I'm an Academic Herald. I'm not a "real" herald; I don't design and register people's coats of arms (though I can certainly suggest designs for those who might be interested). What I do is study, research, teach, and write about heraldry. (You can find some of my books about heraldry and a list of my articles and presentations about heraldry at "Our Website" below.) And I like to share what I have learned about heraldry, hence this blog. I hope that you'll find it informative, interesting at least occasionally, and worth your time to come back. Got a question? Comments? Feel free to ask or let me know. I'd love to hear from you. You can find my contact information in my Profile.
It's always interesting to see people having some fun with heraldry. I had run across an article a little while ago about Swatch CEO Nick Hayek and his vision for Swiss manufacturing. (Basically, he'd like for commercial items to have at least 60% of the their parts and construction to be in Switzerland before having a "Made in Switzerland" label stamped on them. "We show that Swiss Made has a value," Hayek says. Not the most gripping of news stories, I know.)
But accompanying the Annual Report on which the article was based, and included in the article itself, were some humorous versions of the arms of the Swiss cantons. For example, here's the one for Bern:
Which is, of course, a humorous take-off on the actual arms of Bern (just left of center in this postcard):
Or as shown in this, also humorous but in a different way, version from another old postcard:
* Yes, I know it is commonly referred to as the "Union Jack," but that may be a misnomer, as the term "jack" is generally limited to naval usage. Yes, the Admiralty has said in a 1902 circular that "Their Lordships had decided that either name [Union Flag or Union Jack] could be used officially." (Wikepedia, cf. "Union Jack") Nevertheless, the term "Union Flag" is what was used in King Charles's 1634 proclamation, and you'd think that he would know better than anyone what it should be called.
Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States, and I thought I would share a new find that I am thankful for on this day.
To be truthful, while I'm thankful for this particular find, I'm even more thankful to the Bavarian State Library, which has been for several years now digitizing and uploading 16th and 17th Century heraldic books to make them available to people like me who likely would never even know they existed except for their being uploaded on-line. So, a hearty Thank You! to the fine folks at the Bavarian State Library.
That being said, the specific book I'm thankful for today is the Hofkleiderbuch (Abbildung und Beschreibung der Hof-Livreen) des Herzogs Wilhelm IV. und Albrecht V. 1508-1551. Wappen mit Reimsprüchen des Holland. Abbildungen bayerischer Regenten - BSB Cgm 1952 (16th Century). Bing translates the title as "Court dress book (illustration and description of court liveries) of Duke Wilhelm IV. and Albrecht V. 1508-1551. coat of arms with rhyming slogans of Holland. Pictures of Bavarian Regents". Which is probably close enough to get a rough understanding of what it contains.
Which is a whole lot of stuff, including a page of heralds in their tabards.
Isn't that cool! (Although the Bavarian herald in the lower right looks like he's about to use his trumpet or baton as a mace!)
So, after making my way through the naval museum at Nauticus in Norfolk, Virginia, guess what I went to see next?
This is BB-64, the USS Wisconsin, an Iowa-class battleship, now decommissioned and acting as a living museum.
And you'll never guess (well, unless you are familiar with this blog) what I found there. That's right, heraldry! This was a painted coat of arms of the Wisconsin.
And here's a more "official" version that I found on-line of the same, well, not same, exactly, but similar, coat of arms. I mean, the stars on the shield, the crest, and the motto are the same, as are the designators USS Wisconsin and BB64. But really, did no one notice the difference between a propeller and a ship's wheel surmounted by the arms of the United States? It seems to me that it would have been fairly obvious. But what do I know?
And up on the side of the battleship was this bit of heraldry, for the Destroyer Cruiser Flotilla Eight.
And here's a patch with those arms (again, found on-line).
I've not seen anything yet that definitely places the Wisconsin as a part of that flotilla. It's possible that she was, and it's also possible that the men of the flotilla are among the donors and supporters of the Wisconsin as a museum.
Either way, it's heraldry, which, as I have said so often, you can find everywhere! In this case, sitting at a dock in Norfolk, Virginia.
Having had the time to do a little more research into the naval heraldry noted in my last post, I feel pretty safe in identifying the ship from which that particular bow decoration came from as being the armored cruiser ACR-2 USS New York. (The ACR-1, which was later designated as a second class battleship, was the USS Maine, of "Remember the ..." fame.)
