Monday, May 30, 2011

Oooh, Pretty!

There are three very nice little videos showcasing some of herald artist Andrew Stewart Jamieson's works over on YouTube.  Each one runs for just over two minutes, and hightlights some of this very prolific artist's wonderful heraldic work.

Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:

(You might want to turn the sound down if you're going to look at any of these at work; the pictures - done like a slideshow - run to background music by Vivaldi.  All very appropriate, but not necessarily what your boss wants you looking at on company time.)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

You'd Think That Somebody Would Have Remembered

The March 18, 2011 article is probably best summed up not so much by it's headline ("Letchworth’s £10,000 coat of arms is ready - but ‘it’s a mystery’ says council chairman") but rather by the synopsis that is it's first paragraph:

A town council has taken delivery of a coat of arms costing almost £10,000 which it says it has no use for.

The Letchworth Garden City Council was contacted by the College of Arms about a coat of arms, which they had ordered and paid a pretty penny for, that was ready but for which no one had made arrangements to collect.  This apparently came as a big surprise to the council members, since no one can find the paperwork authorizing the expenditure (£9,975, or about US$17,000).

It doesn't help that the council is expected to be abolished in the next four years.

The arms are very pretty and all that, as you can see here, but what a tremendous waste of taxpayer money, in my opinion.  The full story can be found on-line at:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Heraldry in the News!

There's a neat little item over at today (Wednesday, May 25, 2011) that gives in just a few paragraphs the history and design of the U.S. military award of the Purple Heart.  (The lady who redesigned the Purple Heart in 1932 also designed the Distinguished Flying Cross, among other things.)

Why do I care about this little article?  Because in addition to the bust of George Washington (who, it notes, originally instituted the award), but his coat of arms.  (Both on the front - in color - and on the reverse.)

Once again, heraldry in action!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Some Heraldry Found in Dallas, Part 4 of 4

So, to finish up our heraldic “finds” of that nice spring Saturday, we have:

A tag for the “Chambers Collection,” where another antique dealer had placed some of his stuff in the shop we were looking in. He had marked all of his items with these tags. The arms are actually those of the Worshipful Compay of Dyers: Sable a chevron engrailed between three bags of madder argent corded or. Crest: A grain tree proper. Supporters (dexter and sinister): A panther proper incensed gules crowned or and semy of roundel gules, azure, vert, purpure and sable. It’s a great rendition though, harking back to the heraldic woodcuts of the 17th Century that I’ve seen.

And, finally, we ran across what has become a bit of an heraldic mystery. There was a very large, ornately-framed mirror with this coat of arms carved and painted at the top.

On a mantle (gules lined ermine) surmounted by a coronet (it looks most like the coronet of a Swedish count or a Norwegian baron, but I am told by some of my Scandinavian contacts that Swedish and Norwegian coronets do not use the red cap of maintenance showing here with their coronets, so I am now thinking that it might be that of a Belgian count) are two coats of arms. The shield to dexter (to the left as you look at it) could be the arms of Flanders, but there are a lot of entries in Renesse’s Dictionnaire, his ordinary to J.-B. Rietstap’s Armorial Général, for Or a lion rampant sable. So that doesn’t help very much in finding the identification of this coat.

The real trick comes in trying to decipher the shield to sinister (the right as you look at it). Not only is the combination of a black charge on a blue field and a black charge on a red field unlikely, it’s also difficult to determine if the underside of the bend is supposed to be embattled or invected or some other complex line of division.

I’ve already done a search in Luc Duerloo and Paul Janssens’ Wapenboek van de Belgische Adel and haven’t run across anything that seems similar (even assuming different tinctures for the quartered shield, say with white or gold instead of black for the bends and crosses). But I’ve got some more Flemish and Dutch armorials I can go through (in my “copious free time”) and see what I might find. It would be nice to be able to come up with at least a tentative identification of these arms, if only to satisfy my own curiosity.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that the person who painted the shields and charges was just using colors that he thought would look good. It’s not like we haven’t seen that as a problem before. As only one example, see my post of February 3, 2009 about the British Royal Arms on the Governor’s house at Williamsburg, Virginia (

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Heralds Don't Pun, They Cant!

Friend and fellow heraldry enthusiast Leslie Schweitzer sent the following picture link with the comment:  "Look! A cygnet ring! Where do we put the wax?"

Check it out!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Some Heraldry Found in Dallas, Part 3 of 4

Another one of the “not real” heraldry we saw at the antique store that Saturday was a piece of silver with a “crest” engraved upon it. The reflections were pretty strong, and it may be a little more difficult to make out what this is, but it’s a lion’s head erased contourny (turned to sinister), with a scroll beneath it with the motto: E pluribus unum.

