Monday, June 30, 2014

Wearable Heraldry

I've seen a number of things that people do with heraldry, some of which are probably just a little bit out of the "mainstream."  I mean, it's one thing to get a baseball cap or a tshirt with a coat of arms on it.  (Goodness knows, I've got quite a decent little collection of both, the majority being heraldry of places I've visited.)  But then there are those who want to take it one step further, and make it permanently wearable.  For example ....

Which is all fine and good; I'm always glad to see people using heraldry, even if in some fashion that may not be something that I would do personally.

And then I recently ran across on-line the picture below, of a young man who must really, really like his heraldry.

Unfortunately, I've been unable to track down this coat of arms in any of the usual places (Burke, Papworth, Rietstap).  I'm left with a lingering suspicion that he may have gotten the image from some bucket shop herald somewhere, which would be a shame.  Because if you are going to do something like that to your back, it would be nice if it were a coat of arms which you were actually entitled to bear (or in this case, "bare").

Still, you have to admire his moxie for getting it done like that!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Could It Be? Well, Maybe Not.

Last week I noted an article about some researchers who wanted to open a tomb in Naples, Italy because they believed it held the remains of Vlad III Tepes, known as Dracula.

Here is the tomb in Santa Maria Nova church in Naples, with a painting bust of what is known to be Vlad the Impaler.

It turns out that maybe those researchers are most likely incorrect in that identification.

In perusing several articles on the internet about these claims, there are a number of folks debunking this "find."  And the heraldry on the tomb is one of things that is being used to demonstrate that the monument is not that of the Wallachian voivode, or prince.

For one thing, as one article notes, "while the dragon was indeed the main element in the badge of the Order of the Dragon to which Vlad III's father belonged, none of the Order dragon depictions resemble that on the Italian bas-relief."

Indeed not, as the insignia of the Order of the Dragon here demonstrates.

Further, while there is a woman named Maria Balsa, there is nothing which links her to Vlad, whose recorded offspring are only sons.  And Maria Balsa's father-in-law, Matteo Ferrillo, whose arms are depicted in A.C. Fox-Davies' The Art of Heraldry, or what I tend to think of as the "Big Fox-Davies" (for obvious reasons; it's a quarto sized volume).  The arms appear on Plate CXXX (I've scanned the image there and inserted it below for you), with a description on page 452 (in the edition I have) as follows:

Fig. 3.  Arms of Matteo Ferrillo (Conte de Muro), from his monument in the Monastery of S.M. la Nuova in Naples (end of fifteenth century): Argent, a chevron, and in chief three mullets gules.  Crest: a dragon's head and neck, with wings addorsed.

(I have to admit, it was nice to have an excuse to open up the Big Fox-Davies again; it's so awkward to hold and skim through that I don't often pull it off the shelf to peer into it.  That's a shame, because it's a really nice work on heraldry.)

There is other evidence that cast doubt on the identification of Matteo Ferrillo's tomb as that of Vlad III Tepes, but not being heraldry-related, I'm not going to include them here.  If you'd like to read more about all of the evidence presented against this being the tomb of Dracula, feel free to check out the following articles on-line:

Monday, June 23, 2014

Final Design for Richard III's Tomb Unveiled

Yes, it includes heraldry.

The final design for the tomb of Richard III was shown to the public last week.  The biggest change that I can see to the design is that instead of the stark monument (a large rectangular stone with a deeply-incised cross in it) will now sit atop a slab of black Kilkenny marble inscribed with the king's name, dates, motto, and the Royal arms as used in Richard's time (Quarterly France modern and England), instead of being placed over a large depiction of the white rose of York.

Richard's bones, rediscovered in 2012 under a car park in the city of Leicester, will be reinterred inside a lead ossuary placed inside a wooden coffin sealed in a tomb made of Swaledale fossil stone in Leicester Cathedral.  The wooden coffin will be made by Michael Ibsen, a descendant to Richard's sister, Anne of York.  (How cool is that!)

There had been some, um, "discussion," and a lawsuit, to have Richard interred in his adopted home town of York.  But the court said Leicester had a valid exhumation license and could reinter his remains near where he was originally buried following his death at the Battle of Bosworth.

The current plans are to rebury Richard III in the spring of 2015.

You can read more of the story on-line at the website of NBC News at, or at that of the Leicester Mercury at, or, of course, that of the BBC at

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Could It Be?

In a news article whose link was forwarded to me, we have the following somewhat exciting, somewhat scary, sentence: "Estonian researchers think that they've discovered the final resting place of the world's most famous vampire... and they're asking permission to crack open the tomb."

Of course, Vlad III Tepes, Vlad the Impaler, may have been pretty bloodthirsty, but there's no non-fictional evidence that he was a vampire, as in the book Dracula by Bram Stoker published in 1897.

In 1476, during one of his many wars, Vlad suddenly disappeared, and wasn't heard from again.

But now, a group of researchers believe that rather than dying in battle, Vlad was captured and later ransomed to his daughter, who had married a Neoplitan nobleman, and that he lived the rest of his life in Naples, Italy where he was finally buried in the Piazza Santa Maria la Nova Church.  A curious carved monument is found there which experts say belongs to Dracula.

