For many centuries a coat of armor has been used in England as a mark of honor among families, whose ancestors, paid significant service to the crown. Any such service of high merit or gallantry was rewarded with a coat of arms. These armorials were placed on record, and were the property of the family. Heraldry is the practice of devising, granting, displaying, describing, and recording coats of arms and heraldic badges.
The Tie To England
Ellery Bicknell Crane sheds a little more light on the origin of the family in the first pages of his Volume I and confirms a tie between the line of Benjamin Crane and the Cranes of Suffolk, England.
Crane, Ellery Bicknell. Genealogy Of The Crane Family. Volume I. Pages xiii-xiv.
At least three Crane family armorials have found their way to New England. One of them seems to serve as a connecting link between the Cranes of Old and New England. Kate E. Crane, in whose hands it was found some years ago, is a granddaughter of Col. Jonathan Crane, who was born in 1747. This armorial can be traced in the family for more than one hundred and fifty years, and Miss Crane was confident that it has been preserved in the family since their arrival in this country. Col. Jonathan, through whose hands the coat of arms came down, was son of Joseph, who was great-grandson of Benjamin Crane of Wethersfield, brother of Henry, whose descendants we have attempted to record in this volume.
This armorial, which you will find opposite the title-page, is a copy of that of the Suffolk County family, England. The mantling or lambrequins as well as the ornamentations under the escutcheon, however, are not mentioned in the printed description of the ancient armorial and are quite immaterial, doubtless put there merely to help out the picture. It is described in heraldry as Argent, a fesse between three crosses crosslet fitchée Guls, crest a crane ppr. The Cranes in England have borne five coats of arms, whether all were originally of one family it does not appear, although there are reasons for believing that they were, receiving special grants for special service.
The armorials are also reported to have been in the possession of Kate E. Crane in Ellery Bicknell Crane's Volume II. Kate was the daughter of Anson Crane, the great, great granddaughter of Jonathan Crane and the great, great, great granddaughter of Benjamin Crane.
The Coat of Arms
At this time there is no known ancestral tie between Benjamin Crane and England, the coat armor described in Ellery Bicknell Crane’s account is the best information we have to tie to the family to Suffolk, England. Although the armorials do not answer all the questions of who, we can know with a good deal of certainty who some of the early ancestors were and where they originated.
The Crane coat of arms is described by the blazon as “Argent, a fesse between three crosses crosslet fitchée Guls, crest a crane ppr.” Argent is the tincture of silver (often depicted as white) which serves as the backdrop of the shield. Fesse is a charge on a coat of arms that takes the form of a band running horizontally across the center of the shield. Crosses crosslet fitchée describe the top three arms of the crosses, crossed and the lower limb pointed. Guls simply denotes the color red as the color of the horzontal band and crosses. Crest a crane ppr indicates the shield is emblazoned with a crane rendered with its natural or “proper” proportions and coloration.
The Crane Monument, Chilton Church
The tower and chantry chapel of St. Mary's Church in Chilton were built in the 16th century for the Crane family. On the west chapel wall there is a large monument made mostly of alabaster. In the center kneels a man facing east, said to be Sir Robert Crane. He is flanked by two kneeling women, each faced towards him, described as his first and second wife. Above the monument are three shields reproduced below from William Hervey’s The Cranes of Suffolk. Located at the top, left corner of each is the Crane coat of arms.
It should be noted, the blazon description for Crane in Hervey’s account is described as “Argent, charged each with a cross crosslet botonnée fitché Gules,” which varies slightly from some accounts. Botonnée describes the arms of the cross terminating in the form of a trefoil or bottony, although in early armory it's not always distinguished from a cross crosslet. This is confirmed by the frontspiece of the book, which indicates many early copies describe the arms as “Argent, a fesse between three crosses crosslet fitchée Guls.”