Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Maury Seal


A couple of years ago, I stumbled across Cardinal Maury's seal on Ebay.  My to-buy-or-not-to-buy decisions are weighed against the price of airline tickets and hotel rooms and this purchase didn't make the cut.  I showed the Ebay listing to my brother, Michael, though, and he bought it and had a copy made for me.

Michael also gave me the book "Intimate Virginiana, A Century of Maury Travels by Land and Sea," a collection of family letters and history edited by Anne Fontaine Maury and published in 1941.  At the end of the book, there's a section regarding the existence of a Maury coat-of-arms which refers to Cardinal Maury and to his seal.  One of my ancestors, James Maury, Consul to Liverpool, met with Cardinal Maury in France, where they tried to determine their family connection, if any.  Cardinal Maury gave James Maury a seal which, despite the family's strongly held republic ideals, was copied and used for documents and love letters and passed from father to son.  They didn't unequivocally establish the blood connection, from what I gather, but James did name his eldest James Sifrein Maury.  Sifrein as in Cardinal Jean Sifrein Maury.  For what that's worth.

There are a couple of letters, in Intimate Virginiana, speculating about whether or not the family can lay claim to the coat-of-arms.  In one, written in 1877, James Fontaine Maury says, "I am going to write you a rambling letter to explain, if I may be so successful, the undoubted fact that the Maurys have no arms and we may and never can have any unless in some future time this country turns into a monarchy and the Maurys give up good, honest work and turn into courtiers.  Of course, I mean gimcrack or heraldic arms;  with natural arms they are well supplied and I am proud to say, not ashamed to use them in peace or at war."  A little bit self-righteous sounding.  A family trait.

Also in Intimate Virginiana:

James Maury's granddaughter wrote "My grandfather, I am glad to say, was a strict republican of the purest stamp and he always said a citizen of the United States had no right to a coat-of-arms or any such distinction in a country where all men stood equal in the eyes of the law.  He would never tolerate any display of such things as long as he lived, and I think the same spirit is in the blood yet and I hope it may long remain."

A generation or two later, a young man, Dabney Maury, while returning from traveling in South America, reached the wharf on the Magdalena River just as the steamer's gang plate had been drawn.  He leapt on to the deck successfully, but the seal he'd inherited from his father, dropped into the water below.

On a slightly different topic, a note of background on James Maury, who worked with Cardinal Maury in an attempt to establish whether or not the family lines are connected….

In 2012, I purchased, on eBay, an original account ledger, and, if my memory serves me, the original will of James Fontaine Maury, aforementioned ancestor and Consul to Liverpool.  I stuck it away with the rest of the family memorabilia I've gathered and, shamefully, not cataloged physically nor mentally.  In my defense, it's a large family and every slip of paper and faded photograph is priceless to me, and my poor old brain can't remember everything.  I found the envelope with the account sheets and his original letter outlining his instructions for his burial and payment of debts, but not the actual Last Will and Testament.  I have a feeling that's all I have and that the documents I purchased didn't include the will.  Anyway,  James Maury was born in Virginia, the son of the Reverend James Maury, an educator, born 1719, of Huguenot ancestry, among whose pupils were James Madison and Thomas Jefferson.  Secretary of State Jefferson later petitioned President George Washington that the son of his former teacher be commissioned as Consul to Liverpool, thus the appointment.  James Maury served in that capacity for thirty-nine years.

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