Mayfields of South Carolina

Home Background Essays Biographies Special Reports Census Reports SC Counties


Heraldry and the Mayfield Coat of Arms

By Phil Norfleet


Social Class in Old England

Social Class in England once was a very rigidly and carefully defined hierarchy. Everyone was quite conscious of the social class to which they belonged and many were constantly trying to elevate their social ranking. The true ruling classes of England in those days were the Aristocracy (Nobilitas Major) and the Gentry (Nobilitas Minor), all families of which had been granted Coats of Arms. To assure proper control and documentation of these grants of arms, a college of heralds arose, who worked on behalf of the sovereign and were given full authority to settle disputes, legalize grants of arms and make new grants. Today, that function is performed in England and Wales by the College of Arms, located in London. Before the Industrial Revolution and the egalitarian trends of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries had taken effect, most political power and social privilege belonged to these classes alone. If you were not at least a member of the Gentry, you were not even entitled to use the terms of Mr., Mrs. or Miss in connection with your name! You were just plain old Thomas Mayfield or Elizabeth Pheasant, although you might respectfully and affectionately be referred to as "Goodman" Mayfield or "Goodwife" ("Goodie") Pheasant.

Gregory King's Distribution

A few years after the time of the emigration of the first Mayfields to Virginia Colony, in the seventeenth century, a herald (Rouge Dragon Pursuivant-at-Arms) named Gregory King worked out a distribution by social class, including both numbers of people and family income, of the English population for the year 1688. The accuracy of this distribution has been challenged by several modern historians and sociologists. However, King’s distribution remains the best and most detailed survey of English social class before the enormous changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution.

Link to Gregory King's Distribution

It is extremely doubtful that anyone with the Mayfield surname in the United States is legitimately entitled to display an English Mayfield coat of arms. To legitimately display such arms you must be able to: 1) prove your direct male descent back to the person to whom such arms were originally granted; and 2) register your pedigree with the proper authorizing agency, i.e., the College of Arms in London.

The College of Arms in London provides the following guidance for establishing the right to display a coat of arms:

" ... A right to arms can only be established by the registration in the official records of the College of Arms of a pedigree showing direct male line descent from an ancestor already appearing therein as entitled to arms ... "

The only coat of arms and associated crest, ever granted to a person with the Mayfield surname in England, of which I am aware, occurred  on 9 October 1684.  This grant was made to a certain Owen Mayfield of Cambridge, England.

The immigrant ancestor of most of the English Mayfields in America appears to have been a certain Robert Mayfield, who arrived as a poor indentured servant in Virginia Colony in about the year 1652.  This was 32 years before anyone with the Mayfield surname had ever received an English coat of arms and it is very doubtful if Robert was related in any way to the wealthy Mayfields of Cambridge, England; also, Robert could not possibly be a direct descendant of Owen Mayfield.


Mayfield Coat of Arms


The Mayfield coat of arms and associated crest is officially described in Burke's General Armory, page 673, as follows:

ARMS:  Gules (red), a cross engrailed Ermine, in chief two mayflowers slipped Or (gold).

CREST:  A lion's head couped Gules (red), holding in the mouth a mayflower Or (gold).

The heraldic mayflower is described as a hawthorn (crataegus oxyacantha).


Obtaining a Coat of Arms

The above notwithstanding, if you are able prove your male line descent from Robert Mayfield of Virginia Colony or another Mayfield who resided in the colonies prior to 1783, you still might be able to obtain a grant of arms.  All it takes is money (2,925), achievement of a certain amount of socio-economic success in the United States, and a little patience.  Some of the criteria for obtaining a grant of arms from the College of Arms in London are as follows:

" ... Arms and crests are granted by letters patent. The Crown delegates its authority to issue such letters patent to the Kings of Arms. Before they can act in each case they must first have a warrant from the Earl Marshal agreeing to the granting of the arms. The first step in applying for a grant of arms is to submit a petition, or memorial as it is called, to the Earl Marshal. This will be drawn up for the signature of the petitioner by one of the officers of arms if it is felt probable that such a petition will be accepted. There are no fixed criteria of eligibility for a grant of arms, but such things as awards or honours from the Crown, civil or military commissions, university degrees, professional qualifications, public and charitable services, and eminence or good standing in national or local life, are taken into account. When approaching a herald with a view to petitioning for a grant of arms it is desirable to submit a curriculum vitae.

" ... When the memorial is submitted the fees due upon a grant of arms become payable. Such fees are laid down by Earl Marshal's Warrant. From 1 January 2000 the fees payable upon a personal grant of arms and crest will be 2,925, ... Where a grant of a badge or supporters, or the exemplification of a standard is also made a further fee is payable. Those wishing to know further details of the fee structure should contact the officer in waiting at the College of Arms. ...

" ... American citizens may be granted honorary arms. They must meet the same criteria for eligibility as subjects of the Crown, and in addition must record in the official registers of the College of Arms a pedigree showing their descent from a subject of the British Crown. This may be someone living in the North American colonies before the recognition of American independence in 1783, or a more recent migrant. ... "

horizontal rule