The Institute Lady
The identity of 'The Institute Lady' and the meaning of the coat of arms surrounding her is raised from time to time by curious members - and understandably so, as it can seem hard to imagine what connection the matronly figure with a ship's rudder has to the Institute of Chartered Accountants. In answering these questions we have to look back to the College of Heralds who granted the Institute's coat of arms in 1880.
The figure chosen by the Heralds would appear to be Economia, taken from the book 'Iconologia' by Cesare Ripa (1603) which is now held by the ICAEW in its collection of rare books. An illustration of Economia taken from Cesare Ripa's book can be seen below. In an article written for The Accountant in 1948 the Librarian, Cosmo Gordon, explained that 'The rod signifies command, the rudder guidance; with the dividers she measures her powers and so estimates what she has to spend'.
Cosmo Gordon went further and translated Cesare Ripa's description of Economia with an analysis of the meaning and the origin in greater depth. Full details can be found in the article, 'The Institute Lady', on page 371-2 of The Accountant, 6th November 1948.
Since the granting of the coat of arms Economia has been represented in a number of forms, ranging from the ICAEW logo to commemorative centennial plates. Over time the representation of Economia in these designs has itself changed. The logo (in the top left hand corner of this webpage) shows the current representation of Economia whilst a mid-twentieth century version can be seen in the Library bookplate designed by Sir Henry Badeley, K.C.B. in 1944.
The Institute coat of arms
The design of the ICAEW coat of arms was explained in the ICAEW Report and Accounts 1982
A Crest and Supporters have been added to the Shield of Arms of the Institute, granted in 1881.
In the original Shield, which is retained unaltered, the 'Female figure proper representing "Economy" ' stems from a book by Cesare Ripa, entitled Iconologia, which appeared in Rome in 1603. The author describes Economia as: 'A matron of serious aspect crowned with olive and holding a compass in her left hand, a rod in her right. Behind her is a rudder. Every family has need of its own particular laws, so she is shown holding a rod signifying command. The rudder is the symbol of guidance. The garland of olive shows that the good economist must necessarily maintain peace in her house. The compass teaches how each economist should measure her powers and so estimate by means of reckoning what she has to spend' The 'compass' might better be described as a pair of compasses or dividers, denoting accurate measurement.
The Shield is now ensigned by a Helm with Mantling, upon which is a Crest, whose main feature is a tower with portals. Twin turrets rise from the tower, and set between them is a heraldic star. The tower suggests a corporate body, well established on a solid foundation of accuracy and care. The twin turrets are an allusion to the double-entry system of book-keeping. The radiated star symbolises the application of electronics to methods of calculation and the speed of communication of data.
In the Helm is a lion's mask, an ornamental feature of Helms in the 19th century and matching the scroll work of the original Shield. A lion and dragon are the Supporters. Each has been garlanded with olive, a wreath of which is about the temples of Economia. Each Supporter has a key of gold fastened to a chain and a blue ring, the key being a symbol of security. The ward of the key held by the lion of England is shaped as an 'E', and the key held by the dragon of Wales has its ward in the form of a 'W.
Red, blue and gold, being the major colours used, appear again in the 'compartment', the base upon which the Supporters stand, which is designed to resemble a chequerboard, originally an aid to monetary calculation. The compartment is made of exactly 100 squares, thus noting emblematically the Institute's centenary.
Extract from The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales
Report and Accounts
Bookplate design by Sir Henry Badeley
The Coat of Arms as it appeared in an ICAEW Library bookplate designed by Sir Henry Badeley in 1944.
An illustration of Economia taken from 'Iconologia' by Cesare Ripa (1603).
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