Titus Coat of Arms

The Titus Coat of Arms was awarded to the Titus family, specifically to Silas Titus, assumed to be the half-brother of Robert who came to America with his wife, Hannah and two sons in 1635. According to heraldic “rules” a family passes the coat of arms down through the eldest son. In this case Silas Titus had only daughters, so the entitlement to bear the Titus coat of arms died with him. An article entitled Arms and the Woman by J. Shaw throws some light on those rules as they would apply to any of Silas Titus’s daughters. Shaw writes:

“In the February edition of ‘Lancashire’ I pointed out that the use of arms by a wife presented difficulties, as there is nothing in heraldic rules to give official sanction to how this should be done. This omission arises from the fact that heraldry developed at a period in history when a married woman was of little importance as an individual (shades of Feminine Lib!). As an unmarried heiress she was important to suitors in that the arms, titles, and estates of her family were carried by her to her husband. As a widow she was important, bearing the titles of her husband, and often acting as regent for her young children..

But as a married woman she lost her individual identity, all rights and inheritance became the property of her husband. He even claimed peerage honours and titles that had descended to the wife, and would sit in parliament as a peer in his wife’s peerage. These rights only changed in comparatively modern times with the passing of the Married Women’s Property Act.

So the use of arms by a woman falls into three clearly defined areas, as an unmarried woman, as a married woman, and as a widow.

Every woman is entitled to bear, on a lozenge, the arms, quarterings and difference marks which belonged to her father. If her mother was an heiress she adds her mother’s arms and quarterings to her father’s, marshalling them into correct sequence on the lozenge. If she is an heiress these arms pass via her husband to her children. If she has living brothers or their descendants she is not an heiress so the arms she bore as a spinster, and on marriage impaled with her husband’s, will on her death (or divorce) cease to appear on her husband’s shield and will not be passed on to her children.

In actual fact, though she might bear many quarterings on her lozenge, it is incorrect to show more than her patronal coat when either impaled or bourne on an inescutcheon of pretence by her husband. No woman, save a Sovereign, can inherit, use or transmit crest or motto, helmet or mantling.”

Silas Titus was born in 1622 and prior to 1632 the family moved to Bushey in Hertfordshire, England. He died in 1704 and is buried in the chancel of the parish church of St. James at Bushey, along with his father, Silas, and other members of his family.

In the rebellion led by Oliver Cromwell when the English parliament raised an army against King Charles I, Silas obtained a Captain’s commission and took part in the siege of Donnogton Castle in 1644. He soon disapproved of the course taken by the independants and joined the forces of the King and subsequently was of great service to both Charles I and Charles II.

On Jun. 4, 1647, Silas brought word to the House of Commons of the capture of King Charles I. Silas had helped in Charles’ attempt to escape, but was unsuccessful and Charles was later tried and executed. Upon the restoration of King Charles II, Silas was rewarded for his services and was made a “gentleman of the bedchamber” to Charles II. He was a member of parliament and a Knight of his Shire for many years.

For his service to both Kings, Charles I, and Charles II, Silas Titus was awarded by Charles II the augmentation to his arms of the lion of England “or [gold] on a chief embattled gules [red].” This is the basis of the Titus Coat of Arms.

Incidentally, I have found a record of Silas Titus being appointed to a Council for Foreign Plantations at 500 pounds per year by Charles II by Royal Commission on Jul. 30, 1670. That was an enormous sum at that time. I have often wondered if there was any communication with his elder brother, Robert who had been exposed to all the hardships of the New World, and with his wife, Hannah who, when she died, had a total estate of 50 pounds.

Here is the description of the Titus Coat of Arms from Crozier’s General Armory, p. 127:

“1st and 4th: or on a chief gules, a lion passant guardant of the field. 2nd and 3rd; gyronny of eight or and azure, on an escutcheon argent a blackamoor’s head couped sable wreathed round the temple argent and azure. A blackamoor’s head couped at the shoulders wreathed round the head argent and sable.”

