Ludlow Palmers
helping to conserve the fabric and treasures of St Laurence's
The Royal Arms

A painting depicting the arms of King Charles II hangs in the North Aisle. It is dated 1674, and in the lower right hand corner a monogram of the letters T and F can be seen, presumably the artist's signature.

When Henry VIII declared himself the head of the Church in England, it became customary to display the royal arms as a symbol of the sovereign's rulership of both Church and State. Commonly they were originally hung on the rood screen in place of the crucifix that formerly hung there.

After 1660, an Act of Parliament ordered that all royal arms in churches that had been overpainted with the arms of Oliver Cromwell's Commonwealth, which had temporarily abolished the monarchy, should be replaced.

Ludlow had always been a strongly Royalist town during the Civil War, and it is recorded that the Royal Arms (of the then king, Charles I) were first painted and displayed here in 1628. These were ‘washt out’, as required by law, in the Commonwealth period and possibly overpainted with the arms of the Commonwealth. In 1660 a payment was made for ‘new lyming’ the arms, that is obliterating what was on the board with limewash for re-painting. In 1667 colours and gold leaf was purchased but it was not until 1674 that the work was finished.

Ludlow suffered badly during the Civil War, particularly during the siege of 1646, and it took the town some years to recover economically — so it is not surprising that this show of loyalty to the Crown was not completed until 14 years after the monarchy was restored.

It has been conjectured that the arms we see today might be a reworking of the original arms of Charles I which were almost identical. There is no evidence of this but an X-ray examination of the painting, to see what is underneath, would reveal the truth.

What is particularly unusual about the painting is that it shows the sovereign's helm in silver, and not all in gold, as became the rule from the time of Elizabeth I's accession in 1558.

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