The Arms of Breakey

The Arms of Breakey (de Brequet)


This manuscript on the Arms of Breakey (de Brequet) is a contribution toward a better understanding of our family’s history.  Much thought and research have gone into its preparation.  Some of it is based on carefully preserved tradition, but in nearly every instance, tradition has been confirmed by historical documentation.


We have an enviable family history, one that should be a source of gentlemanly pride.  It should be a source of encouragement also and help us attain that degree of self confidence so characteristic of those who live full and purposeful lives.  Only those portions of our family’s history relating to the Coat of Arms have been touched on here.  Future research may disclose additional information and indicate certain changes.



                                          “Adventure on, for from the littlest clue

                                          Has come whatever worth man ever knew.”





                                                                                                Edward P. Breakey, PhD


                                                                                                Sumner, Washington




The Arms of Breakey (de Brequet)


Heraldic Description of the Arms of Breakey (de Brequet)


Arms:   Argent, on a chevron azure, between three eight pointed mullets, a fleur-de-lis or.


Crest:   A lion’s head couped.


Motto:  “Aime Dieu” (“Love God”)



Meaning of the Symbols


ARGENT  (the color silver, shown as grey in water color renditions) signifies peace and sincerity.


AZURE  (the color blue, i.e., the blue of the unclouded sky) signifies loyalty and truth.


OR  (the color gold) signifies generosity and, according to Sir John Ferne, elevations of the mind.


CHEVRON  signifies protection and was granted in arms often as a reward to one who had achieved some notable enterprise.  It is supposed to represent the roof tree of a house and sometimes was given in arms to those who had built churches or fortresses, or who had accomplished some work of faithful service.


MULLET  (the figure of a star having five or more straight points) – when used singly, it denotes a mark of cadency used by the third son (in other words, the sons used the shield design of the father, the eldest son placing a label at the top of the shield, the second son would use the crescent, and the third son the mullet).  However, most of the ancient writers agree that the mullet represents a falling of fallen star, not supposed to have fallen from its high estate, but to denote some Divine quality bestowed from above, whereby men shine in virtue, learning and works of piety like bright stars on the earth.


CADENCY  the descent of a younger branch from the main line of a family, the state of a cadet, 1753.


MARK OF CADENCY a variation in the same coat of arms intended to show the descent of a younger branch from the main stock.


LION’S HEAD  the head of lions or other animals are borne either erased, i.e., apparently torn off with jagged pieces at the neck, or couped, i.e., cut off cleanly.  These severed heads really denote the same as the bearing of the whole animal.  The lion has always held a high place in heraldry as the emblem of deathless courage.  Some ancient writers said, when speaking of the lion, “It is a lively image of a good soldier, who must be valiant of courage, strong of body, politic in council, and a foe to fear”.


FLEUR-DE-LIS  “flower-of-the-lily,” which is the emblem of purity, or “whiteness of soul”.  Louis the First, King of France, adopted three fleurs-de-lis for his arms because their name sounded like his own.  To some armorial writers, the fleur-de-lis represents the iris, to others, the lily; various other meanings have been attributed to it by over imaginative and unrealistic writers.  The most plausible and realistic meaning for the fleur-de-lis is contained in the literal translation, “flower of the lily”.  The fleur-de-lis became the symbol of the French royal family, the French flag (before 1789), and the French nation or government.





The Oxford Universal Dictionary on Historical Principles, Revised and Edited by C. T. Onions.  Third Edition.  Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1955.


The works of John Guillim, published shortly after the close of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603), Queen of England, etc., etc.  That period, dating from about 1600, is most interesting to historians, poets, painters and writers.  John Guillim had studied closely all the more ancient writers on heraldry.  Unfortunately, the works of many of the older writers no longer exist or are practically inaccessible to the modern student.  However, thanks to the thoughtfulness and generosity of Mr. John W. Ward, herald of Charleston, S.C., we have benefited from the findings of that grand old herald, John Guillim.


Interpretation and Application


The golden mullets (stars) tell us the Arms of Breakey are a variation of the older Arms of de Brequet.  They are a mark of cadency which is defined as a variation in an older coat of arms that is intended to show the descent of a younger branch from the main stock.  Why are there three when one would have sufficed in the often accepted sense?  And, one might have served the need of John Breakey (17 November, 1782 – 11 February, 1878) of Drumskelt House, had he limited his considerations to himself and his immediate line.[1]  But such would not have been in keeping with the tradition of family solidarity that as been passed along to us from generation to generation.


