Thursday, January 28, 2016

Heraldry of the Decadence, Part 4

Coming to the conclusion of our review of some of the alternate blazon schemes suggested at times by different heraldic authors, we present you with not one, not two, not three, but four different blazon schemes based on the Virtues.


Proposed by William Berry, An Introduction to Heraldry, 1810:

Or               Force
Argent         Hope
Gules           Charity
Azure           Justice
Sable           Prudence
Vert             Strength
Purpure        Temperance


Found in Eugene Zieber, Heraldry in America, 1895, attributes these to “Planché’s Clark”, but I do not find them in my copy of Clark (1882).

Or               Constancy
Argent         Innocence
Gules           Magnanimity
Azure           Loyalty
Sable           Prudence
Vert             Love loyal
Purpure        Temperance


In Pierre Derveaux, Blasons et Armories, 1987

Or               Prestige
Argent         Sagesse
Gules           Ardeur
Azure           Fidélité
Sable           Tristesse

I'm not at all sure why no virtues are given for green and purple in this scheme.


From Ferne, John, The Glory of Generositie (1586), cited in The Oxford Guide to Heraldry, Thomas Woodcock and John Martin Robinson, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1988, p. 54; Nisbet, Alexander, A System of Heraldry, Speculative and Practical, 1722 (repr. 1984), Vol. I

Or               Faith
Argent         Innocency
Gules           Magnanimity
Azure           Loyalty
Sable           Prudence
Vert             Love
Purpure        Temperance

Many of the virtues here match those of the ones proposed in the one Zieber ascribes to Planche's Clark above, but not all, hence its inclusion here separately.

And, again, these schemes can create some very odd-sounding blazons. For example, my own arms would be blazoned by Berry as: Hope two chevronels justice between three apples charity slipped and leaved strength.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Heraldry of the Decadence, Part 3

Continuing with our presentation of some of the various blazoning schemes which have been invented over the years, we continue with the following selection:


Or               Gold
Argent         Silver
Gules           Iron
Azure           Tin
Sable           Lead
Vert             Copper
Purpure        Quicksilver

I would note here that the Canadian Heraldic Authority has added Copper as a third metal in heraldry, along with Or and Argent. It is, however, a bright copper color, and not the tarnished copper green suggested in this blazon scheme.


Or               Light
Argent         Water
Gules           Fire
Azure           Air
Sable           Earth
Vert             Life
Purpure        Thunderbolt

Some of those at least make some sense to me. But I had no idea that "light," "life," and "thunderbolt" were considered to be elements on their own. Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, sure, but not these other three additions. (Which they had to have in order to be able to give an element for each of the seven standard heraldic tinctures.)


Or               Adolescence
Argent         Infancy
Gules           Manhood
Azure           Childhood
Sable           Decrepitude
Vert             Youth
Purpure        Old Age

Presumably from, or at least related to, Shakespeare's "Seven Ages of Man" which he puts in the mouth of Jacques in his play As You Like It:

"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms;
And then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything."

Not necessarily something I'd suggest basing blazon upon, but at least it has the advantage of having seven elements to match the seven standard heraldic tinctures.


Or               Blithe
Argent         Phlegmatic
Gules           Choleric
Azure           Sanguine
Sable           Melancholy
Vert             Bilious
Purpure        Serious

This scheme can give you some very strange-sounding blazons. For example, my wife's assumed arms would be: Phlegmatic semy of sexfoils serious. And France Modern would be: Sanguine three fleurs-de-lys blithe. Nope, don't care much for this blazon scheme.


Or               Heliotrope
Argent         Lily
Gules           Rose
Azure           Blue Bell
Sable           Scabiosa
Vert             The field
Purpure        Iris

At least this scheme has the advantage of (mostly) relating the colors of the flowers to the heraldic tinctures. Scabiosa comes in a dark burgundy color that I suppose can pass for black, but it also comes in a light blue color, which could be confusing for those more familiar with the flowers than with heraldic tinctures.

And, too, if you have a coat of arms with flowers on it, or a badge even, such as the Tudor rose, it could end up sounding really weird: A rose rose charged with another lily (or, On a rose rose a rose lily). And heaven help you if you've got a lily of any color but white.


Or               1, 3
Argent         2, 12
Gules           10
Azure           4, 9
Sable           5, 8
Vert             6, 11
Purpure        7

I'm afraid I don't understand this scheme at all. I mean, I know that late medieval writers ranked the heraldic tinctures in a hierarchy, but none of the hierarchies I can recall put them in this kind of order. So I'm at a bit of a loss to understand this one.

Next up: Virtues!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Another Interesting Digitized Armorial

I ran across another armorial which has been scanned and uploaded on-line the other day. This one struck me particularly because it is actually a little less about the heraldry and a little more about the individuals who bore them.

