which brought the Saxon Steed to the attention of a wider British audience. The supposed use of that symbol by the ancient kings of Kent provided a convenient pretext that allowed the eighteenth-century Kentish to adopt what was really the symbol of a foreign state as their own, as a gesture of loyalty to the new Royal House and of the county’s commitment to the Protestant religion which that House had been enthroned to protect. It is really these that the symbol, flag and arms of Kent represent: not the county’s mythical founder but its actual history, a history of Protestantism and of allegiance to the Crown.


The County Flag

The earliest reference to a flag based on the arms (not counting Verstegan’s imaginative illustration) was made in an essay on Kentish botany, published in 1841, by Anne Pratt. Commenting on the county’s virtues of civility and bravery that had secured its legal privileges (a reference to gavelkind), she concluded ‘... it is not only excusable, but quite natural, that the men of Kent should range themselves beside their banner of the Horse rampant, bearing the bold motto INVICTA, with a feeling of complacency ...’.156 Given the gushingly patriotic tone of her prose, it is unclear whether the image that this conjures should be taken literally or metaphorically.

The first organisation known to have used a banner of the arms was Kent County Cricket Club, which was formed in 1870 from the amalgamation of several earlier County Clubs, the first of which had been formed at West Malling in 1836.157 Precisely when the Club started using the flag is unknown but Pratt’s comment suggests that it may have begun under the predecessor Clubs.

What is certain is that in 1931 Lord Harris, who had been founding Captain of the amalgamated Club, was chairman of the County Arms Sub-Committee. It was he who argued against a blue background for the escutcheon on the basis that red provided a better contrast on a flag in poor weather, something he knew from experience.158 In 1936, the K.C.C. Secretary re-directed an enquiry concerning the flag of Kent to the Cricket Club. In that year it was used to represent Kent at an inter-county chess tournament but it was still thought of the Cricket Club’s flag as late as 1952.159 Its current popularity would therefore appear to be a relatively recent development and owed more to its use as the banner of the County Council.

The White Horse Inn

This paper would be incomplete without a consideration of one kind of White Horse with which many readers will, perhaps, be more familiar than is healthy. Kent has its fair share of White Horse Inns and some bear (modern) signs making a connection between the name and the county symbol.160 The most explicit in this regard is the Kentish Horse in Markbeech but that was founded in the nineteenth century. Some of these inns, however, do pre-date Verstegan.161 One might argue that these provide evidence for an earlier use of the White Horse symbol.

The riposte, however, is that there is no shortage of White Horse Inns elsewhere in England, many of them ancient.162 Conversely, Kent is also home to Black Horse (e.g. in Pluckley), Running Horse (e.g. in Sandling) and Flying Horse (e.g. in Boughton Aluph) Inns. Do these recall some obsolete regional symbol or Germanic cultic practice? Possibly but it is much likelier that they are just pub names. There is no reason to assume that any White Horse Inn, even in Kent, is named in honour of the county symbol and therefore no reason to believe that the antiquity of the Inn name proves the antiquity of the symbol.


Although the errors and infelicities that remain are entirely the fault of the author, this paper could never have been written without the kind offices of the many others who furnished him with information, assistance or advice:

Professor Simon Keynes brought the existence of London, College of Arms, L. 14 and British Library, Harley 6085 to the author’s attention and arranged for him to examine the latter.

The Reverend David Cook read much of the German-language material consulted for this paper on the author’s behalf (though the translations provided here are the author’s).

Samantha Bentley, Senior Conservation Assistant at Ightham Mote, provided the information on the stained glass windows in the Chapel Corridor.

Charles Griffin of provided information on the East Kent Militia.

Colonel Walter Bonnici, L/RAMC, provided the information on the West Kent Militia in Malta.

Mark Housden, Deputy Headmaster of Oakwood Park Grammar School, explained the age of the school’s uniform.

Pippa Blackstone, Tonbridge Grammar School Development and Alumni, provided very full information on the school’s emblem.

Kayleigh Minihane, Head of External Relations at Kent College, Pembury, provided information on the school’s use of the White Horse symbol.

Dr David Shaw provided advice and information on early issues of the Kentish Post.

Information about the shield in Maidstone Museum and Bentliff Art Gallery was provided by Pernille Richards and Rebecca Arnott, Documentation and Collections Officers respectively at the Museum.

