Coat of Arms, Ambrose Lupo and Sons

This is a graphic representation of the coat of arms issued to Ambrose Lupo (posthumously) and his sons, Peter and Joseph. Numerous copies are floating around the Internet, mistakenly identified as the Lupo family coat of arms, many with no attribution and some with erroneous information about how it originated. Here’s the actual story.

Original artwork by Keith Kennedy Tyson, Tasmania, Australia.

The graphic is taken from a scan of the original artwork produced by Keith Kennedy-Tyson from Tasmania, Australia, which is in my possession and is credited as such at the website I created for my family ( It did not come from one of those online companies which produce dubious “family crests” or questionable family histories. It represents an actual grant of arms to a specific set of individuals, who were the forerunners of the branch of the family who settled in the United States prior to the Revolution. Keith also translated the original document I received from the British Library, with the assistance of the individuals identified below.

Accompanying the artwork, Keith provided the following text.

The Arms of Lupo as granted to Ambrose Lupo and his sons, Peter and Joseph by William Dethick, Garter King of Arms 


In Campo Caeruleo Lupam albam ingredientem hiantem lingua et unquibus sanguinolent et in supere Argt. 3 rosas rubras albis duplicatis foliis viridis cresentibus 

pro Crista superiorem albi lupi partem erectum egredientem supra capsidem pendibus tenentem rosam cum stipite et ramis proprius colorit. depicta et tortili.

Attempt at translation of the Arms: 


On a field of Azure a wolf passant Argent, langued and Armed Glues on a chief Argent three red roses duplicated in white slipped vert.


A demi wolf rampant Argent, holding with his feet a rose, slipped vert as depicted in the Arms.

About Elizabethan Grants and their contemporary portrayal: 

The closest representation I have found to copy the style from is from the 1580’s. At this time it had become a common rule that whatever the colour of the wreath the mantling was generally Gules doubled Argent. In general the wreath’s colour was still taken from the principal colour and metal of the shield. In the case of this grant it would be Azure doubled Argent. 

Elizabethan mantling looks a little weak when compared with either ancient or contemporary examples. It had also become common practice for the esquire’s/gentleman’s helmet to be garnished/out lined with gold. 

The reason for the change from a she wolf to a normal wolf is that the Heraldic Latin of the period was not noted for getting its gender right and she wolves are exceptionally rare whilst a wolf is far more probable, particularly as it would then tie in with the crest. 

Keith provided the following attribution with the artwork.

This translation was based on the work of one honours student in Classics, Assoc. Professor M. Bennett, Dept. of Hist. (a medievalist with strong interests in the early Tudor monarchs) and myself an honors grad in Hist. reading for my Masters. I also used a Latin heraldic glossary from one of my 1800’s heraldry books.

How the Work Came About 

In the late 1980s, I began researching my family’s history. Since I already knew Lupo was the Italian word for “wolf,” I originally believed I’d trace back a few generations and discover my immigrant ancestor. Imagine my surprise when I found Lupos in Virginia well before the Revolution. Eventually, I ran across mention of musicians by that name, which led me to scattered references to Ambrose, Peter and Joseph, who were incorrectly identified as brothers.

Sometime around 1992, I discovered a recording by the Parley of Instruments from England, headed by Peter Holman, which included compositions by Thomas Lupo, a royal composer employed by James I and his son, Prince Charles, later Charles I. Appropriately, the recording was entitled Music for Prince Charles. The text accompanying the recording contained biographical information about the Lupos, so I wrote to Peter Holman. He replied with references which were highly beneficial in rediscovering the history of the Lupo family in England. Two of the articles were by Roger Prior, at the time a professor at Queen’s University, Belfast. I later corresponded with Dr. Prior, and he provided me with further information which was invaluable in tracing the origins of my family.

At the time, Peter Holman was working on his book, Four and Twenty Fiddlers, about the history of the violin at the English court. I and another researcher, Michael Lupo, contacted him separately about the family, and he mentioned us in a footnote on page 51. Between Peter Holman and Roger Prior, I found mention of a coat of arms issued to Ambrose Lupo and his sons.

“Lupus, Ambrose, s. of Baptist, of “Castello maiori” of Busto in Normandy, in the Republic of Malan; augmentation and crest granted ? 45 Eliz. … by W. Dethrick, Gart. Queen’s College Oxford manuscript, folio 96, copy of grant in Latin; Stowe ms. 676 fo. 138b names sons Peter and Joseph.” This was found in Grants of Arms Named in Docquets and Patents to the End of the Seventeenth Century, transcribed by Joseph Foster, Harleian Society Publications, Vol. 66, page 160. Referencing the Stowe manuscript, I wrote to the British Library and received this reproduction of the grant.


Being unable to read Elizabethan Latin, and newly acquainted with the Internet, I went on a newsgroup called rec.heraldry in June of 1993 to find someone who could help translate, and possibly provide a rendering of it. This set off a flurry of correspondence between myself and individuals mainly from Germany and Australia. Someone in Germany would comment on the translation, I’d forward the info to someone in Australia, who’d reply back with more information. It was truly a global effort.

One of the individuals with whom I corresponded was a woman in Tasmania, Australia named Elizabeth and she put me in touch with her husband, Keith, who was a graduate student in history. He asked me to send a copy of the grant and he’d take a crack at translating it. He did just that, as well as supplying me with a rendering of how the arms probably looked, which is the basis for the graphic above.

When I started my website in March of 1995, I included a family page which became the basis for the site, which went online in 1998. I posted the graphic there, without realizing it would be distributed far and wide without attribution. Once I realized it was being used by others, I updated the image at the site to include the site name, but by then, it had been propagated throughout the Internet. Numerous individuals have it posted on Ancestry, some with links back to, others without.

It is incorrect to refer to this as the Lupo Family Coat of Arms. The grant was to a specific family under a specific set of circumstances. Arms are the property of the individual to whom they are issued, and since these were conferred upon Ambrose and his sons, both Peter and Joseph could pass them on to their heirs. They would have been passed down in accordance with established rules of inheritance, and England, at the time, followed the rules of primogeniture, that is, in the absence of a will, the eldest surviving son inherited the father’s property. Phillip Lupo, who visited Virginia in 1621 and who was the father of Phillip who made out his will in 1668, was not the oldest son of Peter Lupo and, in fact, had two older brothers, Thomas and Albiano. Thomas remained in England, where he continued the family profession of being a court musician. The arms conferred on Peter would have been passed down to Thomas, then to his heirs. While Phillip in Isle of Wight County was his father’s oldest son, the family in the United States descends from his younger son, James, and most likely from James’ youngest son, John.

I’m posting this to both relate the story of how it came into existence and to recognize the many individuals who contributed to making it happen. I wish I could post a transcript of the discussion that went into it, but unfortunately none of that was preserved and would most likely take up too much space. I would urge anyone who has it posted to be sure to reference this post, or the family site at where credit is given to the known individuals who helped. It was through their efforts that this important piece of family history was rediscovered.

3 thoughts on “Coat of Arms, Ambrose Lupo and Sons

  1. Hello Matt! We corresponded back in 90’s on Prodigy about the Lupo history. I’m a descendant of David through Louelza his daughter. Do you still think they were Sephardic Jews?

    1. Great to hear from you again, Brian. I’m almost positive they were Jews. I had my DNA analyzed by National Geographic for their Genographic project and I carry a marker on my YDNA (passed from father to son) that’s common to several Jewish Diaspora groups. I’m gm at lupo dot com if you want to drop me a note.

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