Each coat of arms comes with a full-length portrait of its bearer, as in the illustration of one page from the armorial here:

It's always interesting to me to see the different ways in which such books of arms are done, and this one is a particularly fine example of this.

If you happen to be interested in German mid-16th Century costuming (I'm not, myself, but still...), it's a great resource for that, as well.

It also contains, as many armorials from this time period do, a number of attributed arms, e.g., Alexander Magnus (Alexander the Great), Azure three bells or.

The armorial is Das Sächsische Stammbuch - Mscr.Dresd.R.3, dated 1546, which has been digitized and uploaded on the website of the SLUB Dresden. The page (translated into English) at which you can view, browse through, and download individual pages or the entire book, is at The link to the page in German is shorter:

I have also saved a link to it in the "Some Good On-Line Armorials and Ordinaries" section down the left-hand side of this blog, so it will always be here for you.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Heraldry of the Decadence, Part 2

Or maybe this could be subtitled, "Ministry of Silly Blazons" or some other such Monty Python-esque title.

Anyway, having done planets and gemstones as alternatives to the usual names of the tinctures in English blazon, we turn to some of the even more esoteric (and never used) blazon schemes.

In an attempt to keep some of these various blazon schemes organized, here are four which are thematically linked: blazon by Signs of the Zodiac; Seasons and Times of Day; Months; and Days.

Yes, these have all actually been promoted by one heraldic author or another as a way, I have to assume, to make heraldry even more esoteric and difficult to understand.

Signs of the Zodiac:

Or               Leo
Argent         Cancer
Gules           Aries and Scorpio
Azure           Taurus and Libra
Sable           Capricorn and Amphora
Vert             Gemini and Virgo
Purpure        Sagittarius and Pisces

(The only advantage I can see to this scheme is that by having more than one sign of the Zodiac to use for the name of a color, you reduce the potential of having to repeat that tincture without resorting to the often-confusing "of the first," "of the second," "of the last," etc.)

Seasons and Times of Day:

Or               Noon
Argent         Morning
Gules           Autumn
Azure           Summer
Sable           Winter and Night
Vert             Spring
Purpure        Evening


Or               July
Argent         June
Gules           March and October
Azure           April and September
Sable           December and January
Vert             May and August
Purpure        November and February

(Here, too, we have the opportunity to not repeat the name of a tincture in a blazon. On the other hand, we have to remember two different names for each such color rather than one.)


Or               Sunday
Argent         Monday
Gules           Tuesday
Azure           Thursday
Sable           Saturday
Vert             Friday
Purpure        Wednesday

(Okay, here I can see Sunday and Saturday as Or and Argent, if only because they match the planets blazon scheme of Sol and Luna (sun and moon). But what makes Thursday blue? Or Friday green? I'm at a loss here.)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Heraldry of the Decadence, Part 1

"The Decadence?" I hear some of you ask?  The entry for "Heraldry" in the Encyclopaedia Brittanica puts it this way:

Like all other human creations, heraldic art has reflected the changes of fashion. As heraldry advanced from its utilitarian usages, its artistic quality declined. In the 18th century, for example, heraldry described new arms in an absurdly obtuse manner and rendered them in an overly intricate style. Much of the heraldic art of the 17th to 19th centuries has earned that period the designation "the Decadence." It was not until the 20th century that heraldic art recovered a feeling for aesthetic beauty. 

What I am in the mood to cover, though, is a little less the heraldry of the Decadence than it is the blazon of the Decadence.

Over the years, from a number of different books about heraldry of varying degrees of antiquity, I have come across a number of different schemes for blazoning the tinctures of coats of arms. And I thought over the next little while, I would share some of these schemes with you.

Most of these blazon schemes were purely theoretical, but today, to start, I thought I would include the two which I have found in actual use by heraldic authors. These two schemes are blazon by jewels or gemstones, and blazon by planets. Jewels were used for blazoning the arms of the English nobility, and the planets (and dragon parts, from the constellation Draco) were used for blazoning the arms of sovereigns. Those schemes were as follows, with the common names of the tinctures on the left (gold/yellow, silver/white, red, blue, black, green, purple, tawny, and murrey, in order):


Or               Topaz
Argent         Pearl
Gules           Ruby
Azure           Sapphire
Sable           Diamond
Vert             Emerald
Purpure        Amethyst
Tenné          Jacinth
Sanguine      Sardonyx

An example of this usage for blazon can be found in Guillim's A Display of Heraldrie (4th ed., 1660). Here is Guillim's blazon for the arms of Adam Loftus, Viscount Loftus of Ely: Diamond, a Chevron engrailed, Ermine, between three Treefoyles slipped, Pearl. (Or as we would blazon it using the standard tincture names, Sable a chevron ermine between three trefoils slipped argent.


