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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 [1949] 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). 


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TO ALL AND SINGULAR AS WELL NOBLEMEN as Gentlemen and others to whom these present shall come, I, Captain NEVILE RODWELL WILKINSON FSA Ulster King of Arms and Principal Herald of All Ireland, Registrar of the Most Illustrious Order of St. Patrick, send due Salutations and Greeting, WHEREAS application hath been made unto me by HENRY WELLINGTON TUTHILL PALMER, Gentleman a Lieutenant in His Majestys [sic] Corps of Royal Engineers, setting forth that he is the eldest son of a Major General Henry Wellington Palmer, Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath who was only son of Major James Palmer, Inspector General of Prisons in Ireland, eldest son of the Venerable Henry Palmer, Clerk in Holy Orders, Master of Arts of the University of Dublin and Archdeacon of Ossory, by Ellen [Smyth] his wife daughter and coheir of Edward Smyth of Callowhill in the County of Fermanagh, Esquire, High Sheriff of the said County in the year 1747, by Eleanor [Ralphson] his wife daughter and heir of John Ralphson only son of William Ralphson of the City of Dublin, Gentleman, to whom the Arms hereinafter described were granted by Richard St. George, Esquire, Ulster King of Arms of All Ireland by his Letters Patent bearing date the eight day of August 1674, as appears by the Records of my Office, that certain Armorial Ensigns have been used and born by his family which do not appear to have been heretofore recorded in my Office and that he is desirous that the same may be duly confirmed by lawful authority and registered and recorded in the Office of Ulster King of Arms in Ireland to know the end that the Officers of Arms there and all others may take full notice and have knowledge thereof, and he hath therefore prayed for a full conformation of the said Arms, with such distinction as I may deem proper to assign duly marshalled with Smyth and Ralphson in right of his said ancestors, unto him and his descendants, and the other descendants of his great grandfather the said Venerable Henry Palmer, Archdeacon of Ossory and Ellen his wife.  KNOW YE therefore that I the said Ulster King of Arms having taken the request of the said applicant into consideration, and having examined into the circumstances, am pleased to comply therewith, and by virtue of the power given unto me by His Majesty's Royal Letters Patent under the Great Seal of the part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland called Ireland and by the authority of the same have ratified and confirmed and by these Presents do exemplify ratify and confirm unto the said HENRY WELLINGTON TUTHILL PALMER, and his descendants, and the other descendants of his great grandfather the said Venerable Henry Palmer, Archdeacon of Ossory and Ellen his wife, the ARMS following that is to say: - Quarterly, First and Fourth, Argent, two chevronels between three palmers scrips, sable, the strings, buckles and tassels or (for Palmer)[,] Second, Argent, on a bend azure, between two unicorns heads erased sable, armed, crinad, and tufted or, three lozenges of the last (for Smyth)[,] Third, Azure, a lion rampant ermine, in chief three plates (for Ralphson) for CREST on a wreath of the colours, a dexter arm in armour embowed couped at the shoulder the hand holding a broken sword all proper, the lower and  upper arm each charged with a chevronel sable, and for MOTTO "In Deo est mihi amnis fides" [In God is all my faith] the whole as is more clearly above depicted to be borne and used hereafter by him the said HENRY WELLINGTON TUTHIL PALMER, and his descendents, and the other descendants of his great grandfather the said Venerable Henry Palmer, Archdeacon of Ossory and Ellen his wife, forever, with their due and proper differences according to the Laws of Arms without the let, [sic] hindrance, molestation or interruption of any person or persons whatsoever.

IN WITNESS whereof I subscribe these present with my Name and Title and affix here unto the Seal of my Office this Fourth day of December in the eight year of the reign of Our Sovereign Lord Edward the Seventh by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas, King, Defender of the Faith and so forth and in the year of Our Lord One thousand nine hundred and eight.

Nevile R. Wilkinson

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 ([1884] 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; [1884] 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 ([1884] 1967, 772-773).  The following Palmer arms are very similar to those included in the 1908 confirmation:

"Palmer (Howlets, co. Kent [England], 1586).  Ar. [argent] a chev. [chevron] betw. [between] three palmers' scrips sa. [sable] the tassels and buckles or."

"Palmer (Rahan House, King's co. [Ireland]).  Az. [Azure] a chev. [Chevron] or, betw. [between] three palmers' staves and scrips sa. [sable].  CrestAn arm in armour embowed ppr. [proper] garnished or, the hand grasping a spear also ppr. [proper].  MottoHonor virtutis prĉmium."

"Palmer (Castle Lacken, co. Mayo [Ireland], bart.).  Quarterly, 1st and 4th, ar. [argent] a chev. [chevron] vert betw. [between] three palmers' staves and scrips sa. [sable] garnished gu. [gules];  2nd and 3rd, chequy ar. [argent] and az. [azure] on a chief gu. [gules] three annulets or.  Crest1st: An arm embowed vested az. [azure] cuffed or, grasping a tilting-spear ppr. [proper]; 2nd: A griffin sejant ar. [argent] wings addorsed gu. [gules] charged with three annulets of the second beaked and membered or.  MottoSic bene merenti palma."

"Palmer (Dublin; confirmed by Carney, Ulster [King of Arms], 1683, as the arms of Elinor, wife of Abel Ram, Esq., of Ramsfort, co. Wexford, Alderman of Dublin, and daughter of Stephen Palmer, of Dublin).  Ar. [argent] a chev. [chevron] betw. [between] three palmers' scrips sa. [sable] tassels and buckles or."

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.

__________.  [1884] 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.  [1892] 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.  [1949] 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 ([1892] 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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This page, and all contents, are Copyright © 1999 by Patricia A. (McGuinness) DuLong, Berkley, MI.   Created 21 July 2000.   Last modified 1 December 2006.  This web site is best viewed with your display set to 800 by 600 pixels, at least 256 colors, and using Netscape 4.x or better.  Some of the graphics on this page are copyright © 1998, 1999 by Amanda Fisher and are used here in compliance with her terms.