My reasons for believing the arms belonged to the New York are several: first, the word "Excelcior" (which I believe is a misspelled "Excelsior"); second, the eagle over the shield; and finally, the two human figure "supporters" seen in profile on each side of the arms. So why exactly does that make me think "New York"? Well, this does: the arms of the State of New York.
See what I mean? Compare this achievement with the external ornaments (or to use a different term, artistic "frou-frou") about the shield of the arms of the United States in my last post, below.
And here is a photograph of the New York, with the eagle showing quite prominently above the shield on the bow.
And here is another, taken from the starboard side. If you click on the picture here, you should see the full-size version, where details of the bow decoration show up pretty well.
The New York was not, alas, a part of the Great White Fleet which circumnavigated the globe under President Theodore Roosevelt. She did, however, have a long and active service, being at one time the flagship of the Pacific Fleet.
All in all, a really great piece of heraldry, and history, to have run across!
I had been asked once again to speak to the Virginia Beach Genealogy Society (this was my third time out there; they must really like me!) and found that, once again, you can find heraldry wherever you go.
In this specific instance, since I had all day before the presentation to "play tourist" and see the sight, I was visiting the Nauticus Maritime Museum in Norfolk. It's a really great place to visit; they've got a lot to see (including BB64, the USS Wisconsin battleship, but more about that in another post), with a great series of exhibits that covers basically the history of the United States Navy from its founding until today. Among a whole lot of other things, they've got a piece of the armor plating of the USS Monitor (on loan from the Mariner's Museum in Newport News), as well as a cannonball and the ship's bell from the Monitor's famous opponent, the CSS Virginia (an ironclad ship built on the hull of the former USS Merrimac).
But when I came to the section of the Museum dedicated to the Great White Fleet sent by President Theodore Roosevelt on a circumnavigation of the globe from December 1907 to February 1909, I ran across the following bit of heraldry:
It is, of course, the arms of the United States done in a really nice carving that decorated the prow of one of those pre-WWI warships. You can see how it would have been mounted on the ship based on the model below.
What a wonderful piece of heraldic carving, from the shield of the arms to the very fierce-looking eagle above to the scroll with the word "Excelcior" below, to the leafy foliage on each side as well as the human figures supporting the cartouche on which the arms are placed.
There is, as many of you will no doubt see for yourselves, an error in the arms, though. Instead of being Paly [or for the purists out there, paleways] of thirteen Argent and Gules a chief Azure, the colors of the vertical stripes have been switched, making them Gules and Argent. An easy enough mistake to make, I suppose, except perhaps for "us heralds." I've certainly seen it often enough in renditions in various media of the national coat of arms. At least they didn't put any stars on the chief, which is a even more common error, conflating as it does the national arms with the national flag.
But what a great piece of naval history, and heraldic art, to find while playing tourist!
One of the things that I get to do on a fairly regular basis that I really enjoy is to talk to others (mostly genealogists, but also folks from various lineage and patriotic societies) about my little hobby: Heraldry.
And almost inevitably, I'll get asked if I have a coat of arms in my own family. I used to be able to remark that it was very disappointing, that none of my ancestors seemed to take note of the hobby of one of their descendants, and that no, for all the research that I'd done, I had not yet (and I always stressed that "yet") found a coat of arms used by any of my progenitors.
Well, then we went and spent a week in Massachusetts, looking at ancestral gravesites and historical sites and all that, and wouldn't you know, I found something that meant I could no longer use that story about no use of armory in my family. It came about when I was visiting the table tomb of my 13th-great grandparents, John and Mary (Chilton) Winslow, in King's Chapel Burying Ground in Boston.
Which was all well and good, and it was a pleasure to be able to visit their memorial (and to buy an armorial tee shirt, bearing the arms of the Hanoverian kings of Great Britain, sold at the Chapel!), when around on one side of the table tomb (the side off to my left), this plaque:
These arms also appear in the Gore roll of arms (about which I have written before) as number 91, Joshua Winslow, a descendant of John's brother Edward.
Do I know if John Winslow used this coat of arms? No, not for sure, I don't. But his brother, Edward, the Governor of Plymouth Colony, did (most notably on the seal of his will in 1654), and as his younger brother, John would also have had the right to do so whether he did or didn't actually use them during his lifetime.
So I've had to change up my patter a little bit, and explain that while you may or may not immediately find a coat of arms used in your family, you should keep looking, because you just never know when you might run across one!