A major contribution was made by Dr Lynsey Darby, Archivist of the College of Arms, who verified on the author’s behalf that the White Horse arms appear on no heraldic roll as the attributed arms of Hengest and drew the existence of London, College of Arms, Vincent 170 to the author’s attention.

Mary Berg shared with the author her views on the history of the arms of Canterbury.

David Robertson, Honorary Curator of Kent County Cricket Club, provided information on that organization’s role in the invention of the county flag.

Finally, and above all others, the author’s thanks are owed, as always, to John Blubery and William Lynch.


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List of abbreviations

ASC Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (ed. Plummer).

HE Bede, Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (ed. Colgrave and Mynors).

S (with doc. no.) Sawyer, Anglo-Saxon Charters.

  • 1. For further detail and sources on the grant of arms, see below p. 20. The heraldic designation is ‘Gules, a horse forcene argent’ (copy of the letters patent, in Kent History and Library Centre, C/A3/3C/3, Grant of Arms – Agreed design, receipt of letters patent, requests for use of arms from other bodies and authorities, 1932-4) but it is more usually described as ‘rampant’ (Scott-Giles, Civic Heraldry, p. 177). Both adjectives mean ‘with one hind leg on the ground’ but ‘forcene’ is more appropriate for horses. In older depictions, it tends to appear ‘salient’, meaning with both hind legs on the ground.
  • 2. G.H.W., ‘White Horse of Kent’; Hannen, ‘White Horse of Kent’.
  • 3. G.H.W., ‘Origin of The White Horse’.
  • 4. Jessup, ‘White Horse of Kent’.
  • 5. Sachsenross, p. 60.
  • 6. Saber, British County Flags: Kent Flag,, accessed 30 March 2016.
  • 7. van Arsdell, Celtic Coinage of Britain, pp. 90-110.
  • 8. On which see Green, Gods of the Celts, pp. 171-5; on the animal’s appearance on coins, see ibid., p. 59.
  • 9. Chick, Coinage of Offa, pp. 96-132 and 149-63; Naismith, Coinage of Southern England I, pp. 15-35.
  • 10. For a modern review of the story, see Brooks, ‘creation and early structure’, pp. 58-64; Yorke, Kings and Kingdoms, pp. 25-44.
  • 11. Tacitus said that white horses were used in divinatory rituals (Germania, §10; ed. Hutton and Warmington, p. 146). According to Bede, it was taboo for a priest of the old religion to ride a stallion, though a mare was permissible (HE ii.13; ed. Colgrave and Mynors, p. 184).
  • 12. Germania, §43 (ed. Hutton and Warmington, p. 202); Simek, Dictionary of Northern Mythology, pp. 59-60 and 139; Mallory, In Search of the Indo-Europeans, pp. 135-7; West, Indo-European Poetry and Myth, pp. 186-91; Turville-Petre, ‘Hengest and Horsa’, pp. 278 and 286; Drewett, South East to AD 1000, p. 250; Sims-Williams, ‘settlement of England’, pp. 23-4.
  • 13. Cf. Bede’s acceptance of Woden as a historical ancestor of the English kings (HE i.15; ed. Colgrave and Mynors, p. 50). The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle goes one better, incorporating him into biblical history and making him a descendent of Adam (ASC 855; ed. Plummer I, p. 66).
  • 14. ‘effigiesque et signa quaedam detracta lucis in proelium ferunt’ (Germania, §7; ed. and transl. Hutton and Warmington, pp. 140-141).
  • 15. Hutton and Warmington, Germania, pp. 140-1, nn. 2-3.
  • 16. Gesta Saxonicae i.11; ed. Walkowski, p. 42. It has, however, been suggested that Widukind himself invented this, inspired by Roman tradition (Bachrach and Bachrach, Widukind of Corvey, p. 21, n. 88).
  • 17. Brooks and Walker, ‘Authority and Interpretation’, p. 32.
  • 18. The West Saxon dragon is sometimes anachronistically referred to as a wyvern, a distinction that Old English does not make.
  • 19. ‘uexillis depictus’ (Historia Anglorum iv.19; ed. and transl. Greenway, pp. 242-243).
  • 20. ‘... Ædelhun precedens Westsexenses regis insigne, draconem scilicet auream, gerens ….’. Historia Anglorum iv.19; ed. and transl. Greenway, pp. 242-243.
