Common Time 2019


Founder's Arms
Founder's Arms on a cushion
The Achievement of Arms displayed today by Winchester College is actually a version of those of the founder, William of Wykeham (1320-1404), when in his position as Bishop of Winchester (1366-1404).
The Arms are made up of the shield displayed within the Garter, the whole surmounted by a bishop's mitre between the letters WW. Beneath the arms is the motto.
The shield is blazoned thus: argent two chevrons sable between three roses gules seeded or, barbed vert. Since the founding of the Order of the Garter (c.1348), the Bishop of Winchester holds the office of Prelate (one of six associated offices) and consequently is entitled to display the Garter on his Arms. The Garter's motto: evil to him who evil thinks alludes to this most ancient and prestigious order of chivalry's origins.
The bishop's mitre represents Wykeham's position as Bishop of Winchester and the letters WW - one on either side of the mitre - further indicates that these are the arms of the founder, not of the College. The latter aspect would nowadays be regarded as bad heraldry but Wykeham, even before he became Bishop, flanked his shield with the initials on his personal seal, an example of which is attached to a document in the Westminster Abbey Muniments Room (13933) dated 23 March 1363/4.

The motto's origins are hazy but it is fairly certain that Wykeham created it, most probably in English (Robert Lowth's, The life of William of Wykeham, bishop of Winchester (1758) states this) but just possibly in Latin: mores component hominem. Instances of its use in both languages can be found in the first half of the fifteenth century but English certainly became standard soon after. As to its contemporary meaning we can assume that 'manners' as we know today was not implied - more possibly it related to the mould, stamp or quality set upon a man by his education and the quality of his subsequent actions. For certain this would have been in Wykeham's mind as founder of Winchester College and New College. Today the motto can be interpreted in many ways, testament to its fundamental robustness and inspiration.