Heraldic Crest from an English Coat-of-Arms
Fine art replica giclée print © 2013 Allen Bjorkman
Elephant - Castle Heraldic Crest
Matted Dimensions: 6 x 6 inches
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The following story was told to me by an anonymous professor of Tudor studies.
The Elephant - Castle symbol is displayed on many pubs, and the history of the image is connected to the ceremonies surrounding the wedding of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, and arises from false cognates between Spanish and English. I was told to remember that this was a time when the written word was not common in the working classes. It was the sound of the word that was copied.
Spanish royal culture was extremely conservative in dress and manners. Catherine wore black, while Henry presided over a court that has been credibly described as licentious. There are well chronicled instances of excessive drinking and even (!) dancing.
Catherine came to England by boat, of course, and then travelled by road to London. Along the way, citizens and officials gathered to cheer and honor her. In spite of the adulation, she was never seen to smile on this journey until she reached London.
Property transfer was a big part of marriage, and the English viewed this marriage as “hitting the big time”, as Spain was a very powerful nation, mostly comprised of Aragon and Castile. Catherine was the Princess (in Spanish: Infanta) of Aragon, but was very far from being the heir to Castile.
The London artisan guild created a banner with the Elephant - Castle image as a symbol of the far-fetched hope that Catherine could bring all of Spain (and its wealth) to England. If only Catherine of Aragon could also be the Infanta of Castile! The banner was displayed as part of the Lord Mayor of London’s welcoming, and then, for the first time, Catherine was seen to smile. Infanta - Castile had become Elephant - Castle!