  • 21. Gibson, Camden’s Britannia, p. 267.
  • 22. Henry of Huntingdon, Historia Anglorum vi.13; ed. Greenway, p. 358. See comment ibid., n. 61.
  • 23. Henry of Huntingdon, Historia Anglorum vi.30; ed. Greenway, p. 394. Henry’s accuracy in assigning the English king a personal standard in addition to the draco is questionable. He used the very recent French loanword ‘standard’, rather than a Latin translation, as one might have expected if he were translating an Old English expression and the motif of a draco-banner in partnership with a ‘standard’ sic also appears in contemporary French romantic literature (Greenway, Henry of Huntingdon, pp. cvi-cvii).
  • 24. As recorded by William of Malmesbury (Gesta Regum Anglorum iii.241; ed. Mynors, Thomson and Winterbottom I, p. 454) and William of Poitiers (Gesta Guillelmi ii.31; ed. Davis and Chibnall, p. 152).
  • 25. Tatlock, ‘Dragons of Wessex and Wales’, pp. 223-4.
  • 26. Neubecker and Brooke-Little, Heraldry, p. 105.
  • 27. Brooks and Walker, ‘Authority and Interpretation’, p. 33.
  • 28. According to whom Harold ‘planted his standard on the summit, and ordered all other banners to be joined to his’; ‘In summo montis uexillum uertice fixit, / Attigique iubet cetera signa sibi’, Carmen de Hastingae Proelio, ll. 375-6; ed. and transl. Barlow, pp. 22-3.
  • 29. Guy wrote his poem before 1070 (Barlow, Carmen de Hastingae Proelio, pp. xl-xli).
  • 30. ‘Late Anglo-Saxon State’, pp. 24-5. He even suggested that hundreds may have had their own banners.
  • 31. Cf. also the consistent use of raven-banners by Danish armies (instances are listed by Campbell, Encomium Emmae, pp. 96-7).
  • 32. See Maylam, The Hooden Horse; Cawte, Ritual Animal Disguise, pp. 85-93.
  • 33. The Northumbrians were an Anglian people and their kings used very different standards. King Edwin had a standard of a plume of feathers borne before him (Bede, HE ii. 16; ed. Colgrave and Mynors, p. 192). For the possibility that East Anglian kings used the same standard, see ibid., n. 3). King Oswald’s standard of gold and purple was hung over his tomb (Bede, HE iii. 11; ed. Colgrave and Mynors, p. 246). The Mercians are the only Anglian kingdom fleetingly associated with a draco-standard.
  • 34. HE i.15; ed. Colgrave and Mynors, p. 50.
  • 35. Sims-Williams, ‘settlement of England’, p. 24; Myres, ‘The Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes’, pp. 165-7. Historians’ shifting views on the credibility of Bede’s model are summarized by Richardson, ‘Third Way’, pp. 73-4.
  • 36. Welch, ‘Anglo-Saxon Kent’, p. 209.
  • 37. Richardson, ‘Third Way’, pp. 75-8.
  • 38. Hawkes, ‘Anglo-Saxon Kent’, p. 74.
  • 39. Brooks, ‘creation and early structure’, pp. 68, 73-4.
  • 40. Martin Welch imagines a ‘migration stream’ flowing down from Jutland, through north-west Germany and the Netherlands, to Kent (‘Anglo-Saxon Kent’, p. 219), for which the collective label ‘Jutish’ may have been chosen in contradistinction to Saxon identity (Richardson, ‘Third Way’, p. 79).
  • 41. As a matter of fact, there is no evidence that the kings of Kent ever considered themselves Jutes, seeming instead to have identified with the Angles (see Myres, ‘The Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes’, pp. 150, 169 and 175). In no source, however, did they identify themselves as Saxons, so the point still stands.
  • 42. Bede, HE iii.8; ed. Colgrave and Mynors, p. 236.
  • 43. His choice of words when he reported that the Saxons’ leaders ‘are said’ (‘perhibentur’) to have been two brothers named Hengest and Horsa (HE i.15; ed. Colgrave and Mynors, p. 50) ‘... shows that he is reporting a tradition without wholly endorsing it.’ Sims-Williams, ‘settlement of England’, p. 21.
  • 44. Sims-Williams, ‘settlement of England’, p. 22.
