The Balch Coat of Arms

From Genealogy of the Balch Families in America pages v - x. By Galusha B. Balch M.D. Published by Eben Putnam Salem, Massachusetts. Yonkers New York. 1897. Transcribed by Charles V. Balch 1997.

Balch Family Coat of Arms

Though perhaps not really germane to the subject, it seems interesting to note that in the reign of Edward IV, the baudekin reserved by sumptuary law for the use of royalty was woven of blue and gold stripes, which happen to be the chief colors of the Balch coat of arms. Those colors, with the red in which the "bend " crossing the shield is emblazoned, are esteemed as among the most noble in heraldry, and the simplicity of the coat itself would seem to be an evidence of antiquity there is nothing however, to show that it was granted at a very early date. It appears in the visitation of Somerset in 1623, the very year in which John Balch came to America.

The visitation of the counties by the King’s stewards and officers-at-arms, under special warrants of the sovereign, for the purpose of collecting and recording the pedigrees and arms of the nobility and gentry resident therein, is of very ancient date, and the genealogies and arms thus collected are well know by the name of visitations." These records are preserved in the College of Arms, London, from the year 1523 to 1686.

There were visitations of Somerset in 1531, the 22nd year of the reign of Henry VIII.; by Benolte, Clarencieux King-of-Arms, in 1573, the 15th year of Elizabeth; by Brooke Clarencieux, by his deputies, Henry St. George, Richmondherald, and Sampson Lennard, Buluemantle pursuant, in 1623 by the last mentioned, anid in 1672, 23d year of Charles II., and the last visitation made by Bysshe, Clarencieux.

The arms of Balche, of Horton, as illustrated in the frontispiece of this volume, and accompanied by a pedigree which form the basis of the sketch of early English Balches, which follows, are thus described in the Visitation of 1623.

"Barry of six, Or and Azure; on a bend, engrailed, Gules, three spear heads, Argent"

No crest is described with this shield.

Sir Bernard Burke, the English authority, in his "General Armory of England, Scotland and Wales," edition of 1883, describes the arms of Balche of Horton as above and adds: "Balche [Virginia, Maryland and Philadelphia, North America], the same arms. Crest, out of a ducal coronet, or, a demi-griffin, ppr. Mottos – Ubi Libertas, ibi patria [Where liberty is there is my country.] "Not laws of man but laws of God."

Another motto that has been attached to the arms, as used by the Philadelphia branch is; "Coeur et Courage font l’ouvrage," -- Heart and courage do the work.

It has been stated that some the southern Balches, being allied to the Macgregors, use their crest, a lion’s head proper, crowned with an antique crown.

Culleton, a London heraldic engraver, gives the Balch arms as described, and the motto as "Fait Devoyr," "Do your duty." Vermont, in his "American Heraldry," copies Burke.

Daniel Balch, of Newburyport, Mass., in his will, dated March 9, 1789, left to his eldest son, Daniel, Jr. "my coat of arms." That he inherited his copy from his father, Rev. William, or dis grandfather, Freeborn, on that John brought it with him to America, in 1623 is a matter of mere conjecture. To a copy in possession of a descendant of Daniel is attached the note: "The above are the arms of Balche of Horton, in the county Somerset’ as they appear recorded to that family in the Herald’s visitation of that county made in 1623. Albert W. Woods, Herald." As Sir Albert W. Woods is at present (1896) Garter King of Arms of the Heralds’ College, it is evident that this copy is comparatively recent.

The crest and motto found with o a copy of the Balch arms, published by a descendant of Baniel – William F. – in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, in 1855 have been a puzzle. The crest is a mailed arm and the gauntletted hand, grasping broken spears or javelins. The Latin motto accompanying this crest – "Usus a Punctum" – seems to refer to the spears but, with its grammatical incorrectness, convey the admonition to "use the point," or the boast that the spears had been so used, as their broken condition would attest. Nothing is known in the history of the family in England to justify such a warlike blazon.

A variation of the cat of arms, in which the spear heads are replaced by golden disks, or "bezants’! a word derived from Byzantium, the ancient Consantinople, and appied to gold coins of that country, appearsi th church of St. Mary in the paish of Poorstock, in Dorset. I the chancel is this escutcheon: "Barry of six, Or and Azure; on a bend, indented, Gules three Bezants." Under it, "Scutum Gulielmi Balch, obiit 39 die of Januarii, anno Dom., 1631." The shield of this William Balch is thus nearly the same as the one already described, except tat the "bend" has been serrated, instead of scalloped edges – which might have been merely the result of imperfect workmanship or imperfect description – and the silver spear heads are changed to golden disks. The peculiarity of the inscription, in giving the date of the bearers’ decease as the 39th of January, may, perhaps be accounted for bit the attempt to reconcile the "old style" and "new style" of chronology, between which there was the n a difference of ten days.

As to the crest and helmet used by the American Balches there appears to be no old authority. The helmet used by William F. Balch in the Historical and Genealogical register is that belonging to royalty, as it must be wrong. The helmet should be that of an esquire.

In addition to the good work done by Galusha, I'd like to add:

As noted above, the description of the Balch Coat of Arms reads:

Barry of six, Or and Azure; on a bend, engrailed, Gules, three spear heads, Argent

I visited two sites to get an interpretation of this. Both sites are clear that the rules were often bent:

Here are some commonly held interpretations of what some of the above words mean.

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