A George IV Armorial Panel of the Sneyd Family of Keele Hall, 1829
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Measurements: 52cm (20.5in) x 42cm (16.5in)
The scythe in the Sneyd coat of arms is a pun on the word sned, this being the word for a handle of a scythe. During the Hundred Years War, one Sneyd fought in the victory over the French at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356 and was awarded the French royal emblem of the fleur-de-lys to add to the scythe as a battle-honour.
The Sneyds were successful drapers and merchants in Chester, and benefitted from the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, buying the the Keele estate in Staffordshire and other lands. During the Civil War, the Sneyds took the King's side but fared badly in a predominantly Parliamentarian area. One Colonel Sneyd was killed during the siege of Ramsey on the Isle of Man and the family fell into a decline. After two centuries of comfortable but comparatively modest living, the Sneyds moved up in the world. Lieutenant-Colonel Walter Sneyd was a Member of Parliament from 1784 to 1790 and commanded the Staffordshire Militia, which served for thirteen years as a bodyguard to King George III at Windsor. The last of the Sneyds was Colonel Ralph Sneyd (d.1949) whose moment of historical destiny occurred when he arrested the exotic dancer and courtesan and spy, Mata Hari, for counter-espionage at the Champs-Elysées Hotel, Paris. Mata Hari was suspected of spying for the Germans and she was charged with revealing secrets that resulted the deaths of at least 50,000 men. After a controversial trial, she was found guilty and executed by a French firing squad on 15 October 1917.