  • 45. Books, ‘creation and early structure’, pp. 73-4. For the argument that Oisc himself may be another demoted deity, see Turville-Petre, ‘Hengest and Horsa’, p. 285; Moisle, ‘Anglo-Saxon royal genealogies’, pp. 235-6; Sims-Williams, ‘settlement of England’, p. 23.
  • 46. See also Tatlock, ‘Dragons of Wessex and Wales’, p. 227.
  • 47. On the different officials who might lead the militia, see Lloyd, ‘Reeves as Agents of Royal Government’, pp. 34-5 and 84, n. 60.
  • 48. The sharing of the ducal title creates different numbering protocols, so that he is sometimes known as Albert I or Albert II. To save confusion, this paper will call him simply Duke Albert.
  • 49. Schnath, Sachsenross, pp. 18, 24-5.
  • 50. Veddeler, ‘Landessymbole’, p. 83 and fig. 6.
  • 51. Schnath, Sachsenross, pp. 18-21 (see in particular pp. 20 and 38-9 for its first appearance on an escutcheon in 1380, when the colour-scheme was established); Ströhl, Deutsche Wappenrolle, p. 73.
  • 52. Ströhl, Deutsche Wappenrolle, pp. 70-4; Stadler, Deutsche Wappen V, pp. 6-7.
  • 53. Schnath, Sachsenross, p. 49; van der Laars, Wapens, vlaggen en zegels, p. 8.
  • 54. Stadler, Deutsche Wappen VII, pp. 7-8.
  • 55. For, example, in the state of Lower Saxony, it appears in the arms of the districts of Helmstedt (Stadler, Deutsche Wappen I, p. 44) and Stade (ibid., p. 85); in the state of Schleswig-Holstein, it appears in the arms of the district of Herzogtum Lauenburg (ibid., p. 45) and in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, it appeared in the arms of the former district of Iserlohn (ibid., p. 48).
  • 56. Sierksma, gemeente wapens, p. 113, with commentary on pp. 223 and 262.
  • 57. Twente was anciently part of the Saxony/Westphalian dominions but the flag was only adopted in 1900 (Hartemink, Heraldry of the World: Twente,, accessed 1 May 2016).
  • 58. Veddelers, ‘Landessymbole’, p. 83.
  • 59. Ströhl, Deutsche Wappenrolle, p. 73.
  • 60. Schnath, Sachsenross, pp. 22-6.
  • 61. Ibid., p. 26.
  • 62. Ströhl, Deutsche Wappenrolle, p. 73.
  • 63. Neubecker and Brooke-Taylor, Heraldry, p. 110; Veddeler, ‘Landessymbole’, pp. 79-83.
  • 64. A history of previous suggestions and the reasons for rejecting them are summarised by Schnath, Sachsenross, pp. 26-38.
  • 65. Writing 1406 x 1418 (Jansen, Cosmidromius, pp. xxxviii-xliv).
  • 66. Bede did not, in fact, specify Hengest’s and Horsa’s nation of origin but the collective term ‘Saxones’, originally a pars pro toto exonym for all the Germanic invaders of Britain, came to be taken literally in their case.
  • 67. ‘Duces igitur exercitus illius qui de Saxonia in Britaniam profectus est, filii ducis Angarie sive de Enghere fuerunt, quorum unus, ut dicit Beda, vocabatur Hengist et alter Horsa, quorum nominum quodlibet sonat lingua vulgari equum regium egregii roboris et decoris, quo principes maxime utuntur in hastiludiis et torneamentis. Et inde forte est, quod arma quorundam ducum Saxonie sunt equus albus, quoniam ab antiquo talia arma suis progenitoribus receperunt. Et sic ab antiquo nomina principum cum nominibus armorum concordabant, sicut adhuc in Westfalia nomina quorundam militarium cum nominibus seu vocabulis armorum suorum concordant.’ Cosmidromius, §23; ed. Jansen, p. 11; present author’s translation.
  • 68. See, for example, a dispute between sixteenth-century historians over whether Hengest was a full-blooded Saxon or half-Frisian: Petrus, Apologia, pp. 120-9.
  • 69. Ströhl, Deutsche Wappenrolle, p. 73; Stadler, Deutsche Wappen V, p. 6.
  • 70. Sachsenross, pp. 45 and 101.
  • 71. Ibid., pp. 38-40.
  • 72. ‘... das Roß als vermeintliches Sinnbald des alten Sachsen in sein Siegel aufzunehmen, um der Welt zu zeigen, wem von rechts wegen die den Wittenbergern zugefallene führende Stellung im alten Herzogtum Sachsen gebührte.’ Ibid., pp. 41-2; present author’s translation. Schnath’s conclusion is supported by Stadler (Deutsche Wappen V, p. 6, though Stadler also believed that Albert was reviving a genuinely ancient symbol) and Veddeler (‘Landessymbole’, p. 84).
  • 73. Schanth, Sachsenross, p. 25; see also comments p. 40.
