Thursday, June 30, 2011

Heraldry (and History) for Sale

An article over at notes the offering for sale of one of Scotland’s greatest country houses, Blair Castle in Ayrshire (not to be confused with Blair Castle in Perthshire). The house is “Scotland's oldest continually inhabited mansion house lived in by the same family” and “the bulk of its historic contents are also being offered by separate negotiation.” So, here’s your chance to buy some history, and some heraldry: “The splendid plaster ceiling was added in the mid-1800s using the heraldic motifs of the Hamilton and Blair crest,” not to mention the architectural heraldic commemoration of when “Roger [de Blair] married Marie Muir, the sister of [King] David II, and their joint coat of arms can be seen above the door of the old tower, which dates from 1105.”
I can’t afford it on my salary, but perhaps you might. The asking price is something over £8 million for this “wonderfully private but accessible” Lowland estate, with its 260 acres of park and woodland, 1,000 acres of farmland, four farmhouses and seven cottages, all only 25 miles from Glasgow. Oh, yeah, and its heraldry is included.

The complete article about the history and placement for sale of this estate can be found at:

Monday, June 27, 2011

A University Gets a New Coat of Arms

There’s a nice little article published May 18, 2011 on the website of the British Columbia Associate of Institutes & Universities about the unveiling of Capilano University’s brand new coat of arms by David Johnston, Governor General of Canada (or to give him his full form of address, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada).  The arms were designed and drawn, of course, by the heralds and artists at the Canadian Heraldic Authority.
Also on hand for the presentation was Robert Watt, Rideau Herald Emeritus of the CHA, long-time resident of North Vancouver and former Chief Herald of Canada. (It’s nice to know that though he may have slowed down a little in his retirement, that Rob is keeping his hand in with heraldry in Canada.)

It’s a good article, well worth the read, and can be found on-line at:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Some Numismatic Heraldry

Alan Herbert of World Coin News has a column at where he answers questions about coins that are sent to him. In the May 11, 2011 column, the very first question is about the Norwegian 1978 5 Kroner coin, which has a lion rampant holding an axe in its forepaws.
While noting that the coin is in commemoration of the 350th anniversary of the Norwegian Army, he fails to mention that the lion is that of the coat of arms of Norway.

In spite of that lapse, Mr. Herbert actually knows a bit about heraldry. In answering a question further on about coins with lions on them, he notes: “The animal is a favorite motif, especially in a coat of arms. In heraldry, the lion represents courage and strength. Several countries have lions on the majority of their coins.”  (I would insert my usual disclaimer about the attributed "meaning" of any charge in heraldry.  That is to say, "Well, maybe, but then again, maybe not so much.")

You can see the complete column of questions and answers at:

Monday, June 20, 2011

Don’t Tell Me That Symbols Don’t Mean Something

A lot of us are familiar with the achievement of arms of the Russian Federation: The red shield with St. George on horseback slaying the dragon, the shield on the breast of a double-headed eagle wearing crowns (with a third crown in chief) and holding in its talons the orb and scepter.

So you might be surprised to find out that someone has suggested that the achievement be modified in order to more properly include a significant minority – the 20 million (18% of the population) Muslims in Russia.

According to a story over at Fox News, Talgat Tadzhuddin, head of the Central Spiritual Association of Muslims of Russia, has said that “We are asking for one of the heads (of the Russian state emblem, a double-headed eagle) to be topped with a crescent moon and the other to be topped with a Russian Orthodox cross.”

As you might well imagine, this has caused a bit of an uproar over there. You can read the whole story at:

I do find myself a trifle annoyed their referring to it as an “emblem” rather than a coat of arms or an achievement of arms, but at least they’re not calling it a “crest.”

Thursday, June 16, 2011

How do you get a coat of arms (in England)?

“Who, What, Why: How do you get a coat of arms?” That’s the title of an article published in April by BBC News Magazine (on-line at that discusses, in the wake of all the hoopla about the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton, how one goes about acquiring a coat of arms in Great Britain.