Or               Sol
Argent         Luna
Gules           Mars
Azure          Jupiter
Sable           Saturn
Vert             Venus
Purpure        Mercury
Tenné          Dragon's head
Sanguine      Dragon's tail

William Berry in his An Introduction to Heraldry gives slightly differing names for some, and only includes the first five, tinctures, ignoring vert, sable, and the two stains.

Or               Soleil
Argent         Lune
Gules           Mars
Azure          Jupiter
Sable           Saturne

Guillim blazons the Royal Arms of Charles I "our late Soveraign" as:

Jupiter, three Flowers de lis, Sol, for the Regall Arms of France, quartered with the Imperiall Ensigns of England, that is to say, Mars, three Lyons passant gardant in pale Sol. Secondly, Sol, within a double Tressure Counter-flowred, a Lyon Rampand, Mars, for the Royall Arms of Scotland, Thirdly, Jupiter, an Irish Harpe, Sol, Stringed, Luna, for the Ensign of his Majesties Kingdom of Ireland. The fourth and last quarter in all points as the first.

Doesn't all this make you glad that you don't have to learn completely different names for the various colors used in heraldry, depending upon the rank of the armiger? Me, too.

Later on, I'll include some of the other, purely theoretical, blazon schemes, including signs of the Zodiac, months of the year, days of the week, elements, flowers, and four (count 'em, four!) different schemes using the names of various virtues for the tinctures.

Monday, January 11, 2016

An Interesting Old Spanish Armorial Digitized

There are times that I just love living in this day and age!

"Why is that," you ask? Well, because with today's technology, and the willingness of increasing numbers of libraries and archives from all over the world to scan and upload some of their holdings, it means that I can find, look at, research in, and often download armorials and other books about heraldry of whose existence I might not even otherwise know, or ever get to see even if I did know about them.

A case is point is this one: a manuscript copy of Genealogía de varias casas (Genealogy of various houses), which has been digitized and uploaded by the Biblioteca Nacional de España, the National Library of Spain.

It begins with the "Linaje y Armas de Nuestra Señora la Virgen Maria" (the lineage and arms of Our Lady the Virgin Mary) ...

goes on through the lineage and arms of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and eventually, within its 588 folios, the lineage and arms of a lot of Spanish families, such as the typically Spanish shield of the Gallegos family.

It's a wonderful work, into which somebody put an awful lot of work, and now it has been scanned and uploaded by the BNE to be seen, and downloaded (in three separate, large .pdf files) by folks like you and me.

You can find the Genealogía de varia casas (or to use the handwritten title on one of the pages, Genealogías de Varias Casas con sus Armas y Blasones Illuminados) on the website of the National Library of Spain at (I've already added this link to the "Some Good On-Line Armorials" section in the left-hand column of this blog, so you can find it later if you need to without having to track down this specific post.)

That page will show you the three .pdf files, allowing you to click on one and then page through it (or there is a link by each one allowing you to download it), or if you click on "Mostrar miniaturas", you can scroll through thumbnails of every page in the complete volume.


Thursday, January 7, 2016

A New Website with Articles on Heraldry

Heraldry enthusiast, President (for thirteen years) of Norsk Heraldisk Forening, and friend, Hans Cappelen of Oslo, Norway, has created a new website onto which he is uploading his articles about heraldry and flags to share with the rest of the world.

The page is entitled, appropriately, Heraldikk og flagg (Heraldry and flags).

If you have an interest in Scandinavian heraldry and vexillology, or even more specifically Norwegian heraldry and vexillology, please drop by his page and see some of the articles he has uploaded there. Many of them are written in English, or at the very least have an English summary (very helpful for folks like myself whose comprehension of Norwegian is, alas, minimal). And, of course, there are pictures to help.

Heraldry and flags can be found on-line at (I have also added this URL to "Websites of Heraldic Interest" in the left-hand column of this blog.)


Monday, January 4, 2016

A Colonial American Hatchment

Hatchments, a specific type of heraldic display following the death of someone, though they can be found on display in many churches in Europe, are truly not all that common. In the land that is now the United States of America, they are even more rare. However, occasionally you might run across one.

This little gem of an American colonial hatchment was auctioned in 2013 by Northeast Auctions. It didn't reach but half of its estimated auction price, but I couldn't have afforded it even if I'd known about it at the time.

The hatchment is 16" x 14", done in painted and gilt silk. It shows the impaled arms of Hancock and Henchman, and was created for the funeral of Thomas Hancock (1703-1764), a wealthy merchant of Boston, Massachusetts, in August 1764. His wife was Lydia Henchman (1714-1777). Thomas was the uncle to John Hancock (1737-1793), well-known signer of the Declaration of Independence, whose grave marker in the Granary Burying Ground in Boston bears these Hancock arms.

Thomas and Lydia had raised his nephew since the death of young John's father in 1744.

You can learn a little more about this rare bit of American heraldry on the website of the auction house at