  • 74. Schnath, Sachsenross, p. 46.
  • 75. Stadler, Deutsche Wappen I, p. 44.
  • 76. Hartemink, Heraldry of the World: Renkum,, accessed 1 May 2016.
  • 77. Van der Laars, Wapens, vlaggen en zegels, p. 8. See comments in Veddeler, ‘Landessymbole’, pp. 84-5.
  • 78. Boutell and Fox-Davies, English Heraldry, pp. 17-19. This tradition reached its climax in 1604, when the newly acceded King James asked Sir William Segar, Garter Principal King of Arms, ‘some questions touching the Coat Armour of England’. He responded with two comprehensive manuscripts of the attributed arms: London, College of Arms, L. 14, fols. 362-84 and British Library, Harley 6085 (see Keynes, ‘Mapping the Anglo-Saxon past’, p. 169, n. 45).
  • 79. London, College of Arms, Vincent 170, pp. 29-57; see Campbell et al., Catalogue of Manuscripts, p. 402.
  • 80. Wagner, Catalogue of Medieval Rolls, p. 97.
  • 81. College of Arms, Vincent 170, p. 33. The drawings are in fact in black and white but the intended colours are signified by abbreviated labels (a technique known as ‘trick’ in heraldic terminology).
  • 82. Ibid., p. 34.
  • 83. The Finnesburh Fragment is ed. Klaeber, Beowulf, pp. 245-7; the affiliated passage in Beowulf is ll. 1063-1159a, ed. ibid., pp. 40-4.
  • 84. This was first suggested by Chadwick (Origin of the English Nation, pp. 52-3) and developed by J.R.R. Tolkein (Finn and Hengest). That they were the same man was taken for granted by Myres (‘The Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes’, p. 150, n. 4) and Witney (Kingdom of Kent, p. 16) but doubted by Klaeber (Beowulf, p. 235). Even if they are intended as the same character, however, that does not corroborate Hengest’s historical existence but simply makes him a character in Germanic legend (Sims-Williams, ‘settlement of England’, p. 23).
  • 85. The first two do bear a passing resemblance to the arms of Canterbury (three choughs on a white field, with a lion of England on a red background above them) but these were not registered with the College of Arms until 1619 and the earliest reliably datable examples are from the sixteenth century (Berg, Canterbury Cathedral: Is Richard II’s 1380 charter all it seems?,, accessed 7 June 2016), though a fifteenth-century example has been claimed (Birch (ed.), Catalogue of Seals II, no. 4783; disputed by Berg). Research into this question is ongoing and it remains to be seen how, if at all, the attributed arms of Hengest might affect it.
  • 86. ‘... vnde fortasse sit, quod equum olim in insignibus gesserint Saxoniæ Duces. At cur Hengistus, & Horsa nostri ab equo nomen dux erint [sic] (vtriusque enim nomen Saxonice equum significat) plane me latet, nisi in bellicæ virtutis omen ...’ (Camden, Britannia, p. 47; transl. Gibson, Camden’s Britannia, p. cxxx).
  • 87. On whom, see Arblaster, ‘Verstegan’.
  • 88. Verstegan, Restitution of Decayed Intelligence, p. 116.
  • 89. Ibid., pp. 120-1.
  • 90. This is presumably the reason why Hannen (‘White Horse of Kent’) and Jessup (‘White Horse of Kent’, p. 469) both believed that Verstegan had contrived the idea himself. Verstegan may also be one of the unnamed ‘earlier authors’ (‘früheren Autoren’), who had assumed that the White Horse of Kent dated back to ancient times, dismissed by Schnath (Sachsenross, p. 60).
  • 91. Accessibly re-produced in Counties of Britain, ed. Nicolson and Hawkyard.
  • 92. Ibid., pp. 30-1.
  • 93. E.g. Cambridge, Trinity College Library VI.5.34, which Speed presented to Queen Anne of Denmark, uses the red version (see Keynes, ‘Mapping the Anglo-Saxon past’, p. 160, fig. 18.10).
  • 94. The first Christian kings of Wessex and Northumbria are also presented changing arms but not the others (cf. the frontispiece, which specifies a distinction between the arms of the heathen West Saxons and Christian West Saxons).
  • 95. Hardegsen (since 1500; Stadler, Deutsche Wappen V, p. 46), Wolfenbüttel (since 1570; ibid., p. 84) and Verden (but only since 1948; Stadler, Deutsche Wappen I, p. 92).
