Monday, August 30, 2010

More International Heraldry at The Mariners’ Museum

The Mariners’ Museum has a really nice collection of fantastically detailed (and large) ship models. I ran across some more international (well, okay, national) heraldry there on the model of the TSMS Gripsholm, a passenger liner of the Swedish America Line built in England in 1923.
The arms on the smokestacks are, of course, the lesser arms of Sweden, Azure three crowns or. (The greater arms or, more strictly speaking, the arms of the King, have a quarterly shield with a cross formy throughout and an inescutcheon overall of impaled arms [Vasa and Bernadotte].  Information and a picture of the greater arms, as well as the lesser arms and the flag, can be seen at

Thursday, August 26, 2010

More International Heraldry from The Mariners’ Museum

Another well done achievement of non-U.S. arms found at The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia (you can find out more about the Museum from their website,, is this 19th Century carving of the arms of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
The arms may be blazoned in English as: Azure billety, a lion rampant or, armed and langued gules, crowned with the Royal Netherlands crown, a sword proper bendwise sinister in its right paw, a garb of seven arrows inverted argent with heads tied with a ribbon or in its left paw. The shield is ensigned with the Royal Netherlands crown and is supported by two lions rampant guardant silver (today they are lions rampant [not guardant] or), armed and langued gules, atop a ribbon bearing the motto JE MAINTIENDRAI (I will maintain). (The motto today is usually in gold letters on a blue ribbon; here, obviously, it is in black on white.)

It’s always a pleasure to see a well-done three-dimensional rendering of a coat of arms, with or without the external ornaments, and this is a very nice piece.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Herald in the News, Part 2

As a follow-up to my post yesterday about the death of Sir Peter Ll. Gwynn-Jones, former Garter Principal King of Arms, Lord Norton over on the Lords of the Blog web log has a post today (August 24) about some of his memories and impressions of Sir Peter (  The comments on this post are also worth reading through, as several contain some other folks' impressions of him.  He was quite a character (and I mean that in the best sense possible), and will be missed by more people than just me.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Herald in the News

The White Lion Society, "a society of friends of Her Majesty's College of Arms," has announced on its website ( that former Garter Principal King of Arms, Sir Peter Llewelyn Gwynn-Jones, died in hospital on Saturday evening, August 21, 2010 following a stroke some three weeks ago.

I've done some looking about the web for any news on this, but the only thing I've been able to locate at this point is that the Times of London will publish an obituary on Tuesday, August 24.

I'm very sad to hear this.  I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity some years back to meet with him in the Garter office at the College of Arms for a full hour.  In addition to the pleasure of sitting in such historic surroundings, I learned a lot about his personal philosophy of heraldry and heraldic design.

I had hoped that he would have a long and productive retirement.  I'm sorry that it seems to have been cut short this way.

More Heraldry at The Mariners’ Museum

Continuing our wandering among the exhibits at The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia, we ran across this photographic reproduction of a 1702 etching of Howland Great Dock near Deptford, England, where ships were built, repaired, and moored.
At the top center, in pride of place, was a coat of arms that could be blazoned, On a lozenge, Two bars and in chief three lions rampant, impaling A chevron ermine between three [birds] close.

A quick search in Papworth’s Ordinary of British Armorials gave, unsurprisingly considering the subject of the etching, Howland (Cambridge; London; and Streatham, Surrey; granted 1584): Argent two bars in chief three lions rampant sable.

A continuing search in Papworth came up with a couple of possibilities for the arms of Mr. Howland’s wife. (Do you have any idea how many coats consisting of a chevron between three birds there are in Papworth? Admittedly, there are not many chevrons ermine (white with black tails) and even fewer chevrons ermines (black with white tails), but because Papworth is organized by the different types of birds around the chevron and then by the field tincture under each type of bird, you have read through _all_ of those pages looking for the few chevrons ermine or ermines. And apparently the birds are not, as I first thought they might be, doves, unless the engraver made an error and failed to make the chevron engrailed.)

In any case, the two likeliest possibilities I found were as follows:

Wyke: Argent a chevron ermine between three plovers proper.
Jervis (Petling, co. Leicester): Sable a chevron ermine between three hawks close argent.

