Thursday, January 29, 2015

The (400 Year Old) Colors of Heraldry

A reader kindly pointed me to the recent (January 13, 2015) post by Heather Wolfe on the webpage of the Folger Shakespeare Library which discusses a section of a manuscript book on heraldry in the Folger’s collections (Folger MS V.a.447), compiled around 1604-1615, and written by John Guillim shortly after he was made Portsmouth Pursuivant of Arms.  Guillim is probably better known for his book A Display of Heraldrie, which went through seven editions from 1610 to 1724.  (I myself have a nicely rebound copy of the fourth edition from 1660.  Some of the pages in that edition were misnumbered because of the Restoration of the monarchy that year resulting in the inclusion of the Royal Arms of Charles II.  But I digress…)

The manuscript owned by the Folger includes such things as the order of precedence at the king’s entertainment through the city of London, March 15, 1603/4 and at its opening of Parliament, March 19, 1603/4; styles of address and the diet, at the feast of St. George, April 23, 1604; the order of the processions at the funerals of different ranks of noblemen; the duties of a king of arms; a list of those taking part at the jousts held on the anniversary of James’ accession, March 24, 1603/4; the laws governing jousts; a list of plate at Hampton Court, December 26, 1603; recipes for colors and gums needed by a heraldic painter and a list of colors used; and a page of quotations.

What caught Ms. Wolfe’s eye, and led to this post, is a subsection near the end titled, “The names of all Coloures pertaining to Lymminge,” a list of colors used for painting with watercolor-type paint.

Guillim’s list of colors is on the left side of this page (a transcription is given below).  On the right is a list of the primary gums that were ground with some of the colors.  The colors he lists are:

Blewes: Vltra marine, Blewe byce, Smalte, Litmose, Inde blewe, English Inde, florye

Greenes: Severe greene, Greene byce, Verditer, Verdigrece, Sape greene, flowrdeluce greene

Yellowes: Masticot, Orpiment, Generall, Saffron, Berry yellow, Oker de Rowse, or Spanish ocker

Reddes: Vermilion, Redleade, Synaper lake, Roset, Synaper Toppes

Sangwines: Sanguis Draconis, Turnsole

Brownes: Spanish browne, Bole Armoriak, Oker burnte

Whites: Ceruse white, White leade, Spanish white, Chalke

[Blacks]: Lampblacke, Smythes Cole, Cherry stone, Blacke Chalke

(You've got to love some of those color names, too, don't you?  I think my personal favorite is "Sanguis Draconis.") 

The picture below of "the ix Feyldes or Colours," the seven heraldic tinctures (and two stains), is from another Folger Library manuscript (Folger MS V.b.74, leaf 201r), an Armorial of English families from about 1590, possibly by Sir William Segar, as it has his signature on fly-leaf as Somerset herald and again on leaf 137v as Norroy King of Arms.

The tinctures run from top to bottom and left to right on the page, and are labeled as: 1 Or, 2 Argent, 3 Gules, 4 Azure, 5 Sable, 6 Vert, 7 Purpure, 8 Tenne, and 9 Sanguine.

I found Ms. Wolfe’s post to be of interest (totally aside from the fact that it demonstrates that her job is a lot more interesting than mine!) because it helps to show how heralds and herald painters looked at, and created, their colors some 400 years ago.  They are a far cry from the more standardized Pantone colors used by today’s heralds and herald painters, but I think it is, or at least should be, of interest to the modern heraldry enthusiast.

You can find the entire article, with more pictures from the manuscript (including one with the recipe for “flowrdeluce greene” at the Folger Library website at


Monday, January 26, 2015

It's Happened Again!

So there we were, out shopping to pick up a piece for the newly-renovated bathroom, and walking back to our car from the store (IKEA, if you must know, and it was a very long drive from my house), and right there, as big as life, on the side of a van, was a coat of arms.

Well, kind of a coat of arms.

Okay, it's not really a coat of arms in the classic sense; it's the logo of FCBarcelona, a Spanish football, or fútbol, club.  Or as their website notes, they are "més que un club" (more than a club).

Still, it's on a shield shape, and parts of it are definitely heraldic in the classic sense.