  • 96. Speed, History of Great Britaine, pp. 282, 291-2, 295-7, 341, 346.
  • 97. Ed. Hebel, Works of Michael Drayton IV, p. ii.
  • 98. Ibid. Are the ‘Old wives fictions’ a reference to the Kings of Britain roll or its sources?
  • 99. Counties of Britain, ed. Nicolson and Hawkyard, pp. 106-7.
  • 100. The charters in question, S 338 (867) and S 339 (868), were the only surviving charters issued by that king that dealt with land in Kent. His other charters used only the title ‘king of the West Saxons’.
  • 101. Battaile of Agincourt, ed. Garnett, pp. 28-33.
  • 102. Ibid., p. 29.
  • 103. The legend of the Battle of Swanscombe had only recently come to wider academic and literary attention (Gillespie and Harris, ‘Holinshed and the Native Chronicle Tradition’, pp. 148-9). For a discussion of the origin of the legend and of its use in historical and political debate, see Smith, ‘The Swanscombe Legend’.
  • 104. Garnett, Battaile of Agincourt, p. 109; Jenkins, ‘Sources of Drayton’, p. 281.
  • 105. Viz. Monmouthshire, Brecknockshire, Radnorshire, Montgomeryshire and Denbighshire.
  • 106. G.H.W., ‘White Horse of Kent’ (1932), p. 15.
  • 107. Williamson, Trade Tokens Issued in the Seventeenth Century I, pp. 352, 362-3 and 370; payable at Dover and Greenwich; also payable at Canterbury, where a White Horse Inn was standing at the time (see below, p. 36, n. 161). On White Horse Inns in general, see below, p. 24.
  • 108. Reproduced in facsimile in Blaeu’s Atlas of England, ed. Tooley. This uses the 1662 edition of the title-page, where the Kentish escutcheon is blue (earlier editions had used red).
  • 109. Gibson, Chronicon Saxonicum, opp. p. 1; see Keynes, ‘Mapping the Anglo-Saxon past’, pp. 161-3.
  • 110. Harris, History of Kent, pp. iv-1.
  • 111. Shaw and Gray, ‘James Abree’, p. 21.
  • 112. Kentish Post 1 Jan 1725 (O.S.). No issues survive in between 1722 and 1726, so it is impossible to be sure at what point in the interim the addition was made.
  • 113. This was expressed pictorially on a contemporary medallion which depicted a giant horse leaping from Hanover across the North Sea to Britain (Schnath, Sachsenross, table 17, fig. 64).
  • 114. Parish churches in Kent that display the Royal Arms of the period 1714-1800 include Capel (Thomas Becket), Cranbrook (Saint Dunstan), East Peckham (Saint Michael) and Faversham (Saint Mary of Charity).
  • 115. Ed. Sumner, ‘Army Inspection Returns’ (1924), pp. 227-31 and ‘Army Inspection Returns’ (1925), pp. 23-4, with details of individual regiments’ uniforms, taken partly from the warrant and partly from inspection returns, passim both papers.
  • 116. Jessup (‘White Horse of Kent’, p. 470) misrepresented this order as applying specifically to the 50th Regiment, which he anachronistically called the Royal West Kent Regiment. In fact regiments were not assigned to counties until 1782. It was only then that the Buffs were assigned to East Kent and the 50th to the West. These choices were apparently made on the whim of their respective colonels, since neither regiment had had any particular association with Kent thitherto (Blaxland, Story of the Queen’s Own Buffs, p. 20).
  • 117. Raised in 1760, merged with the Buffs in 1881.
  • 118. The only known specimen of this mitre cap to survive is National Army Museum, 1966-09-57, Grenadier cap, East Kent Militia, 1760. It is reproduced and discussed by Carman, ‘Grenadier Cap’ and Griffin, The British Empire: The Buffs East Kent Regiment,, accessed 10 June 2015.
  • 119. Sumner, ‘Army Inspection Returns’ (1925), p. 28.
  • 120. Formed in 1759, in response to an Act of 1757. In 1853 it became the West Kent Light Infantry Militia and in 1881 it was made the 3rd and 4th Battalions of the Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment, though the Battalions continued to be commonly referred to as the West Kent Militia (Bonhote, Historial Records, pp. 82, 252 and 277-8).
