Monday, June 28, 2010

Personal Heraldry in the Jamestown Church, Part 1

The first coat of arms that I am going to discuss displayed in the church at Jamestown tare those of William Claiborn.

As the monument to him notes, “William Claiborn son of Thomas Cleybourn of Reyford, Kent, Gentleman, and Sara Smith-James. Born 1587 Settled in Virginia 1621 … At Kent Island he made the first settlement within the present boundary of Maryland.”

The arms are hatched: Quarterly, 1 and 4, Argent three chevronels braced and a chief sable; 2 and 3, Argent a cross engrailed vert. The crest is a bit harder to make out, but appears to be A demi-wolf erect reguardant.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Stee-rike Two!

What’s with Virginia and not being able to get the colors of the Royal Arms of Great Britain correct? I’ve written earlier about the problems with the colors of the Hanoverian Royal Arms on the Governor’s Mansion in Colonial Williamsburg (back on February 3, 2009). Now I’ve found another example, this time of the Stuart Royal Arms.

There is a church at the original Jamestown, Virginia settlement which, though mostly reconstructed now, was built beginning in 1639 over (though not quite on) the foundations of an earlier church erected in 1617. For many years, only the tower of the church remained, and that in a partially ruined state. The present church was built by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in 1907 (the 300th anniversary of the first settlers landing there) atop the original 1617 foundations, which now may be viewed under glass on the floor inside the church.

There are several memorial plaques inside the church, some of which are armorial. During a recent vacation in Virginia (I noted in an earlier post that I was there to give a presentation on heraldry to the Virginia Beach Genealogical Society), I visited the site and took pictures, which I will share with you over the next several blog entries.

However, in the version of the Royal Arms in the Jamestown church, the colors of the English quarters (Quarterly France Modern and England) are fine, but what’s the deal with the bleu celeste on both quarterings for Scotland and Ireland, not to mention the unicorn supporter?

For example, the field inside the Scottish tressure is fine, as is the lion. But the tressure itself has been painted gold instead of the same red as the lion, and the field outside the tressure (which should be the same yellow as inside the tressure) has become bleu celeste. As has the blue field of the quarter for Ireland. And so is the unicorn supporter, which should be white! I might be willing to cut them a little slack for the colors of the mantling, since it looks to be pretty faded, but, c’mon, is red and white really all that hard?

I mean, it’s not that difficult (if you don’t already know) to find what the colors should be. Sixty seconds on the internet doing an image search for “Stuart royal arms” will pull up more than enough examples (for example, this one from the Tower of London).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Heraldry In The News!

The Victoria, British Columbia, Police Department has recently (June 8, 2010) unveiled a new coat of arms on their (also new) Dodge Charger police cars.

A June 10, 2010 article in the Victoria News (available on at discusses in some detail the newly-designed coat of arms as well as the meanings of the various symbols and colors in it.

I continue to admire the way much Canadian heraldry successfully meshes traditional, modern, and sometimes uniquely Canadian motifs into a harmonizing whole.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Solving an Heraldic Mystery, Part 2

The site:  Yorktown, Virginia.  The mystery:  Whose arms were on the British mortars besides those of the King?

As I said, I took photographs of the mortars and of each of the coats of arms, copied them to my netbook, attached my external hard drive with a number of armorials, ordinaries, and other heraldic reference books on it, and went to see if I could solve the mystery.

First stop, of course, was Papworth's Ordinary of British Armorials.  The pronomial coat, in the first and fourth quarters, appeared to be a fess of three lozenges or fusils within a bordure.  Papworth had a couple of different blazons that described these arms (Argent, three lozenges conjoined in fess ... and Argent three fusils in fess gules, a bordure sable), all ascribed to one or another Montagu/Montague.

