Royal College of Midwives

Rodney Chapman has kindly drawn my attention to an armorial window in the Chapel at Beetley. It has a delightful coat of arms, in memory of Gillian Mary Barnard, who lived from 1937 to 1986. Within a flowered border, it has two midwives as supporters, the dexter one cradling an infant and with a bunch of lilies in her arms as well; the sinister one has what appears to be a brick of gold (not to my mind a very likely description!) in her left hand; her right rests on the arms. These have, within a border quartered Argent and Sable, on an Azure field a silver elongated star between two gloved hands – the symbolism being the delivery of a new hope. Above the arms, a helm right-facing, surmounted by a wreath Azure and Argent from the mantling, and above, a golden coronet. The motto on a scroll above the arms says VITA DONUM D.E.T, presumably “this work given by D.E.T”.

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In heraldic terms, the blazon appears to be: Azure an elongated Estoile Argent between two Gloved Hands as thoughreceiving the delivery, within a Bordure quarterly Argent and Sable. Mantling: Azure and Argent, with a wreath of the colours surmounted by a Coronet Or from which arises a leaved stem prpoer bearing three Fruits Or. Supporters: two Midwives, the dexter bearing a new-born babe and holding inher arms a group of Lilies, the sinister holding oin her left hand a golden block (?brick).  Motto, on a scroll above: VITA DONUM DET (or DEJ?).

The Royal College of Midwives website shows only a modern logo of two outlines of figures, with no mention anywhere of an heraldic coat of arms, nor does any other source help. Can anyone assist?

September 2014

Mr W H Franklin of Waverton, New South Wales, Australia, has kindly sent me a letter – as well as adding a Comment below – giving a full explanation: his wife is a midwife. He writes:

“The Coat of Arms of The Royal College of Midwives consists of a blue shield surrounded by a black and white border bearing on it an eight pointed star supported by a pair of hands. The crest is a pomegranate tree, its trunk encircled by an Ancient Crown, and the Supporters are Juno Lucina and Hygeia.

“Blue is traditionally the colour for the midwife; this colour signifies chastity, loyalty and fidelity. The black and white border represents night and day, as the midwife’s work is never done. The star is the Morning Star or Star of Bethlehem, the sign of birth, surrounded and supported by the hands of the midwife.

“The pomegranate tree is an ancient symbol of fertility, and the Crown encircling it signifies that we are a Royal College.

“Juno Lucina was the Roman goddess of Light, and the protectress of womanhood, marriage and childbirth. She is often depicted (as here) holding a sheaf of white lilies in one hand and a young child in the other. Hygeia was the goddess of physical and mental health, and was one of the six daughters of Aesculapius, the god of Medicine. She is depicted with a serpent entwining her left arm. Not only was the serpent the sign of wisdom and knowledge, but it was the sign of eternal life, as it appears reborn when it cats its old skin.

“The motto of the Royal College of Midwives is “Vita Donum Dei” – “Life is the Gift of God”.

He adds a scan of a page from the Midwives Chronicle and Nursing Notes of August 1960 (page 289) showing the Letters Patent sealed by Garter Principal King of Arms, Clarenceux King of Arms and Norroy King of Arms, noting that Grants to Corporate bodies are sealed with all three, rather than the usual two seals.

Thank you, Mr Franklin!

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