Earls of Leicester Heraldic Ostrich Finial, 1843
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Height: 13.5cm (5.25in)
Silver. Entree dish cover handle in the form of heraldic crest of the Coke family - ‘On a chapeau azure, An Ostrich holding In the beak A horse-shoe or’. Hallmarked London 1843. Mounted on a velvet covered base (removable).
The family crest of the Coke family harks back to the motto born by the Elizabethan jurist Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634). His motto 'Prudens qui patiens (The prudent man is patient) is an abbreviated form of a fuller motto ‘Prudens qui patiens etenim durissima coquit’ (The prudent man is a patient man, which aids him in the digestion). The motto is a pun built on the similarity of Coke’s name to the Latin for ‘digestion’ which also accounts for his choice of the ostrich as an heraldic animal. Moreover Coke’s legal mind was deemed able to ‘digest’ any legal problem, however complex it might be. The ostrich was, at that time, believed to have a digestion so strong that it could eat iron, which explains the horseshoe in its beak.
Sir Edward Coke was Attorney General to Elizabeth l and Lord Chief Justice to James l. His high profile cases included bringing treason prosecutions against Sir Walter Raleigh and Guy Fawkes. His methods were said to be brutal even by 17th century standards. In 1628, It was Coke who established the dictum ‘an Englishman’s home is his castle’.
One of his descendants, Thomas Coke, the first Earl of Leicester, built Holkham Hall over 34 years between 1734 to 1768. Another Thomas William Coke (1754-1842) - also Earl of Leicester - was the great agricultural reformer Coke of Norfolk. He was famous for planting one million trees, introducing crop rotation and entertaining the rich, famous and Royalty to the annual three-day ‘Shearings’ at Holkham. At these events they inspected and discussed the beautifully kept fields of the home farm, farming innovations such as drilling seed and new equipment, and his improved breeds of sheep and cattle. This was then followed by equally famous long convivial dinners, punctuated by speeches and toasts.