The Most Deadly Boar

“The most deadly boar” (IV.5)

Richard’s boar badge. Contemporary examples in glass and stone, manuscripts, seals, etc. With commentary on its origin and significance by Geoffrey Wheeler.


  1. Fotheringhay stall (now at Hemington)
  2. Fotheringhay pulpit
  3. Gloucester charter
  4. Mss. Boar, Sir John Fenn’s Book of Badges
  5. ‘Prince Arthur’s Book’
  6. Wax chandlers’ charter
  7. Ralph Fitzherbert effigy
  8. Fitzherbert collar and boar
  9. Neville effigy, Brancepeth
  10. Brancepeth boar
  11. Boar badge, Middleham
  12. Seated boar badge, Southwark, London
  13. Glass: St. Martin cum Gregory, York
  14. Barnard Castle, County Durham, carved stone boars
  15. Glass: Great Malvern
  16. 1475 French Expedition Roll
  17. Yorkist collar on Hans Memling’s Sir John Donne
  18. Brass Yorkist collar, Bruges

Illustration Descriptions

1,2. The choir stalls at Hemington, Northants, once formed part of the furnishings of the Yorkist Church at Fotheringhay. This carved boar on one of the bench ends is comparable with the workmanshp of that of Richard’s boar which forms part of the carved decoration on the rear of the pulpit at Fotheringhay, which was probably a gift of King Edward IV (illustrated alongside).

3. This unique version of the Royal Arms, with the shield set within the rays of the Yorkist sun badge, supported by the Boar and White Lion, decorated Richard III’s Charter of Incorporation granted to the City of Gloucester in 1483.

4. Fifteenth century drawing inscribed ‘My lorde of glowctr – the whitt bore’ cut from its original manuscript, with other examples of the badges of Yorkist nobles c. 1466-70, and bound together by Sir John Fenn (d. 1794) to form his ‘Book of Badges’. The motto ‘tant le desiere’ beneath is in Richard’s hand and also occurs in his volume of ‘Ipomedon’ (see Richard’s Books). (British Library Add. Ms. 40742 fo 5)

5. Tudor Ms. representation of the Royal Arms of Richard III, with his banner, divided into the Yorkist livery colours of murrey and blue, bearing the ‘Rose-en-Soleil’ and Boar badges. Prince Arthur’s Book (College of Arms)

6. In his copy of Vegetius’ ‘De Re Militari’ (see Richard’s books), the Royal Arms and Boar supporters are accommodated within the decorated initial letter ‘R’, as in this copy of the Wax Chandlers Charter of 1484, but here his motto ‘Loyaulte me lie’ is also included in the scroll above the crown — a unique example.

7-10. The alabaster effigy of Ralph Fitzherbert (d. 1483) in the church of St. Barlock, Norbury, Derbyshire bears the only example remaining of the Yorkist livery collar of suns and roses with the pendant of Richard III’s boar badge. The wooden effigy presumed to be of Ralph Neville, second Earl of Westmoreland in Brancepeth, Co. Durham, once had a variant of the collar and badge, but this has been missing since shortly after Charles A. Stothard recorded its appearance in his volume on monumental effigies in 1817.

11. Latten boar badge found on the north side of Middleham Castle, Yorks. in 1930 (Yorkshire Museum)

12. Seated boar, probably a hatg badge. This pewter version of Richard’s livery badge was found on the River Thames foreshore. (Cuming Museum, Southwark)

13-15. Stained glass quarry bearing Richard’s badge in the church of St. Martin-cum-Grfegory, Micklegate, York, of which he was patron in 1475. Fragments of his arms with boar supporters also survive in the clerstory glass of Great Malvern Priority, Worcs.

14. The town of Barnard Castle, Co. Durham, bristles with stone badges of Richard’s lordship:–

14-1. On the exterior east window of the church of St. Mary;

14-2. Carved on the soffit of one of the cover stones of an oriel window in the castle, once part of the Great Chamber;

14-3 to 14-5. This example, once on a house in the town, seen here in various stages of decay, has now been moved to the Bowes Museum, for preservation.

14-6. In the courtyard wall of Blagroves House, The Bank, said to have been built by Miles Foreest, whom Sir James Tyrell named in his ‘confession’ as one of the murderers of the princes in the Tower.