What makes me think this “crest” is less than authentic? Two things. First, the lion’s head is facing sinister; except for a few creatures that are facing the viewer, I’ve only seen crests with them facing dexter. Second, the motto is that of the United States of America, “out of many, one.”

Still, it was a neat thing to run across.

Not quite real, but moreso than the lion’s head crest, was a cabinet with an inlay version of the arms of the United States (Paly of thirteen argent and gules, a chief azure) on the breast of a bald eagle.

There’s only nine stripes on the shield instead of thirteen, and the eagle is facing sinister instead of dexter, but it’s a beautiful piece of inlay work nonetheless, don’t you think?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Military Heraldry in the News!

Oh, my.

The German news station N24, in reporting on the story that U.S. Navy Seal Team VI had flown into Pakistan and killed Osama bin Ladin, in putting up something for their viewers to see (TV being a visual medium, after all), accidentally put up a unit badge from the fictional world of Star Trek instead of the real thing.

The badge of the "Maquis Special Operations Seals Team VI" above is clearly based on the insignia of the U.S. Navy Seal Team VI, below, but has a lot of differences that should have triggered a double-check somewhere before being aired.  For example, the Klingon-type skull surrounded by three bat'leths (two-handed Klingon weapons), or the Federation-model phaser pistol being held by the eagle.

Ah, well.  Another real-life demonstration of the reasons why heraldry should be clear and distinct.  You don't want your Star Trek fans going to a convention being mistaken for a crack military unit on a mission.  Or vice versa.

The story, with more pictures, can be found on-line at:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Some Heraldry Found in Dallas, Part 1 of 4

[I'm not sure what happened with the scheduled uploading of this post.  It should have been posted on Thursday, May 12, but apparently wasn't.  I apologize for this first in a series of four posts being out of order.]

So we were out driving around a little a few Saturdays ago, checking out a couple of estate sales in Dallas, just to see what we might find. (Jo Ann cleaned up! She found a whole bunch of fabric samples that she picked up for a really good price. As a textile artist, it pretty much made the day for her.) On our way we decided to see if we could relocate a building salvage yard where we’d bought our backyard birdbath about ten years ago. We didn’t find the yard, but – as I have often noted here before – you can find heraldry everywhere! And we did.

The first “coat of arms” that we ran across was one down in an industrial district. Sitting out front of their building was a truck with the following painted on its sides.

They had the same logo on the front of their building there. And, obviously, we had to stop long enough to take a photo to share with you.

It’s not the greatest heraldry, but it’s better than many examples of self-designed corporate heraldry I’ve seen.

Some Heraldry Found in Dallas, Part 2 of 4

After driving by (and photographing) the heraldic-style logo of Custom Meats Corporation (featured in my last blog post), we continued on our way to one of the estate sales. We arrived a little early, and they weren’t open yet, but an antique dealer next door was, so we went in to look around. Because, for one thing, you never know what you might find that you can use, and for another, as I’ve said many times before, you can find heraldry everywhere. We didn’t find much of anything that we couldn’t live without, but we did find – ta-dah! – heraldry. Some real, some not so much.

For the real heraldry, they had a couple of plates in a glass case with the arms of “University College Reading” on them. The University of Reading is a university in the English town of Reading, Berkshire. The University was established in 1892 as University College, Reading (note the comma) and received its Royal Charter in 1926. (This information from Wikipedia) It’s arms are blazoned as: Sable on a cross engrailed argent a rose gules barbed and seeded proper, on a chief gules three escallops or.

For the heraldry that I suspect is not so real, there were a couple of wooden chairs with a carved “coat of arms” surmounted by a coronet (below). The carving is a bit rough, but it’s a nice design overall. I have to admit, had I had a bit more money, and had the chairs looked a bit more comfortable (oh, yeah, and had I room enough at home to put them), I would have seriously considered buying them.

Monday, May 9, 2011

An English-American Coat of Arms

In an article published today, May 9, 2011, entitled "This Week In Hampton Roads History" which goes through the archives of The Virginian-Pilot newspaper, the following was published this week in 1961:
Astronaut Alan Shepard’s space capsule has been given a place of honor alongside a settler, a buffalo, a crab and an Indian chief on a new coat of arms adopted by the city of Hampton. The new coat was designed by the College of Arms, official custodian of heraldry in England. Hampton is the only city in the United States to have a coat of arms designed and awarded by the ancient English court of heraldry. The crest of the seal depicts a Chesapeake Bay crab holding the capsule in its claws to denote the city’s seafood industry and the presence of NASA at Langley Air Force Base.
We won't get into all of the errors in this brief news story.  On the plus side, though, at least they use the term "crest" to correctly refer to the crest and not to the coat of arms or the entire achievement!

