Thursday, April 17, 2014

An Unexpected (and Flattering) Acknowledgement

I recently finished reading a new (copyright 2014) mystery book, The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, a Flavia de Luce novel (the sixth in a series) by author Alan Bradley.

It was a fun read; Mr. Bradley has a unique writing style that you can't help but like.  Indeed, having finished this one, I am going to have to see about acquiring copies of his other novels in this series.

But what caught me unawares was a short paragraph in the second (of three) pages of Acknowledgements, mentioning one ...

David Appleton, of Appleton Studios, for his invaluable expert assistance in blazoning the de Luce coat of arms.  The trails and footpaths of heraldry are littered with traps and pitfalls for the unwary, and it was comforting to have David along to illuminate so happily some of the darker corners.

Wow.  I find myself at a loss for words.  (Some of my closest friends will find that shocking, I know.)  But, really, Mr. Bradley and I just corresponded by email a bit about heraldry and a blazon for an heraldic design he had in mind, and I did what I always try to do with such correspondence, which is to share my love of heraldry and answer the inquirer's questions to the best of my ability.  So, as I say, Wow.

Thank you, Mr. Bradley, for your very kind words.

If you'd like to know more about The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, or are interested in obtaining a copy for yourself, hardcover, Kindle, and audio editions are available at, and ebook versions are available at

Monday, April 14, 2014

I Really Don't Think I Understand

No, really, I don't think I understand the reasoning.  If a logo is not the least bit heraldic, then why place it on a shield shape?  What can the motivation for that be?  It's not like the standard heater shield shape is at all intuitive, not like a square, or a rectangle, circle, or oval is.  And yet, I regularly see non-heraldic logos placed on shields.

The example that got me to thinking about this anomaly was on a business card that I picked up several years ago while attending a conference on heraldry in North Carolina.  As an adjunct to that conference, those attendees who wished had the opportunity to visit the rare books collection at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  Since I'm never one to pass up the opportunity to peruse old books, I went along.  But while there, my eye was caught by the UNC Greensboro logo on the business cards there.

And here's a sharper version from the University's website:

See what I mean?  I find myself regularly drawn to shield shapes, since I'm always on the lookout for heraldry and its use in the United States today and in the past.  But this isn't heraldry, is it?  Yes, it's on a shield shape, but that is its only relationship to a coat of arms.

The colors of the logo are the school colors: gold, white, and navy blue.  The date, 1891, refers to the school's establishment (at that time, as the State Normal and Industrial School.  It's had several name changes since then).  The primary figure I first took to be Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, but it may simply be a representation of "Spiro, the Spartan," the student body there being the Spartans.  (As was the student body at my old college, Michigan State University.  But our colors were green and white.)  The figure being female, it may also refer back to the university's founding as a women's college.

But for all of that, it's not heraldry.  So why is it on a shield?  (And its not even an old Greek shield, or a roundel, which would at least keep the theme of "Spartans" going.  But a heater shield?  Not so much.)  To steal a line from the movie Shakespeare In Love, "It's a mystery."

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Another Bit of Heraldic Serendipity

Puttering about on the internet the other day, as I occasionally do, I ran across another sports team with a coat of arms-like logo:

The Charleston Battery is an American professional futbol (what we call "soccer" here) team based in Charleston, South Carolina. Founded in 1993, the team plays in the third-tier USL Professional Division.

Charleston is one of the more successful minor-league soccer teams in the United States, having won the final season of the USL Second Division in 2010 and the USL Pro Championship in 2012.

The team has played its home games at the soccer-specific Blackbaud Stadium since 1999. The team's colors are yellow, black and red.

The team's logo mimics somewhat the arms of the United States, with its paly field (here, Sable two pallets Or) and chief (here, Argent charged with the word "Battery").  The crossed cannons no doubt refer to the City of Charleston as the place where the first shots of the American Civil War were fired upon Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor, and of course the soccer ball is self-explanatory.

A fun bit of heraldry, and history, to have run across while searching the web for something else entirely!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Serendipity Leads to a "Heraldry" Discovery

I clicked on a link the other day that stated "You must watch this amazing guy playing Star Wars on a pipe organ."  I did, and it was.  But while watching Jelani Eddington play the Star Wars Symphonic Suite on a Sanfilippo Wurlitzer theater pipe organ (located at the Place de la Musique, a private museum in Barrington, Illinois), I noticed the following bit of "sort-of" heraldry:

It's pretty clear that it's not a "real" coat of arms.  Still, though, I thought that it was once again proof that you can find heraldry everywhere.  Even when you're just clicking on a link to see an extremely talented artist playing on an extremely versatile musical instrument.

