February 12, 2015

Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 40

By Paul H. Courtenay

A married woman cannot normally display her paternal arms except in conjunction with those of her husband.  This is a marital coat, showing the husband’s arms on the dexter side (right side as seen by the bearer of the shield), and the wife’s paternal arms on the sinister side; this is known as an impalement. The heraldic description is as follows:

Gules, a chevron Or between in chief two mallets erect of the second and in base two wings conjoined in lure Argent [SOAMES] impaling.

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Quarterly 1st and 4th Sable, a lion rampant Argent, on a canton of the last a cross Gules [CHURCHILL], 2nd and 3rd grand-quarterly Argent and Gules, in the 2nd and 3rd grand-quarters a fret Or, over all on a bend Sable three escallops of the first [SPENCER]; and, as an augmentation of honour, in chief an escutcheon Argent charged with the Cross of St George Gules and thereon an inescutcheon of the arms of France, namely Azure three fleurs-de-lys Or.

Around the shield is the Garter with its motto Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense [Shame on him who thinks evil of it], indicating the bearer’s honour as a Lady Companion of the Order of the Garter [LG]. Suspended below the shield from the ribbon of the Order of the British Empire is the badge of a Dame Commander of the Order [DBE].  Above the shield is the coronet of a Baroness.

Supporters: Dexter, a lion guardant winged Argent gorged with a collar gemel Gules;

Sinister, a falcon wings elevated and addorsed and belled Or holding in the beak a lure Gules feathered Argent.

Motto: Fiel Pero Desdichado [Faithful but Unfortunate] is the Churchill family’s Spanish motto.

Progression of Honours

1922: Miss Mary Churchill.
1945: Miss Mary Churchill

MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for war service.

1947: Mrs. Christopher Soames MBE (upon marriage).

1965: The Hon Mrs. Soames MBE (her mother, Lady Churchill, is given a Life barony as Lady Spencer-Churchill).

1972: The Hon Lady Soames MBE (her husband receives a knighthood, becoming Sir Christopher Soames).

1978: The Baroness Soames MBE (“The Hon” is dropped when Sir Christopher becomes The Baron Soames).

1980: The Baroness Soames DBE (Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire on advancement from MBE).

2005: The Baroness Soames LG DBE (on appointment as a Lady Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, which was founded in 1348).


1.  A Baron and Baroness (usually “The Lord/Lady —”) use the more formal titles only in the most legalistic circumstances.

2.  A Baron has the prefix “The Rt Hon.”

3.  A Baroness by marriage sometimes uses the prefix “The Rt Hon,” but this is considered over the top and unnecessary.

4.  As a DBE, Lady Soames would be styled “Dame Mary,” but not if she or her husband hold a higher honour. By 1980 she was already a Baroness (higher than DBE).

5.  An LG would be styled “Lady Mary,” but not if she or her husband hold a higher honour. By 2005 she was already a Baroness, a higher honour than LG and DBE.

6. “LG” is very prestigious: there are only twenty-four KGs and LGs, excluding Royal persons, but several hundred Baronesses.

“Dame Mary” would ignore the higher LG, which would make her “Lady Mary”; but both these titles are subsumed by her higher status as Baroness. “Lady Mary, The Lady Soames” is more correct, but is, I think, ponderous. Her preferred and correct title is therefore The Lady Soames LG DBE.

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