Thursday, June 28, 2012

Heralds at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant

Earlier this month, on June 3, 2012, we had the privilege of watching the Thames Jubilee Pageant for Queen Elizabeth II.  (Thank goodness for BBC America!)  As a consequence, we were able to catch at least glimpses of some of our friends and acquaintances who are heralds and were able to attend on Her Majesty “up close and personal” as it were.

Unfortunately, taking photographs from our TV screen (even though it’s a big HD one) is still an inexact science for me; I guess I’ll have to play around with it some more and see if I can’t get better at it.  So these, and upcoming photos from the Jubilee Pageant are not at all what I’d like to have here, but they’re what I’ve got, and you’ll just have to put up with the fact that I can’t take very good pictures from a television screen.  (Yet!)  It also didn’t help that (1) they didn’t show very much of the heralds in the procession at all, and (2) panned their cameras quickly enough that it was harder to get a decent shot.  (I did switch over to the “sports” mode of my digital SLR, but, well, you can see the results for yourself.  Clearly, it needs work.)

This shot is of our friend Claire Boudreau, the Chief Herald of Canada, in her new dark blue tabard, standing next to David Sellars, Lord Lyon King of Arms, with (I assume, I can’t make out his face under his bicorn hat) Garter Principal King of Arms, facing toward the camera, with Clarenceux and Norroy and Ulster Kings of Arms with their backs to the camera, while the Queen and Prince Philip walk between them.

And in this shot, we have our friends Charles Burnett, Ross Herald Extraordinary, on the far left, and Mark Dennis, Ormond Pursuivant, third from left, with other heralds from the Court of the Lord Lyon (hence the tabards with Scotland in the first and fourth quarters (upper left and lower right) and England in the second quarter (upper right) on their tabards, the opposite of what their counterparts at the College of Arms in London wear.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Was “Sable Basilisk” Really “Rouge Dragon”?

A brief article in The Daily Mail on Monday, June 25, 2012, noted the passing of Count Robin Ian Evelyn Milne Stuart de la Lanne-Mirrlees, Baron of Inchdrewer and Laird of Bernera, at the age of 87 on June 23. He was involved in helping author Ian Fleming research James Bond’s adventures for Fleming’s novel On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

In the book, Bond’s cover as genealogist Sir Hilary Bray was based on the count who was then the heraldic researcher at the College of Arms in London. Mirrlees was Rouge Dragon Pursuivant at the College of Arms from 1952 to 1962. (He was succeeded in that office by Sir Conrad Swan, later Garter Principal King of Arms.) In December 1962, he was named Richmond Herald, a position he held until 1967. (In this office he was succeeded by J.P. Brooke-Little, later Norroy and Ulster King of Arms and then Clarenceux King of Arms.)

The fictional Sir Hilary Bray bore the title of Sable Basilisk Pursuivant, a play on Mirrlees’s own title of Rouge Dragon Pursuivant.

The full story, which includes among others a photograph of the count in front of his farmhouse on the island of Great Bernera in the Outer Hebrides, can be found on-line at:

Monday, June 25, 2012

Another Logo Adopted

The city of Duncan, British Columbia, after six whole weeks of public input and ideas, has decided to adopt a logo – pardon me, a “bold new brand” – to “complement” the use of its coat of arms. Which arms, I feel it incumbent for me to point out, were designed by former resident Sir Conrad Swan, quondam Garter King of Arms of the College of Heralds in London.

According to Councillor Michelle Staples, head of Duncan’s tourism committee, “the brand illustrates — with a touch of artistic motion — city symbols such as the Cowichan River, Native heritage, and city hall's historic spire tower” over Duncan's name.

Sigh.  They have a perfectly good coat of arms with which they can "brand" themselves. Why they felt the need to supplement it, with something chosen following only six weeks of public input, is, I'm afraid, a bit beyond me. I guess I must be a stick-in-the-mud reactionary. Or maybe not.

The complete story can be found on-line at:

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I’ve Said It Before ...

... You can find heraldry everywhere.  And anywhere.  Even, it turns out, in a junk yard.

In an article in the Lancashire Evening Post of May 17, 2012, Queen Elizabeth II unveiled a coat of arms that had been recovered from a reclamation yard in Preston and then purchased by Ribchester businessman John Wade, who donated it to the town of Accrington.

The coat of arms (shown here from an old series of postcards of British town arms) was granted to Accrington on August 26, 1879.

The full article, with a photograph of the Queen unveiling the arms as well as one of the carved shield itself, can be found on-line at:

Monday, June 18, 2012

Heraldry in the News!

In a recent (May 17, 2012) news item in The Sault Star, the city council of Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario, Canada, has voted as a part of the city’s centennial celebration to apply to the Canadian Heraldic Authority for a grant of a coat of arms to replace the one they’ve been using unofficially for the past century.

(Frankly, seeing the current one, I can see why they might want to change it.)