I suspect that Wyke is a little more likely than Jervis; no doubt a little genealogical research would let us pin this down more strictly, but that’s a lot of work for a few moments’ curiosity.

A general search on the internet found an entry for Howland Great Dock and noted that the dock was built on land leased from and with monies provided by Elizabeth Howland. (Greenland Dock was built on the site in the 19th Century, and survives to this day.)  I suspect that, since the Dock was named after her father, while the shield (a lozenge) is hers, the arms are those of her father impaled with those of her mother.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Heraldry in the Blogosphere!

There's a heraldry-related blog post over at Luke Gilman: Life and Law ( about the arms of the University of Houston Law Center.

It's a nice little post, and gives a bit of the reasoning, both heraldic and legal, behind the martlets on the chief.  You might go check it out!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

More Naval (Sort of) Heraldry

Another bit of historic heraldry at The Mariners' Museum can be found in a print (made contemporaneously) of the funeral barge which carried the body of Admiral Horatio Nelson from Greenwich to Whitehall on January 8, 1806.

In addition to the White Ensign flying at the stern of the barge (not unlike the White Ensign flying from the stern of the HMS Ark Royal, about which we blogged here on August 12), we have the Royal Arms flying from the bow, and from a mast at the center, a flag or banner with Nelson’s complete achievement of arms, with the arms and his two augmentations (soon to be three; the wavy fess with “Trafalgar” on it was granted after Nelson’s death to his heir and older brother, William), encircled by the Order of the Bath, ensigned with the coronet of a Viscount, and accompanied by supporters and a motto.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Heraldry in the News!

There's another story out today of a political party using -- or rather, misusing -- the arms of a community, this time to the south of the Scotland-England border.

Supporters of the British National Party have placed York’s coat of arms on a blog page promoting the organisation in the City of York, and have been told using it without permission is against the law.

“City of York Council wrote to the organisation concerned regarding the use of the registered council crest of arms being used on their website,” said a council spokeswoman. “They have been advised that the coat of arms is registered with the College of Arms and that it is unlawful for anybody else to use it without our permission.”  (I have to admit, I think that's the first time I've seen the term "crest of arms" used; I've seen "crest" used instead of the more correct "coat of arms" many times, even by folks who should know better, like The Times in London, but not "crest of arms" before.)

The full story can be found on the website of The Press of York at:

Non-Contemporary Naval Heraldry

While we were in Virginia, I simply _had_ to go to The Mariners’ Museum. For one thing, that’s where they have all of the bits and pieces that have been brought up from the USS Monitor, the Civil War ironclad (the little one, the “cheesebox on a raft”) that helped to revolutionize the design of warships ever since, and I’ve been fascinated by it, and the other ironclad ships being built at that time, for more years than I care to remember. (Let’s just say that I really understand my father’s old saw about getting up in the morning, going into the bathroom, and wondering who that old guy in the mirror is!)

So, anyway, having gotten my Monitor “fix” taken care of (did I tell you they have the actual turret from the Monitor there?  As well as a bit of its armor plate that you can actually touch?), we walked around the rest of the Museum looking at all of the other exhibits they have, some of which included … wait for it … heraldry.

One that caught my eye, for two reasons, was this one …

… which was labeled:

“Stern Carving, The Order of the Garter
England, ca. 1816-1837
HMS Victory’s ornate figurehead was replaced during a refit by one of simpler design incorporating the seal of the Order of the Garter, the oldest and highest order of British chivalry.”
Now, don’t you all go getting up in arms about how they’ve mislabeled this particular artifact. (That was the second reason that it caught my eye, the first, naturally enough, being that it was a coat of arms.) I’ve already sent them a polite letter suggesting that what they have is not really the “seal of the Order of the Garter,” but rather is the Royal Arms of Great Britain as used from 1801-1816* by King George III, and encircled by the Garter as can be found even today on many depictions of the Royal Arms.

The real point here is, I think, that they’ve got a really cool piece of history here – the Royal Arms of Great Britain from HMS Victory, one of the most famous ships that ever sailed.

