Thursday, April 28, 2011

Heraldry in the News

In all of the articles that have recently been published as part of the hoopla surrounding the marriage on Friday of William Wales (I would have thought it would have been William Windsor, but apparently I am incorrect in that assumption) and Kate Middleton, and as a part of that the acquisition by her father of a coat of arms, I almost missed one published last Monday, April 25, in the New York NearSay, a "neighborhood newsletter" published on-line.

This particular article, by Pearl Duncan, entitled "Kate Middleton Owns a Coat of Arms, NY Author Reveals Hers," compares Ms. Middleton's new coat with the author's, which was granted by Lord Lyon in 2005.

She talks about the symbolism contained in both coats (Duncan's is above left, and Middleton's, above right), and some of the meanings that her coat of arms has for her, and you get a bit of the feel for the attachment to her forbears that she must have in her writing.  It's also nice to see such a personal and sympathetic article about heraldry from an American point of view.

It's a great little article, and is well worth the read.  (There are also links to related stories of interest in other on-line publications.)  You can find Ms. Duncan's article on-line at:

Which Do You Believe?

There's always a dilemma to be thought about, if not solved, whenever you run a across a coat of arms where the emblazon (the drawing) of the arms does not match the blazon (the verbal description) of those same arms.

I recently ran into this problem with the following coat of arms.

These are the arms of Bishop Kenneth D. Steiner, Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon.  They can be found on the Archdiocese's website at

The dilemma comes when you read the blazon of this coat of arms on that page and compare it to the arms shown just above.  The arms are blazoned as: "Gules a Ibex passant argent on three coupeaux Vert in dexter chief a dove volant of the second, in sinister chief two crossed keys of the last."

I'm not going to get into the fact that there should be an "n" following the "a" of "an Ibex", or whether the charges in base are "three coupeaux" or might be better blazoned in English as "a mount of three hillocks," or that the dove is not "volant" but is rather "descending."  No, I'm going to take issue with the fact that in the emblazon, the ibex is clearly rampant (rearing, standing on one leg, with the body basicaly vertical), while the blazon clearly states passant (walking, three legs on the ground and one foreleg elevated, with the body basically horizontal).

So, which should we believe?  In this case, the overall design of the arms leads me to think that rampant is a better "fit" for the posture of the ibex than passant is.  But, really, you'd think that someone would have double-checked this before it went up on the internet for all the world to see.  Wouldn't you?

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Discussion on Ecclesiastical Heraldry

There's a nice article by Matthew Alderman and a great discussion on "Further Thoughts on the Heraldry of the Ordinariates", a recent post on the blog The Anglo-Catholic.  The post and ensuing discussion can be found on-line at:

Quoted in the post, and also responding in the comments is Father Guy Sylvester, a fellow heraldry enthusiast, a blogger in his own right (disappointingly, I cannot currently locate his blog, Shouts in the Piazza; it appears to have been closed), and a really nice person to boot!  (I had the opportunity to meet him in Quebec at the International Congress in 2008.)

And the comments really get into some interesting back-and-forth discussions, on such topics as this one initiated by Father Andrew Crosbie: "Why are citizens of a republic bothering with Heraldry?"  I'm certainly not going to try to get into all of the different aspects of heraldry and the use of coats of arms generally, much less the special usages of ecclesiastical heraldry, that are discussed there.  Please feel free to click on the link and check it all out for yourself.  It's a fascinating discussion, even for those whose interest in the heraldry of the church is not all that great.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Photos of Heraldry

I don't often (indeed, I'm not certian that I ever have) suggest that you go to a website where you have to pay to download pictures of heraldry.  But I'm going to make a rare exception and do so today.

World of Stock: Stock Photos and Prints is a website that has, and sells, high-quality photos of just about everything under the sun.  And doing a search on their site for "heraldry" will bring you to this page:

Now, I'm not suggesting that you go there to buy pictures of coats of arms, but just browsing through the photographs they have there (and you can click on the thumbnail images to view a larger version) will give you an appreciation of the range of some of the best heraldic art around.  They have some truly wonderful photos there.  Please feel free to drop by and see what they have.  You might see something that will brighten your day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Genealogy and Heraldry

One of the things I do on a regular basis is talk to genealogical and lineage societies about the potential usefulness of heraldry in genealogical research.  It's nice to know now that I'm not the only one.

There was an article in northern Scotland's The Press and Journal on March 14 about the presentation by Charles Burnett, Ross Herald Extraordinary and a personal friend (we first met in 1996 at the International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences in Ottawa), to a meeting of the Moray Burial Ground Research Group.  He noted that heraldry on Scottish gravestones is a key tool for people researching their family history, and that "Graves with coats of arms, even if the name is unclear, can still be very useful. The coats of arms are still retraceable. It is important for people tracing their family history. They should be used as a research tool."

