bearing a Tudor rose (the swan and the rose are both symbols of
Aphrodite) represents constancy in love,
the theme of Shakespeare's poem, 'The
Phoenix and the Turtle', which he dedicated to the 'true, noble
knight, Sir John Salusbury' (d 1612), brother of my
ancestor, Thomas Salusbury (x 1586). Heraldically the
swan also represents Lohengrin, the Swan Knight of the
Grail Romances, son of Parzival, the Grail King. In more
general terms the swan is also a symbol of innocence and
purity which, in Christian symbology, is associated with
the Cup of the Eucharist.
'Beauty, truth, and rarity,
Grace in all simplicity,
Here enclosed, in cinders lie.
Death is now the phoenix' nest
And the turtle's loyal breast
To eternity doth rest,
Leaving no posterity:
'Twas not their infirmity,
It was married chastity.
Truth may seem, but cannot be:
Beauty brag, but 'tis not she;
Truth and beauty buried be.
To this urn let those repair
That are either true or fair
For these dead birds sigh a prayer.'
In personal terms, the
swan refers to my great-great-grandmother, Jane Elizabeth
Senior (1828-1877), one of the great humanitarian women
of the 19th century. She was almost certainly the
inspiration for Dorothea, the heroine of George Eliot's
'Middlemarch', in which Eliot wrote of Dorothea: 'Here
and there a cygnet is reared uneasily amongst the
ducklings in the brown pond.' The Tudor rose refers
to Jane Senior's ancestor, Sir Roland de Velville (d
1536), Constable of Beaumaris Castle, a natural son of
Henry VII (according to the Dictionary of Welsh
Biography), founder of the Tudor dynasty and therefore
refers to the Tudor blood royal.
With regard to the rose
see here also.
A swan crest from the
Armorial de Gelre (arms of the Count of Blois).
'The Six Swans' is also a fairy tale by the
The charges on the shield:
Note that this is simply
my idea of what the charges might have been intended to
represent based on my knowledge of the family.
heads represent the Lions of Judah, an
ancient Jewish symbol (the word 'Jew' is derived
represents the Senior family's noble Sephardic
heraldically king of sea creatures ('chief of
fish'), represents the freedom of the seas.
Throughout history the sea has been a means of
escape for the Jews, who have repeatedly been
forced by persecution to seek out new homelands;
it has often been their only lifeline and,
through trade, the source of their livelihoods.
The dolphin is particularly apt given that Don
Abraham Senior appears to have been one of the
backers of Christopher Columbus' voyage of
discovery to America in 1492 (in this way
contributing to the birth a new nation) and that
the Senior family settled widely in the New
World. A biographer of Columbus, John Boyd
Thatcher, has written that 'the triumph of
Columbus was the triumph of the Converso Luis de
Santangel, visionary and champion of the
perennial lost cause of history, the cause of the
Jews.' Other writers (notably Salvador de
Madariaga and Simon Wiesenthal) have speculated
that the longings of the Conversos who supported
Columbus may have run parallel to the dreams of
the discoverer himself, namely, an obsessive
dream to find a refuge for the Jews in the lands
that he hoped to find across the Atlantic. The
dolphins shown are taken directly from the
original grant of arms to Ascanius William Senior
of 1767. The
earliest literary reference to the fish as
Christian symbol was made by Clement of
Alexandria, who advised Christians to use a dove
or fish as their seal. Tertullian wrote (in 'De
Baptismo') 'But we, being little fishes, as
Jesus Christ is our great Fish, begin our life in
the water, and only while we abide in the water
are we safe and sound.' The dolphin was also
used as a Christian symbol, most often as a
symbol of the Christian himself rather than
Christ, though the dolphin was also used as a
representation of Christ, most often in
combination with the anchor symbol ('Christ on
The cross is a
Christian symbol, apparently first adopted as a
heraldic device by Constantine the Great, after
his vision in 312 AD of a fiery cross accompanied
by the message 'In hoc signo vinces' ('By
this sign ye shall conquer'). The cross
moline represents the millrind, 'the
iron which supports the upper millstone of a
corn-mill' (OED) and is 'a fit bearing
for judges and magistrates, who should carry
themselves equally to every man in giving
justice' (Nisbet quoting Boswell) and is 'a mark
of [feudal] superiority and jurisdiction of a
baron, that has tenants and vassals thirled to
their mills, for of old none but barons had right
to erect mills and by some it is carried as
relative to their names, as Milne or Miller'
(Nisbet quoting Menestrier). The cross moline or
(yellow cross) also represents the yellow badge
that Jews have been forced to wear in many
periods in many countries, which was variously a
circle, band, star or cross;
(lily or iris) is a symbol of kingship that goes
back far into antiquity to the origins of
civilization and is found as such in the
archeology of Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, Assyria
and other ancient cultures. It has been the
heraldic symbol of the Royal House of France from
the dawn of history and is an allusion to my
grandfather's (Oliver Nassau Senior) descent from
Philippa Plantagenet, Countess of Ulster and of
March (daughter of Lionel, Duke of Clarence
(1338-1368), second son of Edward III), from whom
the House of York derived their claim to the
throne. Edward III inherited a claim to the
throne of France through his mother, Isabella,
daughter of Philip IV, King of France, and
therefore quartered the royal arms of France with
those of England. The fleur-de-lys is an ancient
Jewish symbol of the House of David. The lily is
also a symbol of simplicity and purity as, for
example, in the Sermon on the Mount - 'Consider
the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil
not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto
you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not
arrayed like one of these.'
Seal of Pedaiah, son of the first Exilarch. The symbol at the top appears to be a lily
and the Lily (Song of Solomon 2)
'I am the
rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.
As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the
As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my
beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with
great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner
over me was love.
Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am
sick of love.
His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth
I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes,
and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor
awake my love, till he please.
The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon
the mountains, skipping upon the hills.
My beloved is like a roe or a young hart: behold, he
standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the
windows, shewing himself through the lattice.
My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my
fair one, and come away.
For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing
of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in
The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines
with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love,
my fair one, and come away.
O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the
secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance,
let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy
countenance is comely.
Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the
vines: for our vines have tender grapes.
My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the
Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my
beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the
mountains of Bether.'
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