Thursday, June 29, 2017

Another Piece of Heraldry That;s A Little Off The Mark

After running across the Boston Athletic Association's logo/arms/ crest/whatever the I posted last time, there's another coat of arms that's made the news recently.

The "arms" of Jo Cox, the Member of Parliament who was murdered on June 16, 2016, have been erected in the House of Commons in her memory. MPs who are killed while in office are remembered in this way at Parliament.

The arms are the result of a design by Garter Principal King of Arms taking into account the desires of the family, including the children. The arms were granted to her widower with authorization to display them on a monument to her memory.

The design, though, however meaningful, is somewhat unfortunate, heraldically speaking. I do not make the following comments to in any way disparage the memory and sacrifice of Ms. Cox. My remarks are directed only to the design of this shield. (Not that I believe that Garter gives a toss about what some Yank thinks of his design! He has done, and I expect will continue to do, quite well without any advice from me on heraldic design.)

The barry wavy vert and sable is low contrast, and at any distance the two colors tend to look muddled. The chevron argent would look more balanced and more like an integral part of the design if it were wider. (As it stands, it is probably blazoned a chevronel, but a single diminutive of an ordinary seldom looks good on a shield.) Of the four roses (symbolizing her family members), the two red ones do not have good contrast with the field ("color on color"), being only helped by the seeding and barbing which is high contrast. I'm not at all sure why the roses are slipped ("stemmed") in pairs like this. Were they left as just the blossoms, they could be arranged to better balance the shield, and would allow room for the chevron to assume its rightful size.

Lest anyone think that all I am going to do here is carp about everything in the design, I have to say that I really like the motto, More In Common, which was inspired by her maiden speech as an MP, and which has several layers of meaning.

You can find more stories with additional pictures and greater discussion about this shield on-line at:

Monday, June 26, 2017

A Piece of Heraldic Serendipity

It never really ceases to amaze me, that I seem to run across coats of arms and heraldic pieces wherever I go. Even when I'm just visiting a local antique store looking for something else entirely having no relationship at all to heraldry.

The most recent example of this was last Friday, when my wife and I went to an antique shop because they were having a big sale and we're in the market for a nice painting or other piece of art to fill in the big blank area over the television. We've been looking for a little while now. We haven't found what we're looking for yet (though we have seen a couple that we rated as "almost, but not quite"), but we're pretty sure we'll know it when we see it.

But while wandering about the place looking at paintings, etc., I saw this in a display case.

It's a three-handled tankard with the arms/crest/logo of the Boston Athletic Association and the date 1887 on it.

The BAA was established on March 15, 1887, and is one of the oldest athletic clubs in the country. It is probably best-known for its organization and sponsorship of the annual Boston Marathon beginning in 1897.

The BAA's logo is a blue shield with a gold unicorn's head erased atop a torse. Above is the one found on the tankard, and below is the one that the BAA uses on its website today.

As an heraldic purist, that they put a crest on the shield irks me, but I don't think that the modern version is an improvement, having the unicorn's horn project outside the shield and with the "B.A.A." banner (which at most should be placed under the shield like a motto scroll) overlying the shield.

Still, it's a comparatively simple design, and it uses a real unicorn's head and not just a horse's head with a horn attached to its forehead, so I think I'd give them reasonably high marks for the attempt at making it heraldic. The concept isn't bad, but it ends up missing the "this is good heraldry" mark by a fair bit.

Still, it was an interesting piece of heraldic art to run across while looking for something entirely different!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Monumental Heraldry at the Burrell Collection, Glasgow

Next stop on our tours around Glasgow was The Collection at the Burrell, some 9,000 objects of art from a wide variety of times and places, the compilation of collector Sir William Burrell and his wife Constance.

One of the first things you see after entering the building is the very impressive 16th Century Hornby Arch, taken from Hornby Castle in Yorkshire, where it served as the main doorway. The Burrell Collection obtained it in 1930 when the estate was broken up and most of the house demolished.

Hornby Castle was largely rebuilt in the late 15th and early 16th Centuries by William Conyers, first Baron Conyers, The house had earlier belonged to the St. Quintin family, until heiress Margaret Quintin married John Conyers.

In the image above, you can see the name "Conyers" carved into the peak of the doorway arch below the arms.

Though in some ways similar to the arms of the Earls of Huntingdon which we have discussed earlier (, these arms are not those of the Hastings family; note, for example, the different supporters, different quarterings on the shield, and so on. Further, the coronet is that of a baron, not an earl. (I am certain that full-color versions of both the Hastings and Conyers arms would further highlight all of their differences.)