According to John Guillim, most ancient writers agree that the mullet also symbolizes a fallen star, denoting that some Divine quality has been bestowed from above whereby the recipient shines in virtue, learning, or works of piety like a bright star on earth.  Consider the plight of the de Brequets in 1685.  Two brothers and a cousin left France “at the eleventh hour”[2] to save their lives when the barbaric pogroms against the Protestant Christians (Huguenots) were being prosecuted by that “most Christian King”[3], Louis XIV, in league with the Jesuits, with a zeal and a fanaticism that is almost beyond the understanding and credulity of civilized man.[4]  So desperate had the situation become and so hard pressed were they that, abandoning all that was near and dear, they fled into Holland with little more than the clothes they were wearing.


Alive, they could join with others of their faith and convictions in the fight for survival and freedom of choice[5], knowing there is strength in numbers and in organized resistance.  And, they could hope for a happier time when they might return in safety.  That they were men with the courage of their convictions, there is no doubt.  Moreover, they were men of integrity[6] and responsibility, craftsmen[7] skilled in the manufacture of linen, an intricate and exacting art.  And, last but in no way least, they were Christian gentlemen[8], Protestant Christian gentleman.


Since there are those who may read this who will know little or nothing of our family’s early history and who may not have ready access to the references and authorities consulted, it is desirable to digress for a moment and to discuss in a little more detail, some of the statements made above.  This will be done in the following footnotes.  [Transcriber’s note:  for the sake of continuity, and clarity, I have taken the liberty to convert all footnotes to endnotes.  They will be found at the conclusion of this manuscript.]


With the passing of time, it is quite natural for these three men to have assumed the auras of heroes in the minds of their posterity and “to shine line bright stars here on earth”.  The Breakeys prospered and the time came when they could indulge in certain “luxuries” such as paying the costs of getting a coat of arms confirmed by the college of Heralds.  What memorial could be more fitting than to place a golden star on the shield design of their family’s coat of arms, one for each of the three men who chose exile in a strange land rather than submit to a diabolic tyranny, men who lived to fight valiantly for the preservation of their faith and HIS WAY OF LIFE.  That such a memorial was created is enduring testimony to the tradition of family solidarity that has been cherished and preserved through all the years.  When times were uncertain and the going rough, I well remember my father’s (John R. Breakey’s) reassuring words, “We’ll take care of our own first”.  It was his way of expressing this family solidarity.


The fleur-de-lis may symbolize the French origin of the family and was probably on the arms of de Brequet as was the chevron in azure blue.  The heraldic description of the arms of Breakey specifies that the fleur-de-lis must be in gold, “fleur-de-lis or”.  This is most interesting, for the orange (golden) lily became the symbol of the Prince of Orange, who became William III, King of England, etc., etc.  This noble prince championed the cause of the Protestant Christians in Europe and was a “pillar of strength” around whom they could rally and organize for the struggle to survive.  Thomas C. Breakey, in his “memoirs’, tells of the planting of orange lilies at Drumskelt House, and of the way they were grown and venerated by many of the descendents of Huguenots who had settled in Ireland.


The chevron signifies protection and was often granted in arms as a reward, or in recognition, to one who had achieved some worthy or notable enterprise.  Since arms were much used in that period of our history, it was a means of telling all and sundry that the bearer was worthy of respect and consideration because of his achievement in arms, diplomacy, the arts, or in the manufacture or production of some valuable commodity.  It is not mere coincidence that the chevron on the arms of Breakey is azure blue in color.  Anyone who has been fortunate enough to gaze on a field of flax in full bloom will readily appreciate the connection between the indescribable beauty of the massed flowers of heavenly blue against the summer sky and the azure blue of the chevron on the arms of a linen manufacturer.


The crest, a lion’s head, has long been a symbol of courage.  It, too, was probably a part of the older arms of de Brequet.  To have the courage of one’s convictions has become traditional with the Breakey family.  Many generations of Breakey children have been taught that such an attribute is a virtue to be cultivated and respected.  The crest also symbolizes strength and well being, suggesting both grace and poise.  The lion is not awkward in movement and his behavior is considered and deliberate.  To benefit most from the virtue of courage, one must be politic in council, i.e., he must be wise, sincere, considerate and genteel in both conduct and speech when working or negotiating with others.


We might observe at this point that the simpler arms are the oldest, those of more elaborate design being of more recent origin.  Arms are badges of distinction, the reward of personal merit, and were confirmed to the humblest as well as the highest.  With certain exceptions, they are the testimonials and warrants of bravery, heroism, and meritorious deeds of our ancestors; and they appeal to the pride of the intelligent and enlightened descendents of these distinguished families today, as the valiant and self-sacrificing acts of contemporary persons will to their posterity.



                                                                                   Edward P. Breakey, PhD


                                                                                   Sumner, Washington



Transcriber’s note:


All grammar and punctuation is as it appears in the original document.


