Heraldic Symbols

The history of the English Sambell/s families does not carry a heritage of armorial bearings of any type. I have found no branches of our English family in the medieval or middle ages who were in the position of needing family crests, banners or shields to represent their status in life. As tenant farmers the only call to duty by a reigning monarch merely required the reporting of weapons held. This information can be found in several ancient Muster Rolls of men at arms. These rolls include “Sambles” who served at various times in medieval military adventures both at home and abroad. However, in such instances there is no evidence to suggest that they held any noble status that would create the need for heraldic emblems.

The French Connection

Our earliest English ancestor first appeared in England in 1154 as chamberlain to King Henry II. Hugh de Candavene, Comte de St Pol and his son Robert – the King’s tailor – were rewarded with land grants in Northamptonshire for their loyalty and service to Henry II. When these men sailed with Henry Plantagenet’s flotilla from France to England they most likely carried with them the heraldic emblems which represented their noble family and their place of origin.

The house de Candavene arose in the mid 1000’s and had become one of the many fiefdoms lying within the Pas-de-Calais region of what is now northeastern France. Located south of Artois, near the border with Picardy, the county of Saint Pol (Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise) had been a stronghold of the Counts of Flanders. It was established as a county in the late 9th century. The small territory passed into the hands of a prominent family by the name of Candavene who provided vassal obligations to the Flemish counts until 1180 when it became subject to France. The Candavene dynasty extended from 1031 to 1205 after which the county passed to the seigneurs de Chatillon through marriage. In 1360 it passed to the Luxembourg dynasty.

It is during the Candavene Dynasty that Hugh Candavene, a son of Hugh III Comte de St Pol, mustered a contingent of armed men to represent the family’s alliance with Henry Plantagenet when his flotilla arrived in England to claim the throne on Dec. 28 1154. My current research strongly suggests that the Sambell/s surname is derived from the Latin version of the French title used to identify members of the Candavene family in England. Both Hugh and Robert are ascribed with the Latin surname of “de Sancto Paulo” in the taxation manuscripts throughout the reign of Henry II. The late 19th century transcriptions of these ancient “Pipe Rolls” specifies that Hugh de Sancto Paulo was the same Hugh de Candavene.

Candavene Family crests

The practice of using insignias as an indicator of social status first began in the eleventh century. During this period influential families tried to maintain security over their fiefdoms, and to express their power and control over the regional counties. This frequently necessitated the mustering of local militias to accompany family representatives as they sought to meet and arrange alliances with neighbouring communities. This was particularly true among the competitive nobles from the strong medieval principalities in Pas-de-Calais region .

By the mid twelfth century heraldic insignias were in vogue for display of family power and represented on body armour, shields and equine decorations for aristocratic families like the Candavenes. Since there was a continued migration of peoples from northern France to England in the early medieval period, the custom of employing heraldic symbols also found its way into the landed gentry of England.

One intruding family, the Candavenes, had taken as its base the productive grain farming county of St Pol in the mid-eleventh century. This family held large portions of land by feudal tenure on conditions of homage and allegiance to Eustace I of France. In 1100 the distinctive emblem of their banner was a sheaf of grain and this was also proudly displayed on its local coins. The symbol used was a pun on the French family name “Candavene”. When translated into Latin it read “campus d’avene” (field of oats). Hence the symbol of a sheave of harvested oats became the representative emblem of the house of Candavene from which Hugh Count de St-Pol emerged in the mid 1100’s.

Controlling the relatively small but agriculturally rich fields of the St Pol region the Candavene’s proudly displayed its crest with sheaves of oats as representing both their location and source of wealth. The design first appeared in its singular form it later developed into a representation of a cross of five sheaves of oats.

Typically the many different noble families who supported King Henry II in the mid 1150’s, did so under the auspices of their individual counties. Male conscripts were selected from the fiefs and issued with distinctive garments and equipment of particular colours. In the earliest days this was most often accomplished through banners mounted on a pole carried by a horseman. Various colours and symbols adorned their shields. These emblems also represented a new awareness of the uses of symbols to advertise aristocratic alliance. Frequently, the family crests combined their own emblem with that of their allies. The symbols and colours became expression of pride in one’s family and marked a rise of the wider phenomenon of heraldry. Many of these families also minted their own coinage with their distinctive emblem.

Military Exploits of the Candavene Dynasty

With increasing political involvement in the affairs of the land several members of the Candavene family became prominent participants in military activities. Hence, during the 1100’s a variety of crests appear with each one representing a specific member of the family. The members of the family highlighted here are believed to be our direct paternal ancestors.

Hugues II was Count of St Pol from 1083 to 1130. He participated in the horrors of the First Crusade (1095-1099) with his son Enguerand. Both men won fame as military leaders. As vassals of Eustace III of Bologne, the Candavene contingent probably travelled as part of the retinue of Godfrey de Bouillon. The family’s blazon would have been displayed under the banner of the Duke of Normandy and Count of Flanders into the First Crusade of 1097.