The paternal arms of the Conyers are given in Burke's General Armory as Azure a maunch or, which Baron Conyers of London and Hornby Castle differenced (per the 1568 Visitation of London*) with a crescent or surmounted by another gules in chief. In the carved depiction here (and you may have to click on the image to go to the larger version to see it) the crescent appears on the maunch itself rather than on the field in chief.

* The Visitation of London 1568 published by the Harleian Society notes that "Francis Conyers descended of a younger howse of Conyers of Hornsby in Yorkshire." The Visitation of Yorkshire 1563-64 gives the arms of Conyers of Hornsby as "Saphire a une manche topace, sus la manche une annulet Ruby" (or, in standard blazon, Azure a maunch or, on the maunch an annulet gules (for difference)), which appears to more closely match the Conyers arms depicted here. (The cadency mark on the maunch is hard to make out, but it looks to me more like an annulet than a crescent or a crescent on a crescent.)

I'm not certain that the lion rampant in the alcove above the arms is to be taken for the crest. If you look at the large picture of the Hornby Arch at the top, on the right is a crest, a bull's head. Burke, however, gives the crest of Conyers (of London and Hornby) as A sinister wing gules differenced with a crescent or surmounted by another gules. A different Conyers family (Conyers of Bowlby) used a bull's head with its neck pierced by an arrow as a crest, but not this family, at least that I have found.

Anyway, I'm not entirely certain what the lion here represents.

Additionally, at the top of the Arch on the left side, are two smaller shields, one with three escallops and one with three chaplets or laurel wreaths. I'm not certain who they represent; neither appears to be the arms of the St. Quintins.

You may also notice the paternal arms of a maunch on a small escutcheon at the very top of the work, though I do not see any marks of difference on that shield.

So although some of this display remains a bit of a mystery as far as the identification of all of the quarters, the rampant lion, and the two small shields go, what a grand entrance to a house. We should all be grateful that the Burrell Collection was able to acquire this piece of monumental heraldry when much of the house was demolished, thus preserving it for us to see and share!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Heraldry in the St. Nicholas Garden at Provand's Lordship

Just outside of Provand's Lorship in Glasgow is the St. Nicholas Garden, "created as part of a tourist and environmental initiative by the Glasgow Development Agency, Glasgow City Council, and Strathclyde Regional Council." It's a very pleasant garden, and around part of it beneath an arcade are a number carved stone figures, and among these are a few coats of arms.

Unsurprisingly, given its wide use just about everywhere as an element of architectural design, the Royal Arms of Scotland.

Note the very long horns on the unicorn supporters! And the startled look on the lion's face in the crest. (Perhaps a result of the tips of the unicorn's horns giving him a bit of a jolt? Anyway, wow.)

Also on display are two versions, one older, one newer (1995) of a variant of the arms of the City of Glasgow with the bird in the tree, the bell, and the fish with a ring in its mouth, along with the motto "Let Glasgow flourish".

I always find it interesting to see how different artists will interpret the same shield, don't you?

And finally, there was this double panel with two different Campbell arms with the well-known gyronny.

Presumably the lower shield shows the marriage of a Campbell with a branch of Stewart, with their fess checky.

And thus we end our tour of Provand's Lordship in the St. Nicholas Garden and a little time with some famous Scots heraldry.

Next time, we begin our tour of the Burrell Gallery and some of the heraldry that can be found therein.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Reel Heraldry

The American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) here in the United States has begun running a mini-series that is supposed to be a continuation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, picking up from shortly before the end of that play and giving the viewer an idea of "what happened next" between the Montagues and the Capulets. So, yeah, it's basically a major TV broadcast network giving us some summertime filler in the form of what I call "Shakespearean fan fiction." I am speaking, of course, about Still Star-Crossed.

Why am I writing about this here, on a heraldry blog? Well, because they put some heraldry into it, and I thought I'd do a little research into the arms being shown on screen and share the results of that research with you.

First off, we are shown what I have to assume is the arms of Verona, in the person of the Prince, which have been embroidered onto a large wall hanging behind his throne, and which I would blazon as Gules a cross or.

Unfortunately, these were also the easiest arms to check, as the arms of Verona can be found in any quick internet search and in a number of armorials, including this depiction from an armorial dated to 1550:

So, blue field, not red. But at least they got the cross correct, so that's something, I guess.

Next, we have the coat of arms of the Capulet family, which are shown in Still Star-Crossed like this (please forgive the poor quality of the picture, taken from the screen with an iPhone):

I would blazon these arms as Or a tierce azure ermined or overall a griffin segreant contourny or.