It was a thrill to see that Charles (recently retired as Ross Herald with the Court of the Lord Lyon in Scotland) is still busy with heraldry, and to see a professional herald giving the same message that I do in my lectures: that heraldry can be very useful to genealogists.

The full article (along with a photo) can be found on-line at:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Heraldry in the News!

The wraps are off of the new coat of arms that has been designed by the College of Arms for Michael Middleton, the father of Kate Middleton who is about to marry Prince William next week.

All in all, a nice and fairly simple design, as you can see from this photograph from Reuters showing Robert Parsons, one of the herald painters at the College of Arms, painting it.

The full story can be found at BBC News on-line at

I have to admit, though, I don't entirely understand the remark in the story that "Royal experts say the coat of arms ... marks the increased social status of her parents and her potential as a future Queen."  I mean, this is England we're talking about.  Any gentleman (and that covers a lot of English society these days.  Heck, if I lived there, I would qualify!  After all, I have a college degree) may receive a grant of a coat of arms.  That her family's status may have increased in English society I have no doubt, but I don't think that a coat of arms is the mark of that increase.

(But then again, what do I know?  I'm the direct descendant of one of those "damned rebels" who were out marching about the fields and roads of Massachusetts on this day in 1775, during the "Alarm of April 19" when British troops tried to seize guns, cannon and gunpowder held by militia forces in Concord.)

Updates:  There's another story, with a linked video clip, at The Telegraph, at

Additional stories from around the world on the new Middleton arms, with various pictures, etc. can be found at:

(This one has a nice photo of Thomas Woodcock, Garter Principal King of Arms, holding the painting of the Middleton arms.)

And, finally, a spoof news story, discussing an attack of toxic oak processionary moths on the new Middleton arms, containing a short statement from "Garter Principal King of Arms Thomas Woodchuck."

Monday, April 18, 2011

New Ecclesiastical Arms in the U.S.

Okay, whew!  Having finished our multi-part review of heraldry in the city of Florence, Italy (which I certainly hope that you have enjoyed.  I know I had a great time seeing all of it!), we now return to our usual miscellany of heraldic odds and ends and occasional neat stuff.

For today, we have a recent news story about the coat of arms of Paul S. Coakley, Archbishop of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  This short article (on-line at takes most of its information from the website of the Archdiocese, which has an entire page on the Archbishop's arms.  That page can be found at:

I have to admit, I really like the arms of the Archdiocese (on the dexter, or left side as you look at the shield above).  They are entirely appropriate to both the church and the local area, while remaining clean and simple and readily identifiable.  And the Archbishop's personal arms (on the sinister, or right side as you look at it) are only slightly more complex.  It's such a pleasure to see a modern heraldic composition that attempts to adhere to the principles of good heraldic design.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Now, if only ....

There's a technology news article (that is to say, it really has nothing to do with heraldry) that was posted on Wednesday, April 23, over at Computerworld about how the U.S. Census Bureau is improving its methods for developing technology after problems in the 2010 Census (

It's an interesting brief article, but it's really only an excuse for posting the following:

The arms of the United States Census Bureau.

While I'm glad and all that they're going to be improving their technology, it would be nice if at the same time they'd improve their "logo".  (And whose idea was that "puke pea green" field, anyway?)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Heraldry in Florence, Part Thirty

Okay, we’re at Part 30 of the heraldry of Florence, and it’s probably time to finish this up. I still can’t believe that we were there for only five and a half days! So as we say goodbye to Florence, I leave you with a number of different depictions of the arms of the city, Argent a fleur-de-lys florency gules, done at various times and in different styles and media, and ending with a photograph that more than any other seemed to me to sum up the juxtaposition of old and new, historical and modern, living side-by-side there: yet another depiction of the arms of the de’ Medici family sitting above the very up-to-date logo of a street-side coffee shop!

Thank you for coming along and sharing this journey to heraldic Florence with me.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Heraldry in Florence, Part Twenty-Nine

There’s another place in Florence where one can see a bit of non-Italian heraldry. It’s real name is the Cimitero Protestante de Porta a' Pinti, the Protestant Cemetery, but it is more commonly known as “The English Cemetery.” It’s a place where non-Catholics, many of whom were English, could be buried when they died in the city, including its most famous resident, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. It’s kind of a cool place to visit. It sits on a raised island completely surrounded by busy streets.

Anyway, some of the monuments there have carved coats of arms on them, and I thought you might be interested in seeing a few of them. As with so much else of the heraldry in Florence, the arms here are only a sampling of what we found there.

 Lieut. General John Locke of Newcastle, Ireland, d. 28 February 1837.  Per fess azure and or, a pale counterchanged, three hawks with wings endorsed or.  Crest: A hawk with wings endorsed holding in the beak a padlock or.  (Per Burke's General Armory.)