I am far from being an expert in heraldry, but here is my explanation: The 1st to 4th refer to the quarters of the shield of the arms. They are numbered as follows; (1) top left, (2) top right, (3) bottom left, and (4) bottom right. In this case the 1st and 4th quarters are each divided horizontally in two parts. The upper third (chief) is red (gules) and has a lion passant (walking and looking to the right side with three paws on the ground and the right forepaw raised). The 2nd and 3rd quarters have a gyronny (the quarter is divided into eight parts with a vertical and a horizontal line, and diagonal lines) of alternate gold and blue, with a small shield in the centre containing a negro’s head couped (cut) with a wreath around the temple of silver and blue. On top of the shield is the crest, consisting of another blackamoor’s head, this time with shoulders, with a wreath around the temple of silver and sable (black).

The most interesting aspect of this coat of arms, in my view, is the depiction of the Moor’s head, or blackamoor,  both on the shield and on the crest. Just what is its significance? The lion passant surely indicates a connection to royalty, a connection that Silas most certainly had. The blackamoor’s significance is much more obscure.

I have recently come across, mostly by accident, an account of the origin of the flag of Corsica on which is depicted a Moor’s head, almost identical to that of the Titus coat of arms. The following, from www.corsica-isula.com, describes its significance in the Corsican context:

The Testa di Mora, the black Moor’s head on a white background forms the national flag of Corsica. The Moor’s head with a white bandeau was adopted by Pasquale Paoli in 1762 as the official emblem of independent Corsica. It was inhertied from the kings of Aragon, who were invested with Corsica by the Pope in the Middle Ages. Four Moor’s heads became the arms of Sardinia after the Aragonese conquest and, with a cross of St. George separating them, they remain the national flag of the neighbouring island. The Aragonese never conquered Corsica, but they claimed it as their own. It first appeared in Corsica in 1573 in an atlas showing the lands of Philip II.

The bandeau originally blindfolded the eyes of the Moor, while it is now raised to his forehead. There are those who see its removal as a symbol of freedom from slavery. There are others, who claim that it dates from the time of the Saracen invasions and the Corsicans’ habit of decapitating the moors. King Theodore, who also made use of this symbol in 1736, strangely had the bandeau covering the eyes.”

The blackamoor is also a prominent part of the Sardinian flag. The Titus family legend contends that Silas Titus’ father came from Italy. If that is really the case, then perhaps he was from Corsica or Sardinia. The significance of the blackamoor’s head on the coat of arms would then begin to make a lot of sense.

When we turn to DNA, however, the Titus haplogroup clade (R1b1b2) does not tie in with the Corsica-Sardinia origin theory. A study was conducted in 2000 titled “Frequency distribution of mitochondrial DNA haplogroups in Corsica and Sardinia” by L. Morella, et al and published by the Dipartimento di Zoologia e Antropologia Biologica at the University of Sassari, Italy. That study analysed mitochrondrial polymorphisms for 56 individuals from the area of Corte in central Corsica, 51 from Gallura in northern Sardinia and 45 from Bargagia in central Sardinia. 95% of these mtDNAs could be grouped in 8 haplogroups, specifically in haplogroups H, I, J, K, T,U, V and X. Haplogroup R, that of the English Titus line, was not even mentioned.

The Genetics section of Eupedia.com, a website that covers European background subjects, including European history and population genetics, there is a section entitled “Distribution of European Y-chromosome DNA (Y-DNA) haplogroups by country in percentage.” The figures for Italy reveal that the haplogroup R1b is by far the largest with 39%, over twice its nearest rival, J2, with 15.5%.

When the figures are broken down by district the R1b percentages are as follows: Tuscany-52.5%, North Italy-49.5%, Central Italy-36%, South Italy-27.5%, Sicily-26% and Sardinia-18.5%. All this tends to point to the fact that the patriarch, Silus Titus really did come from Italy and that the family lore was correct. Perhaps as time goes by we will find some Italian folks with the modal set of Titus Y-DNA STR markers that will prove that they are indeed Titus cousins.

Bill Arthurs

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