  • 121. Ibid., opp. pp. 148 and 466; Haythornthwaite, ‘Belt-Plates’. The cited examples are from 1793, 1798 and 1800 respectively.
  • 122. Shaw and Gray, ‘James Abree’, pp. 27-8. The first issue was 4 May 1768 and the first joint-issue 23 July 1768.
  • 123. Atkins, Tradesmen’s Tokens, pp. 48, 52 and 54.
  • 124. Schama, History of Britain, p. 348. For a contemporary account of many of the Coronation riots, see Anonymous, Account of the Riots, pp. 4-15.
  • 125. So proverbial was Kent’s reputation for Protestantism that Devonian Thomas D’Urfey celebrated it in a verse of his song The Brave Men of Kent in 1690 (de Vaynes and Ebsworth, Kentish Garland I, p. 137). Fresh verses were added to the song in 1828 in honour (or parody) of Kentish opposition to O’Connell and the Catholic Relief Bill (ibid., pp. 134-5), when a convention of the county at Penenden Heath voted to present a petition against emancipation to the House of Commons (Sheil and Mackenzie, Sketches of the Irish Bar II, pp. 315-38).
  • 126. The election of Kent’s M.P.s tended to vacillate between Tories and Whigs. The long-term trend was for Kent to return Tories but Whigs were returned in 1715 and 1727, elections precipitated by the accessions of George I and George II respectively (Newman, History of Parliament Online: Kent 1715-1754,, accessed 17 April 2016). Cf. the anti-Hanoverian disorder exhibited in other counties on the former occasion (Anonymous, Account of the Riots, pp. 15-26). A song from the 1727 contest celebrated the election of the Whig candidates and proclaimed the county’s loyalty to ‘the Hanoverian line’ (sic) (de Vaynes and Ebsworth, Kentish Garland I, pp. 335-6).
  • 127. It seems to have been the Kentish Post’s masthead that started the bandwagon. Nothing is known of the politics of the Post’s original printer, Thomas Reeve, or of James Abree’s, who took over as printer in 1726 but there is some evidence that the latter had Huguenot ancestry (Shaw and Gray, ‘James Abree’, pp. 21-2).
  • 128. History and Topographical Survey I, p. 64.
  • 129. E.g. Kent History and Library Centre, U464/O1, Appointment of Charles Lockyer as deputy lieutenant, 1727, bears the personal seal of the Earl of Leicester, the Lord Lieutenant; Kent History and Library Centre, Q/A/N/5, Justices’ certificates of men enrolled, 1796-7, are impressed with the personal seals of the Justices of the Peace. Cf. the traditional use of personal banners by Lord-Lieutenants when captaining the militia: Bonhote, Historical Records, p. 97.
  • 130. This was in response to an Act of 1774 that required pockets to be marked with the year, place of growth and grower’s name (Filmer, Hops and hop picking, p. 18).
  • 131. Bridge, ‘Kent Hop-Tokens’, p. 62 and opp. p. 60, fig. 9.
  • 132. Anonymous, Some notes, p. 10, with examples on pp. 8, 11-12, 23, 30, 32 and 42.
  • 133. Berry, Encyclopædia Heraldica I, p. 268.
  • 134. Berry, Pedigrees.
  • 135. E.g. Adams (ed.), Kentish Coronal; de Vaynes and Ebsworth (eds.), Kentish Garland; North, Kent: Historical, Biographical, and Pictorial; Maxwell, Unknown Kent; Oswald, Country Houses of Kent; etc.
  • 136. Preston, Aveling and Porter, opp. p. 1.
  • 137. Samantha Bentley, Senior Conservation Assistant at Ightham Mote, pers. comm.
  • 138. E.g. the West Kent Militia’s colours, introduced in 1855, used a red background (Bonhote, Historical Records, pp. 259-60, 272-3 and opp. p. 308). Conversely, the White Horse on a blue field is one of the regimental badges painted onto the walls of the Main Guard in St George’s Square, Valletta, Malta, where the Militia served 1900-1 (Walter Bonnici, pers. comm.; this may be viewed at British Army Medical Services and the Malta Garrison 1799-1979: Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent), ed. Bonnici,, accessed 10 June 2015), even though the Militia actually trooped their red colours while in Malta (Bonhote, Historical Records, p. 308-9). These colours continued to be used after the Militia was merged into the Royal West Kent Regiment, which also inherited the Militia’s helmet plate and forage cap badge (ibid., p. 278). Indeed, it is on the cap badge that the White Horse has enjoyed its most widespread dissemination: on Captain Mainwaring’s cap in Dad’s Army.
