An uncle of mine by marriage, who was a very distinguished historian, once asked me, when I was a young man, whether I was interested in Heraldry. I said that I was not. ‘I'm glad of that,” he said, “heraldry strikes me as being for a historian about on the same level of interest as stamp collecting.” – Maurice Keen, in the Preface to Origins of the English Gentleman
I'm an Academic Herald. I'm not a "real" herald; I don't register people's coats of arms (though I can certainly suggest designs for those who might be interested). What I do is study, research, teach, and write about heraldry. And I like to share what I have learned about heraldry, hence this blog. I hope that you'll find it informative, interesting at least occasionally, and worth your time to come back. Got a question? Comments? Feel free to let me know. I'd love to hear from you. You can find my contact information in my Profile.
Another one of the bedrooms at Mount Stuart had a large bed surmounted by this amazing display of marital heraldry.
The most notable part of this display is, of course, the marital achievement of arms hanging at the head of the bed.
They are the marshalled arms of John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute (bearing Quarterly: 1 and 4, Or a fess checky azure and argent within a double tressure flory counter-flory gules (Stuart); 2 and 3, Argent a lion rampant azure (Crichton), impaled by the arms of his wife, Gwendolen Mary Anne FitzAlan-Howard, eldest daughter of Edward George Fitzalan-Howard, 1st Lord Howard of Glossop (the second son of the 13th Duke of Norfolk), Quarterly: 1 and 4, Gules a bend between six crosses crosslet fitchy argent, as an augmentation on the bend an escutcheon or charged with a demi-lion rampant pierced through the mouth by an arrow all within a double tressure flory counter-flory gules (Howard); 2 and 3, Gules a lion rampant or (Fitzalan).
The external ornaments of the shield (crests, supporters, coronet, collar of the Order of the Thistle) are all those from the husband's family. Three of the crests we have noted a number of times elsewhere in Mount Stuart as those of Stuart (the red demi-lion), Crichton (the wyvern breathing flames), and Herbert (the green wyvern holding a red hand in its mouth).
An additional heraldic decoration around the canopy over the bed was this:
The arms are, from left to right, those of: Crichton; Stuart; the marshaled arms of Stuart and Howard; Howard; and FitzAlan.
The narrow band above the shields is a repeating heraldic motif, Or a bar gemel flory counter-flory gules (modified from the double tressure of the shield), and A fess checky azure and argent (the checky fess of Stuart).
That's a lot of heraldic display for a bed! I'm not sure how comfortable I'd be sleeping in a bed like that. Although, I supposed that it's something that I could get used to. I'll have to talk to my wife to see how willing she would be to embroider an achievement of my arms to go up over the head of our bed. I'm sure she'd be fine with it, right?
A verdict has finally been reached in a court case in Belgium where master woodcarver Patrick Damiaens had sued store chain Zara Home for breach of copyright, when the chain began selling candles with a design which he said had been stolen from him.
Zara Home claimed that the similarity was a coincidence (though they did pull the candles from sale).
Take a look and see if you think that the similarity was "a coincidence" or not. The Zara Home candle is on the left; Mr. Damiaens' carving is on the right.
Yeah, the court didn't buy that argument, either, and ordered Zara Home to pay damages and legal costs, and to publish the decision in Heraldisch Tijdshrift, a Dutch magazine focused on heraldic art.
And no, I don't mean anything like, for example, the Royal Arms which appear in the courtrooms of Great Britain or Canada.
No, this was a court case in Poland, where the frontman for the rock band Behemoth, Adam "Nergal" Darski, and Maciej G., the band's webmaster, along with Rafal Wechterowicz, the graphic artist, had been charged by the District Prosecutor's Office in Gdansk for "insulting" the national coat of arms of Poland on the band's "Republic of the Unfaithful" tour artwork and merchandise.
Here is an image of Poland's national coat of arms:
And here's an image of the "Republic of the Unfaithful" artwork on a tee shirt:
As you can see, it's pretty clearly evocative of the national arms, enough so that an heraldic expert consulted by the prosecutor's office said that the tour's artwork featured "a distorted image of Poland's national emblem," and that it "included elements and symbols considered Satanist and anti-Christian, with the aim of conveying content far removed from the historical and state ideology."
Polish law protects Polish symbols against public profanation and insult, and any public use may be considered a criminal offense, the conviction of which could result in up to a year in jail. Someone clearly thought that this artwork was both profane and insulting.
But an April 16, 2018 story notes that the charges against all three defendants have now been dismissed before the case went to trial, and Nergal has said on Instagram that the design "will soon be back in stock" in the band's webstore.
Just to prove to you that not every display of heraldry at Mount Stuart has to be over the top and "in your face," on the exterior of the house on one of the upper floors, we ran across a couple of lightly heraldic, utilitarian articles.
Both were based on the checky fess of the Stuart coat of arms.
The first was a support bracket for a rain downspout, about as utilitarian a thing as I can think of. And yet, what a nice way to incorporate a major element from the family's coat of arms.
The other workaday item bearing the checky fess was a couple of sill plates outside of a window.
Ordinary, everyday items all, but demonstrating other ways that heraldry can be used to "spruce up" even the most mundane of objects.
Another room at Mount Stuart was decorated for a child, but it, too, had plenty of heraldry.
On one wall was this massive edifice, the ultimate "toy castle" to play with.
At the peak of the each of the towers are shields bearing the coats of arms of, left and right, respectively, Stuart and Crichton.
In the center, on a stall plate, are the arms of Crichton-Stuart, with the coronet of a marquess, and helm, mantling, Stuart crest and motto.
The stall plate may be that of John Crichton-Stuart, 4th Marquess of Bute, b. 1881, who succeeded his father, John, in 1900. My 1938 copy of Burke's Peerage doesn't give me a date when he was created a Knight of the Thistle, but 1922 (the date on the stall plate) is cited in Stall Plates of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle as the year of his induction, and shows his stall plate in Stall 16 in the Thistle Chapel in Edinburgh. That book also notes that: "There is a contemporary copy of this stall plate now displayed in the Horoscope Bedroom in Mount Stuart, Isle of Bute."
The bedroom also has an astrological theme, with paintings around the upper walls containing naturalistic depictions of the 12 astrological signs. (You can see Cancer and Leo in the next two photographs.)
Above the bed in the room is a beautifully carved lion sejant wearing a nightcap on his head!
The room is also decorated with some other fanciful carvings (not heraldic, alas! But quaintly amusing nonetheless) of a bear and a fox or wolf playing musical instruments.
Just the thing to help a young lad get to sleep at night.
The ceiling in the room which had as its central feature the astrological chart and Stuart coat of arms shown in my last post continued the heraldic family tree theme over the rest of the room. In a series of scalloped insets into the ceiling we find a number of marital alliances heraldically denoted, sometimes by marshalling the arms, sometimes by dimidiation, over a number of generations.
You will, no doubt, recognize some of the wives's coats of arms from earlier posts here (e.g., Windsor, Crichton). Others are from families whose heraldry is among the most recognizable and well-known in the heraldic world (e.g., four different coats bearing the Campbell gyronny field; or the Howard arms with the famous augmentation granted following the Battle of Flodden).
Note also the carved "ropes" running from the top and bottom of each shield to connect the generations, and the initials of the husband and wife in the four corners of each panel.
Just another way of impressing visitors of the importance of the family. And a great way of showing off a lot of heraldry!
Reader Ralf Hartemink (who runs the website Heraldry of the World at http://www.ngw.nl/; if you have any interest in civic heraldry and have never seen his site before, I cannot recommend it to you highly enough. I use it all the time when researching civic coats of arms) has come forward with a possible identification for the arms: the Polish family Prawdzic of the herb Szlachecki, here (image from pl.wikipedia.org):
Historically, the arms had the golden lion on an argent (silver) background, as exemplified in this redrawing from the Gelre armorial:
I'd like to thank Ralf for letting me know about this Polish coat of arms, and think that we may have made the anonymous donor of this window a little less anonymous.
In another of the rooms at Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute, there was this very nice (and heraldic!) ceiling, the central portion of which was this:
I am assuming that this is actually someone's birth star chart, showing the locations of many of the stars, the sun, the moon (and its phase), and the planets on his natal day.
And as you can see in this close-up of the central arms, the whole thing is done in exquisite detail.
These are, of course, the arms of Stuart (Or a fess checky azure and argent within a double tressure flory counter-flory gules) surmounted by the coronet of a marquess, the whole surrounded by an extremely well-done oak wreath.
Just the sort of thing you need to say to everyone who sees it, "Yes, this is me on my natal day." and also to add, whether you say it in Mel Brooks's voice from his movie History of the World, Part I or not, "It's good to be the Marquess."
But the ceiling of the chapel at Mount Stuart (reviewed in my last post) isn't the only heraldic display there. Around the edge of the the gallery at the base of the "dome" of the chapel were a number of shields and supporters.
The red color tinting the white marble interior was from the sun shortly before sunset shining in through the stained glass windows on the western side of the chapel.
The coats of arms were left in their semi-finished state after the death of the 3rd Marquess on October 9, 1900, owing mostly the expense of continuing the work. (You've been able to see over the last several posts the quantity and quality of some of the work that was put into the house, but that quantity and quality came with a heavy price tag, and it couldn't be kept up forever.)
The arms are the quartered arms of Crichton-Stuart, Quarterly: 1 and 2, Or a fess checky argent and azure within a double-tressure flory counterflory gules (Stuart); 2 and 3, Argent a lion rampant azure (Crichton), with the horse and stag supporters.
Just imagine what they all would have looked like together with all of the tinctures of the arms painted in!