By Charles M. Whipple, Ph.D., Ed.D.
The Two Whipple Coats of Arms
Beginning in the 1530s and continuing into the late 1600s, heralds for the then newly created College of Arms visited throughout Great Britain and Ireland. The majority of these locations were visited on more than one occasion, as witnessed by the dual entries for the Whipple arms. Again, as witnessed in the Whipple family's visitations of 1552 and 1576, at least one serious, if not egregious, error is noted in the literature of the time.
- 1552. Whipple/Whipley (county Norfolk)—Sable, on a chevron between three swans' heads erased argent as many crescents of the field. [No crest or motto]
- 1576. Whipple/Whirple (Dickleborough, county Norfolk)—Azure a fesse ermine between two chevronels argent [crest—an elephant ermine]
The 1576 interview was conducted by Robert Cooke who became Clarenceux King of Arms in 1567. Cooke was criticized by fellow heralds and biographers for awarding innumerable fraudulent arms to "base and unworthy persons for his own [pecuniary] gain." Accordingly, the 1576 award was likely illegally sold to a second family who did not previously own the right to bear arms. Moreover, an actual printed illustration of this 1576 "new coat" was nowhere to be found in literature of the past 300 plus years. The name Whirple is thought to be a simple error in spelling. It may be that a Whipley family was found using the same coat of arms as a Whipple family, not necessarily with any authority to do so. Additionally, the presence of the fraudulent crest "elephant passant ermin" occasionally seen on the "old coat" appears to be an unfortunate later admixture of the two awards. It should be noted that in Burke's General Armory…, and in the majority of similar authoritative sources, there is no mention of an elephant or of the French motto "Fidele et Brave." "We [i.e., Debrett Research], suspect that the motto was introduced to family history in late nineteenth-century America, along with 'Henri de V. Hipple'."
The earliest known recorded use of the Whipple Coat of Arms by an American family was an engraving appearing on a tea pot in 1750, or earlier. It is now in a museum. However, by virtue of the information below this is considered to have been an example of unofficial use.
Further research by Blaine Whipple published in 2007 based on an additional visitation of Norfolk conducted in 1891 by William Herven, Clarencieux King of Arms helped clarify and enlarge on the 1552 and 1576 interviews. Herven's research showed that Henry Whypple and his wife, Margaret Aldeham, had three sons and four daughters.
The sons William, Thomas, and John, would have maintained the right to use the Coat of Arms passed on by their father and earlier ancestors, although unrecorded until 1552. Thomas and John each sired sons, William in 1565 and Henry in 1580. Unfortunately, information on later generations was not provided. Females were forbidden to possess heraldic awards, accordingly with the incomplete data provided on possible later male descendants by the 1891 visitation, incontestable proof of a current officiously held award is problematic. However, it is permitted unofficially to be shown as evidenced by the tea pot incidence.
Henri de V. Hipple: a Putative First Whipple
It is now apparent that the earliest known printed source of the Von Hipple story should be attributed to Joseph Foster in his book of 1891, The Soldiers' Memorial. The soldier in question was General William Whipple of Declaration of Independence fame. A section on "General Whipple's Ancestors" is reproduced at https://www.whipples.org/william/ancestors.html. It is further evident that Foster was unknowingly propounding fictionalized tradition by uncritically assuming the validity of previous dubious material, thus using "distorted material." This is not the first time such has happened, particularly to neophyte, non-professional genealogists, nor is it likely be the last!!
The G.P.R. (George Payne Rainsford) James (1799-1860) to whom Foster alludes was a prolific writer of historical fiction. It is now clear that his proclivity to fiction could have predisposed him to create a fanciful history of the General to perhaps ingratiate himself to his Virginia military associates. Based on extensive searches of his published works it was evinced that, "We have not been able to identify any of his published [or unpublished monographs] that contain the histories of such [American] families."
Foster further contended that James took his information from manuscripts composed by "Dugdale and Thorp" supposedly containing the history of "aristocratic colonial families" thought to be housed in the Bodlein Library of Oxford University. William Dugdale, an Englishman who lived in the 1600s, was a well know writer and collector of aristocratic English families, who could have had no connection with nineteenth-century or colonial history. Moreover, there is a collection of John Thorp’s (1682-1750) writings found in the London Library of the Society of Antiquaries, but with no connection to early America.
Furthermore, the names of those who fought at the battle of Agincourt have been assiduously collected and cataloged for over a period of several hundred years. Subsequent to reviewing these sources it was found that there was no mention of a Hipple name, or anything similar. Nor were there any references to "De Vale" or "De Suede." Likewise, there were no references found to anyone being knighted at Agincourt, or to any Knight named Whipple or Hipple.
"It is concluded [by Debrett] that the account, written in about 1891, by Joseph Foster and repeated in various further publications ever since, was based on fictionalized stories handed down through oral tradition, with very little basis in fact."