I was looking at the different attitudes of heraldic lions and wondering if any historical families really used a lion dormant in their coats of arms. House Grandison is of course fine and dandy. But has the lion dormant really occurred in history? And for what reasons would a family choose a sleeping lion as opposed to the lion rampant?
The lion dormant was not unused in heraldry, as a skim-thru of old books shows.
Page 150 of Alexander Brunet's 1839 The regal armorie of Great Britain, from the time of the ancient Britons to the reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria; the institution of chivalry, and the origin of emblematic insignia in ancient nations, has this story, with footnote:
EMBLEMATICAL DEVICES .
The Lion Dormant , 1193 . RICHARD I , in sailing for Syria , took the island of Cyprus , or Chypre ; but soon exchanged it for the nominal title of king of Jerusalem , a mere titular qualification , which belonged to Gui de Lusignan , a French lord . In abandoning thus a real property for a fictitious title , Richard hoisted the banner of the lion of the holy city . This was the sleeping or dormant lion of Judah — the badge of David and Solomon , kings of Jerusalem from the tribe of Judah . Thenceforth Richard assumed the surname of cæur de lion , either for his lion , or his great achievements against the infidels . The science of heraldry being yet very imperfect , the dormant lion of Jerusalem was indiscriminately represented couchant ( lying ) , passant ( walking ) , or rampant ( erect ) . The armorists , the engravers and painters of later centuries , being ignorant of the Norman leopards , represented Richard with three lions passant , which are evidently erroneous . *
- In 1838 , the tomb of Richard Cæur de Lion was discovered in the cathedral of Rouen , with his heart preserved in a leaden case . The recumbent figure of the king ( larger than life ) has a lion dormant at its feet .
Less fanciful is an entry on p.56 of Walter Rye's 1918 A list of coat armour used in Norfolk before the date of the first herald's visition of 1563, collected by Walter Rye:
Wyrham, Clementie de [n.d.] "A lion dormant within a double, square interlaced." (Norf. Archy., v., p. 308).
On p.106 of George S. Master,s 1900 Collections for a parochial history of Wraxall this near miss:
Upon a brass plate in the embrasure of the doorway leading from the nave to the Charlton Chapel , surmounted by the shield , Gules , a lion dormant , ' really couchant between six crosses crosslet argent , ' Tynte . ` HIC REQUIESCIT CORPUS JOHANNIS TYNTE ARMIGERI QUI INEUNTE ETATE REBECCAM FILIAM RICHARDI STEVENS ARMIGERI IN UXOREM CEPIT , SED MORIENS SINE PROLE SIBI SUCCESSIT JURE HEREDITARIO EDWARDŮ TYNTE DE CHELVEY ARMIGER FRATER EIUS PROXIMUS , IS ANNAM FILIAM QUARTAM EDWARDI GORGES DE WRAXALL MILITIS IN UXOREM DUXIT , EX QUA NUMEROSAM SUSCEPIT PROLEM , QUIBUS OMNIBUS PROPITIETUR DEUS . OBIJT XIII° DIE OCTOBRIS 1616 , ANNO XIIII° REGIS JACOBI . '
And volume 3 of Thomas Robson's 1830 The British herald; or, Cabinet of armorial bearings of the nobility & gentry of Great Britain & Ireland, from the earliest to the present time; with a complete glossary of heraldic terms: to which is prefixed a History of heraldry, collected and arranged ... has a cryptic entry reading
AYLWORTH , [ Essex ] gu . a lion , dormant , or .
Bernard Burke's 1884 The general armory of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales; comprising a registry of armorial bearings from the earliest to the present time, p1042 has an entry:
Tynte (Tynte Lodge, co. Leitrim; exemplified to Joseph Tynte Pratt, Esq., of Tynte Lodge, second son of Joseph Pratt, Esq., of Cabra, by Roberta, dau. of Sir James Stratford Tynte, Bart., of Dunlavin, on his assuming, by royal licence, 1836, the surname of Tynte, in lieu of Pratt). Gu. a lion dormant betw. six crosses crosslet ar. Crest — A unicorn sejant ar. horned and crined or.
There are also many descriptions of a lion dormant being used on seals.