Ermine Spots and Rampant Lions: Sir Robert de Bures
Updated: Dec 24, 2019
At the left is the next piece in the medieval monument group (now in the early carving stage). The similarities to the (now complete) carving of Sir de Septvans are evident:
Sir Robert de Bures (1250-1331) is also portrayed in chainmail with his legs crossed (the conventional sign of a crusader); he likewise has a lion at his feet.
Unlike Sir Septvans, however, Sir de Bures' head and hands are covered in mail, and his shield depicts two rampant lions (meaning they are standing with paws raised). This is a very common heraldic image, as are the ermine spots below the lions.
As someone with maternal Breton heritage (my mother was born near Quimper), the latter brings to mind the Breton flag, coat of arms and the motto, "Rather dead than spoiled." (or "death before dishonour"). According legend, the ermine would give up the chase to hunters rather than sully its pure white coat by passing through mud.
In general, the ermine signifies traits like purity, valour, justice and dignity.
The coat of arms of Bretagne (Brittany),
Its famous ermine dictate:
Potius mori quam foedari
Plutôt la mort que la souillure
Breton: Kentoc’h mervel eget bezañ saotret
According to the site "Find a Grave", Sir Robert de Bures "is buried in the parish church of Acton (All Saint's) in the Lady Chapel, in company with his descendants Alice de Bryan and Henry Bures. There is a magnificent brass over his grave, six feet and more in length and made apparently of bell metal. It has outlasted the purbeck stone upon which it rests, for the stone has crumbled away for the better part of an inch leaving the figure of the cross-legged knight in relief. The British Archaelogical Association pronounces it to be the finest military brass in existence and the third oldest in England."