The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh with Thomas, Viscount Coke

The Queen & Duke of Edinburgh with Thomas, Viscount Coke


The Ostrich & The Crown

In celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the 400th anniversary of the establishment of the Coke family at Holkham, our exhibition for 2012 highlighted the links over four centuries between the Coke family and the monarchy, from the time of Elizabeth I to the present day. Fascinating items from our archives, library, personal records and photos illustrated the family story over four centuries of royal connections. Visitors we able to find out more about this photograph of the Queen, Duke of Edinburgh and a young Thomas, Viscount Coke. They discovered how the hall was used to entertain royal guests, the great friendship between the 2nd Earl of Leicester and King Edward VII, and a spectacular display of family costumes telling the unique family story concerning the present Queen’s coronation in 1953.

Click here to view a PDF showing the information panels displayed during the exhibition.

The title of this exhibition - why the Ostrich?

It was Sir Edward Coke, founder of the family fortunes and Attorney General to Elizabeth I and James I, who adopted the rather unexpected emblem of the ostrich with a horseshoe in its beak and incorporated it into the Coke family’s coat of arms.


In antiquity and the Middle Ages it was believed that the ostrich could digest anything, even iron. To a lawyer like Sir Edward, the “Digest” was the complete body of the procedures and principles of Roman law codified under the Emperor Justinian in 533AD. As a Latinist, Sir Edward would have known that the verb “coquere”, which half-rhymed with Coke, meant to both eat and to digest and so to accompany the visual image of the ostrich, he devised his personal motto “Prudens qui patiens etenim durissima coquit” - translated as “The prudent one is the patient one because he digests the hardest things”. As the ostrich digests the hardest things, so does the patient lawyer who having absorbed the hard lessons of the law, bides his time, rides our misfortune and survives to fight another day. The coat of arms is still used today.

ITV Countrywise Jubilee
Watch a section of the ITV1 Countrywise programme, “Queen and Country”, which was filmed at Holkham Hall. The programme was televised on 5th June as part of ITV’s coverage of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and interviews Lady Anne Glenconner who tells her own personal story of her role as Maid of Honour at the 1953 Coronation.

Courtesy of ITV

BBC Radio Norfolk
Viscount Coke interviewed by BBC Radio Norfolk’s Jill Bennett.

Courtesy of BBC Radio Norfolk. © BBC Radio Norfolk