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Methodism's attitude to coats of arms over the years can only be described as misinformed and cavalier. The fact that the Wesley family's genealogy cannot be traced with any certainty further back than John Wesley's great-grandfather Bartholomew Westley vitiates any claim to the use of any arms belonging to earlier generations, even if genuine. Furthermore, even if John Wesley's right to bear arms could be established, this would not carry with it the right to their use by the Methodist Church or any other Methodist organization.

The Board of Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes applied for and were granted Armorial Bearings by the Kings of Arms, as have the former Didsbury and Hartley Victoria Colleges, Wesley House, Cambridge, Westminster College, Oxford, The Leys School, Ashville College, East Anglian, Farringtons and Rydal Schools. Other institutions have adopted coats of arms of their own devising (sometimes variations of what they believed to be the Wesley family arms); but in the absence of a grant by the College of Arms these remain spurious. At least some of the coats of arms with which Frank O. Salisbury embellished his Methodist portraits appear to be figments of his own imagination.


'If ... John Wesley's great-grandfather cannot be proved to be the direct male legitimate descendant of a previous Wesley Grantee, and if neither he, nor a later forebear of John Wesley were granted Armorial Bearings themselves, then John Wesley is not entitled to bear Armorial Bearings himself by inheritance. If one or other of his direct forebears were armigerous, then his right to bear those Armorial Bearings would have had to be recorded here at the College by way of a pedigree. It is correct to say that these Armorial Bearings would not be able to be borne by the Methodist Church or any other Methodist organisation.'

(Jennifer Sewell, Assistant to Windsor Herald, 21 November 2000)


  • L.H. Wellesley Wesley, in WHS Proceedings, 1 pp.97-100
  • Arthur W. Saunders, 'The Wesley Family and its Coat of Arms', in WHS Proceedings 35 pp.110-14
  • John A Vickers, Myths of Methodism (2008) pp.48-50)

Entry written by: JAV
Category: Subject

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