But this shield is nothing like any of the several variants of the arms of the Capelli and Capello families of Verona and elsewhere. (The name went through a couple of variants on its way to Shakespeare; Dante, in his Divine Comedy, gave the name as Cappelletti, a diminutive of Capelli/Capello, and Shakespeare anglicized it to Capulet. Amusingly enough, some websites, like that of House of Names, tries to convince us that Capulet is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a derivative of Caplewood/Capelwood/Capilwode/Capulwode. On another page they say that the name is of French origin, while a third page there gives us some possible Italian origins. Always remember, people: Just because you see it on the internet doesn't mean it is true.) Most of the Capelli/Capello arms are canting, and contain a hat, or in some cases, three hats, on the shield.

Nary a griffin to be found. Nor a tierce. And especially not a tierce in an ermine-type fur that is not found in heraldry of the period. Just sayin'.

Finally, we have the arms of the Montagues in Still Star-Crossed:

I would blazon these as Or on a chevron between two towers and a bear rampant gules three lozenges or, with a crest A tower sable. (I am assuming that the black edge around the shield is simply delineation, and not an extremely anemic bordure.)

I was unable to find any real coats of arms for the family Montecchi (the name as given in Dante's Divine Comedy) or Montague (Shakespeare's anglicization of the Italian name). Nor have I run across any arms answering to this blazon.

So there we have it, folks! Three coats of arms, for the three major players in this mini-series, two (the Capulet and Montague arms) made up out of whole cloth, and third, for Verona, with a red field instead of the correct blue one.

Once again, we have it demonstrated unmistakably to us the difference between real heraldry and "reel" heraldry.

It's a shame, really, because it's so easy to do it right.

Monday, June 12, 2017

A Nice Armorial Box (with Update)

For our last item in the interior of Provand's Lordship, the oldest house in Glasgow (built in 1471), we ran across this relatively simple, but very nice, armorial wooden chest or box.

While really pretty plain-looking, the carving of the square in the front with the coat of arms is very deep and - despite its relative simplicity - very well-carved, with a lot of delineation and visual interest.

The arms appear to be those of Muirhead, Argent on a bend azure three acorns or, or possibly Akers, Argent on a bend sable three acorns or. (If the latter, they are canting arms, a pun on the surname: acorns sounds a lot like Akers.) I did not see any sign near the box which gave any information about it or its provenance.*

But what a great way to use a coat of arms!

* Correspondence from our good friend Margaret Sainte Claire of Glasgow confirms that these are the arms of Muirhead of Lauchope. She forwarded a link ( that led to an illustration (below) of the arms of Andrew Muirhead, Bishop of Glasgow 1455-1473 at the bottom of his seal.

Bishop Muirhead built Provand's Lordship in 1471, so this armorial box is entirely appropriate to the building. How cool is that?

Saturday, June 10, 2017

(Bad) Heraldry in the News!

In an article dated June 5, 2017, Alanna Martinez reports on an "Online Contest Puts Pop Culture Spin on the Ancient Art of the Family Crest."

Graphic designer Aaron Draplin challenged students in his on-line Skillshare logo design course to put a contemporary spin on the "family crest." (I will try to leave out my usual rant about people calling coats of arms "crests".)

Nearly 500 students submitted designs for famous athletes, artists, cartoon and television characters, and famous people both real and fictional.

You can see the top ten "winners" on the website of The Observer at

Normally, I'd copy one or two (or three) images to post here, but I just can't convince myself that any of these shields are more than remotely like heraldry. Please feel free to click on the link above to see for yourselves.

It's a cool idea, but as is often the case when you get people with little knowledge of heraldry designing coats of arms, the results are usually less than, umm, "ideal".

Thursday, June 8, 2017

We (You and I) Reach a Milestone

This blog, and you as reader, and I as a blogger, have reached a milestone. What I am writing, and what you are now reading, is my 1,000th blog post.

I'm not sure I could have known when I wrote and published that first post more than eight years ago, on January 19, 2009 (, that I'd still be writing, or that you'd still be reading, it.

I hope that, over the course of the past eight years and a little over four months, you have found it to be of interest and of use. I hope that at least some of the posts have been informative; I hope. also, that you have made some use of the links I have added (and continue to add to periodically). It was, and is, my desire that this blog could be a resource for people doing heraldic study and research.

Oh, yeah, while I think of it; if you should happen to find any broken links in my links lists, please let me know. I don't usually have the time to do anything more than spot check them occasionally, and we all know how fickle the "intertubes" can be about having websites die out or change their URLs. So if you find a broken link, please let me know so I can keep the resources here up to date, either by changing to the new URL or removing it from my lists here.