So there you have it, a serendipitous piece of heraldry, right out there where I couldn't help but see it.  And photograph it, so I could share it with all of you.

Once again, "you can find heraldry everywhere!"  Even in the (huge) parking lot of an IKEA store.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

More Heraldic Memorials at Westminster Abbey Cloisters

Having gotten distracted in recent posts by "objects heraldic," we now return to last fall's trip to England and some of the heraldry seen there.

Though photography is not allowed inside Westminster Abbey itself, photographs may be taken in the cloisters, and there were plenty of heraldic memorials to photograph (and to share with you!) there.

From the website for Westminster Abbey, we find the following information about this memorial to Edward Godfrey, his two wives, and Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey.  This information and more can be found on-line at:
On the wall of the east cloister of Westminster Abbey is a memorial to brothers Edward and Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey. The shaped marble monument has a sculpted shield, crest and motto at the top, with two sculpted shields of arms on either side, identified with the names "Margaret Lambard - Thomas Lambard" and "Sarah Iles". The inscriptions are in Latin and can be translated:

"Sacred to the pious memory of Edward Godfrey, who was the 13th son but 15th child of his father, Thomas Godfrey of Hodiford, in Selling, Kent and, of his mother, the 11th son but 13th child, whom first, of her 16 children, his mother took to her breast, and who, though not weaned for upward of 3 years, yet grew to be a boy of the highest promise and ability, with a happy disposition: the first and finest of the fifth class of this school. He died the 8th day of June, year of Salvation 1640, aged 12. The most noble and reverend father in Christ, John [Williams], Lord Bishop of Lincoln, being Dean [of Westminster], Richard Busby being Head Master. Below are listed the dead, while + indicates those elected as King's Scholars"
On a separate panel below, the inscription can be translated from the Latin as:

"Edmund Berry Godfrey, raised, for his services to King and Country, to the rank of Knight, having filled the office of Justice with a singular faithfulness and diligence, was snatched at last from the sight of his kinsfolk on 12th Oct. 1678, and found on the fifth day following, having suffered an abominable and hideous death. The rest let History tell. This monument, ravaged by age, was restored, and the epitaph to his brother Edmund added, by Benjamin, youngest son and now the sole survivor of the sons of Thomas Godfrey, 2nd April 1696".
In 1678 Edmund Godfrey became involved in the Popish Plot scandal. His body was found on Primrose Hill near Hampstead on 17 October with a sword wound and it was popularly said that he was murdered by Catholics. He was buried at St Martin in the Fields, Westminster. Three men were executed for the murder but later many other theories of the cause of his death were put forward.
But, of course, is was the heraldry on this monument that really attracted my eye.

From an old book, The History and Antiquities of the Abbey Church of St. Peter, by Edward W. Brayley, published in 1823, come the following blazons of the arms on the memorial (I have modernized the spelling in the blazons, e.g., fitchy instead of fitchée):
Godfrey - Quarterly: 1 and 4, Sable a chevron between three pelican’s heads erased vulning themselves or, a crescent for difference (Godfrey); 2, Azure a fess or between three crosses crosslet fitchy argent; 3, _____ a fess between six escallops _____.  Crest: A pelican’s head erased vulning itself or.  Motto: Post spina palma (After the thorns, the palm).  (To be honest, I do not see the crescent, but the colors are much faded from this time and difficult to make out, too.) Papworth's Ordinary of British Armorials gives several possibilities for the third quarter, including Strogg/Strogge, Strogle, Stroughill/Strugell, Ilam/Ilamy, Fitz-William, and de Sancerlis.  I assume that some genealogical research into the ancestry of Edward Godfrey would let us find which, and thus allow us to know the correct tinctures for that quarter.

Margaret Lambard – Godfrey impaling Gules a chevron vair between three lambs passant argent.  Motto: Christus pelicanus et agnus (Christ both Pelican and Lamb).
Sarah Iles – Godfrey impaling Argent a fess engrailed in chief three fleurs-de-lys sable.  Motto: Rara est ut lilia negra (She is rare as black lilies).

