Saturday, December 31, 2011

The End of Another Year

And so we come to the end of another year – the third for this blog.  And I would like to take the time to once again thank you, everyone who has dropped by and read the posts here over the past year.  Thank you all!

It continues to amaze me, and gratify me, and humble me, the places from which visitors to this blog come.  I regularly go out to check the latest statistics from SiteMeter, which tells me from which countries the most recent 100 visitors to the site originated.  (I never get any personal information; at most it gives me the country, region, and sometimes city of a visitor's internet service provider.  That’s as “personal” as it gets.)  The Cluster Map and the Flag Index down in the left-hand column here also are an indication of the origins of visitors to this blog.  As I write this, the ten most recent visitors have come from: South Carolina, France (Paris), California, Russia, France (Toulon), Thailand, Singapore, New Hampshire, South Africa, and Canada.  And periodically a visitor will surprise me, coming from some place unexpected: South Korea, or Kuwait, Egypt, Libya, the Canary Islands.  Saudi Arabia.  Israel.  China.  The Islamic Republic of Iran.  Vietnam.  Not places where you would necessarily expect to find much, or even any, interest in some blog about heraldry and coats of arms by some Yank in Texas, of all places.  So, as I said: I am amazed, and gratified, and humbled.  I never really expected, when I began, to reach such a literally worldwide, globe-encircling audience.

Once again, to all of you who have stopped by to read these posts, I hope that you have at least learned a little something new, or been entertained for a moment, or even better, both.  Thank you for dropping by, and I look forward to continuing to write about this esoteric topic we call heraldry, in the hopes of continuing to show you something new, or old, or maybe just entertain you for a moment.

To end this year’s posts, I thought I’d include a painting of my own (self-assumed) coat of arms from the Dublin Roll, a roll of arms of the attendees and participants in the 2002 International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences,* made by the Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland.

* My presentation that year was entitled "New Directions in Heraldry".  If you are interested, a copy of it can be found on my website at .

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The (Almost) Arms of the United States

J.L. Bell has a blog that I drop by and read regularly entitled Boston 1775, which covers a myriad of topics relating to the beginnings of the Revolutionary War, mostly – as you may have guessed from the title of the blog – in Massachusetts.

In a post on November 26, 2011, he highlights a drawing of what the arms of the United States might have looked like.

This picture is of a sketch by Charles Thomson of how he pictured the Great Seal of the United States in June 1782.  (The eagle with the shield is on the obverse of the Great Seal.)  In his written proposal to the Continental Congress, Thomson suggested for the seal:

On a field Chevrons composed of seven pieces on one side & six on the other, joined together at the top in such wise that each of the six bears against or is supported by & supports two of the opposite side the pieces of the chevrons on each side alternate red & white. The shield born on the breast of an American Eagle on the wing & rising proper. In the dexter talon of the Eagle an Olive branch & in the sinister a bundle of Arrows. Over the head of the Eagle a Constellation of Stars surrounded with bright rays and at a little distance clouds.

So what we might have ended up with, instead of the Paly of thirteen argent a gules, a chief azure (that so many people even today can’t depict correctly – see my posts of October 13, 2011 ( and April 23, 2009 ( for examples), we could have ended up with a (nearly unblazonable!) chevron of six stripes to dexter red and white and seven stripes  to sinister white and red on a blue field.

The full article can be found on-line at:

The article also contains a link to another website,, that gives the Great Seal’s history, symbolism, and design process, as well as some of the myths and misinformation about it, which you might find of some interest.

Monday, December 26, 2011

They're Number One! They're Number One!

"Trump meets his match as Lyon takes up arms against him"

In an article at, dated November 25, 2011, author Susan Morrison notes that:

Sporty people, by the way, are always moaning about our showing in sporty things, and yet we are premier first division, world-beating, international league table-topping champions, crushing all comers, when it comes to Heraldry.