* Because those arms after 1816 had a crown on top of the inescutcheon instead of the Electoral Bonnet as here.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

British Naval Heraldry – in the United States

One day on our vacation in Virginia we decided to take a harbor cruise just for the fun of it, and to see what we could see.

One of the things we saw was a lot of naval vessels in the Norfolk Navy Yard. Jo Ann was particularly happy to see CVN-65, the USS Enterprise, the “Big E”, the U.S. Navy's, and the world’s, first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, in port.

Another ship was one that had a very distinctive silhouette. As we got closer, we were informed that it was the HMS Ark Royal,* with its characteristic jump ramp on the bow for its contingent of Sea Harrier VTOL/STOVL aircraft.

This was just too cool for me: partly because the Harrier is one of my favorite military aircraft and has been for a long time (I remember reading an article back in the mid-1960’s about the Tri-Partite Evaluation Squadron of British, American, and German pilots who were evaluating the Harrier for their respective countries); and partly because it was the biplanes flying from an earlier namesake, another HMS Ark Royal, which stopped the German battleship Bismark in its tracks in the North Atlantic.

As we got closer, I couldn’t find her name anywhere on her, except on the gangway between her and the dock which her sailors, pilots, and other personnel used to embark and debark. But there, on the side of her forward smokestack, was her badge, an ark royally crowned.

How cool is that!  It's not every day that you run across British heraldry in North America being used in something other than an historical setting.

* This Ark Royal is the fifth ship of that name in the history of the Royal Navy, the first being built for Sir Walter Raleigh and which saw action against the Spanish Armada in 1588.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Heraldry in the News!

In a story published today in Aberdeen, Scotland's The Press and Journal, a right-wing political party has agreed to stop using an altered version of Aberdeen's coat of arms after learning that it could be prosecuted for doing so.

The Aberdeen National Front had been using the image on its website, until being contacted by Alexander Green, Procurator Fiscal of the Court of the Lord Lyon King of Arms, who explained to them that in Scotland, a person cannot display a coat of arms unless it has been registered by the Lyon Court in the Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland.  (Admittedly, they had been reported to the Lyon Court by the Aberdeen City Council, whose coat of arms was being modified and used by the ANF.  The City's arms are shown here, from an old postcard, circa 1905.)

The ANF spokesman said that they'd vetted the logo before using it with their legal team in England.  I guess the moral of that story would be: Don't ask a lawyer in England about the use of heraldry in Scotland; Lord Lyon's authority to regulate arms in Scotland has teeth that the English heralds only wish they had.

More on the story can be found on-line at:

Monday, August 9, 2010

Some More Military Heraldry

Over the bridge and under the tunnel, miles away from Fort Eustis, Virginia Beach has a great little Military Aviation Museum. Their collection is mostly from WWII, big and small. (And if you don’t think that a PBY Catalina is not a large plane, then you haven’t walked under the one they have there!) They also have a few planes of more recent vintage, and some that are older, including one of my favorite planes from between the wars, the little single-seat P-26 “Peashooter”, a plane that just looks like it would be a lot of fun to fly.

There’s not an awful lot of heraldry in military aircraft decoration (the bikini-clad babe on the side of the B-25 Mitchell bomber notwithstanding), but I did run across one coat of arms on a plane there.

If I recall correctly, the plane itself is a French Nieuport; in any case (that is to say, if my memory is no better than it usually is), this restored one is decked out in the paint scheme of Major William Brucken.

On each side of the nose of the aircraft, just behind the engine cowling, is a coat of arms, Lozengy gules and argent. I have to admit, even fairly close up, it reminds me of something you might get at one of those “your family coat of arms” places, but hey, it’s heraldry, and as I have often noted before, you can find heraldry everywhere. In this case, even way out in the countryside at the Virginia Beach Airport, tucked away in a corner of a Military Aircraft Museum.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Heraldry in the News!

