Richard Wyatt Throws the Family Crest into the Fire

1773

Virginia

Richard Wyatt was a descendant of the famous Renaissance poet Sir Thomas Wyatt. Richard owned a large plantation located on the North Anna River in Caroline County, Virginia, which was contemporaneously known as "Plain Dealing." His wife, Amey Chiles, was a descendant of Walter Chiles, an early immigrant to the Jamestown settlement and member of the House of Burgesses.

The Wyatt's owned a painting of the Wyatt family crest, described in Burke's Heraldry thus: "gu. on a fess or, betw. three boars' heads, couped." Translated, this is "red (gules) background with a horizontal band (fess) of gold color, enclosing three boars' heads cut off horizontally (couped)." Burke's states that King Henry VIII granted this coat of arms to Sir Henry Wyatt in the early 1500s.

Just before the Revolution, Richard became so incensed at the British treatment of Virginians that he tore the painting from the wall, hacked it out of its frame with a sword, and threw it into a blazing fire in the fireplace. One of his daughters, Nancy, reached in and pulled the painting out of the fire, saving it from more than mild damage.

Many years later, in 1830, the somewhat singed painting hung in the home of Nancy Wyatt and her husband, Colonel Anthony New. One of Richard Wyatt's grandchildren, Richard Ware Wyatt, visited and made a sketch of the coat of arms in his travel journal. The painting was later destroyed in a fire, but the sketch survives.

We do not know if Richard Wyatt fought in the Revolution because many Caroline County records were destroyed during the Civil War, as happened across the South. We do know that his son Richard (1763-1858) was commissioned an ensign in 1778 and was a captain by the end of the Revolution.