Thursday, October 21, 2021

A Letter Patent of Nobility, With Two Kinds of Heraldry

In one part of Frederiksborg Castle in Denmark was a case with a patent of nobility (and grant of arms?).

This letter patent was issued by King Frederick IV of Denmark and Norway in 1716 ennobling Peter Tordenskiold (born Peter Janssen Wessel, 1690-1720), a Vice-Admiral of the Dano-Norwegian navy, whose greatest victory came in 1717 when he destroyed the supply fleet of King Charles XII of Sweden at the Battle of Dynekilen. In the letter, he was given the surname Tordenskiold (the modern orthography is Tordenskjold), or "Thunder Shield").

You can find a lot more about his short life, career, court-martial in 1714, and death in a duel at the age of only 30 at

The letter also illustrates his coat of arms:

You may note several naval references in the illustration above: the crossed cannons and cannonballs in the third quarter of the arms, and the Danish naval ensigns and pennants flanking the crest.

And, as you might expect, the letter is sealed with the royal seal of King Frederick IV:

They did go in for fancy, complex knots to attach seals to documents!

But here's a close-up of the seal itself, the royal arms of Denmark surmounted by the arched crown. (I have rotated the picture so it is easier to see.)

If you click on the image above to go to a larger photograph, you can clearly see the name of the king (in Latin), "Fredericus IIII".

Don't you just love looking at old documents? Especially ones with painted coats of arms and big armorial seals? I know I do! And it was great to have run across this one in Denmark.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are ... Dining?: Heraldry in Frederiksborg Castle: Tablecloths, Part 3

To finish our look at the three embroidered armorial tablecloths in this exhibit at Frederiksborg Castle, each with increasingly greater numbers of shields on them, we come to the final tablecloth, which - unlike the previous two - is entirely heraldic.

Clara Gyldenstjerne's tablecloth from 1650

Blue silk with embroidery in gold and silver thread. In the middle of the tablecloth, the coats of arms of the Gyldenstjernes and the Podebuskers. Above is "Clara Gyldenstiern Fathers and Mothers". Under the coats of arms is "Henrik Gyldenstierne Anno 1650". On each long side there are 10, on each narrow side 6, coats of arms with the family names below.

Here is the central motif, the arms of Gyldenstjerne* and Podebusker (again, please click on an image to go to a larger, more detailed photo. You really cannot fully appreciate the work that went into all of these shields, helms, mantling, and crests from these thumbnail images):

Then, of course, are all of the arms around the edges of the tablecloth, presumably those of her forebears:

On each of the corners is the star from the Gyldenstjerne arms encircled with a wreath of different flowers.

And there you have it! A large, wonderfully embellished and entirely heraldic tablecloth.

Now tell me you wouldn't like something like this for your home!

* This is a name you might be familiar with from Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Two of the characters in that play are Rosencrantz** and Guildenstern, courtiers and friends of the melancholy Prince, whose names King Claudius can't keep straight, and whose deaths are announced in the final act of the play. This is not, I believe, that Guildenstern.

** As a matter of fact, though, if you look carefully you may see some shields (which may be duplicated in more than one photo above) which are labeled "Rosenkrans". (If you need a hint, they're the ones with crowned rampant lion in the first and fourth quarters, and a checky bend in the second and third quarters.) Who knew?

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Heraldry in Frederiksborg Castle: Tablecloths, Part 2

Continuing our look at these three wonderfully embroidered armorial tablecloths on exhibit at Frederiksborg castle, we come to the second one.

Alas, here the explanatory sign ends up telling us very little about the coats of arms around the sides of the tablecloth.

Sophie Staverskov's silk tablecloth from around 1650

Light olive green silk with satin stitching and chain and contour stitching. In the center there is an oval laurel wreath with single flowers, in which Orpheus plays on the lyre at the foot of a tree. In a wood sit birds, and around Orpheus stand wild animals mesmerized by his music, including a unicorn, an elephant, a lion and a deer. Along the sides are coats of arms framed by laurel wreaths with red flowers. Scattered throughout the center lot is a quantity of flowers with short stems, red, yellow, white and blue, including cloves, tulips, cherries, lilies and lily of the valley.

(Once again, please click on an image to go to a larger, more detailed photograph. You really cannot appreciate this work from the thumbnails here.)

So ... they don't tell us to whom these quartered coats of arms belong, which is a shame, since Ms. Staverskov clearly went to a lot of work to embroider them all the way around the tablecloth, as you can see:

All in all, an amazing piece of the embroiderer's art! Anyone up for trying this at home?

Monday, October 11, 2021

Heraldry in Frederiksborg Castle: Tablecloths, Part 1 (or, More Ideas for _Your_ Home!)

At the time we visited Frederiksborg Castle in Denmark, there was an exhibition of three embroidered armorial tablecloths, all dated to 1650 and 1652.

The first of these tablecloths was explained by a nearby sign as:

Miss Anna Katharina Krag's tablecloth from 1652

The tablecloth is made of green taffeta with blue canvas pad, embroidered with many colors of silk. In a round center field with flower wreaths are the coats of arms of the families Krag and Høeg, as well as "Miss Anna Catarina Krag Anno 1652”. In the surrounding large square field are embroidered flowers, in the corners fruits and parrots. The edges are provided with flowers and leaf motifs. The coats of arms point to Anna Catharina Krag's (1616-87) parents Niels Krag (1574-1650) and Jytte Høeg (1589-1659).

