An uncle of mine by marriage, who was a very distinguished historian, once asked me, when I was a young man, whether I was interested in Heraldry. I said that I was not. ‘I'm glad of that,” he said, “heraldry strikes me as being for a historian about on the same level of interest as stamp collecting.” – Maurice Keen, in the Preface to Origins of the English Gentleman
I'm an Academic Herald. I'm not a "real" herald; I don't register people's coats of arms (though I can certainly suggest designs for those who might be interested). What I do is study, research, teach, and write about heraldry. And I like to share what I have learned about heraldry, hence this blog. I hope that you'll find it informative, interesting at least occasionally, and worth your time to come back. Got a question? Comments? Feel free to let me know. I'd love to hear from you. You can find my contact information in my Profile.
The British Library has placed on-line a manuscript, dated 1444-1445, "A collection of fifteen romances, chivalric treatises, instructional texts, chronicles and statutes compiled as a gift to Margaret of Anjou, on her betrothal to Henry VI, from the 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, who escorted her to England." Each section has a description at the top of the window that opens when you hover your cursor over it that describes the portion of the work you are seeing.
It's got some wonderful artwork in it, as you can see from this example below.
I haven't had the time to go completely through it yet (that will take some time!), but it is well worth the look if you are at all interested in either 15th Century manuscripts, or 15th Century heraldry, or both.
... something is placed on an escutcheon, a shield shape, that does not necessarily mean that it is, or is trying to be, heraldry. Case in point ....
This particular design was being discussed a week ago over on the SCA Heralds newsgroup. It is the logo of Ashford University of Clinton, Iowa (http://www.ashford.edu/). Some folks went so far as to try and blazon it; the most successful attempt was Purpure, a "bend" argent, overall a bend sinister counterchanged tenne and Or and a base counterchanged azure and purpure.
But is the ability to create a blazon for a design like this mean that it is, is trying to be, or should be considered to be, heraldry? I don't think so. Steve Mesnick, posting on June 13, 2013, said as well as, if a bit more emphatically than, I would:
"It happens to be vaguely escutcheon-shaped, because I imagine it's INSPIRED by traditional educational-institution heraldry. I WILL grant you that. But it's NOT their coat of arms, and it's not TRYING to be. The fact that WE want it to be their coat of arms is OUR problem, not theirs."
So, yes, it's on a shield shape. But it isn't, and doesn't seem to be trying to be, a coat of arms. As a corporate logo, it's eye-catching, distinctive, and unique. All good qualities for a modern logo. And it may, indeed, be trying with the shield shape to tie itself into a long tradition of educational heraldry. But ...
Just because it's on a shield shape doesn't mean that it is heraldry.
Marc Sinniger on his French-language blog Héraldie: Le blog des Héraldiens de l'école Lacordaire has published a short post about this blog, Heraldry: Musings on an esoteric topic. He says some very nice things about it, mentioning in particular both my regular postings that "you can find heraldry anywhere!" as well as the lists of links to other sites of heraldic interest. (The list of links includes his own blog under the "Other Blogs of Heraldic Interest" heading.)
Please don't forget to check out the lists of links that you can find down the left-hand side of this blog. (No, this is not a shameless plug; with the exception of the links to Appleton Studios and my wife Jo's blog, I have no relationship with, and make no money from, any of the links I've placed here. They are just links to websites and other blogs that I think may be of interest.)
I have tried to make this blog a resource for folks who are interested in heraldry, and will add new sites as I find them. That said, I've only got so much time that I can spend cruising the web for such sites. If you know of a website or blog that would be of interest to the readers here, please feel free to bring it to my attention.
Conversely, if you find that any of the links I've placed here are broken, or the website moved, etc., please let me know about that, too! I'd like to keep all of these links current, but don't always have the time to review the ones already here as often as I would like.
So, anyway, please feel free to check out the links I've listed here. The categories (and, yeah, I know you have to scroll down the page pretty far to get to some of them; I'm still working on ways I can make that easier) are:
Some Articles I've Written
Other Blogs of Heraldic Interest
Websites of Heraldic Interest
Heraldic Artists' Websites
Some Good On-Line Armorials and Ordinaries
Military Heraldry Websites
Some Good On-Line Heraldry Books
On-Line Heraldic Clipart
Anyway, thank you for dropping by! I hope that you find at least some of these links to be of interest.
But first, I'm going to shamelessly copy from C.W. Scott-Giles' Motley Heraldry:
These arms the Nelsons bore in days of old:
A black cross flory on a shield of gold,
And over all a bendlet gules, to show
Due difference from Samson and Lamplow.
When one Horatio Nelson rose to fame,
With ‘Sir’ and ‘K.B.’ bracketing his name,
The Kings of Arms his scutcheon did resplend
With three exploding bombs upon the bend.
Later, they gave Lord Nelson of the Nile
An augmentation in a lavish style –
A ship disabled and a fort destroyed
(Which probably the Baron much enjoyed.)
When Viscount Nelson of the Nile at last
Beyond the reach of earthly honours passed,
His brother (made an Earl), the heralds gave
The golden word TRAFALGAR on a wave.
