THE GREAT HALL of Lytes Cary Manor House in Somerset has some stained glass windows decorated with crests relating to the Lyte family, who owned the property between the 15th and 18th centuries. One of the crests caught my eye because the crest contains a double-headed eagle. This is a symbol that began to interest me in my teens when I first became fascinated by the Balkans. The double-headed eagle figures on the flags of Albania and some of its neighbours. The earliest known use of this peculiar creature is on seals used to secure goods in Babylon during the 3rd century BC.
The crest at Lytes Cary Manor is a combination of the Lyte family crest and that of the Worth family, which incorporates the two headed bird.
In 1592, Thomas Lyte (c1568-1638) married Frances Worth (1580-1615) who was born in Charlton Mackrell in Somerset. Thus, the double-headed eagle of the Worth family became joined with the three swans of the Lyte family crest. This marriage which was celebrated so long ago, is recorded in glass on a window of the Great Hall at Lytes Cary.
Why the Worths employed the double-headed eagle on their crest is something I would like to know, and will investigate. The double-headed eagle appears on British crests less frequently than other heraldic creatures. Possibly, andI am only guessing, it relates to the fact that a son of King John, Richard, Duke of Cornwall (1209-1272) was appointed King of The Germans, that was a senior position in the Holy Roman Empire. The symbol of that empire was the double-headed eagle.