  • 139. Kayleigh Minihane, Head of External Relations, pers. comm.
  • 140. Mark Housden, Deputy Headmaster, pers. comm.
  • 141. Cf. West and East Sussex, where the martlets are also given a blue or a red background respectively.
  • 142. The design was suggested in 1952 by pupil Dorothy Bibby (now Gant), drawn up by Claire Foster (now Morgan) and adopted by the Governors after the Coronation (Pippa Blackstone, T. G. S. Alumni and Development, pers. comm.).
  • 143. E.g. Fox-Davies, Book of Public Arms, p. 406.
  • 144. For information on the history of the old seal, as well as an impression of it on wafer, see Kent History and Library Centre, C/A3/3C/7, New Seal, 1936.
  • 145. E.g. Education Committee certificates, issued c.1903 (Melling, History of the Kent County Council, p. 12, fig. 5).
  • 146. The author found examples of this, appropriately enough, in Kent History and Library Centre, C/A3/3C/1-3 and 6, Correspondence concerning the grant of arms, 1930-6.
  • 147. Melling, History of the Kent County Council, p. 23.
  • 148. Ibid., p. 25, fig. 11. This was replaced in 1934 by the recently granted full achievement (ibid., p. 56).
  • 149. Lloyd, Canterbury Cathedral: The Canterbury War Memorial,, accessed 20 March 2014.
  • 150. This rationale is explained in a letter from the County Clerk to the Earl Marshal, dated 11 October 1930 and kept in Kent History and Library Centre, C/A3/3C/1, Grant of Arms – First proposals and comments from members of the County Council, 1930 and in letters and memoranda in C/A3/3C/7.
  • 151. There was some suggestion of using a blue or Kentish grey background and of putting a cross pattée and fitchée in each of the upper corners to represent Kent’s two sees but these came to nothing. See passim C/A3/3C/1 and C/A3/3C/2, Grant of Arms – Creation of County Arms Sub-Committee and submission of alternative designs, 1931. Different designs may be viewed in C/A3/3C/4, Grant of Arms – Designs Submitted, 1931.
  • 152. This is one of several escutcheons carved over a fireplace in the private house that has since become Maidstone Museum and Bentlif Art Gallery. The date of the fireplace is unknown but that wing of the house was built in 1868 (Pernille Richards, Documentation Officer, Maidstone Borough Council, pers. comm.).
  • 153. An impression of the new seal on wax may be found in C/A3/3C/7.
  • 154. Scott-Giles, Civic Heraldry, pp. 178-92, passim.
  • 155. Briggs, Civic & Corporate Heraldry, pp. 216-17.
  • 156. Pratt, ‘On the Vegetable Productions of Kent’, p. 17.
  • 157. Moore, History of Kent County Cricket Club, pp. 14-17.
  • 158. This criticism is explained in a letter from the County Clerk to the College of Arms, dated 4 July 1931, kept in C/A3/3C/2. The comment is attributed to Lord Harris in a memorandum, dated 13 March 1952, kept in Kent History and Library Centre, C/A3/3C/9, County Arms – File 8, 1950–2.
  • 159. Letters between the Kent County Chess Association and the County Council (dated 26 February and 4 March 1936) and an internal Council memorandum (dated 2 March), kept in Kent History and Library Centre, C/A3/3C/6, County Arms, 1934-6.
  • 160. E.g. at Cranbrook.
  • 161. E.g. the White Horse Inn in Canterbury was probably founded in between 1466 and 1598. A document of the former date (Canterbury Cathedral Archives, CCA-CC-WOODRUFF/38/1), dealing with property on the future site, is endorsed in a later hand ‘Now the White Horse’. The property is named as the White Horse in a document of 1598 (CCA-CC-WOODRUFF/38/3/1-2).
  • 162. G.H.W. (‘White Horse of Kent’ (1932), p. 102) found a reference to a White Horse Inn on London Bridge in the fifteenth century.