Monday, January 19, 2015

"Facsimile of an Ancient Heraldic Manuscript"

I clearly don't have enough free time to go out and scour the internet the way that I'd like to.  (Having a full-time job really interferes with my pursuing my hobbies!  I really need to win the lottery, or have a rich uncle die and leave me everything, or get some kind of large monetary windfall, so that I wouldn't have to work and could stay home and look at and look for heraldry all day, every day, like I'd like to do.)  Nonetheless, there are a lot of other folks out there looking around for stuff, and sometimes when they run across something good, they'll post it where I can see it (in the time that I do have for web surfing), and then I can share it with you, and we can all bask in the glory of finding, and downloading, another really cool heraldic resource.

In this specific instance, a link was posted on Facebook to a digital copy of a book entitled Facsimile of an Ancient Heraldic Manuscript Emblazoned by Sir David Lyndsay of the Mount Lyon King of Arms 1542, published in 1822, engraved by W.H. Lizars.

And you know, just from seeing the title page, that it's going to be a really great book for heraldry.

It is, in fact, a copy of the roll of arms known today as the Lindsay of the Mount Roll. It contains 400 Scottish coats of arms, and is a seminal document in the history of Scottish heraldry.

Here's one of the pages from the facsimile, showing Stewart Earl of Moray, Montgomery Earl of Eglinton, Cunningham Earl of Glencairn, and Kennedy Earl of Cassilis.

So if you have an interest in Scottish heraldry, or 16th Century heraldic manuscripts, or just like looking a drawings of coats of arms, feel free to drop on over to the website of the Internet Text Archive at and check it out for yourself.

And give thanks to the many fine folks on the internet who run across such things and share their findings with the rest of us.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Light, But Accurate, Article on Acquiring a Coat of Arms

With the annual publication of the New Year's Honours list in Great Britain, The Mirror took it upon itself to let its readers know that even though they might have not made that list (the overall odds of being so honored by the Queen in any given year being only 1 in 64,000), they estimate that one out of every three adult Britons is eligible to acquire a coat of arms.

And the article briefly goes through who is eligible, lists some of the things you might have on your coat of arms (e.g., a kangaroo, "hedgehogs, computer components, personal mottos"), and does mention the "one hitch" to getting a coat of arms: "you have to pay £5,250 for a new coat of arms."  They also note that "you should really leave the specifics to the herald. And less is more when it comes to cramming references in, recommends the College of Arms: 'Simplicity and boldness make for the best heraldic design and it is a mistake to seek the inclusion of too many references.'"

It's a nice article, lighthearted in tone but accurate in its information.  You can find it on-line on the website of The Mirror at

Monday, January 12, 2015

160 Years of Heraldic Meanings

I didn't run across this November 21, 2014 article (The Ottawa Citizen's "Ottawa's coat of arms - a mix of local symbolism and ancient tradition") until very recently, but found it to be of interest for a several reasons.

First, it gave a nice overview of the origin and changes to the arms of the City of Ottawa in Canada over the 160 years since its founding.

Second, it's not often that you can find detailed explanations for all of the charges on a coat of arms, and this article does that.  (For a greater discussion of the difficulty of determining the meaning of charges in heraldry, see the Most Frequently Asked Questions page at Francois Velde's Heraldica website,

Third, it has a picture of a large metal sculpture which is an interpretation of the City's achievement of arms that doesn't slavishly follow the original artist's depiction of the arms, as so many people seem to think needs to happen.

The City turns 160 this year, and it's current coat of arms turns 60.  So 2015 is a banner year for both the city and its coat of arms, and this article and accompanying narrated video is a nice adjunct to that.  If you'd like to learn more about the City's history and its coats of arms, this article can be found on-line at

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Another Heraldic Acquisition from Washington, DC

The other heraldic object I found at Ronald Reagan International Airport in Washington, DC had not one, but two, coats of arms on it.  And was considerably easier to get home than the glass coffee mug without worrying about breaking it!

The obvious heraldry is, of course, the full color version of the Seal of the President of the United States.  (Fortunately, I don't think that I could ever be mistaken for the actual holder of that office, so I should be safe from prosecution for impersonating him.)

The heraldry there is, of course, the full achievement of arms of the United States, with the shield (Paly of thirteen argent and gules a chief azure) on the breast of a bald eagle displayed, grasping in its dexter talon an olive branch and in its sinister a sheaf of 13 arrows, holding a motto scroll in its beak, and with the crest of a glory breaking through clouds over its head.