Hugh III Count de St Pol (1130 – 1141) engaged in a fierce war with the Collet family and lay siege to the fortified abbey of St. Riquier in 1131. He burned down the abbey and killed most men, women, children and clergy within. Consequently, Hugh was formally cursed by Pope Innocent II and excommunicated. He avoided his total loss of control over the county of Saint-Pol by founding three new abbeys as penance.

• The first son Hugues III, was Hugues de Candavene (about 1090 – before 1182) who became the a Grand Master of the “Order of Saint Lazarus” of Jerusalem. For a short time he administered this military and hospital branch of the Order of the Knights Templar. This order of chivalry originated as a leper hospital in 1098 during the Crusade that his father had participated. Hugh also mustered a contingent of men from the family’s fiefdom to assist Henry Plantagenet to take the throne of England in 1154. Land grants to Hugh and his son Robert by Henry II established the de Saint-Pol (=de Sancto Paulo) family as new members of the English landed gentry in the eastern counties of England. English descendents of Hugues and Robert include the surnames Senpol, Samble and Sambell/s.

The heraldic symbols used in the twelfth century by these particular members of the Candavene family are represented below.

Standard Banner of the house de Candavene.

The earliest emblems were most often banners mounted on a pole carried by a horseman. The one at left is that of Crusader Knight Hugues I Candavene, Comte de Saint Pol. Right; the county seal of Saint-Pol displayed a mounted horseman.

A variety of regional emblems were incorporated into the design of the Candavene crest as its influence expanded. The early Flemish Counts of Artois most frequently displayed a banner with the charge of a lion as its emblem. It was not surprising then that a similar symbol appears on the coat of arms of Saint-Pol.

The associated shield design and banner of the Comte de Saint-Pol also closely parallel that of The shield of Normandy. The banner of the Duke of Normandy consists of three golden lions running. Fittingly this motif has been incorporated into the coat of arms of the United Kingdom.

Hugues Candavene II, Count of St Pol, carried his family’s crest into the First Crusade (1097) under the banners of both the Duke of Normandy and Count of Flanders. Both of these other administrations had a depiction of a lion on their own banners. It seems that Hugues decided to pick up on this by developing an emblem of two running lions to represent his county of Saint-Pol. Within the next 100 years the blazon evolved into a formal shield that included two lions and five sheaves of grain.

By the mid 12 century heraldic insignias were in vogue for display of family power and represented on body armour, shields and equine trimmings. Since there was a continued aristocratic migration of peoples from northern France to England in the early medieval period, the custom of employing heraldic symbols also found its way into the landed gentry of England. I suspect that the crest at left would have been the one used by Hugues Candavene the English patriarch of the English branch of the de Sancto Paulo family.

By the 1300’s the heraldic device had become a mark of nobility in England, and a symbolic claim to be part of the English aristocracy. However, by that time the de Sancto Paulo (Senpol / Samble) families had lost their noble status that they had enjoyed 200 years previous as loyal supporters of Henry II. Nevertheless, there are a variety of significant symbols to which the Sambells clans were aligned both in France and in early medieval England. It would be an exciting project for us to create our own family crest to include these emblems.

Counts de St-Pol crest


City Crest de St-Pol


Counts of Flanders banner


Duke of Normandy Banner

Designing our own family crest

There are several websites that offer explanations of the meaning of various symbols used to generate a coat of arms or family crest. Many sites offer services to research surnames and to create a new family crest representative of the symbols of the family heritage. However, I believe that we already have significant information as to the origins and development of the family surname that would serve as a foundation from which to customize our own unique family coat of arms. The following provides background information and descriptions of symbols that may be useful in creating a new family crest.

Parts of a coat of arms

(from The Tree Maker)

Shield design

Designing a coat of arms begins with the selection of symbols to be part of a shield. Shields themselves can be subdivided into sections with each section carrying a specific “charge” or symbol that is representative of values or events related to ones family heritage.

The treemaker website at provides the opportunity for one to design their own coat of arms symbol.

The allfamilycrests website at also provides ideas for creating family crests and coat of arms. Explanations are provided for the common types of shield designs followed by options that let you select relevant “charge” symbols to be included within the shield. The family crest generator then offers option to select a colour scheme for the background of the shield as well as for the placement and colour of the charges. Shield designs also include options for the placement of a ribbon upon which a name or motto may be included.

Some historic considerations for designing our family crest

One type of the shield design includes a chevron. This divides the shield into three parts, each of which can accommodate a single charge symbol. A chevron represents the roof of a house and signifies protection and faithful service. It might also imply the caretaking component of a family who administered a fief. The Candavenes founded the house of St Pol in northeastern France and held this fiefdom for 200 years. The administrative head was referred to by the title “Comte de St Pol” or Count de St Pol. As possessor of productive farmland they were in a variety of alliances with other regional noble families. In 1053 the Candavene house of St Pol were loyal supporters of the Angevene leader Henry Plantagenet who rose to prominence and became King Henry II of England.

Many different symbols were used as charges on family crests and coinage. We do know that a sheaf of oats/barley was the symbol used on both the early medieval coinage and shield banners of the Counts of St. Pol. The seal de Saint-Pol is represented by the following image.


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