As the article notes:

A report to council indicates the [currently used] emblem appears to be an evolution in design from the original municipal crest — a beaver (1871-1887) and the one used for the Town of Sault Ste. Marie — a view of the locks and railway bridge (1887-1912).
The research also shows that it appears the city solicitor was asked to apply for a copyright in 1916, but the emblem was never registered.

City Clerk Malcolm White said, “We're looking at this as more of an evolution rather than a redesign.”  They are hoping to retain a number of elements from the current unofficial arms.

The full story (along with comments from opponents who argue the $4,650 expenditure could be better spent elsewhere, and that the municipality could continue using the current arms) can be found on-line at:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Heraldry Education on the Internet

The National Library of Ireland, in conjunction with an exhibition, has created and placed on-line an Educational Resource Pack for teachers entitled “Design Your Own Coat of Arms.”  Using the Resource Pack, teachers can recap what their students learned in the exhibition and then have them (the students) create their own coat of arms.  The Pack is short, only seven pages, but includes a blank motto scroll and blank shield to fill in.

It is certainly not comprehensive (I did note that it was only seven pages, didn’t I?), but could be a fun activity for pre-teenagers who are learning about heraldry for the first time.

The Educational Resource Pack can be found on-line at:

Monday, June 11, 2012

Heraldry in the News!

The township of South Frontenac in Canada is going to be receiving a new coat of arms soon.  An article in the Frontenac News of May 3, 2012, discusses a bit of the history of the township’s decision to seek a coat of arms, as well as the symbolism of the elements it will contain, as shown here in what is a rough first draft sketch of the arms

The griffin’s claws on the mural coronet come from the arms of the Comte de Frontenac, Governor of New France from 1672-1682 and 1689-1698, for whom the township is named.  (I had the opportunity to see the Comte’s arms, here, while in Quebec attending the 2008 International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences.)

The full article, with more details about the arms and the meanings of its symbols, can be found on-line at:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

“Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!”

Oh, dear.  As if there aren’t enough others out there already, I recently ran across a press announcement that the website Irish Blessings now has “a new search utility for looking up an Irish coat of arms, making it easier than ever to find a coat of arms to match a specific Irish surname.”  Plus, after you’ve found “the” coat of arms for your Irish surname, they’ve got just the stuff bearing that coat of arms that they can sell you!

Never mind that there may be more than one, sometimes many more than one, coat of arms borne by individuals with that surname.  Never mind that just because you have that same surname, that alone does not give you any legitimate right to bear that particular piece of heraldry.  Never mind that they call a coat of arms a “crest” indiscriminately.

But I have to draw the line somewhere, and here it is: “Once part of a warrior's defensive armor, the Family Coat of Arms Shield Plaque is now a historical monument for your wall, emblazoned with your Irish family's coat of arms and family name. The walnut stained wood plaque and brass plate with the Irish family crest is confirmed by over a decade of research by heraldry experts.”  Really??  “Over a decade of research by heraldry experts”?  All the "research" and expertise it takes is to pay about US$2,500 to buy a database of arms that will let you type in a surname and print out a picture of the coat of arms associated (in the database) with that surname.

I say it’s a bucket shop,* and I say the hell with it.  (And no, I’m not going to put a link to their website on this blog.)

* “An heraldic bucket shop is a heraldry company that will ‘sell’ a coat of arms associated with the customer's surname, regardless of whether the customer can actually claim a relation to the original armiger.”  (Wikipedia, cf. “Bucket Shop (heraldry)”).

Monday, June 4, 2012

Heraldry in the Blogosphere

There’s a post over on the Australian-based blog FeltySurface from April 15 that is entitled “The Origins of Branding – Heraldry in contemporary Australia” that is of interest.  The author, Michelle Tabet, talks about heraldry in relationship to the modern business concept of “branding.”  (As opposed to the cattle ranching concept of branding, as described in Hot Irons: Heraldry of the Range by Oren Arnold and John Prentiss Hale.  It's a great book - I have a copy in my heraldic library - but it's not quite the same kind of "branding.")

One comment in particular that she made really stuck with me: “The coat of arms is an aspirational composition of symbols and mottos that is meant to simultaneous[ly] define and guide the destiny of a place, person or family, how very similar to the way we use brands!”

And another: “To some extent, I gather that it is the historic value of the heraldry that make[s] it so special and worth coveting.”  Indeed so (in my opinion).

Her blog post arose from a conversation with a friend of hers and their discussion with the Knox City Council on brand strategy.  The City has the following coat of arms:

Which coat of arms she notes is appropriate for a largely rural 19th Century community, but does it still work for a 21st Century urban one?

She gives Dan the final word, or at least questions, for her readers (and now, mine) to ponder: “Why do we use medieval, 18th or 19th century institutions and customs to solve 21st century problems? What scope for reform is there within this categorical mismatch?”

The full post can be found at: