Monday, October 20, 2014

Norway, Part Nine - Arms or Not?

I did run across just a few shields in Oslo where I wasn't certain whether they were a real coat of arms or if they were simply artistic decoration on what would otherwise have been a blank shield.  (And we all know how I feel about blank shields!)

So, yeah, I kind of like these, but I'm not certain just how much I should like them.  You understand?

I think I saw this same design in Heidelberg, Germany, a couple of years ago.  Though that one, as I recall, was done in a red stone or concrete.

Nope.  Looking at that post (, this is a bend sinister; the ones in Heidelberg - and there several different versions of the same shield, and so I have to assume of a real coat of arms - were of Or a bend gules.

So, real heraldry or simply artistic decoration?  I don't know for sure, but I do prefer it to blank shields, don't you?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Norway, Part Eight - Monograms on Shields

While I can applaud the desire not to fall into the trap of erecting a perfectly good shield or cartouche and then leave it completely blank (see my last post for some examples of these in Oslo), I'm not at all certain that it's so very much better to do as these examples of have done, and place a monogram on the shield.

Monogram is defined as:  "A motif of two or more letters, typically a person's initials, usually interwoven or otherwise combined in a decorative design, used as a logo or to identify a personal possession."  And these are certainly examples of those, of greater and lesser antiquity.

This modern one from the building of the Høyskolen Campus Kristiania, or College Campus Christiania. (Christiania is the older name for Oslo, given that name in the early 17th Century after King Christian IV.  Apparently, it is good to be the king!)

So, I admire their desire not to leave a blank shield, but is this really as good as using actual heraldry there?

I don't think so.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Does Dublin Need "An Updated Coat of Arms"?

I ran across an article last last week (October 9, 2014) entitled "Time to tell Dublin's old motto: `You're fired'" by Frank McNally.  Mr. McNally seems to feel that because (1) Dublin's coat of arms is some 400 years old, and (2) "nobody - not even City Hall - now knows which castles they're supposed to be, or indeed whether they're castles at all," that it may be time for Dublin to adopt something new as its emblem.

As an academic herald I, of course, disagree.  But still ...

Mr. McNally does have some good points in his article, which I am not going to repeat here. (He also speculates about the origins of the flames.) You can read the entire thing yourself on the website of The Irish Times at  It is worth noting, for example, that no one seems to be sure whether those are really castles on the arms, or if they're supposed to be a portion of the old city wall, or even if there really three castles or simply one being reproduced three times.  And what about the flames?  (The words of the old Billy Joel song come to mind: "We didn't start the fire.")  So, by all means, go read what he has to say.  But ....

I would note that Dublin's coat of arms is a pretty simple one considering it's for a city; such things can be quite complex, and some entirely horrendous.  Dublin's, on the other hand - Azure three triply-towered castles argent, the towers enflamed proper - are simple and immediately identifiable as what they are, in color or in monochrome.  Do I think they need to be changed, or updated, or modernized?  No, no I don't.

Plus, you can find them everywhere about the city, from buildings to bike racks, to lamp posts and trash bins, and city trucks to manhole covers.  The following are some of them that I was able to photograph during our stay in Dublin in 2002.  I think that some of them are great examples of what can be done to "modernize" or make a logo out of a classic coat of arms without the need to actually change them for a logo (with all of the accompanying design fees!).  See if you agree.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Norway, Part Seven - Empty Shields

I love to see heraldic decoration on buildings, you know?  Especially some of the baroque stuff with flourishes and frou-frou around the shields.

But there are occasions when I think they just missed taking it that one final step that would have made it ideal.  And what step is that, you ask?  Why, the step of placing something heraldic actually on the shield!  You know, like, say, a coat of arms!

But, no.  I regularly see blank or empty shields and ovals and cartouches wherever I go, crying out to have heraldry placed on them.  (Sometimes, I swear, if I had a few cans of spray paint.  Say, in the basic heraldic tinctures....  But no.  That would be considered to be vandalism, and I am generally against vandalism.  Still, it is one of the temptations that I face.  As I did in these examples in Oslo.

He's obviously crying out because someone stole the charges off of his shield.  That's my story and I sticking with it!

Nope, that's not a fleur-de-lis in the base of those shields.  It's just part of the rococo decoration.

I know what you're thinking.  But no, Neither one of those two above are Azure plain.  Would that they were.  I think that not even the artist(s) who created them could stand seeing a plain, unadorned shield surface there.

Like this one here is.

See?  Aren't you tempted to just surreptitiously drop by with a little paint and draw a coat of arms on some of these?  Or all of these?  Aren't they just crying out to have some real heraldry displayed upon them?

Why, yes.  Yes, they are.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

I've Been Translated!

A guest post that I recently did for the Fine Legacy blog ( about heraldry in 21sts Century America has been translated into German and posted today on the Pro Heraldica blog.  Pro Heraldica is a commercial heraldry and genealogy concern run by some very knowledgeable people based in Stuttgart, Germany (just a short drive from the city where my great-grandfather was born, Heidelberg).  I can't tell if I sound better in German or not.  (Of course, I'm just thrilled that they felt my post was interesting enough to republish!)  Feel free to make up you own mind by taking a look at my guest post at

Monday, October 6, 2014

Norway, Part Six - More British Heraldry

In the main entrance hall to Oslo's City Hall, there is a wooden plaque with a bit of British heraldry on it.  And why would the armorial insignia of a British ship, HMS Devonshire, warrant such a display in the Oslo City Hall, you ask?  Well, the Devonshire has an intimate connection with Norway that not a lot of people remember.  But Oslo does, and has commemorated it in a very public way.

HMS Devonshire participated in the Norwegian Campaign, and was the ship which evacuated the Norwegian Royal Family and other government officials from Tromsø, Norway, on June 7, 1940, shortly after Germany had invaded. Carrying 461 passengers, the ship passed within 50 miles of the action in which HMS Glorious and two destroyers were attacked and sunk by the German battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. Although an enemy sighting report had been received on the Devonshire, the Admiralty's orders were to recover King Haakon VII safely, so the Devonshire continued to England.

It is because of this action, in saving the Royal Family and other government officials of Norway that HMS Devonshire is still memorialized today and its heraldry appears in the City Hall of Oslo.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Norway, Part Five - The Fannehallen

Most of the heraldry presentations at the XXXI International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences were held in the Fannehallen, or Banner Hall, at the Akershus Fortress in Oslo, Norway.  And the hall was well-named, as you can see here.

The banners in the hall are, of course, those of various units in the Norwegian armed forces.  Most, but not all, bear the rampant lion and battle ax from the coat of arms of Norway.  Some bear the actual arms.  Others, as you can see from the third picture above, bear other identifying insignia: an anchor surmounted by a swooping eagle and a submachine gun; the king's monogram; a thunderbolt. Many carry the names of battles or campaigns in which that unit took part.

It gave a solemnity to the atmosphere to sit and listen to lectures on heraldry in a hall filled with so much military heraldry and history.