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has sent a “cease and desist” letter to Wikipedia, threatening Wikipedia with legal action if they do not remove the depiction of the FBI’s seal from their site because the FBI had not approved the use of the image. (Below is an image of the FBI seal from GetTV Images. The seal includes the agency's coat of arms: Gules, two pallets argent on a chief or a hanging balance sable. As insitutional heraldry in the U.S. - and elsewhere - goes, it's really a pretty decent coat of arms.)
Wikipedia has refused to do so. In a response letter to the FBI, Mike Godwin, the Wikimedia Foundation's general counsel, said: "In short, then, we are compelled as a matter of law and principle to deny your demand for removal of the FBI Seal from Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons."

A more complete version of the story may be found at CNN on-line at:

As someone who has worked for lawyers for years, and who has participated in on-line discussions about the feasibility of copyright and/or trademark protection for coats of arms in the United States which included references to many of the relevant laws, I have to say that I believe the FBI is incorrect on this one.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should probably note that the FBI has not approved the use of an image of their seal on this site, either.  ;-^)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Some Military Heraldry

In today’s post we’re going to look at a little military heraldry. We went to visit Fort Eustis, Virginia, where my father was stationed during the Korean War, and where a couple of my very earliest memories are. (I really don’t remember a lot about it, but I was what? Four?)

Anyway, Fort Eustis is the home of the U.S. Army Transportation Corps. The image below is their coat of arms on the door of the Transportation Museum there. Basically, it includes most of the ways they move stuff: a wheel, a railroad track (that horizontal line across the bottom), and wings. I guess they couldn’t work ships into it, too, though they have several in the Museum, and my dad served in the 274th Harbor Craft and Marine Maintenance Company, so you just know that they had boats, even if there’s no indication of it on their insignia.

They seem to have two mottos. The most official one is “Spearhead of Transportation”, but it’s the other, less official one, that I like better: “Nothing happens until something moves.”

The other image, also from the Transportation Museum, is of a shield presented to Col. Orman E. Hicks, Commander of the 34th General Support Group, the "Hustlers”, with the coats of arms/insignia of a whole bunch of the Group's component transportation companies. Several of them specifically reference Vietnam (and a few that don’t feature the ubiquitous Huey helicopter used then), and so I assume from this that this particular item dates to the late 1960s or early 1970s.

What a colorful bunch of heraldry to have run across!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Return to Yorktown, Virginia

Returning to Yorktown for one last stop, there is a small private graveyard near the Augustine Moore House, where the surrender terms between the Americans and the French on the one side and the British on the other were negotiated back in 1781. It’s a very pleasant little graveyard, contained within a white picket fence under a large tree, with a fine view of the nearby York River.

But the important part to me, of course, and the reason I’m writing about it here, is the grave of Mildred (Smith) Jameson (d. 10 December 1778), the wife of David Jameson, a prominent merchant born in Scotland who was Lieutenant Governor of Virginia in 1781 and lived nearby. (Of course, Yorktown is really a pretty small place, so everyone “lives nearby.”)

A memorial plaque was placed on her grave by the Colonial Dames of America, but of course, of greater interest to me were the carved coats of arms on the grave.

There are two shields, side by side, by now pretty badly worn (the photograph above was taken in June 2010); the charges around the saltire are very difficult to make out without recourse to a written blazon from somewhere. Fortunately for us, we have that help. Crozier’s General Armory gives the blazon of the arms as: Azure, a saltire or cantoned with four ships under sail argent (frankly, I’d go with a simpler but equally as accurate blazon of Azure, a saltire or between four ships sails set argent, but, hey, who am I to quibble? Besides, it appears that he’s just quoting from Burke’s General Armory) for Jameson, and Azure, a chevron between three acorns slipped and leaved or (for Smith). Neither Crozier nor Burke mention a crest, but from what I could make out, there is one, A ship under sail. Fairbairn’s Crests notes a crest for Jameson, Scotland, A ship in full sail, flag displayed, gules. Temple Farm – Some History of York County, William and Mary College Quarterly, Vol. 2, No. 1, also says that there is a motto – “viv - - * * * ut vivas (partially worn away).” I didn’t see any evidence of a motto, but if it was there, it would most likely have been Vive ut vivas (Live, that you may have life), though Fairbairn’s only has that motto being used by the families of Abercrombie/Abercromby, Bathgate, Falconer/Faulkner, Johnston, McKenzie, Sladen, Sluggs, and Price. Not Jameson.