The arms of Senior (top left) quartered with Duke.
I believe that the charges on the Senior arms originate as follows:
- The lion's heads represent the Lions of Judah, an ancient Jewish symbol;
- The ermine represents the Senior family's noble Sephardic ancestry;
- The dolphin (heraldically king of sea creatures) represents the freedom of the seas. The sea has throughout history often been the only means of escape for the Jews, who have been forced to seek out new homelands to escape repression; it has literally been their lifeline. In addition, the sea is the lifeblood of their trading links and thus, in a sense, the source of their wealth and well-being;
- The leopard couchant crowned with an eastern coronet, I believe refers to the grantee's service with the East India Company.
The name Duke derives from 'le Duc', referring to a military leader rather than a hereditary title. It was apparently an administrative title in the Carolingian empire. The Dukes were an old Suffolk family, tracing their descent from Roger le Duc, Sheriff of London in 1190 but they almost certainly came to this country during the Norman conquest. They held land at Shadingfield in Suffolk and later at Brampton in the same county. They later purchased Benhall, also in Suffolk. Edward Duke was created a baronet in 1661 by Charles II but the baronetcy became extinct in 1732. See Burke for further details.
I don't know, at the moment, how my Duke ancestors are connected with the Duke family of Suffolk but they display the same coat of arms. My family tree identifies our Dukes as the Duke family of Benhall Lodge or Brampton, Suffolk but doesn't specify the exact relationship with the main line, as detailed in Burke. The connection between the Senior and Duke families arose from the marriage of Mary Duke (1769-1822) to John Raven Senior (1763-1824), father of Nassau William Senior. Mary Duke was the daughter and co-heiress of Henry Duke, Solicitor-General of Barbados, who was killed in a hurricane in 1781 while protecting his wife and two daughters.
There is a tradition in our family that the Dukes were royalists who escaped from England at the time of the Civil War.
John Duke, of the Suffolk branch, son of Sir Edward Duke, first baronet, emigrated from England in 1657/8 but it is not clear where he went. He may have gone to America. John Duke was one of 29 children.
Humphrey Duke of the Devon branch, emigrated to Barbados in 1630 and is almost certainly the ancestor of the vast majority, if not all, of the later Dukes in Barbados.
Lt. Col. Robert Duke, of the Wiltshire branch, was convicted of treason in 1655 as a result of the Penruddock rebellion, an attempt to overthrow Cromwell. He was sentenced to death but this was later commuted to life imprisonment and then to exile in Barbados, where he went without his family and later died, apparently before 1660. It is not impossible, but very unlikely, that he fathered children in Barbados.
There therefore seem to be at least three possible links back to the Duke family in England, all from different branches of the same family - Suffolk, Devon and Wiltshire. It is quite likely that we will never be able to positively identify which of these, if any, is our ancestor because a fire in Barbados in 1666 destroyed many records. The research carried out by Lynn Teague indicates that Henry Duke, Solicitor-General of Barbados, referred to above, was actually descended from the Devon branch of the Duke family, who bore the arms Per Fess, Argent and Azure, three chaplets countercharged [Duke], Party per Pale, Wavy Azure and Or [Poer]. It would appear, on this basis, that the arms shown at the top of the page are incorrect, being the arms of Senior quartered with Duke of Benhall, Suffolk, rather than, as should be the case, with the arms of Duke of Poer Hayes (or Duke Hayes), now Hayes Barton, in Devon.
More information on the Duke family can be found here and here.
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