It’s a nice little article, and goes into a bit of the history of heraldry in England as well as the fact that to be eligible to receive a grant of heraldry in England (and Scotland), "eminence or good standing in national or local life" is necessary. Of course, the article goes on to explain that this requirement can be pretty flexible in its interpretation: Thomas Woodcock, Garter Principal King of Arms, says, "Tests for eminence are very wide in that they include possession of a university degree or a professional qualification."

Not to mention, of course, the requirement of the ability to pay the fees charged by the College of Arms for a grant of arms (currently the fees for the grant of arms and crest to an individual are £4,400, or about US$7,100).

Of course, on this side of “the pond” and south of the country which has sprung from the four colonies of British North America which did not join the rebellion by the other 13 against the mother country (that is to say, in the United States of America), there is no heraldic authority with legal standing and hence no one to say that you cannot or may not design and adopt your own coat of arms (usually termed “self-assumption”). And even if you decide to get some knowledgeable assistance from someone, say, for example, the American College of Heraldry, the costs are far, far less.

Still and all, it’s a nice article about the history and status of heraldry in Great Britain today, and I can recommend it as an informative little read.

Monday, June 13, 2011

An American Civic Coat of Arms

One of the links on the page that I spoke of in my last post was to a .pdf document that gives a rendition, blazon and discussion of the coat of arms of the City of Fredericksburg, Virginia.

It is an interesting little one-page paper, highlighting an American coat of arms that I hadn’t seen before. For those of you who might be interested, the direct link to the .pdf is:

Saturday, June 11, 2011

An Interesting Article

I had an interesting article pointed out to me the other day.  So interesting that I've added a link to it under "Websites of Heraldic Interest" down the left column of this blog.

The article is entitled "The beginnings of heraldry in the Civil War -- Symbols Rally the Spirit" by Colonel Ralph R. Burr.  It was original published in the Army Information Digest in August 1961; that is to say, some 50 years ago, during the centennial of the American Civil War (1861-1865).  I found it fitting that I would run across it now, during the sesquicentennial of that war.

It was especially interesting to me for a personal attachment -- my third great-grandfather fought in the Civil War in the 17th Maine Infantry Regiment, whose regimental history is entitled "Red Diamond Regiment" because of the red felt diamond (lozenge) shaped patch or badge they wore.  Col. Burr's article gives some background on the origins of such patches, and how they influenced the later development of other symbols used by the military.
If you're interested, you can find the link to this article in the left column, as I noted above, or you can click on this link here:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

An Heraldic Miscellany

I was puttering about on the web the other day and ran across a page of links to various .pdf publications on different aspects of heraldry. Some seem to be pretty good; some, just interesting or covering some particular thing I hadn’t seen before; and some the links simply failed. But I thought I would pass the “main page” link on to you so that you could check out any that might pique your interest (including the one that attracted me that I'm going to discuss in my next post).

These links can be found at:

Monday, June 6, 2011

Yeah, What He Said!

In the recent run-up to the recent Royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton and all of the articles that appeared about her family's new grant of a coat of arm, fellow blogger Kimon Andreou over on his blog IDTG ("on heraldry, genealogy, history and other things") had an informative post on April 21, 2011 entitled "Is it snobbish to have a Coat of Arms?"  (The short answer: No.)

I remark upon it because he makes a very good point about the use of heraldry in places other than Great Britain.  (Well, actually, he makes several very good points.)  I could repeat a lot of what he says, but to what purpose?  I've often tried to say the same things, both here in this blog and in some of my lectures to genealogy and lineage societies, the only difference being that I may arrange the words differently, or substitute synonyms in some instances.  That being the case, you might as well just go ahead on over to Kimon's blog and read it there.  You can find his post on the web at:

Thursday, June 2, 2011

More Pictures of Heraldry

Over at the website of the Science and Society Picture Library, they have a couple of screens of thumbnails (you can click on the thumbnail to see a larger version) of some British railway heraldry.  It's an interesting assortment of coats of arms and pseudo-heraldry, and well worth a few minutes of your time if you have any interest in either heraldry or railroads.

You can go visit the site to see the coats of arms at and a separate page (with only two examples) of "crests" (which are really coats of arms!) at