Oh yes. When it comes to what to put on your shield as you go into battle, we, the Scots, are the people to beat.
She goes on to observe that when The Donald, as Donald Trump is not always affectionately referred to over here, tried to erect his unregistered coat of arms in Scotland, he ran afoul of the Lord Lyon King of Arms, who told him he had to take it down (at the very least, until it is registered!).  Susan ends with the comment:

And, I am proud to say, Lord Lyon Of Scotland : 1, loud-mouthed Yank: Nil. Go, team Lyon!
 The complete article can be found on-line at:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What's New, Pussycat?

Well, not especially new, but a recent (November 20, 2011) article in The Telegraph noted that singer Tom Jones (shown below) acquired a coat of arms a little while ago.

The article by Richard Eden begins:
For a member of the aristocracy, it’s not unusual to have a coat of arms. For the son of a coal miner who grew up in a terrace house in Pontypridd, it is, however, something to sing about.
The coat of arms, described briefly (but not blazoned) by David White, Somerset Herald, makes them to be canting arms (where the figures on the shield are a pun on the bearer's surname).  In this case, the cant is on the singer's real surname of Woodward, and consist of a key (with its "wards") between two trees (for the "wood").  The crest is a red demi-dragon holding an inverted leek, thus referring to his Welsh roots.

What?  No panties?

There is what has become something of a tradition of ladies throwing their panties onto the stage where he performs, a tradition taken to excess once by comedienne Dawn French, who when meeting the singer, took off pair after pair after pair of panties (which she had on over her clothes) to give to him.

The full article in The Telegraph can be found on-line at:

Monday, December 19, 2011

Once Again ...

... you can find heraldry everywhere!

In this particular case, I was attending a ceremony over in Fort Worth, Texas, and found the following bit of military heraldry on a pickup truck in the parking lot.

I was glad I had my camera with me!

These are the arms of the Air Force Special Operations Command, containing a pair of wings surmounted by a dagger, point to base (what the English heralds would call "reversed" but what American heralds think of as "inverted"), and in chief the old 1930s and very early 1940s wing markings of what was then the United States Army Air Force.  (Later they dropped the red roundel in the center, and eventually added a white horizontal bar behind the roundel, bordered in blue.)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Heraldry and Illuminated Manuscripts: A Brief Review

Over at Spoonfed there’s a recent (November 11, 2011) review of one man’s (Tom Jeffreys) take on an exhibition at the British Library, Royal Manuscripts - The Genius of Illumination, on display now through March 13, 2012. It’s a good review, and makes me want to go and check out what I can of the collection.

In one paragraph - and this is where we’re getting close to the topic of this blog, heraldry - he discusses the fact that these manuscripts incorporate a lot of different conceptual threads, one of which was kingliness, which itself was tied to two things: “God, and lineage.” And what was often used to help tie a ruler to some of the great figures of history? Why, heraldry, of course. “[B]y embedding a monarch's coat of arms into Biblical stories, the aim is to reinforce his authority – an authority which often rested not simply on military might but on precarious genealogical arguments.”

(Umm, let me guess; the manuscript page above belonged to the King of England, right? Because his coat of arms and other insignia appears on the page how many times? To quote an old Mel Brooks line: “It’s good to be the king.”)

It’s a nice overview, about a great collection of manuscripts. You can read the entire review on-line at:


Monday, December 12, 2011

Is Heraldry Christian?

This is a topic that occasionally arises among heralds and heraldry enthusiasts. I first ran into it as an idea way back in 1998, when I was presenting a paper at the International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences entitled “Identity Through Heraldry In A Non-Heraldic Culture: The use of heraldry and quasi-heraldic devices by government, business, institutions and associations in the United States of America.” A copy of that presentation can be found on my website at  During the question-and-answer session which followed the presentation, one of the attendees made the point that the United States could not truly be said to be a “non-heraldic” nation, since it was a Christian one, the implication being that heraldry and Christianity were somehow linked together.