Le Vicomte Henri de la Belinaye, b. London 19 November 1799, d. Florence 9 January 1873.  Argent three ram's heads cabossed sable.  (Per Rietstap's Armorial Général.)

Bentink Yelverton [1792-1837] and his wife the Hon. Anna Bingham [d. 1855, eldest daughter of John Bingham, 1st Baron Clanmorris of Newbrook, County Mayo]. There is an article which outlines the life of Bentinck Walter Yelverton on-line at  The arms here are a bit hard to parse.  Burke gives several coats of arms for Yelverton; the closest is Argent, three lions rampant gules armed and langued azure on a chief gules a crescent argent.  The arms on the sinister side of the shield are not those of Bingham, Baron Clanmoreeis, which have a charged fess between three mullets, but appear to be those of Bingham of Bingham Castle, County Mayo, Azure a bend cotised between six crosses patty argent.  (The crosses are not so easy to see in the picture here, but they are quite clear in the original high-resolution photo.)  (Identification of the Bingham arms is from O'Laughlin's The Irish Book of Arms.)

Martha Rebecca, wife of James Moore, Esq. of Strandfield, County Louth [Ireland].  Vert a lion rampant and in chief three mullets or.  Crest: A hand lying fessways couped at the wrist holding a sword erect impaling three gory heads all proper.  (Burke's General Armory.)

William Somerville, eldest son of the historian of Queen Anne, b. Minto, Roxburghshire [Scotland] 22 April 1771, d. Florence 25 June 1860.  These are impaled arms.  The Moore coat is Azure three mullets two and one between seven crosses crosslet fitchy three, one, two and one or.  Crest: A dragon vert spouting fire proper standing on a wheel argent.  (Burke's General Armory.)  Somerville's wife was Mary Fairfax, the Scottish mathematician and astronomer.  (She is buried in Naples.)  The closest arms to the image here for Fairfax in Burke are: Argent three bars gemelles gules surmounted by a lion rampant sable.  (Other coats for Fairfax reverse the tinctures of the bars and lion.)  The bars do not appear behind the lion here (not even in the high-resolution image), but that could simply be an error.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Heraldry in Florence, Part Twenty-Eight

The Basilica of Santa Croce (Holy Cross) is a “must see” for any heraldry enthusiast, or history buff for that matter. There are a number of famous burials in Santa Croce: Michelangelo Buonarroti, Galileo Galilei, Niccolo Machiavelli, Dante Alighieri (just his monument; he’s actually buried in Ravenna). Burials of the not as famous – there are literally hundreds. I took well over 500 photographs at Santa Croce (including both the interior and exterior), the overwhelming majority of them heraldry rather than other monuments, and I wasn’t even maintaining my usual practice of taking two or even three pictures of each item in case one shot turned out poorly for some reason.

To be brief: There’s a lot of heraldry, in a wide variety of media: carved in stone, painted, carved and painted, carved in colored stone, using metal, in stained glass. If I were to continue to post only about the heraldry found in Santa Croce, I’d fill up this blog for the rest of the year, and bore you and myself to tears by the time we got done. If you want to know what heraldry can be found in Santa Croce, I urge to not to miss it if you ever get to Florence. But be sure to allow yourself at least the better part of a day; there’s just so much to see there. In the meantime, here’s a very brief sampling of the variety of coats of arms that can be found there.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Heraldry in the News!

Well, it's mentioned in a news story, anyway.

An item in the Victoria News ( quotes 86 year old Bob Choma pointing out that "There are no lions or unicorns in Canada as depicted in [Canada's coat of arms]."  Which is true (unless you count mountain lions), but misses the point that there are no lions or unicorns in Great Britain, either, but they appear in and supporting Canada's coat of arms because lions appear in England and Scotland's coat of arms and unicorns support Scotland's arms.

I don't normally make a practice of making a comment on a webstie to a news story, but I just couldn't stop myself in this instance.

The full story (most of which is not about heraldry at all) and my comment on Mr. Choma's observation can be found on-line at

Monday, April 4, 2011

Heraldry in Florence, Part Twenty-Seven

Upside-down and backwards. (Or should I say, in British fashion, “reversed and mirrored”, or in American fashion, “inverted and reversed”?)

Today’s post about heraldry seen in the city of Florence is a bit of a mystery. The flag here was being carried by the leader of a tourist group. If all of the main tinctures were reversed, that is, white where they are red, and red where they are white, then this would be the flag of Poland charged with the arms of Poland. But they aren’t, and so it isn’t.

I am assuming that because the tour guides are not representatives of the government of Poland, that they are not permitted the use of the flag and arms, and so have reversed them in order to denote who they are without appearing to be “official.”