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.

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