The topic has arisen again, this time in a post over on Kimon Andreou’s IDTG, his blog on “heraldry, genealogy, history and other things.” (I can highly recommend IDTG, and link to it has long been included in the “Other Blogs of Heraldic Interest” section of the left-hand column here.) In a post on October 6, 2011, he makes the argument that “Heraldry is not an exclusively Christian nor an exclusively European phenomenon” and gives both early and modern examples of why this is the case. (He even links, among other resources, to my own little article on Mamluk heraldry at and calls this blog “highly recommended,” for which I must - with all due modesty - thank him.)

If you’d like to read his take on whether heraldry is either exclusively Christian or exclusively European, or even if you’d just like to see the sources he links to there, that post can be found at:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Being Dragged, Kicking and Screaming, Into the 21st Century

Okay, I'll admit it: I'm not the target market for the latest and greatest in computers and internet and social media "stuff."  Admittedly, now, the first computer I got to use was back in 1966-1967, and the computer itself took up the entire third floor of the computer science building at my university.  (I am not making this up.)  And it didn't have a significant percentage of the computing power of my non-smart cellphone that I carry about in my pocket today.  Hard to imagine, isn't it?

Anyway, all that is to say that I have been something of a foot-dragger when it comes to embracing the newest computer technology, etc.  And this in spite of the fact that here I am, on the internet, blogging away on a regular basis.

But the fact that I don't rush in to embrace the latest computer technology does not mean that I am a Luddite, or that I have any particular antipathy towards where computers are taking us.  Indeed, I'm very happy that so many heraldic armorials and ordinaries can be accessed these days with computers; heraldry that in many cases we might never even have known about, much less been able to see, because they were tucked away in some library or archive somewhere in some corner of a far distant land.

But, social media, now.  You know, things like Facebook.  Yes, I have a Facebook account.  And sometimes, because they don't write to me very often, Facebook is the only way that I discover what my children or grandchildren are up to.  (That's not always a positive thing; Grandpa Dave does not need, or even want, to know that you are going out to do "shots with [your] friends!  Woohoo!")

But, yes, I have a Facebook account, and now Facebook has made it even easier for you to find me there.  My new "short form" Facebook ID is:

And even if you're not that interested in my personal life (frankly, I'm not always all that enamored of it myself), here are a few others who have Facebook pages or groups in which you might be interested:

The Canadian Heraldic Authority:
The American Heraldry Society:
The Royal Heraldry Society of Canada:
The Heraldry Society (England):
The Scots Heraldry Group:
Ecclesiastical Heraldry Fan Club:

On-line social media -- You don't have to embrace it wholeheartedly, but you don't have avoid it completely, either.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Heraldry in the News!

In a brief article published on October 31, 2011, the on-line noted the end of Cambridge’s annual Festival of Ideas. Of special note were the members of Cambridge University Heraldic and Genealogical Society, who put on a demonstration of their work and helped children create a coat of arms for their own families.

You can find the whole article, with a photograph of some of the CUHGS members and children (including Isaac Sutton proudly holding up some colored markers as only a five-year-old can!) on-line at

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The College of Arms in the News!

There’s a well-done if a little dated (April 1, 2010) little article over on the website of The Daily Express about the College of Arms, and what fees they charge, and why, and where those fees go.  Plus a few little tidbits of stories about how “eminent” a person has to be to obtain a grant of arms from the College, how a badger with a hay rake looks better than a badger with a word processor, why a surgeon received a grant with a large intestine on it, and how the Institute of Engineers in Australia got blue kangaroos.

Want to know how much the heralds really get paid to create a coat of arms?  Drop on by the Express’s website and check it out for yourself:

Monday, December 5, 2011

Vexillology in the News!

The city of Duncan, British Columbia, is going to be getting a new flag. But most people won’t know what it looks like until it is unveiled March 4, 2012, during the city’s centennial celebration. (Old joke: What’s the difference between a European and a North American? A European thinks 100 kilometers is a long way, and a North American thinks 100 years is a long time.)