For current research on “The Arms of Breakey,” see An Investigative Report on the Arms of Breakey (de Brequet) soon to be included in The Breakey Collection.



[1] The arms were confirmed to him in 1812.  He was the youngest in a family of 13 children.


[2] The words are those of Thomas C. Breakey of Drumskelt House.


[3] It was none other than the Pope in Rome who addressed him thus


[4]He, Louis XIV, had vowed that he would exterminate the Protestants (Huguenots).  See Samuel Smiles’s book, The Huguenots, published in London in 1868, and other writers on the subject.  We Protestant Americans of the 20th Century, who number Roman Catholics among our best friends, find it difficult indeed, to think such a situation ever existed.  Also, see Weiss, History of the French Protestant Refugees.


[5] Freedom of choice included much more than the right to worship God according to the dictates of one’s conscience.  While religious freedom was the paramount issue of the time, others were also agitating the minds of men.  For example, the guilds or trade unions had become most tyrannical.  Craftsmen were being told what they could produce, how much and of what quality.  Such artisans as would not submit, were liable to have their looms broken, their dwellings gutted, and to be themselves expelled with their families beyond the city wall.  Thousands of Walloons left the low countries for England during the reign of Edward III (often called the father of British industry), to escape from this form of tyranny.


[6] “The Huguenot’s word was as good as his bond, and to be as “honest as a Huguenot” passed into a proverb.  This quality of integrity – which is essential in the merchant who deals with foreigners whom he never sees – so characterized the business transactions of the Huguenots, that the foreign trade of the country fell almost entirely into their hands.” Quoted from Samuel Smile’s book, The Huguenots, pages 134-135.


[7]“It is computed that about 100,000 French manufacturers and workmen fled into England in consequence of the Revocation (Revocation (1685) of the Edict of Nantes, popularly known as the Edict of Toleration), besides those who took refuge in Switzerland, Germany and Holland.  The principle emigrations into England were from Normandy and Brittany.  The whole Protestant population of Coutances emigrated, and the fine linen manufacturers of the place were at once extinguished.”  Quoted from Samuel Smile’s book, The Huguenots page 250.


[8] To be a gentleman in the 17th Century France meant being well born, a man of fine feelings, good education and social position.  Gentlemen stood next to the nobility socially, enjoyed the right to bear arms, and were usually the owners of real property.  In Samuel Smiles’s book, The Huguenots, page 189, we read, “The flower of the army which William landed at Torbay on the 15th of November, 1688, consisted of Huguenot soldiers trained under Schomberg, Turenne and Conde.  The expedition included three entire regiments of French infantry and a complete squadron of French Cavalry.”


William’s expedition met with very little resistance, James II promptly abdicated and left for France, the English Parliament quickly accepted William as the new king, and the Huguenot regiments were disbanded. Then, on page 211 of Samuel Smiles’s book, we read: The Huguenot regiments had been disbanded almost immediately after the abdication of James and his flight into France.  So soon, however, as the news of James landing in Ireland reached London, measures were taken for their re-embodiment, and four excellent regiments were at once raised-one of cavalry and three of infantry.  The cavalry regiment was raised by Schomberg, who was its colonel, and it was entirely composed of French gentlemen, officers and privates.”


The de Brequets were enlisted in this regiment of cavalry.  Shortly after being re-embodied, it was sent to Belfast in North Ireland, where it was joined by three regiments of Enniskilleners, then marched southward to Dundalk.  It is said the de Brequets liked the country they were passing through and decided to settle there as soon as their enlistments expired.  The little army decided to go into winter quarters at Dundalk and await reinforcements and better weather.  By this maneuver, they successfully pinned down the Jacobite army of 20,000men which lay at Drogheda


One of the brothers was killed at the Battle of the Boyne, July 1st, 1690 (old style-July 12, new style).  The other brother was a non-commissioned officer, and was among the first to assist Schomberg when he was shot from his horse during the height of the Battle.  The cousin and his English wife settled in Lisgillan in 1690.  The surviving brother, the non-commissioned officer, built Balladian House in 1692.  His French wife remained in Dublin the winter of 1692, the better to learn to speak and used the English language.  The Breakeys (they anglecised the name at this time) left Lisgillan and built Drumskelt House in 1717.  both Balladian and Drumskelt are near Ballybay in County Monaghan, and are separated by only a few miles.


For many years, it was the custom, both at Balladian and at Drumskelt, to observe the anniversary of the Boyne and the passing of Schomberg.  At a sign or signal from father, all those seated around the family dinner table would rise, stand in silent tribute, then execute a military salute before returning to their seats.  See the Memoirs of Thomas C. Breakey of Drumskelt House.