Heraldry of the English Fortescues






Sir Faithful’s (1585 – 1666) shield, seen above, is typical of the English Fortescue Arms. In his Seal there is a crescent that signifies he is a second son. The Crescent of Islam was introduced into English Heraldry by Knights returning from the Crusades. It is seen in the earliest Seal known of the Family of Fortescue and is that of Sir Richard Fortescue who accompanied Richard the Lionheart on the Third crusade. It was attached to a deed in the twelfth century.


Tom Fortescue of Wootton Fitzpaine provided the following material on the English Fortescue Crests from “Complete guide to Heraldry” by Fox-Davies, 1909 and “The book of Family Crests” by Henry Washbourne, 1875.

From Fox-Davies, the Bourke coat of arms is that of the Earl Fortescue: It has supporters, the two greyhounds.  In English Heraldry, only a Peer may have supporters.  The greyhounds have Ducal coronets. The coronet above the shield has 5 “pearls”, so is an Earl’s coronet, and the helmet is in profile, with a 5-bar visor, the bars should be gold, so is an Earl’s helmet. The strange beast used as a crest on the helmet is a Heraldic Tiger. The tail shape and carriage, and the open jaws and tongue are typical. However, Washbourne suggests this is in fact the wrong crest, and that the tiger’s paw should be resting on a shield. In England the crest, which was has been found, early in the sixteenth century, to the present time, is uniformly a heraldic tiger passant, (the addition, sometime in the eighteenth century, of a small shield in the tiger’s paw, introduced by Earl Fortescue and the Earl of Clermont and others, and still used by their descendents today).

Washbourne lists five crests for Fortescue and one for Fortiscue:.

Fortescue Earl and Baron, and Viscount Ebrington

A heraldic tiger supporting with his right forepaw a plain shield, argent (silver/white).

Fortescue Devon

An escutcheon, argent (this is shown as a   somewhat angular shield and bears no relation to any of the others). 

Fortescue Surrey

A tiger passant, or (gold), shown as a   spotty leopard, looking forward with its right paw raised.

Fortescue Lancs and Bucks

A tiger passant, argent, armed and tufted or. This is the same spotty leopard, but presumably its mane and claws   are gold

Fortescue Essex and Ireland

A leopard passant guardant, proper, i.e. in   its natural colours.


A leopard passant, resting his dexter paw   on a plain shield. This is shown as very similar to that of the Earl, but as   a fairly natural looking leopard instead of the heraldic tiger.

A good link to find out about heraldic terms and other links to Armorial Sites is: www.heraldryclipart.com

See also the Gallery on this site for examples of Family Coats of Arms