Monday, July 30, 2012

So near ...

... and yet so far.

That is to say, renditions of heraldry or other insignia that come close to, but fall just short of, being accurate depictions of what they are supposed to represent.

In the particular instance I am thinking of, the front of the Titche-Geottinger Building in downtown Dallas, Texas, has an amazing - and large - display on the facade facing Main Street.  (The building was originally a large, local department store.  It now houses apartments, retail space, and the Universities Center at Dallas.)

As you can see, the design consists of a shield divided per pale with nine things that look to me like oak leaves on the dexter side, and a large "TG" in pale on the sinister side, the field surmounted by a chief with a standing balance and, I believe, a ship under sail over the words "Founded 1902 Dallas", the whole surmounted by the Lone Star of Texas and an oak leaf spray.

The part that I wanted to draw your attention to, however, is the six flags flanking the shield.  These represent, mostly very well, the six flags that have flown over Texas in the course of its history.  We have, at bottom left, France; bottom right, Spain (well, the arms of the combined kingdoms of Castine and Leon); center left, the Confederate States of America's "Stars and Bars"; at center right, Mexico; at top right, the Republic of Texas (which is also the flag of the State of Texas today); and then on the upper left, ... well, no, that's not the flag of the United States of America.  It's a plain "flag" on which is placed the bald eagle from the Great Seal of the United States, holding olive branches in its dexter talon and a sheaf of arrows in its left, on its breast a shield of the arms of the United States.

So, five actual flags, and one "mash-up" that has never been used as a flag in the nation's history.

As I said, so near, and yet so far.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

You'd Think ...

I mean, really, it's our national coat of arms, the arms of the United States of America.  We've been using it for more than 200 years.  And it's not a complex coat of arms, consisting as it does of a striped shield and a plain chief, usually blazoned as Paly of thirteen argent and gules, a chief azure.  With all that, you'd think that we'd be able to get it right.  Unfortunately, you'd be wrong.

This is not to say that there are not a lot of correct renditions of the national arms.  Here's one from the late 1800's that is drawn (and hatched, that is, showing the tinctures using the Petra Sancta system of varying lines to show the different colors: vertical lines for red, horizontal lines for blue) properly.

But too often, I run across renditions with one or more blatant errors in them.  For example, this postcard from 1902 has the field correct, but makes the mistake of conflating the arms with the national flag and place stars on the chief.

Or these two, in which the chief is fine (that is to say, plain blue), but which has the colors of the field reversed, making it red and white rather than white and red.

Then there's this one, that not only reverses the colors of the stripes of the field, but also places stars on the chief.

And finally, there's this one, from a building in downtown Dallas, which has only 10 or 11 stripes on the field (it's hard to be sure because of the shape of the shield), places stars (48, one for each state at the time) on the "chief", and finally, divides the shield per fess, so that it is not a shield with a chief at all.

As I say, it's our national coat of arms.  You'd think, as simple as it is, that we could get it rendered correctly.  But you'd be wrong.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Heraldry in the News!

There’s an interesting little article published July 6, 2012, on the website 65° North: News and Views from Oulo, Finland, about Oulo’s coat of arms and heraldry in Finland generally.

In addition to touching upon the arms of Oulo (above), there are excerpts from interviews with several heraldry enthusiasts and what coats of arms mean and who can bear them.  (The short answer: In Finland, anybody.)

My favorite line was a quote from a Swedish heraldist who said that “What a surname is for the ears, the coat of arms is for the eyes.”  (I make a not terribly dissimilar point in some of my presentations introducing heraldry to genealogists, in that a coat of arms is like a name tag or a graphic ID; it says that “I am so-and-so” and, by extension, that “I belong to such-and-such a family.”)

It’s a nice little article, and something from a little farther north than I usually see.  You can find the article “Finns Still Taking Up Arms” on-line at:

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Three (Heraldic Tee Shirts) in Three Days!

Well, Woot! has done it again; this is the third day in a row that they've offered a tee shirt with an heraldic theme.  If this keeps up, they're going to have one that I'll feel that I simply have to buy!  (And, for the record, I do not work for nor am I in any way related to Woot!, except as an occasional customer.)