Anyway, the odometer is turning over at this blog post. We've done 1,000. Here's to many more!

And now, to keep things focused on the titular topic of this blog, and for your heraldic viewing pleasure, here's a few renditions of my own coat of arms created by various heraldic artists (as well as a couple by myself) over the years.  Enjoy, and I look forward to writing for you in the future!

Monday, June 5, 2017

"I'm the Earl of Huntingdon (and You're Not)!"

Continuing to make our way through Provand's Lordship in Glasgow, and its extensive collection of old furniture and furnishings - some heraldic and some not - I ran across the following carved wooden panel:

Please feel free to click on the image to go to a larger version, so that you can take it all in more effectively than in this comparatively small version here.

Though it has clearly suffered some damage over the years, it remains a most impressive piece of heraldic decoration.

It is, of course, the arms of Hastings, Earls of Huntingdon (or Huntington). The seventh creation of this Earldom, the title was given to George Hastings by Henry VIII in 1529. The title continues, the current Earl, William Edward Robin Hood Hastings-Bass, being the 17th.

The pronomial arms, in the first quarter (the upper left of the shield as you look at it, are Argent a maunch sable. The crest (atop the helm) is A bull's head erased sable armed and gorged with a ducal coronet or.

The supporters on either side of the shield are a fairly unusual monster, Two man-tigers guardant or.  A man-tiger (or sometimes, man-lion) is basically a lion with a bearded man's face.

I've not had the time to look up the identification for each of the quarters here (none of the peerages I have give more than the Hastings arms, and there's only so much time in the day; I can only let the yard grow wild for a short while before having to get back out there and weed whack back Nature in all its fecundity), but if you look closely you can quickly identify the Royal Arms of England (Quarterly France and England) with a label and the well-known arms of the Spencers.

For comparison, here we have the arms from a portrait of Henry Hastings (b. 1536), 3rd Earl of Huntingdon (1560-1595).

As you can see, the 3rd Earl's arms are painted with sixteen quarters, while our carving above only has twelve, and in a slightly different order. Still, it's nice to be able to see the colors without having to look everything up.

All in all, what a great piece of heraldic art, a wonderful display, and, of course, a method of saying to everyone who sees it, "I'm the Earl of Huntingdon (and you're not)!"

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Heraldic Usurpation in the News

I had considered covering the second of these two items at a later date, but then the first item was brought to my attention very recently, and because they both touched on the same general topic, I felt I just had to say something now.

In a post over on LogoDesignLove on May 30, blogger David Airey talks of the "Origins and making of the Porsche crest." (We'll forgive him, this time, the use of "crest" when talking about a "coat of arms," or in this case, a coat of arms used as a corporate logo.)

It turns out that the Porsche logo (above) is simply the arms of the state of Württemberg (with the addition of the word "Porsche" across the top of the shield), with an inescutcheon (the small shield in the center of the large shield) of the city of Stuttgart (with the word "Stuttgart" across its top). Mr. Airey explains the main elements in the following graphic:

In short, the Porsche logo is simply the usurped arms of the German city and state where the cars are made.  You can read the entire post (and find some links to a video that shows how the hood emblem is made as well as a couple of other articles about the Porsche logo, on LogoDesignLove at

So what was the other story about heraldic usurpation that had cropped up? The use of one family's personal coat of arms as a logo by properties owned by the current President of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump. (We have posted about his troubles with Lord Lyon King of Arms in a post back in January 2012. See

It turns out, according to several news reports, that the coat of arms/logo at issue (above) wasn't just something thought up by the people who work for him. It's an actual coat of arms granted (though in different colors) by the College of Arms in London in 1939 to Joseph Edward Davies, the third husband of Marjorie Merriweather Post, the socialite who built the Mar-a-Lago Resort in Florida, which Mr. Trump purchased and is now often serving as the "weekend White House." The arms granted to Mr. Davies are:

That these arms are now used (with the change of the motto Integritas ["Integrity"] to "Trump" and the reduction in the number of tinctures) by The Trump Organization at Mar-a-Lago and the other resorts owned by The Trump Organization has set a number of people's teeth on edge, including the heralds at the College of Arms. And since The Trump Organization has trademarked the logo here in the U.S., there is very little that the family can do about it.

There are a number of articles about this issue on-line; I will simply include the links here so you can to and see for yourself what is being said. (Well, except for the one comment by a correspondent of mine who said that he found it amusing that "Trump was apparently keen to make sure that it was an 'Integras-free zone.'")