Palmer Confirmation of Arms
by Patricia Anne (McGuinness) DuLong and John P. DuLong
One of the most important pieces of Palmer family evidence we have discovered so far is the following confirmation of arms (Wilkinson 1908). We located it at the Genealogical Office, Dublin, when we visited Ireland in 1980. These Palmer arms are the property of the Palmer family of York, England, and are only here displayed for educational purposes. Only the current owner of the Palmer arms has a right to them according to the Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland (Gillespie 2000).
To view the original Palmer confirmation of arms, please visit the National Library of Ireland website.
The language of heraldry does not translate easily, therefore, we will make no attempt to render the blazon, that is, the technical description of the arms, into simple English. Should you wish to untangle the blazon for this coat-of-arms, then we recommend you use Frair's A Dictionary of Heraldry (1987). One term does need to be defined as it is not in Frair's Dictionary. The term "palmers' stave and scrip" means a pilgrim's staff and wallet or purse (Fox-Davies  1969, 218, n. 147). The 1908 Palmer arms shows only a pilgrim's purse. To be a Palmer meant that you had traveled to the Holy Land. The word comes from the thirteenth century when a pilgrim would wear two crossed palm leaves to show they had made the pilgrimage (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 1997, 837).
The Palmer arms are very elaborate and tell a genealogical story of the relationship between the Anglo-Irish Palmer, Smyth, and Ralphson families. We were unable to find any further information about an original English grant of Arms to the Palmer family (Woodcock 1980).
The Ralphson and Smyth arms referred to in this confirmation are corroborated in other sources.
The grant of arms mentioned as dating to 8 August 1674 refers to the Ralphson family and not the Palmers. According to Robson (1830, 2: n. p., under Ralphston), the Ralphson arms were: "Ralphston [Dublin. Granted in Ireland, 8 Aug. 1674] az.[azure] a lion ramp. [rampant] erm. [ermine]; in chief three plates.Crest, a griffin's head, erased, gu. [gules] ducally gorged or." The Ralphson name is occasionally spelled Ralphston or rarely as Raphson. According to Burke ( 1967, 836), these arms were granted by St. George, Ulster King of Arms, to William Ralphson of Dublin, a gentleman, in 1674. He also has the crest gorged argent not or.
The Smyth arms can be found in Burke (1958, 643-644;  1967, 945) under Smyth of Gaybrook, County Westmeath, and are: "ArmsArg. [argent], on a bend between two unicorn's heads couped az. [azure] three lozenges or. CrestOut of a ducal coronet or, a unicorn's head erased az. MottoExaltabit honore [He will exalt with honour]."
As part of the confirmation of arms process it was not uncommon for the Ulster King of Arms to make slight modification to arms to indicate that they had been confirmed and not granted (Kennedy 1976, plate 96). In this particular case, it seems that the chevronels added to the Palmer arms and the crest were the work of Ulster. This appears to be confirmed by a drawing of the Palmer arms quartered with Smyth and Ralphson done before 1816 by Patrick Kennedy, Pursuivant to the Order of St. Patrick, and a heraldic painter. This black and white drawing is only partially tricked, meaning, that not all the tinctures are indicated. Nevertheless, the arms and motto match what Major Palmer, Kennedy's contemporary and fellow bureaucrat at Dublin Castle, may have used. The chevronels are absent and replaced by a chevron only on the Palmer quarters. The chevronels are also missing from the crest and the sword is whole and not broken. Lastly, Kennedy indicates that the field for the Ralphson arms is Gules, and not Azure, a mistake that Ulster would have rectified because he checked the original 1674 Ralphson grant. If indeed Kennedy's contemporary drawing is accurate as far as the Palmer arms go, then it would be the case that the Palmers of Co. Longford used arms identical to those of the Palmers of Howletts from Kent, England.
There are several Palmer arms mentioned in Burke's General Armory ( 1967, 772-773). The following Palmer arms are very similar to those included in the 1908 confirmation:
What, if any, relationship there is between these Palmers and the Palmers in the 1908 confirmation has yet to be determined. According to the rules of heraldry, the eldest surviving son inherits his father's arms. The other sons must difference their arms, that is, they can be similar to the father's arms, but must differ in some way. Therefore, it is possible that these Palmers are all related to one another. One wonders if the Palmers originated in County Kent, England, and then moved to Dublin, before spreading out across Ireland?
Burke, Bernard, Sir. 1958. Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Ireland. 4th ed. London: Burke's Peerage.
__________.  1967. The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales; Comprising a Registry of Armorial Bearings from the Earliest to the Present Time. Reprint ed. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co. Also on Family Tree Maker's Family History: Notable British Families, 1600s-1900s, CD no. 367, 1999.
Fairbairn, James.  1968. Fairbairn's Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland. Rev. ed. by Laurence Butters. 2 vols. in 1. Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle Co.
Fox-Davies, A. C.  1985. A Complete Guide to Heraldry. Revised ed. by J. P. Brooke-Little, Norroy and Ulster King of Arms. England: Bonanza Books.
Friar, Stephen, ed. 1987. A Dictionary of Heraldry. New York: Harmony Books.
Gillespie, Fergus, Deputy Chief Herald of Ireland. 2000. Letter to John P. DuLong. Genealogical Office, Dublin, Ireland (1 July).
Howard, Derek. 2000. "FW: Help With Latin Mottoes." Usenet News posting at rec.heraldry (4 August). Translation of Palmer and Smyth mottoes based on Fairbairn's Crests ( 1968, 442, 556). Howard suggest "In God is my faith" for Palmer.
Kennedy, Patrick. 1967. Kennedy’s Book of Arms. Northgate, Canterbury: Achievements.
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. 1997. 10th ed. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster Inc.
Pritchard, David. 2000. "FW: Help With Latin Mottoes." Usenet News posting at rec.heraldry (4 August). Slightly different translation of Palmer [In God is my whole trust] and Smyth [It will exalt with honour] mottoes.
Robson, Thomas. 1830. The British Herald; or Cabinet of Armorial Bearings of the Nobility & Gentry of Great Britain & Ireland, From the Earliest to the Present Time; With a Complete Glossary of Heraldic Terms; To Which is Prefixed a History of Heraldry, Collected and Arranged. . . . 3 vols. Sunderland, England: Printed for the author by Thurner & Marwood.
Wilkinson, Nevile Rodwell, Ulster King of Arms and Principal Herald of All Ireland. 1908. "Confirmation of Palmer." In Ulster's Office: Grants and Confirmations, J, 111, 235-236. Genealogical Office [G. O.] Ms. 111 (4 December).
Woodcock, Thomas, Rouge Croix Pursuivant. 1980. Letter to Patricia A. (McGuinness) DuLong. College of Arms, London, England (14 October).
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