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Sussex’s martlets probably arose in like manner as the personal arms of a man of high importance locally, although there are several viable contenders as the source of the Sussex arms which John Speed depicted in his atlas.One common theory regarding the origin of the Sussex martlets is that the emblem was linked to the Norman family, de Arundel, who bore arms that were black with six silver or white martlets.S Ellis, “Possibly this coat had a cognate origin with that of Wardeux”.
It is worth bearing in mind the government statement issued in 1974 on the occasion of the local government reforms, in reference to the revised councils, “They are administrative areas, and will not alter the traditional boundaries of counties, nor is it intended that the loyalties of people living in them will change.” , advice that has been sadly unheeded by local authorities, mass media and map makers alike.
The registration of the Sussex flag on May 20 2011, to represent the one single county entity has hopefully helped to dispel such misunderstandings and reaffirm the fact that there is only one Sussex.
Kent’s association with its white horse had been described in a 1605 work, suggesting a linkage dating back to the foundation of the kingdom turned county by Jutish invaders; Speed’s use of this emblem was obvious but the Sussex martlets have a more nebulous origin.
It has often been the case that the arms of families of great repute or status have become strongly associated with the counties where they reside; the checks of Surrey and the swan of Buckinghamshire are typical examples, both now deployed as the respective flags of those counties.
In these times of reduced central Government grants to councils could this be the way to make considerable savings? Incidentally, the red shield in the top right poster likely derives from a version that appeared in 1622, about which, more below.