If you'd like to see this bit of on-line video, and see a bit of heraldic decorative art at the same time, you can do so at

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The (Incorrect) Arms of the United States

I know, I told you I was going to leave this topic alone.  But I'm still doing research for my proposed paper on the arms of the United States, and I keep running across examples where, as they say down here, "it's just not raht."

This example comes from the facade of the San Diego, California, Museum of Art.  (It's a great exterior for heraldry; the example above is only one part of the building, and it's got a lot more heraldry than this panel shows.)

Once again, it's got the right number of stripes (13, although the last one to heraldic sinister - to the right as you look at it - is harder to make out), but like so many other examples, it also placed 13 stars - a row of six and a row of seven - on the chief, which in the actual arms of the United States is plain blue.

Then, too, it looks like they've taken the eagle supporter and turned it into a crest, sitting atop the shield, supporting on its breast an entirely different coat of arms.  Without hatching or anything else to give us clues as to the tinctures, it's hard to guess what this secondary coat of arms is supposed to be.  Is it St. George?  (Argent a cross Gules.)  For that matter, why is the cross so thin, instead of a wider cross, which is more to be expected of the only charge on the field?  Is that a bordure around the shield, or is that just the shield's delineation, as appears in the arms of the U.S. below the eagle?

There are other unanswered questions, too.  Why is there a rose above the eagle's head, where the crest of the United States (a constellation of 13 stars appearing in a glory) would normally be expected to be?  Why are there 17 leaves on the olive branch held by the eagle?  (In the U.S. arms, there are 13.)  And why are there only six arrows in his sinister talon?  (Again, the expected number is 13.)  (Are you seeing a pattern here with the number 13?  Good, you should.  The achievement was designed that way.)

Okay, I'll go shut up once again about the many inaccurate depictions of the arms of my native country.  At least until I can't stand it anymore and just have to share some particularly egregious example with you.  (It's like the cartoon about the man sitting at a computer, with his wife's voice coming from the other room asking him if he's coming to bed.  "I can't come to bed yet; someone is wrong on the internet!")

Monday, March 31, 2014

Article: Canadian Heraldry Is "Visually Stunning" and "Fun"

Well, at least according to a recent article in the National Post.

Tristin Hopper's article about Canadian heraldry (you may have seen links to it on Facebook; at least three different people I know of discussed it there) appeared in the on-line version of the Post on March 27, is a great overview of heraldry, and how it is prospering in Canada.

The author seems particularly taken by the innovative monsters often used as supporters to Canadian grants of arms, such as the winged sea-caribou in the arms of the Federal Court, above, as well as the use of aboriginal or First Nations symbols and motifs.

The article is profusely illustrated with examples, most screenshots taken from the Register of Arms, Flags, and Badges which can be found on-line at the website of the Governor General.  Mr. Hopper clearly did a fair bit of research and interviewed Claire Boudreau, the Chief Herald of Canada, and David Cvet, past President of the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada.  There is also a short (albeit somewhat awkwardly phrased) quote from the author of this blog.

I also found the comments and discussions among some of the readers in the commentary section below the article to be of interest.  Many seem to feel that the Canadian Heraldic Authority is doing a great job of keeping heraldry alive and "fun" in the 21st Century.  Indeed, one commenter, Robert Addington, noted that a personal acquaintance of his, John Brooke-Little, believed that heraldry should be fun.  Indeed, a quote I am fond of recalling appears in Mr. Brooke-Little's An Heraldic Alphabet and states: "You can study heraldry until you are azure ... in the face but inevitably discover, from time to time, that you really are quite vert.... I have found this over and over again but, never forget, herein lies the fun and if heraldry ever ceases to be fun - chuck it."  Sage advice from a great herald.

If you would like to see Mr. Hopper's article about how visually stunning -- and fun -- Canadian heraldry is, the full article can be seen on-line at:

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Personal Heraldry Informed By Lifestyle

In a recent on-line discussion about the high fat, high calorie, high cholesterol diets of just a few generations ago (and let it be noted that the people who ate those diets didn't sit at a desk all day, ride a car home, and sit in front of the TV or computer all night like we now do!), one commenter, Grla, said:

"Long before it became fashionable, my mother became suspicious of all the artificial substitutes and additives making their way into our food supply. She cooked with real ingredients, purchased fresh whenever possible, and served lots and lots of vegetables and greens with every meal. Why? Well, that was the preferred diet of her notably long-lived ancestors as they farmed New England's rocky soil for close to 300 years, and if it had worked so well for them, how bad could it be? She believed most of the health problems researchers were linking to the consumption of real eggs, real butter and cheese, were more likely attributable to the sedentary lifestyle of modern suburban living. If she'd ever had to adopt a personal coat of arms, her motto would undoubtedly have been 'Eat your vegetables, then go ride a bike,' and her crest a dairy cow."