The shield is a fine biographic gloss,
But where, alas! is Nelson’s ancient cross?
And why is that bit of doggerel (albeit amusing) of any relevance at all? Because for someone with the interest, and a fair bit of spare cash, it is possible right now to purchase a piece of silver in the form of a covered entree dish made for and with the armorial insignia of Lord Nelson of the Nile.
The dish is described as "a magnificent silver entree dish and cover, rectangular with gadroon edges, the domed cover engraved with a presentation inscription from Lloyds Coffee House on one side and Nelson's coat of arms on the other; with removable finial designed as the Chelengk crest of Admiral Lord Nelson. The dish cover additionally engraved inside with the crests of Admiral Lord Nelson." The dish and cover are numbered No. 2 (of the original set of four).
The inscription reads: "Lloyd's 1800. Presented by the Committee, for managing a Subscription made for the Wounded and Relatives of the Killed at the Battle of the Nile, To Vice Admiral Lord Nelson and Duke of Bronti [sic], K.B., &c, &c, &c, who was there wounded, As a testimony of the sense they entertain of his Brilliant Services on the first of August, 1798, when a British Fleet under his Command obtained a most decisive victory over a Superior French Force. J. J. Angerstein, Chairman"
The handle of the cover is, as noted above, one of the crests of Admiral Lord Nelson, to wit: Issuant from a naval crown, a representation of the Chelengk (a fine large jewel designed as an aigrette of diamonds and a traditional award for bravery, rarely given to foreigners, which was given to Nelson by the Turkish sultan).
The Canadian Heraldic Authority turned 25 years old this month. And Canada Post/Postes Canada is celebrating that milestone by issuing a stamp which features the arms and crest of the Authority, and which can be purchased with a special commemorative envelope with the full achievement of arms (with the raven-bear supporters) of the CHA.
It's nice to see a celebration of Canadian heraldic art in this way.
Well, it's not exactly breaking news; in fact, it goes all the way back to April 2011, nearly two years ago. But a program that I use to search out news items and blog posts, etc. for things heraldic just found an old news story about the new coat of arms of the Middleton family, granted them by the College of Arms shortly before daughter Kate's marriage to William Windsor.
The article, entitled "Kate Middleton’s Coat of Arms: What Do Those Acorns Actually Mean?", asks a question we often see in heraldry, but which many times cannot be answered nearly so well as it is here. That is because in this instance, Thomas Woodcock, who helped design the arms, could tell us what the various elements mean. "Three acorns represent the three Middleton children (Kate, Pippa and James), and invoke the oak tree—a symbol of west Berkshire, where the family has lived for 30 years. The division down the middle of the crest is a play on the Middle-ton family name, while the gold chevron refers to Carole’s maiden name Goldsmith."
This sort of explanation is not often the case. Many times, unless either the bearer or the designer (as in the case of the Middleton arms) left us notes explaining the meanings of the colors and charges on the shield, or unless the arms are a cant, or pun, on the name (e.g., the hand and chief with three roosters, or cocks, in the arms of Hancock, below), it is difficult to guess, much less know, why those colors or charges appear on the arms.
Yes, I know that there are websites and books that purport to tell you the meanings of the colors and charges, but in truth there are no generally accepted meanings for these things. Indeed, different compilations of such meanings often disagree with each other, to the point of having one charge mean completely contradictory things! And as Lowe in his Curiosities of Heraldry notes: “It does not seem to have occured to these allegorizing worthies that the tincture of a charge may be diametrically opposed to the signification assigned to the charge itself. For example, the coat ‘Vert, a bull's head or’ by the armilogical rules cited above, would signify, as to the tinctures, pleasure and joy, while as to the charge it would mean rage and fury. Again, ‘Purpure, a wolf argent’ would mean ‘a wrangler with a peacable disposition!!’”
A good discussion of the significance of the meanings of charges in heraldry can be found in the Most Frequently Asked Questions of the rec.heraldry newsgroup, available on line on Francois Velde's Heraldica at http://www.heraldica.org/faqs/mfaq
"Incensed, (fr. animé): said of panthers and other wild beasts borne with fire issuing from their mouths and eyes." (Parker, A Glossary of Terms Used in Heraldry)
"animé: [Fr.] animated; excited; spoiling for a fight; hence, of a beast depicted with eyes gules, not, as often er[roneously] stated, one breathing fire and exuding flames from the ears which is blazoned 'incensed' (q.v.)" Franklyn and Tanner, An Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Heraldry) (Of course, under "incensed" they merely say, "see animé.")
So I guess the logo of the Baltimore Blast (a soccer, as we say in the States, or fútbol south of the Rio Grande River, team based in Maryland) could be blazoned as: a soccer ball incensed. (The image above is taken from a flyer announcing a game between the Baltimore Blast and and the local Dallas Sidekicks.)
I suppose an argument could be made for it to be blazoned as a type of fireball, but most fireballs I've seen have only four flames, issuant from a roundel to chief, base, and each flank (or the four cardinal directions, if you prefer). No, I think I prefer a soccer ball incensed.