Anyway, there’s an article (dated October 19, 2011 – yeah, I’m running a little behind, but it’s been a busy last half of the year for us) in the on-line website, discussing how Councillor Sharon Jackson has overseen, or some might think, ramrodded through, the design of the city’s new flag, with very little input from the public. “Stuff designed by 5,000 people is always crap,” she said. And, to a point, I tend to agree with her on that.

However, the story goes on to note that Duncan’s heraldry expert, former Garter Principal King of Arms Sir Conrad Swan - who design Duncan’s coat of arms - wasn’t involved, she explained. In the end, Jackson decided to design the flag herself, one “that represents everything I love about Duncan, and the Cowichan Valley,” she said.

Fellow Councillor Paul Fletcher didn’t like the process followed, even if it didn’t cost a lot of money. “I’m not happy with a flag that’ll last us 100 years, and probably deserved public input. I don’t need the secrecy of the unveiling,” he said. “For the centennial committee to appoint themselves the designers, I don’t like that.”

You can read the full story on-line at  Or you can just wait until next March, and see what design Ms. Jackson and the city’s centennial committee have come up with.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Heraldry (Still) in the News!

A friend and reader of this blog sent me a link to yet another story of outrage about Speaker of the House of Commons Bercow's coat of arms.  There have been a lot of stories about Mr. Bercow's arms recently, and I haven't had the time to read them all.  (It hasn't helped that most of them seem to say exactly the same things.)  I appreciated receiving the link to this one, however, because had a section with pictures and descriptions of "Coats of arms that could be adopted by celebrities", some of which I found especially humorous.  (My personal favorite was the motto for the proposed arms of Dominique Strauss-kahn, Liberté, Egalité, Infidélité.)

The article was published on Sunday, December 4, 2011, by The Telegraph.  Here's the link to read the article, and to see the proposed celebrity coats of arms:

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Heraldry in the News!

There’s a short little story in a recent edition of The Memphis Daily News of Tennessee about an attorney there, Robert Hutton of the law firm Glankler Brown, PLLC, whose “accomplishments earned him and his descendants a coat of arms in [sic; that should be "from"] the United Kingdom’s Royal College of Arms.”

The article spends a lot more time about his background and some of the cases he’s argued as a lawyer,* but does discuss briefly his interest in his family history after his grandfather was diagnosed with cancer, and how as a part of that research he contacted the College of Arms in London to see if there was a family connection to Archbishop of York Matthew Hutton.  Though there was no such connection, the herald – a good salesman – told Mr. Hutton that: “Though you’re not related to the Archbishop of York, having an English background and with your work the Crown would likely grant you arms in your own right.”

So attorney Hutton is now the proud owner of his very own coat of arms, complete, no doubt, though the article has no photographs of either coat of arms or the honorary grant, with its pretty illumination and pendant wax seals.

If you’d like to read more about Mr. Hutton, his work, and his new coat of arms, the article can be found on-line at:

* In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve worked for attorneys for a number of years now, and I may have a more jaded view than most about how impressive it is to argue a case before the Supreme Court of the United States.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Shakespeare’s Heraldry

There’s a post (dated November 4, 2011) over on The Shakespeare blog: In Shakespeare’s footsteps by Sylvia Morris entitled “The mysteries of emblems, mottoes, and Shakespeare’s own chair”. In it, she discusses Shakespeare’s coat of arms, and how it appears on a chair traditionally known as “Shakespeare’s courting chair,” which appears to have been made in the early 1600's and thus possibly contemporaneous with the Bard of Avon.

Whatever the case of the authenticity of the chair, she’s got an interesting and informative post, and even gives a little of the controversy in the College of Arms about the grant of arms to Shakespeare as well as some other aspects of how Shakespeare “ye player” may have used or been involved with heraldry. You can find it on-line at:

She has an earlier post (November 2), “The facts about Shakespeare’s coat of arms,” that gives more of the history of the grant from the College of Arms that you might also find of interest. There’s a link to that post at the top of the page linked to above.