Coke’s Crest and Motto

In vol. 1 of the Selected Writings of Sir Edward Coke, the editor discusses the crest and mottoes of Coke. The inscription on rings, which Edward Coke distributed according to custom to commemorate his being called to become Serjeant at Law: Lex est tutissima cassis (Law is the safest helmet) This is a shorthand for a maxim: “Law is the safest helmet; under the shield of law no one is deceived.”

His Motto: Prudens qui patiens (The prudent man is patient). This is an abbreviated form of the fuller motto: Prudens qui patiens etenim durissima coquit (The prudent man is a patient man, which aids him in the digestion). The motto is a pun built on the similarity of Coke’s name to the Latin for “digestion,” which also accounts for his choice of the ostrich as an heraldic animal. The ostrich was, at that time, believed to have a digestion so strong that it could eat iron, which explains the horseshoe in its beak.