Anyway, the tee shirt that they are offering for today is an homage to writer and movie-maker Joss Wheedon.  The four quarters, the goggles atop the shield, and the crossed wooden stake and pistol underneath it relate to some of the cable TV series and movies he's been involved in: Dr. Horrible. Firefly. Titan AE. Alien Resurrection. The Avengers. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Serenity.

Today's tee shirt offering is under the same conditions as the previous tee shirts from them I have mentioned: available until midnight Central Daylight Time on July 22, 2012, for US$12.00 with free shipping.  You can find out more if you are so inclined at:

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Another Heraldic Tee Shirt

Wow!  Heraldic tee shirts two days in a row!

This one is also from Woot!, and is sold under the same conditions: on sale for 24 hours (ending at midnight Central Daylight Time tonight, Saturday, July 12) at a cost of $12 (with free shipping).

Still and all, I'm not at all sure I particularly like this design.  The title is Procrastinators United, and I'm not sure that real procrastinators like myself would ever actually get around to uniting. It also has a motto with "Yay for Tomorrow," which does sound more likely (though even here, "Yay for Next Week" might be even better!).

But it's heraldry, of a sort, and therefore of some interest to me, and I hope to you as well.

As for buying one of these shirts myself, well, I'm sure I'll get around to it pretty soon.

Friday, July 20, 2012

An Heraldic Tee Shirt

I regularly go over and check out the daily deals at  For those of you who don't know about this site (or similar sites like dailysteals and teefury), Woot and its subsidiary sites will put up a really good deal on an item for 24 hours.  Especially good deals don't even last that long, since they sell out before the 24 hour time limit has been reached.  These daily deals may be something really good, or moderately interesting, or even of no interest at all (at least to me!).

Today's deal over at shirt.woot ( has an heraldic theme.  It may also be of interest to those of you who might be fans of the movie The Princess Bride.

As you can see, the quartered shield has items which play significant roles in the movie: the mask of the Dread Pirate Roberts, two crossed rapiers, the glove of the six-fingered man, and the two chalices used in what I think of as the "drink of death duel" with Fizzini.  The shield is supported by two Rodents of Unusual Size (the Latin for which is placed above the shield) with the motto "As You Wish" on the scroll beneath.

I really can't quite convince myself to buy this shirt -- not because I'm not interested in owning it, but because my heraldic tee shirt drawer is currently full, and I'd have to get rid of something to make room for it.  (Get rid of heraldry?  Sacrilege!)  But if you would like to buy one (or two, or even three), it's on sale today only for US$12 (and free shipping!).  Until midnight (Central Daylight Time, or UTC -6:00).

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Heraldry in the News

There is a brief July 5, 2012 article on the Inverurie Herald website about the flag of arms of the National Trust for Scotland that now flies over Fraser Castle, one of the Trust’s properties.  The arms consist of the national flag, Azure a saltire argent, with a castle atop a mount issuant from base, and flanked dexter and sinister (left and right) by two thistles proper.

Property Manager Christina Low said that she “was looking for a new flag to fly at Castle Fraser - something which would remind people that the castle is cared or and conserved by the National Trust for Scotland. A colleague who is keen on heraldry mentioned that the Trust has its own coat of arms, so I managed to track it down with some research.”

Frankly, I’ll bet that it did take some research; I couldn’t find it on the website of the National Trust, or anywhere else.  (Not even Wikipedia, one of my “go to” sources for general information.)  All that the NTS website has is their logo, a (modern and up to date, no doubt) castle tower surmounting a roundel with the saltire of the Scottish flag.  Anyway, it’s nice to know that the Trust has a coat of arms, even if they don’t use it.

The article can be found on-line at:

Monday, July 16, 2012

Herald in the News!

There was a really nice article in the Edinburgh Evening News published on July 4, 2012 relating to the induction of Prince William into the Order of the Thistle at St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland.  The article was especially nice in that it didn’t spend a lot of time on the obvious, but was instead mostly an interview with Elizabeth Roads, Snawdoun Herald and Clerk to the Court of the Lord Lyon King of Arms.  Here’s a 2006 photograph of Mrs. Roads about to introduce some Yank* who’s going to present at paper at the International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences held in St. Andrews, Scotland that year.

