Monday, January 30, 2012

Mail Order Heraldry, Part 3

Continuing our review of the most recent Design Toscano catalog, we find a stained glass panel with the arms of France Modern (, Azure three fleurs-de-lis or.

On another page, they offer a “White Eagle Stained Glass Window” panel, which they state is “[b]ased upon the historic coat of arms of Poland” (

For myself, I generally dislike armorial products which are “based on” something else almost as much as I dislike movies which are “based on” a book or story.  I find that, in many cases, the product often bears a minimal relationship to the item it is “based on.”  Here, though, except for the fact that the eagle’s head is facing the wrong way (it should be looking to the viewer’s left, not its own left) it does match the real arms of Poland pretty well.

Ah, if only I had more windows here at home in which to hang more heraldic stained glass.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mail Order Heraldry, Part 2

Continuing our perusal of the most recent Design Toscano catalog, we find a pair of shields of real heraldry, though one is misnamed.
These are the France and “William of Normandy” Wall Shields (  The second is, of course, misidentified, because there was more than one Duke of Normandy, and not all of those Dukes were named William.  So that shield is not truly the arms of only “William of Normandy,” but rather of “Normandy.” Still, if I thought I had a good place to display them in my home, I'd certainly be tempted to get them, no matter what they are named.

Another shield of nearly real arms appearing in this catalog is one that I have already discussed almost a year ago on this blog in my post of February 25, 2011 (  This design is called “Queen Victoria’s Royal Coat of Arms Shield Sculpture,” but the arms are not entirely accurate, as noted in that earlier post.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

This Day in (Heraldic) History

From the website of the Texas State Historical Association (

January 25, 1839

On this day in 1839, the Republic of Texas Congress adopted the Texas coat of arms -- a white star of five points on an azure ground encircled by olive and live oak branches. The national seal bore these arms encircled by the words Republic of Texas. In 1845 the designation was altered from Republic to State.

This photograph of the carved Texas coat of arms in the Life Science Library at the University of Texas in Austin can be found on-line (along with a few other coats of arms from Texas history) at:

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mail Order Heraldry, Part 1

Having in the past purchased a couple of neckties with coats of arms on them, I continue to receive regular catalogs from the mail order firm Design Toscano.  (The ties that I have bought from them can be found at and  This is not necessarily a plug for the firm; others have found at least one of the ties available less expensively elsewhere. But they are really nice ties, and I regularly receive good comments when I wear them.)

But I took the time to read through their most recent catalog, and thought I would share a few of the heraldic items in it.  Some are real heraldry; some are clearly fictional.

One of the clearly fictional pieces is the “Count Dracula’s Coat of Arms” Wall Plaque (

I’d love to know the “historic drawings” from which they say this “family crest of Vlad the Impaler” was allegedly taken, since I’ve seen nothing like it in all of my heraldic researches.

Another coat of arms that is not so fictional, but for whom I have not found a positive attribution, is this stained glass panel (

A quick review of Papworth’s Ordinary of British Armorials finds several similar coats of arms belonging to different branches of the Mill and Milne families, but none seem to match exactly.  The closest are Mill, Bonniton, Or a cross moline between three mullets azure and Milne, Edinburgh, Or a lozenge-pierced cross moline between three mullets azure within a bordure nebuly sable.  The first lacks the piercing of the cross which appears in the panel; the second has a bordure which does not appear in the arms on the panel.  Other variants change either the shape of the piercing (square-pierced and oval-pierced) or the color or line of division of the bordure (e.g., invected).

I'll show you some of the other heraldry to be found in their catalog over the next few posts.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Playing Card Heraldry

In a post dated December 28, 2011 over at the blog Flyer Design Goodness, the author has photos of a number of well-designed playing cards and playing card boxes.

One of the brands, Monarchs by the U.S. Playing Card Company, really struck me because of the heraldic themes on both the boxes

and the backs of the playing cards themselves.

All of the designs for the various brands are elegantly done, but these two particularly jumped out for me because of their heraldic elements.

You can see the entire post, and the other playing card designs, at

And you can buy packs of any of the cards shown in the Flyer Design Goodness blog post, as well as a number of others, including this one with an heraldic design on the box,

from Theory11 at

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Heraldry in the News!

I'm jumping onto the bandwagon just a little tardily, I realize.  Many of you have probably already read about the big news coming out of Scotland, that Donald Trump is finally receiving a new coat of arms that he can use on his new golf course that he's been trying very hard to build up near Aberdeen.  (For which project he's been receiving a lot of opposition from many of the locals.)  Here's the "coat of arms" that he was using for it ...

... until the Court of the Lord Lyon explained to him the realities of trying to us an unregistered heraldic logo in a nation with an heraldic authority, and that, one which could haul him into court for using a self-assumed coat of arms.  Not to mention their ability to deface, remove, chisel down, etc. any such non-authorized arms.

So "The Donald" went through the proper channels and applied for a grant of arms from Lord Lyon King of Arms, and it's about to be unveiled.

As you can see, there's a crest of a lion rampant (for Scotland), three chevronels, a "double-sided" eagle (they mean two-headed) holding golf balls in its talons, and stars (for the United States of America).  The motto is Numquam concedere, "never give up."  (I have to admit, the design is not nearly as bad as the descriptions in some of the news stories had led me to believe.)

Additionally, folks have been making proposals for what the new coat of arms perhaps should look like.  Here's a couple of examples.

The motto for this one is Latin for "You're fired."

And the motto here is Latin for "Keep your hair on."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mutual Admiration

Our friend, Xavi Garcia, who has his own blog, Dibujo Heráldico, that I have talked about before here (and which has a link in the left-hand column under Other Blogs of Heraldic Interest), has recently posted about this blog, and included his rendition of my personal coat of arms (one version of which I showed you in my post of December 31, 2011).  Señor Garcia's drawing of my arms is presented here, with his kind permission.

It's always of interest to seen someone's interpretation of a coat of arms.  Indeed, I know of several individuals who commission drawings of their arms from as many different heraldic artists as they can, just to see the different treatments.  I can't quite afford to go quite that far yet, but as I said, it's always interesting to see how different artists individualize a coat of arms in their personal style.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Heraldry in the News!

There’s an interesting article over at ClickOnWales by Trevor Fishlock entitled How heraldry prospers in today’s Wales. The subtitle says that he “reports on the extraordinary survival of an invented tradition,” and is accompanied by a number of quotes from and a picture of Tom Lloyd, Wales Herald Extraordinary.

It’s really a very nice article, explaining a bit of Welsh history, both ancient and modern, and heraldry, and how they intersect. It’s well worth a read, and I recommend it to you. You can find it on-line at

(If you do go there to read the article, you may notice that the photograph of Wales Herald Extraordinary there is reversed.  At first I thought he was wearing a tabard with the Scottish quarterings of the Royal arms, but then realized that all of the lions were facing sinister.  Not to mention the fact that the medals worn by the men behind him appeared to be on the right breast instead of the left.)

One of my favorite lines from the article is: “A coat of arms is unique. Tom Lloyd agrees that it is a bit of showing-off, but believes strongly that it is there to be enjoyed as a part of family history.” I don’t think I could have said it better myself.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

An On-Line Heraldry Drawing Program

I ran across a website the other day that I thought was worth sharing with you.  It contains the Drawshield suite of programs by Karl L. Wilcox.  The suite includes: some Heraldry Flashcards; a Heraldry Quiz (it shows you a shield, and then you have to choose the correct blazon (from three choices); a Heraldry Image of the Day; a page that lets you build a design from elements in the program; a page that will draw a shield from a blazon; and a Showcase of arms drawn with the program.

Like most such software, it has its quirks.  For example, the Heraldry Quiz not only uses stains and such tinctures as carnation for major elements (as opposed to, say, the face and hands of a person), but the grammar of the blazon is non-standard.  As one example, a shield with a carnation field strewn with green stars was blazoned as mullety carnation and vert.  Another shield blazoned bleu celeste as "celestial."

Also, again, like most such software, it also has its limitations.  I typed in the blazon of my own coat of arms, Argent two chevronels azure between three apples gules slipped and leaved vert (which should look something like this),

and it drew the following:

The "Error Reported" link gave me the following:

Internal Errors:
No placement for charge.
Blazon Problems:
Nothing to go between
Not understood: three apples gules slipped and leaved proper.

I got the same emblazon when simply going with "between three apples gules."  I have to assume that the charges database does not have apples, since changing "apples gules" to "lions gules" put three red lions rampant around the chevronels.

Still, for all its shortcomings, it's a website that's worth knowing about.  You can find The Drawshield Suite on-line at

Monday, January 9, 2012

Can Coats of Arms Function as Trademarks?

I personally have always thought so, especially since I’ve seen heraldry being used as trademarks enough times, on things from bottles of wine to entire restaurants.

But in an on-line article dated December 16, 2011, English attorney Paul Bicknell gives us a more definitive (and relatively short) answer, at least from the view of English law.  It’s a nice, short, easy to read and understand little article, though he could have used another proofreader. “Court o the Lord Lyn” should, of course, be Court of the Lord Lyon.

And, of course, it has no application on this side of the Atlantic; the United States is less restrictive about the use of armorial ensigns as trademarks, and Canada has its own laws and heraldic authority to consult with.

If you’d like to go read what Mr. Bicknell has to say, his article can be found at

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Heraldry in the News!

In at least two recent stories, Greenwich is becoming a Royal Borough in early February.  They’re planning a whole lot of stuff to help celebrate, but they’re also getting an update of their coat of arms from the College of Arms in London.  The upcoming celebrations and the “upgrade” to Royal Borough status are part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, as noted in news stories in the News Shopper (January 8, 2012, at and (January 6, 2012, at

I haven’t seen any specific details yet about how the borough’s arms are going to be changed, except that the arms “will be based on Greenwich's existing coat of arms, to which will be added new heraldic features available only to boroughs with Royal status. These include the Tudor Rose” (according to the story in the Wharf).

Greenwich has already had changes to its coat of arms.  Here is an image of the arms they were granted in 1903,
with a nearly complete (retaining the hourglass and estoile only) redesign done in 1965.
Their current arms are pretty busy.  I hope that the College of Arms is going to simplify them a bit before adding more stuff to them (e.g., a Tudor rose).

Thursday, January 5, 2012

I Knew I’d Seen It Before!

On one of our trips back to Las Vegas last summer, I purchased up a cap from The Venetian Hotel and Casino gift shop with a coat of arms on it.  (Because I have to, you know, buy heraldry when I find some.)

I felt at the time that I had seen those arms before, though I couldn’t remember exactly where.  And, for some reason, I associated them with the German city of Augsburg.

So after we got home and recovered a bit from the travel, I went on-line to the Heraldry of the World website (, formerly known as International Civic Heraldry) and looked up the arms of the city of Augsburg.  They were nothing like the arms on the cap.

Well, phooey!  Where the heck had I seen the coat of arms on the cap before?  For some reason, possibly because the style of the drawing of the arms reminded me of it, I started leafing through my copy of A.C. Fox-Davies A Complete Guide to Heraldry.  And there on page 429, figure 766, was the “Arms of Loschau or Lexaw, of Augsburg.”  (This coat also appears in the “big Fox-Davies,” the quarto edition of The Art of Heraldry, on page 380, figure 944.)

The two versions of the arms, on the cap and in Fox-Davies, are not an exact match.  Both have hatching for Azure (blue) on the dexter half of the shield (the left as you look at it), but there is no hatching for Or (yellow) on the cap, and the cap has a black field and a white or gold eagle on it to sinister (the right as you look at it), while the illustration in Fox-Davies is hatched for Or an eagle sable.  But all of those differences can be explained by the printing process used to create the cap (hence no dots for Or/yellow/gold) and the greater identifiability against the tan ground of the cap for the shield and eagle by reversing the tinctures in the sinister half.

Why had I thought of Augsburg when I saw the arms on the cap?  I have no idea.  But every once in a while, like Han Solo in Star Wars Episode IV, A New Hope, “Sometimes I amaze even myself.”

None of this, of course, explains why The Venetian Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada  was selling a cap with a German coat of arms on it.  Some things, I suppose, are just meant to remain mysteries.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Successful Bit of Heraldic Sleuthing

One of the readers of this blog recently presented me with an opportunity to do some heraldic sleuthing.  He was trying to get more information about an heraldic stained glass panel that had come to him in the family.  Such heraldic research is often very much of a hit or miss proposition.  I’ve had some good results, and I’ve hit blank walls.  It all depends upon the coat of arms, its provenance, and a host of other factors (including, for example, how familiar the artist is with heraldic blazon and armorial conventions).  This one turned out to be one of the successful ones, and he has graciously allowed me to share it with you.

The panel measures 18 x 26 inches (46 x 66 cm).  It was inherited through several generations, but is believed to have been purchased at an auction house in Philadelphia, possibly sometime in the 1940s.  Nothing further of its provenance is known.

I initially replied that it looked German to me -- the type and placement of the helm atop the shield and the style of the man and woman on each side of the shield all show a Germanic influence.  Then I went home and hit the books.

I first checked in the Dictionnaire de Renesse, which sorts the 120,000 coats of arms listed in J.-B. Rietstap's Armorial Général according to the figures and colors on the shield. This narrowed down the search a bit (to a dozen or so German and Dutch names, ignoring for now French names). Then I went to Riestap to see what additional information (crests, etc.) there  might be that would help to focus the search. There were two entries that matched very closely, both for the name Langenstein.

Langenstein. Swiss. D’arg. à l’aigle de gu. (Argent, an eagle gules; a white shield with a red eagle.) Crest: Cinq épées d’arg., garnies d’or, les pointes en bas. (Five swords argent garnished or, the points in base.)

Langenstein. Baden. D'argent, à l'aigle de gueules, membrée d'azur, et un tertre isolé de trois coupeaux d'azur, brochant sur la queue de l'aigle. (Argent, an eagle gules, membered azure, and a trimount (a mount of three hillocks) couped azure surmounting the tail of the eagle.)

The first one didn't have the little trimount surmounting the eagle's tail, but does have the same crest as in the window. The second had a different crest (a black wing charged with a horizontal white stripe), but did have the trimount.

Looking at Rolland and Rolland’s Illustrations to Rietstap, we have pretty much what I expected based on the blazons.

Some additional research since then in an earlier (1881) edition of Rietstap gives the arms as in the panel quartered with three other coats of arms (quarterly of six, plus an inescutcheon, with the Langenstein arms in the first and sixth quarters), and the crest as in the panel as the first of four crests.  These arms belong to Langenstein de Gondelsheim, Baden (created Counts April 9, 1827).  The arms in the first and sixth quarters (blazoned d’arg. à l’aigle de gu., ch. sur la queue et le ventre d’une colline de trois coupeaux d’azur; Argent, an eagle gules, surmounting the tail and belly a trimount couped azure) are cited in that entry as the armes de la famille suisse de Langenstein, arms of the Swiss family of Langenstein.  Again, there was the illustration from Rolland and Rolland of these arms.

Then, trying to see if there was anything that might give me any additional information about this coat of arms, I searched some of the armorials, particularly Swiss armorials, that I have. I found Langenstein in the Zürich Wappenrolle, which is the oldest original extant roll of arms. (There are older rolls of arms, but they only exist in the form of 15th or 16th century copies. The Zurich roll of arms is the oldest original roll that we know of.)

Steen Clemmensen, who has published a review of the Zurich roll of arms on-line (, says of it: "What remains of the armorial, Züricher Wappenrolle, presently exhibited in the Zürich Landesmuseum, are three strips of parchment (S1: 36½ cm, 1 piece, S2: 255½ cm, 7 pieces; S3: 108½ cm, 5 pieces), altogether 400½ cm by 12½ cm, painted on both sides in two rows, with each inclined shield and crest filling approx. 3½ x 6 cm. ... The compilation and the manufacture dated to 1335-1340."

Specifically regarding the Langenstein arms, Clemmensen, notes: "von Langenstein, from Burg Langenstein near Eigeltingen (Gem. Orsingen, Kr. Stockach, 30 km NW of Konstanz." According to Wikipedia, Eigeltingen is a town in the district of Konstanz in Baden-Württemberg in southwestern Germany, near the border with Switzerland.

I found two drawings of the Langenstein arms from the Zurich roll, one from an 1860 publication (below) containing reproductions of all of the coats of arms contained in it.  (This book can be found on-line at  Or you can find it by going to Google Books and searching for “Die Wappenrolle von Zürich.”) The Langenstein arms are on the right in this row of shields.

The other illustration is from an on-line publication of the roll which includes a digital photo of the arms from the original roll as well as a modern redrawing of them (

So, given the match of the arms with the trimount (though with a different crest) and nearly identical arms with the same crest, especially now supplemented by the arms and crest of Langenstein of Gondelsheim, I felt very confident in stating that the window is of the arms of one branch or another (because different branches of a family might add or drop relatively minor elements on the shield -- as here, the trimount -- or change the crest) of the family of Swiss/German family of Langenstein. It's clearly an old family and an old coat of arms, since we can find it in the early to mid-1300s in southwestern Germany/northeastern Switzerland.

After sending all of this information to the owner, he replied: “I am retired and want to sit in the living room with a coffee in the morning, and a scotch in the evening, and enjoy the window. Now I can call them the Langenstein’s when I introduce them to visitors. At some point this window will pass along to my son or daughter, and with it can go a history.”

Enjoying it now, and passing it along in the family later.  Isn’t that, to a great degree, what heraldry is all about?

What a great piece of heraldic art!  And I was so grateful to have been able to successfully research it.