Anna Catharina Krag died childless, and it is believed that this tablecloth passed down to her brother's son Niels Krag (1653-1713). He was married to Sophie Juel (1703-22), who presumably left the tablecloth for Roskilde's noble Jomfrukloster (Virgin Monastery).
Given the date of the tablecloth (1652), it may very well be that she did this in memory of her father (who died in 1650).

In any event, as you can see from the photos below, she did a lot of work on this tablecloth! (I recommend clicking on the images below to go to a larger and far more detailed photographs, so that you can really see some of the details!)

Now, doesn't this get your creative juices flowing? Can you see yourself doing something like this for your own home, with your own coat(s) of arms?

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Heraldry in Frederiksborg Castle: Tapestries

Besides armorial portraits, of course, one of the other things you often find in castles (and large estate houses*) is tapestries of one scene or another. And Frederiksborg Castle in Denmark is no exception to this general rule.

And, of course, many of those tapestries contain heraldry.

Frederiksborg Castle being a royal residence, naturally enough most of the heraldry to be found on these tapestries are versions of the Danish Royal arms.

I have to admit, though, that my favorite armorial tapestry in the castle was this one:

Here's a closer look at it:

It's done in a totally different style than the others; less traditional European, and more what you might see from a native weaver from the Caucasus. I just find it very attractive.

Of course, it's the Lesser Arms of Denmark in the center (though with the lions passant to sinister instead of dexter, surrounded by the arms of the many provinces and fiefs making up Denmark, as we have seen earlier on and around the castle.

You may, of course, disagree with me, but I really like it!

* Heck, if you come and visit my relatively humble home, you'll find a couple of tapestries hanging in the living room. Naturally, if you know me at all, you have probably already guessed that they each have heraldry on them. And, of course, you'd be correct. The bigger one, which we purchased in Belgium, is of part of the large mural of the Nine Worthies in the castle of La Manta in Italy. The other, smaller one over the fireplace which we purchased in Canterbury, England is a woodland scene with a unicorn and a lion, with a number of shields hanging from the trees.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Heraldry in Frederiksborg Castle: Amorial Portraits

There's at least a couple of things that you will see in most castles and large estates. One of them is something we're going to look at next time. The other is . . . large portrait paintings. And sometimes these portraits, whether half-portraits, 3/4, or full, have coats of arms painted on them to help the viewer identify the person painted there.

Today, we're going to look at some of the armorial portraits -- half, 3/4, and full -- that can be seen in Frederiksborg Castle in Denmark.

First up, and probably most important, we have the armorial portraits of King Christian I (1426-1481) and his wife, Dorothea of Brandenburg (1430/31-1495). The married in 1449. They are, of course, the ancestors of King Christian IV, who built the castle, and it may very well be (or even likely) that the portraits are not made from life. Still, there they are: the King and Queen of Denmark, with their coats of arms.

Next, we have the portrait of Dorothea of Denmark (1520-1580), the eldest daughter of Christian II. She married Frederick II, Elector Palatine, in 1535.

And, of course, her arms, the arms of Denmark.

Next is the portrait of Ellen Marsvin (1572-1649), a Danish noble, landowner and county administrator. She was the mother-in-law of King Christian IV. In 1615 her only child, Kirsten, married Christian IV. Ellen had demanded that her daughter be married to rather than be mistress of the king; she also formed the marriage contract, in which it was stated that Kirsten should be the legal spouse of the king and receive a county as widow pension. Ellen was made the guardian of her daughter's children with the king, the trustee for her grandchildren’s allowances, and was made responsible for their fortune. She must have been quite the woman, to have imposed her will that way on the King, in addition to her duties as a landowner and county administrator. Just sayin'.

And, of course, her arms in the upper right corner of the portrait.

Up next is Anne Hansdatter Skovgaard (ca.1570-1645), the daughter of Hans Jørgensen Skovgaard and Anne Vernersdatter Parsberg. She married Holger Ulfstand in 1590.

(That's quite the "necklace", isn't it?)

I am assuming that her (or at least, her father's) arms are those in the upper left of the painting.

While those of her husband, Holger Ulfstand, are in the upper right.

Next we come to the portrait of Henrik Gøye til Tureby (1562-1611). Turebyholm was acquired in 1604 by Gøye in exchange for other property. The fief also comprised four farms and 12 houses in the village and around a hundred copyholds scattered across a large area. Henrik Gøye was married to Margrethe Brahe (d. 1619).

Presumably those are his arms on the left. I am uncertain of the identity of the arms on the right, though they could, of course, be those of his wife Margrethe. (I apologize; the close-up of the coats of arms came out blurry, and so is not included here.)

Then we come to the portrait of Sophie Clausdatter Sehested (1594-1658). She was the wife of Erik Juel, often referred to as Erik Juel of Hundsbæk and Alsted (1591-1657), a Danish courtier, seignory and Privy Councillor.

Her arms are both simple, slightly complex to the eyes of those used to British heraldic norms, and colorful at the same time.

And finally, we come to the armorial portrait of Christian Jenssøn Bielke (1616-1642). He was a courtier of King Christian IV, and the son of Jens Ovesen Bjelke and Sophie Henriksdatter Brockenhuus.

And is he pulling off that red and gold outfit, or what?

His arms, somewhat more complex than most we have seen here, are in the upper right of the painting.

So, by now you should have a good idea of some of the armorial portraits in Frederiksborg Castle, and some inspiration for decorating your personal castle or large estate house!