In the interview, she gives a little bit of background information of how people are seated at St. Giles Cathedral (Mrs. Roads is the one who gets to send out the invitations and determine the seating arrangements), some background into her own family history (she’s likely descended from one of the brothers of Robert the Bruce, and another of her ancestors was Sir James Balfour, Lord Lyon King of Arms in the 17th Century), and some about granting coats of arms today.

It’s a really nice article, certainly a cut well above the usual sorts of articles about heralds and heraldry where they end up calling coats of arms “crests” and so on.  The article, “Elizabeth Roads knows the path to the Order of the Thistle” can be found on-line at:

* Any resemblance between that Yank and the author of this blog is probably unavoidable.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Heraldry in the News

In an article published June 26, 2012, on the ChesterFirst website (which publishes news stories from The Chester Standard and The Chester Leader) about the restoration work being done on the late-19th century Grosvenor Museum building in Chester.

It seems that while doing some of the other work on the upper exterior of the building, they discovered not only that the balustrade needed to be replaced, but the talbots holding the Grosvenor coat of arms needed to be recarved.  I have to admit, they are impressive!  (I wonder how difficult it would be to do something like this on my house?  It probably would cost more than it was worth, wouldn’t it?  Still, it’s a great dream!)

The story says that the two talbots were on the Grosvenor coat of arms, but as you can see from this blazon from Burke’s General Armory below, talbots are in the crest and are used as supporters, but do not appear on the shield itself.

The museum is named after Hugh Lupus Grosvenor, 1st Duke of Westminster, who donated part of the land and also paid some of the construction costs for the museum, hence his arms, and supporters, on the roof.

The full story can be found on-line at:

Monday, July 9, 2012

Heraldry at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant

There was also a fair bit of personal and non-royal heraldry on display during the Queen’s Thames Jubilee Pageant.  Much of it was hard to catch on camera, or at least capture identifiably, but here are two shots of two different banners/flags (in addition to the white on maroon one which all of the ships flew as the emblem of the Thames Pageant, a front view of a ship with masts and sails arranged to look like a crown), one a banner of arms, and the other a flag containing an entire achievement of arms.

All in all, the Jubilee was a tremendous display of heraldry!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Heraldry at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant

Of course, the arms of the Queen herself were in evidence during the Jubilee.

In this picture, the banner of her arms was raised as she came on board the barge The Spirit of Chartwell which was to carry her down the Thames.

The sides of the barge bore panels with the arms of her many dominions.  Here, although the picture is a bit fuzzy (for which I apologize), Australia (on the left) and Canada.

And, of course, the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom, here on the backs of the chairs for Her Majesty and Prince Philip.

Finally, and I never did see a decent view of it, the banner that was created especially for the Queen’s barge made from hundreds of thousands of gold buttons that I wrote about in an earlier post (

Monday, July 2, 2012

Heralds’ Heraldry at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant

There was a terrific display of the arms and badges of the heralds – of England, Scotland, and Canada – at the Jubilee Pageant on June 3.

In this photograph, for example, we have banners of, from left to right, the badge of Lancaster Herald, the arms of Norroy and Ulster King of Arms, and the arms of Garter Principal King of Arms, all from the College of Arms in London.

In this shot of the boat carrying the heralds preceding the Queen’s barge down the Thames (among whom are two of our Canadian friends Robert Watt (wearing sunglasses), Rideau Herald Emeritus, and Darrel Kennedy, Assiniboine Herald, and one of our Scottish friends, Elizabeth Roads, Snawdoun Herald and Lyon Clerk, standing next to Rob), we have, on the upper level (again, from left to right): the badges of Arundel Herald Extraordinary, Maltravers Herald Extraordinary, York Herald, Portcullis Pursuivant, and as in the picture above, Lancaster Herald, and the arms of Norroy and Ulster King of Arms and Garter Principal King of Arms, all of the College of Arms.

On the lower level (left to right) we have: the badge of Canada's Fraser Herald, and the arms of the Canadian Heraldic Authority (acting as the badge for the Chief Herald).  I can’t see quite enough of the emblems on the other banners to unequivocally identify them from this photo.  (Curse you, BBC!  You couldn't have panned down a little?)

The website for the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant ( has a .pdf booklet entitled "Flags of the Pageant."  So if you are interested, you can find depictions of all of the heralds badges there.

But, wow, what a great display of heraldry!