Opening Burke's General Armory and looking under Montagu, there were several related individuals, but the closest entry (based on the use of the motto, which appears on the mortar just below the arms), seemed to be Burdenell-Montagu, Duke of Montagu, where George, the fourth Earl of Cardigan, married Lady Mary Montagu, daughter and co-heir of John, the second Duke of Montagu (d. 1749), and adopted the name Montagu, bearing the arms Quarterly, 1 and 4, Argent three lozenges conjoined in fess gules, a bordure sable (for Montagu); 2 and 3, Or an eagle displayed vert, beaked and membered gules (for Monthermer).  The motto: Spectemur agendo.  (Though the last part of the motto on the mortar was difficult to make out, spectemur was quite legible, as were the first several letters of agendo.)

Opening Fairbairn's Crests and double-checking the motto, I found Spectemur agendo (Let us be judged by our actions) used by Montagu.

Finally, a little serendipity occurred.  I was at the time reading the book I told you about in an earlier post, English Heraldic Book-Stamps, and just happened across the entry entitled "Montagu, John, Second Duke of Montagu".

The entry gave not only the blazon of his arms (including an inescutcheon of Churchill, and went on to explain why the Churchill escutcheon of pretense appeared there), but also told me the reason his arms would have appeared on the mortar!

As you can see, John Montagu, Second Duke of Montagu, was made Master-General of the Ordnance (which would have included cannon and mortars) in 1740 by King George II.

So, mystery solved!  With the help of a little modern technology (and the internet) and some fortuitous serendipity, we not only know whose arms appear on the British mortars at Yorktown, but why.

Isn't that just too cool?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Herald in the News!

Alastair Bruce of Crionaich, Fitzalan Pursuivant of Arms Extraordinary in the English College of Arms, has been recognized in the Queen's Birthday Honours List.  He will become an Officer of the British Empire ("OBE") in The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.  The order was established in 1917 by King George V.

According to an article published on June 17, 2010 in The Northern Times of Scotland (on-line at, he is being honored for his services to the Territorial Army, in which he is a lieutenant colonel.

Congratulations to Lt. Col. Bruce!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Solving an Heraldic Mystery, Part 1

It's always fun for me when I run across an heraldic mystery (e.g., who's arms are those?), and then get to solve said mystery.  It's even more fun when I can do this on the road, away from many of my heraldry books.  (Though in this age of technological wonders, I can actually take much of my heraldic library - especially the general armorials and ordinaries - on the road with me, downloaded off such sites as Google books and the Internet Text Archive and saved as .pdf documents onto my 250 gigabyte external drive that literally will fit into my shirt pocket!)  And it gets even better when, as this time, a bit of serendipity occurs, and I happen to run across a relevant entry in a book which I just happened to be reading at the time.

I'll discuss the heraldic mystery in this entry, and cover the solution in my next post.

We were in Virginia for a week earlier this month, where I was scheduled to give a presentation to the Virginia Beach Genealogy Society.  We'd decided to use the one night presentation as an excuse for a full-blown history and research vacation.  We were visiting the battlefield site at Yorktown, where the British forces under Lord Cornwallis surrendered to the combined American and French forces during the American Revolutionary War.

At one of the British redoubts, there was a line of mortars, each of which had two coats of arms on them.  One, naturally and expectedly enough, was the Royal Arms as used by the Hanoverian Kings of Great Britain.

The other, however, just above the touchhole to fire the mortar (now plugged), was not familiar to me.

Hence the mystery.  To whom did these arms belong?  Given the garter with motto surrounding the shield, ensigned with the coronet of a duke, it clearly was someone of some importance, who was both a duke and a knight of the Order of the Garter.  Could I determine who's arms these were?  I took several photographs of the mortars and both coats of arms.  That evening I hooked up my external hard drive with the heraldry books on it to my netbook and did some research.  That, and a little bit of serendipity, gave me my answer, which will appear in the next post.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Some New Ecclesiastical Arms

There's a nice article posted on the May 25 of The Florida Catholic that pictures, and discusses the meaning of, the arms of the new Archbishop of Miami, Florida, Thomas Wenski.  The full article can be found on-line at

The coat is very nicely done, but I can't help but notice that the Archbishop has changed his personal arms from the time he was Bishop of Orlando and now.  The charges on the chief have been changed from six-pointed mullets to fleurs-de-lys.  According to the article, the fleurs were taken from the one on the chief in the arms of the Diocese of Orlando.  It does not explain where the earlier mullets (used when he was Bishop of Orlando) came from.

It's great to see heraldry not only being used in the United States today, but also the personal meaning of the charges on the arms being discussed.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Another Book of Interest

Sometimes it seems to me that we can actually have too many choices.  And the internet isn't helping that, since it seems merely to be increasing the number of choices that we have.  Not always for the better.

As an illustration of this, I refer you to a book that I had run across on the web, English Heraldic Book-Stamps by Cyril Davenport, published in 1909.  "Interesting," I thought to myself.  "I'll have to go out and take a look."  So I did.  Turns out it was downloadable from, which I hadn't used before.  Not a problem.  I clicked on "download", and it turned out that it wanted me to sign in, preferably using either my Scribed or Facebook login.  Okay, I've got a Facebook login, so I went ahead used that.  It took a while to think about it, then told me what Facebook friends I had were on Scribed, and eventually took me to a Scribed screen where I had the opportunity to upload stuff to Scribed so that others could download it.  I poked about and found, and clicked on, "Continue to download."  Finally I got to where I could download it as a .pdf, and did so.

After getting it onto the computer and opening it up, I discovered that it had been originally scanned in and uploaded to the web by the Internet Text Archive (one of my favorite places to obtain copies of older, out-of-copyright heraldry books).  Additionally, the ITA gives you several options for downloading books: .pdf, black and white .pdf (which is a smaller file), .txt, and several e-reader formats.  And you don't have to use a Facebook or any other login to do it.  So please, if you're at all interested in this book, feel free to drop by the Internet Text Archive website and take a look.  Download it, even.  Read through it at your leisure.  You can find it at

Without having to log in, go through several screens to get to it, and then have but a single (the largest) download option.  Unless, of course, you like doing all that.  In which case, the choice is (choices are?) yours.  It's at

Monday, June 7, 2010


Periodically I am reminded, sometimes almost forcibly, that if you are looking around, you can find heraldry anywhere and _every_where!

In the most recent example of this in my life, we were just poking around one of our favorite antique malls here in Dallas (if you're ever in the neighborhood, we'd be happy to take you to it) and ran across a small (1¼" tall) gold-colored key pendant with the arms of New Orleans, Louisiana (often shortened to NOLA) on it.

Actually, as you can see, the key contains a full achievement of arms for the city -- arms, crest, supporters and, of course, a crocodile below it.  In hunting around doing some research on it, I ran across a color copy that may make some of the various elements a little more clear.

Or maybe not. I'm still not certain what the central figure on the shield is supposed to be.  A native American in a canoe?  A French or Spanish explorer?  I'm assuming that stuff in the background on the shield is clouds, because you don't find mountains like that anywhere in Louisiana, much less New Orleans, much of which city is currently below sea level.  (And that alligator below the shield is a _lot_ harder to identify in the color version!)

Anyway, what a great little find during a morning's outing!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

It's A Scam!

But we already knew that.

Still, it's nice to see someone else pointing out, once again, that all those nice folks who are willing to sell you a copy of "your family coat of arms" and, even worse, "your family crest", are, to be blunt, lying to you for money.  (And, apparently, you can become one of them, for a small set-up franchise fee.)

It's all, and more, in a recent (May 21) post by Chris Rodda, entitled "Congratulations, Mom -- Here's Your Graduation Present" on her blog at

Drop by and give it a read!  It's nice to see someone whose primary interest is _not_ heraldry* discuss it accurately and not entirely dispassionately.

* Though I do try to point out in some of the presentations I give about it that heraldry is, in fact, "the genealogist's most colorful tool."