Looking about on the city's website, I was unable to find their fifty-year-old coat of arms, and elsewhere I was only able to find small renderings of the city's seal. This one is typical of the depictions that I could find.

The "This Week In Hampton Roads History" news item about Hampton's coat of arms can be found on-line at:

Do-It-Yourself LEGO Heraldry

I just ran across a fun little article about how to create your own shields for LEGO knights, and just had to share it with you!  (For those of you who do not own any LEGO knights, myself included, it's still a good article on how to create coats of arms in a very basic graphics program and resize them and print them out to suit your own needs.)

Anyway, the article can be found on-line at:


University of Toronto Coat of Arms

There's a nice, albeit brief, article -- actually, one of the better articles about a specific coat of arms I have seen -- regarding the history and symbolism of the arms of the University of Toronto, which can be found in the on-line pages of The Varsity, the student newspaper for the University, at:

Reporter Dylan Robertson goes into the history of the coat, followed by a description of the various parts of the arms and then by some "Fun Facts", including a brief discussion of the "emasculation of the U of T beaver" over the years and a quote from the correspondence of one researcher who was researching academic heraldry in the 1970s that: "I just could not believe that [university President] Bishop Strachan would establish an institution without having a suitable insignia and particularly as it had been established by royal charter and named after the sovereign."  (The University of Toronto was originally King's College.)

It's an enjoyable article, and I think it's worth your dropping by to read it.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Modern Take on Heraldry

There's an interesting article posted on Friday, May 6, over on Flavorwire: Cultural News and Critique, "Rashaad Newsome’s Hip Hop Heraldry", that gets into the background and inspirations for Newsome's performance Herald at the Festival of Ideas for the New City in New York.  The article takes "a look at some of his work that explores the connection between the system of heraldry, hip hop culture, and his work at large, to give you a primer for Herald."

I really liked some of the things he had to say about how he became interested in heraldry, and how heraldry and hip-hop (two words I never thought I'd hear in the same phrase!) can work together.

“I was really drawn to Armorial achievements,” he says, referring to the name for a coat of arms. “And how they’re integrated into the architecture of Europe… I was fascinated in the visual hierarchy that they impose on the viewer. Like when you see a coat of arms you know it’s associated with pedigree.”
Newsome recreates European coats of arms from the 16th and 18th centuries using contemporary material. “I figured out that heraldry is how the coats of arms are created. It’s a system of symbols that represents social status, economic status, status as a warrior, pedigree, a way of assembling these images that represent all these different things to create a meta status symbol.”

“I felt like there was a lot of links between that and modern times. The way people do that with their bodies. I feel like people ornament their bodies in the same way. So there’s a lot of connections between popular culture specifically black youth culture, i.e. hip hop, which is a major reference point for me."

Anyway, I found it to be an interesting new take on this ancient art, and thought I would pass it along for those of you who might be interested to see how at least one modern artist is adapting heraldry to his own uses.  The full article can be found on-line at:

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Speaking of Web Searching ...

And speaking of web searching for heraldry on the internet (as I did in my last post), I ran across a page where a search had been run for "coat of arms free pdf files", whose results can be found at:

The search produced an interesting mix of such documents.  Among others are: the new (1996) coat of arms of Sydney, Australia (along with illustrations of the "old" arms); the arms of the University of Queensland (also Australia); the arms of the Christchurch, England local authority; and the arms of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in London, among others.

I haven't had the time yet to read through all of the documents linked there, but many of them give a bit of the history of the arms and the reasons for the various charges, drawings or pictures of the arms (some include a photograph of the original grant of arms), and so on.  If you've got a few minutes of free time and want to learn something new, I recommend clicking the link above and seeing what you might find of interest there.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Another Bit of U.S. Government Heraldry

Ah, the internet is such an amazing place!  If you're patient, and are willing to look around, take the time to do some searching in some of the odd corners of what's available or, for that matter, utilize the web bot search power of some of the big companies like Google and carefully review what they find for you, you can run across some interesting stuff.

In this case, the item found (it's a .pdf which is located on-line at is a manual, U.S. Coast Guard Heraldry, whose stated purpose is to define "the official U.S. Coast Guard Seal, Emblem, Mark, Signature, Color, and Ensign, as well as the Coast Guard Auxiliary Seal, Emblem, Mark, Signature, Ensign, and Patrol Ensign."  So it covers not only the coat of arms United States Coast Guard (now a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security), below, in sometimes excruciating detail, but also flags, ensigns, colors, unit emblems, and auxiliary heraldry.

As a heraldry enthusiast, I was really happy to see something like this manual out there and accessible to everyone.  As a taxpayer, I'm thinking, "They paid someone to write all this down."