15. Glass, Great Malvern.

16. This muster roll of the nobles accompanying Edward IV on his French expedition of 1475 is headed by the Duke of Clarence, with his badge of a ‘Blacke Bulle’ followed by ‘The Duc of gloucester’ with ’10 chevaliers, C La(nces), A(rchers) 1,000′, who is identified by his badge of the ‘Whitt bore’, sketched in the margin. The list continues with those of the Dukes of Norfolk, Suffolk and Buckingham. (College of Arms)

17, 18. When Nicholas von Poppelau visited Richard’s court in 1484, he attended Mass with the King and dined at the royal table, after which Richard presented him with a golden collar which he ‘took from the neck of a certain lord.’ Whilst no actual examples of such Yorkist livery collars have survived, their appearance can be studied from those carved upon effigies and monumental brasses and accurate representations such as those painted by Hans Memling in his triptych at the National Gallery, worn by Sir John Donne (d. 1513) one of Edward IV’s ambassadors, and his wife, Elizabeth Hastings. A unique example in brass, now separated from its stone slab, is preserved at Bruges from the tomb of Joos de Bul (d. 1488). It was probably granted to him by Edward IV in recognition of his hospitality during the king’s exile in Flanders. Both collars bear the pendant of the badge of the White Lion of Mortimer or March.

Richard’s Boar Badge

Richard’s famous heraldic badge or device of a white boar with gold tusks and bristles has been the subject of much speculation as to its origin.

A Bodleian Library Ms. of c. 1460 lists the names of the lordships and badges pertaining to the Duke of York and includes a blue boar for Edward III. Possibly as a descendent, Richard inherited this, but as a younger son had to difference it in some way and so in the symbolism so dear to the fifteenth century, changed the colour to white to represent purity of heart and loyalty.

The boar and ‘Rose-en-Soleil’ badges form the initial letter ‘P’ drawn from the King’s Bench Plea Roll for Trinity Term 1483.
(Public Record Office)

Richard was covertly revered to by his badge in the notorious doggeral penned by William Colyngboune, nailed to the door of St. Paul’s: ‘The Cat, the Rat, and Lovell our dog, Rule all England under an Hog,’ later explained by the author in the Tudor play ‘A Mirror for Magistrates’: ‘For when I meant the King by name of hog, I only alluded to his badge the bore.’ In June 1483, in response to a letter from the Duke of Gloucester, the City of York agreed to send 300 horse to London to support the Protector against the Queen’s party, and these were to wear the cognizance (badge) of the Duke and that of the City, and it has been suggested that the emblem may be a punning allusion and anagram of ‘Ebor’ for ‘Eboracum’ the Roman name for York. For Richard’s coronation 8,000 boar badges ‘wrought upon fustian at 20s per thousand’ were made, and an even greater number ordered that year for the investiture of his son, Edward, as Prince of Wales, at York. Writing to Piers Curteys, Keeper of the king’s Wardrope, Richard desired: ‘Three coats of arms for heralds, a thousand pennons, four standards of sarcenet with boars’ and 13,000 costume badges ‘of fustian with boars’.

Francis Sandford writing in 1707 suggests that Richard’s badge may have been derived from the Honour of Windsor, with which it may have been associated through the legend of Guy of Warwick: ‘But first near Windsor, I did slaye, A bore of passing might and strength, Whose like in England never was, For hugeness both in bredth and length’. The animal appears in John Rous’ Roll, the history of the Earls of Warwick, where Richard is shown twice as King standing on a boar, as is his son, Edward, Prince of Wales. Sandford also describes a carving in stone over the library gate at Cambridge: ‘…a Rose, supported on the dexter side by a Bull (badge of the house of Clare or Clarence) and on the sinister side, by a Boar.’ It is also on record that Richard gave to Queen’s College ‘a silver seal matrix whereon is engraved his cognizance, the boar’ and the boar’s head is still part of the shield of arms of the College.
The obverse of Richard’s seal as Earl of Chester from a charter of April 1484 shows the Royal Arms, impaled with those of the City, with lion and boar supporters.

As for the animal itself, it was pre-eminently an emblem of ferocity; Malory’s Sir Gawain was ‘as brim (fierce) as any boar’. The seventeenth century herald Guillim describes its significance in terms which might just possibly be thought to have been inspired by Richard’s reputation, but certainly reflect what late medieval Englishmen thought of the boar: ‘He is the most absolute champion among beasts, so cruel and stomachful in his fight, that he foameth all the while for rage. The bearing of the boar in arms betokeneth a man of a bold spirit, skilful, politic in warlike feats, and one of the high resolution that he will rather die valorously in the field than he will secure himself by ignominious flight.’

Before Bosworth, Richard is said to have stayed at an inn in Leicester exhibiting his device, and afterwards, according to the Tudor chronicler, Edward Hall, his body was ‘trussed behynde a persuivant of arms called ‘Blaunche Sanglier’, or white bore, lyke a hogge or calfe. The hed and armes hangynge on the one side of the horse, and the legges on the other side, all by sprynckled with myre and bloude…when his death was knowen, the proude braggying white bore…was violently rased and plucked doune, from every sign and place where it might be espied.’


Particularly fine examples of Richard’s boar badge were once engraved on his seal, as Lord of Glamorgan, attached to a charter of 1484. On the reverse it is shown beneath the mounted figure and on the obverse boar supporters held a shield of the Royal Arms, together with those of the families of Beauchamp and Newburgh.