Coat of Arms

Historical Background Of Simon’s Town’s Coat Of Arms

Simon’s Town’s name was derived from Simon’s Bay, which Simon van der Stel named after himself in 1687. It was therefore thought that the design for Simon’s Town’s Coat of Arms was based on Simon van der Stel’s personal coat of arms. The designer however, could not find a copy of Simon’s personal coat of arms and so he assumed that his son, Willem Adriaan van der Stel, would have an identical coat of arms to that of his father and therefore he used Willem Adriaan’s arms.

In fact Willem Adriaan’s were quite different from Simon’s. The Van der Stel family originally bore three red towers or castles on a gold shield. As was the Dutch fashion at that time, Simon had augmented this by first quartering the shield (dividing it in four parts) and then placing two of the towers in the first quarter and the remaining one in the fourth quarter. This left him with two other quarters to fill and in the one he placed a gold peacock on red and in the other three silver roundels or “plates”.

They were no doubt the arms of ancestral families. Not satisfied with the quartered shield as such, he placed in the middle of it a smaller shield or “in escutcheon”: blue with six ribs. In Dutch heraldry it denoted a place of honour and often the arms of the most important “heerlijkheid” (seigniory) one possessed were placed there.

The blue shield with the six ribs which Simon van der Stel placed on his arms, belonged to the old and noble Portuguese family, Da Costa. Why did Van der Stel want to honour this family? History has it that Van der Stel’s grandmother was a woman from India, named Monica Da Costa, which means “Monica of the Coast”. Rightly or wrongly, Van der Stel gave her a place of honour on his own coat of arms by adding part of the arms of the old Da Costa family.

The same coat of arms, placed on an anchor (Cape Colony) was borne by the Drostdy of Stellenbosch till its dissolution in 1827. In 1840 the town elected its first municipal council and they adopted the old Drostdy arms as the arms of the new municipality. The new arms which were granted to Stellenbosch in 1952 by the College of Arms were based on the old Drostdy arms, but the order was changed.

There was therefore, in 1906, no reason for the Simon’s Town municipality to consult any authority further than the town clerk of Stellenbosch, but they did. They contacted the authorities of the city of Amsterdam who sent them Willem Adriaan’s coat of arms (not Simon’s). Had the town clerk of Simon’s Town consulted the right authority in Holland, the secretary of the “Hooge Raad van Adel” (High Council of Nobility), he would no doubt have received the correct answer.

Further investigation into Simon’s Town’s coat of arms was carried out in 1973 by Mr. C. Pama. He discovered that the arms were based on those of Willem Adriaan instead of Simon. The little shield or escutcheon in the middle also puzzled him. In the description of the burgomaster of Amsterdam it was described as the arms of the Dutch province of Zealand, but it was most unlikely that any private person in Holland would place the provincial coat of arms on his shield unless he had exceptionally good reasons for doing so. There was  no connection between the Van der Stels and Zealand whatsoever.

Fortunately the tombstone of Maria de Hase, Willem Adriaan’s wife, can still be seen in the little church of Lisse in Holland and on it is her husband’s coat of arms. It appears that the little figure in the middle of the escutcheon is not a demi-lion, but a demi-fox. Now the whole significance of this escutcheon suddenly becomes clear. This demi-fox, rising as it were, out of the water, was the coat of arms of the village of Vossemeer (lake of the fox) and as Willem Adriaan had been Lord of that village, there is nothing strange in his placing the arms of the village in the centre of his own shield.

It is evident therefore, that two mistakes were made when Simon’s Town adopted a coat of arms. First Willem Adriaan’s arms were taken instead of Simon’s, and secondly the Zealand shield was added instead of that of Vossemeer.

Coat Of Arms Of Simon’s Town

Quarterly first and fourth per pale the dexter Argent three Towers Gules the sinister per fesse Or and Azure in chief on a Mount Vert a Peacock in his pride proper and in base three Plates second and third Azure an Estoile and in chief three Crescents also Argent over all an Oval cartouche with scrolled edges Or charged with a demi Lion rampant Gules issuant from three Barrulets wavy Vert And for the Crest Issuant from a Naval Crown Or a representation of Britannia supporting with the dexter Hand a Trident and with the sinister Hand a fouled Anchor proper