Not quite as obvious, though lightly visible in the picture above, is another, simpler depiction of the achievement on the brim of the cap, done in black on black.

There are also the words "Washington DC" curving around the brim to the right (heraldic sinister).  (Just in case you forgot where you bought it, I guess!)

Anyway, I thought it would make a nice addition to my growing collection of heraldic caps, and it fit easily into my carry-on luggage, so it's home with me now, and worn as the mood strikes.

Monday, January 5, 2015

An Heraldic Acquisition from Washington, DC

We recently spent a little time in Washington, DC.  We were actually there for a presentation I was giving to the Virginia Beach Genealogy Society, but it was unbelievably less expensive to fly into DC and then drive the three hours to Virginia Beach than it was to fly into Norfolk (the nearest major airport to Virginia Beach), and we thought we could use and afternoon in DC to visit a couple of places (well, okay, three: there was a painting I've long wanted to see in the National Gallery of Art; the World War II memorial; and as an added bonus, the monument to the Grand Army of the Republic was right across the street from the Metro station from which we would be exiting for the other two.)

There was, of course, a bit of heraldry (mostly the national arms) to be seen as we made our way between these three places.  But it was when we got back to the airport awaiting our flight back to Texas that I found some heraldry that I could not only see, but buy and bring home with me.

The item I'm sharing in this post is a deep blue coffee mug with the emblem of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, made famous by the long-running and well-known CBS television series "NCIS."

The emblem of the NCIS is based on the arms of the United States, with the addition of the emblem of the U.S. Navy on the field and the words "US NCIS" amid 13 small stars on the blue chief; here's a full-color version of it.

Even if I didn't watch NCIS on TV (which I do), I don't think I could have resisted buying this mug because, well, it's heraldry (of a sort), don't you know?

Next time, I'll share the other heraldic item I found at Ronald Reagan International Airport in DC.  It has two coats of arms on it!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A New Take on Some Old Arms

It's the beginning of a new year, and I thought it appropriate to share with you an updated take on some old arms that we ran across in the windows of Temple Church in greater London.

The church had suffered a lot during WWII, what with most of the the windows being blown out and an incendiary bomb having caused the roof to collapse and all that.  So, naturally enough, the many windows needed replacement.

One set of windows in particular caught my eye, containing as they do modern takes on some coats of arms with a relationship to the church: the Royal Arms of Great Britain and the arms of the Middle Temple and the Inner Temple.

Here's an overview of the windows:

As you can see, on the left is a modern somewhat artistic take on the arms of the Inner Temple, Azure a Pegasus segreant argent, and on the right the arms of the Middle Temple, Gules a Paschal lamb argent.

But it was the unusual depiction of the Royal Arms in the central window that really drew my attention.

(The dates 1608 and 2008, with the Royal Crown, refer to the fact that in 1608 King James I by letters patent granted the Honourable Societies of the Inner Temple and the Middle Temple the freehold of the Temple lands. The 400th anniversary of this royal charter was celebrated in 2008 with a multi-disciplinary festival.  The 1608 charter imposed a number of conditions on the Inner and Middle Temples for them to retain the freehold in perpetuity: some of these conditions included the accommodation and legal training of students, the maintenance of the Temple Church as a place of worship, and the provision of lodging for its Master.)

The heraldic symbols, and the lines alluding to a heater shield shape, refer to the Royal Arms of Great Britain as used by James I (James VI of Scotland), shown in a more conventional depiction here:

You can see in the window the individual quarterings that make up the Stuart Royal arms: the three lions passant guardant of England; the rampant lion of Scotland; the gold harp on blue of Ireland; and the three golden fleurs-de-lis of France.  And, of course, in both the window and in the image immediately above, James's motto of Beati pacifici (blessed are the peacemakers).

None of the windows here contains a coat of arms in the traditional sense.  Yet it is easy to see that each one is based on, and alludes to, a coat of arms, in what might be considered a new way of looking at heraldry.

Something that I thought I would share with new at the beginning of this new year.

May your new year be filled with happiness.  And heraldry!