The arms on the monument here do not match the arms I have seen elsewhere for Vlad III Tepes, but I don't know the provenance of those arms, either, so for all I know, none of them are his arms.

Naturally, the researchers are appealing to the authorities for permission to open the grave to prove their hunch.  Of course, if they do, and if Stoker's tale is based on more than we know, they could end up releasing Dracula from his slumber to reinstate his bloody reign of terror on an unsuspecting world.

You can read the full story, with more pictures of the tomb (and a great painting of Vlad pointing with a mace and standing atop a hill of skulls.  The face at least is based on an actual portrait of him that I've seen elsewhere) can be found on the website of Roadtrippers Daily at

Monday, June 16, 2014

Canada's Royal Arms

As with the post from last Monday noting a website that gave the various versions of the arms of the City of Paris over the years, here's a webpage that gives the history - through several different iterations, some of them pretty complex - of the changes to the coat of arms, not of a city this time, but of an entire nation.

The webpage "The Royal Arms of Canada - a Short History ( gives the history of the arms of Canada from its inception as a Dominion in 1867 through the arms as they exist at present.

And here is a rendition of the arms as they are used currently (the red and gold band circling the shield bears the motto of the Order of Canada, Desiderantes Meliorem Patriam, "They desire a better country").  Note how the mantling around the helm is in the form of red and white maple leaves.  (If you're going to use a motif, like Canada does with maple leaves, then you really can't have too many.  Or as someone once said, "Nothing succeeds like excess.")


Thursday, June 12, 2014

So ... "Boxers or Briefs?"

I ran across a recent discussion about the coat of arms of Jan van Abbenbroek in The Netherlands, which appear in an old armorial, the Wapenboeck of Cornelis van Aecken.  (You can see the entire armorial on-line at

It was causing a bit of commentary because, well, it is a bit unusual, and not the sort of charge that one normally expects to find when looking through old heraldry books (you know, lions and eagles and horses and such).

There is another rendition of these arms from the Kaffee Hag albums pictured over on Ralf Hartemink's Heraldry of the World website.

To see it and two other versions of this same coat of arms, just click on this link:

Still, the arms do make sense when you understand that they are actually canting arms; that is, the charge is a pun on the name: Abbenbroek is "abbot's breeches or pants."  (Broek can also mean "wet fields" in medieval Dutch.)  So the only charge on the shield here is a pair of abbot's pants.

So, to go back to the title of this post, does this answer the question posed to basketball star Michael Jordan in some underwear TV advertisements of a few years ago, "boxers or briefs?"

Monday, June 9, 2014

Paris, Dahling!

I always find it interesting to see how a coat of arms may be modified over the years (or centuries) as certain artistic conventions fall out of favor or come into being.  Heraldic art has its fashions, just as clothing does, and it's often a useful education to follow the changes to a coat that way.

What brought this to mind was stumbling across a web page that does just that for the arms of the City of Light, Paris, France, from 1210 through 1942.

If you, too, are at all interested in how Paris' heraldry has changed over the centuries, you will be well served by going to the page Histoire du blason de Paris found at


Thursday, June 5, 2014

"Your Family Coat of Arms"

Last April, Barry Canote over on his blog Missouri and Things posted a discussion about heraldry and coats of arms, and in particular, about something I have railed about myself a number of times on this blog: bucket shop heraldry, those folks who try to sell you "your family coat of arms," or even worse, "your family crest."

You can find Barry's post on-line at

It's a nice concise post, well thought out, and expressive of his own experiences with heraldry in his family.  I recommend it to you as worth reading.

For my own part, it's nice to know that I'm not all by myself in being "a voice crying in the wilderness" about bucket shop heralds.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Oh, Dear!

A friend recently shared a bit of heraldry he had run across, partly because he knew I would be interested in it, and partly because, as he said when I told him "now I'll have to go find something else to look at to try to erase it from my mind this morning,"  that "misery loves company."

You may, perhaps share some of my feelings about this particular piece of armory.  As I told Tim, "Well, it's almost official heraldry.  Knowing that does not improve it."

It is, of course, with a few differences, the arms of the Commonwealth of Canada from 1907 to 1924, consisting of the arms of the nine provinces all placed together on a single shield.  (Quarterly of nine, although because each of the nine shields also has a chief, or something that could be mistaken for a chief, it looks a lot more complex.)

The arms in the center of the shield (fess point, if you will), are not quite the arms of British Columbia at that time.  The College of Arms in London had said in 1905 that the Union Flag should be on the chief, while the barry wavy argent and azure should be on the body of the shield; they are reversed here, as they had been earlier before the College stepped in and told them to fix it.  Additionally, the Canada Dry arms rearrange the positions of Prince Edward Island, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.

There's a very nice web page at that gives a history of the coat of arms of Canada as they appear on flags from 1868 to the present, with illustrations of each iteration.

Nothing on that page, however, explains why Canada Dry has placed a vicount's coronet atop the shield.  As was said a number of times in the movie Shakespeare In Love, "It's a mystery."