Sunday, May 20, 2018

HERALDRY | St John's College. (May 21, 2018)

St John's Arms. Note
correct estoiles
and canton.
Blazon Gules on a Bordure Sable, eight Estoiles Or on a Canton Ermine, a Lion Rampant of the second in chief an Annulet of the third.  Brooke-Little.

Authority Granted to Sir Thomas White. Assumed by St John's.

Meaning Sir Thomas White had served as Lord Mayor of London. His arms as blazoned in The General Armory (Burkes) are exactly as used by St John's, although incorrect forms of the arms abound.

Issues Canton sometimes shown argent instead of ermine. Estoiles sometimes shown with straight arms. Annulet shown sometimes as a mark of cadency at the top of the shield below the bordure, and sometimes as a charge in the center of the shield. Bordure sometimes shown incorrectly.

Founded On 1 May 1555, Sir Thomas White obtained a Royal Patent of Foundation to create a charitable institution for the education of students within the University of Oxford.

Nominee The nominee of St John's College is St John the Baptist. He was selected because the founder was a Merchant Tailor and St John came to be the patron saint of tailors because he made his own garments. His garb is described in the Bible as that of the prophets, a rough camel's-hair outer garment, secured at the waist with a leather belt (Matt 3:4, Mark 1:6).

Example of poor heraldry.
No ermine in the canton.
Estoiles not wavy. Not
a bordure.
Founder Sir Thomas was a Roman Catholic. He intended that St John's would provide a source of educated Roman Catholic clerics to support the Counter-Reformation under Queen Mary. Edmund Campion, the Roman Catholic martyr, studied at St John's.

White was born in Reading, Berkshire, in 1492, son of a clothier. He was brought up in London and apprenticed, in 1504, to Hugh Acton, a member of the Merchant Taylors' Company. Acton left him £100 upon his death, enabling  Thomas to begin business for himself in 1523. He became master of the Merchant Taylor's Company c. 1535.

Within a decade he became Alderman of the City of London and contributed £300 to King Henry VIII for his war against Scotland. By 1547 he was Sheriff of London and sat on the commission for the trial of the Nine Day Queen, Lady Jane Grey, and her adherents. White’s loyalties lay with the Roman (Marian) side. His effective actions on behalf of Queen Mary I were repaid by his election as the Lord Mayor of London on 29 October, less than a month after being knighted by the Queen.

In 1555, inspired by the example of his friend and fellow Roman Catholic Thomas Pope, founder of Trinity College, Oxford, he obtained a royal license to found St. John's College, Oxford, which he endowed with £3,000 at his death. The College is dedicated to St John the Baptist, the patron saint of Merchant Tailors, and was established in the buildings of the dissolved Cistercian College of St Bernard. In 1559 he purchased Gloucester Hall, Oxford, which he opened a year later as a hall of residence for a hundred scholars.

In 1562 he suffered greatly from a recession in the cloth trade, but the provisions of his will were astutely managed by his executor, the Master of the Rolls, Sir William Cordell. The legacy was invested in land. He died on 12 February 1567 a poor man. He is buried in St. John's College chapel, and although twice married to Avicia (died 1558) and Joan he left no issue.

Several portraits of Sir Thomas White are in existence, but none was painted from life. The one in St. John's College is said to be similar to those belonging to the Merchant Taylors' Company, to Leicester and to nearly all the towns to which he left benefactions.

History Initially St John's College had a small endowment. White acquired buildings that had belonged to the former College of St Bernard, a dissolved Cistercian monastery and house of study. They were on the east side of St Giles’, north of Balliol and Trinity Colleges.

During the reign of Elizabeth I the fellows lectured narrowly in dialectic, Greek and rhetoric, and not directly in theology. During the twenty years after its foundation, additional gifts were made and St John's became well endowed with properties. In the second half of the nineteenth century it benefited from the development of the city of Oxford. The St John’s endowment today is said to be the largest of the Oxford colleges. For example, it owns the Oxford Playhouse building and the Millwall Football Club training ground.

The boathouse shared by St John's (R) and Corpus Christi (L) Boat Clubs.
As Master of the Merchant Taylors' Company, White established a number of educational foundations that facilitated the flow of students from favored  schools to the College, in the same way that Winchester School was a feeder school for New College. Closed scholarships for students from the Merchant Taylors' School persisted until the late 20th century, and scholarships were also in place for students from five other schools.
With the failure of the Counter-Reformation, St John's became primarily a  producer of Anglican clergymen in the earlier period of its history. The College also gained a reputation for degrees in law, medicine and PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics).

Female students were first admitted in 1979, after more than four centuries of the college as an institution for men only. Elizabeth Fallaize was appointed as the first female fellow in 1990.

References (more to come)

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