Monday, May 31, 2021

Heraldry, or a Quasi-Heraldic Corporate Logo?

Today's pictures are brought to you by the question: "Is it heraldry, or is it just a logo?"

It turns out, the dividing line between the two can be a little fuzzy. For example:

This is the flagship store of the Th. Wessel & Vett, Magasin Du Nord chain of department stores, located on Kongens Nytorv in Copenhagen. I have included this wide view photo to help give you an idea of scale.

The company is a subsidiary of the British department store retailer Debenhams, and traces its roots back to 1868 when Theodor Wessel and Emil Vett opened a draper's shop in Aarhus.

In front of the large dome on the left, we see this:

(As always, please feel free to click on an image to see a larger, more detailed photograph.)

The main charge on the cartouche surrounded by the rococco frame is, as you can see, a beehive beset with bees in front of a caduceus and a trident in saltire, the place where they cross surmounted by the winged helmet of Mercury. And we have  two (non-supporting) supporters, a woman resting her hand on a caduceus and another with a drop spindle and distaff spinning yarn,

The beehive beset with bees is seen elsewhere in Copenhagen:

Here, though, the beehive is not displayed on a cartouche (thus making it more akin to an heraldic badge), and lacks the caduceus, trident, and winged helmet of Mercury, as well as the two supporters. It also, as you can see, can be lit up at night in yellow neon.

So we come back to the question we asked first above: "Is it heraldry, or is it just a logo?"

I think that we can answer this in two different ways:

The first is a simple declarative: "Yes."

The second is to answer with another question: "Why not both?"

It may not be a coat of arms, but given its appearance both on a shield and without a shield, it certainly seems to fill the function of what we loosely describe as "heraldry".

Thursday, May 27, 2021

How to (Armorially) Decorate a "Small City Home"

Continuing our "walkabout" in Copenhagen, we came across this little city home marked with a coat of arms.

The arms at the top, seen in better detail below, identify the (original) owner as Friedrich Ludwig von Dehn, Baron von Dehn.

Here again, noticing the collar of the Order of the Elephant surrounding the shield, I was able to find these arms and their attribution in the books of the Order, found on-line at De Kongelige Ridderordeners Våbenbøger (

Here is the specific entry from the book for Baron von Dehn:

Here we find not only personal information about Baron von Dehn, and the dates of his induction into the Order and his death date, but we now know the blazon of his arms: Or a [three-legged] cauldron sable and in chief three mullets reversed [or, inverted] argent.

Searching on-line for his name plus "house" took me to a Wikipedia entry on the Dehn Mansion discussing both the history and architecture of the building (

More searching for Friedrich Ludwig von Dehn found the following more specific information (at, such as that was a Danish diplomat, governor of the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein appointed by the Danish king, and holder of the Dannebrogden since 1739, the court order l'Union parfaite since 1751 and the Order of the Elephant since 1752. He was raised in 1750 to a Danish baron, and died in 1771.

On both wiki sites, for the mansion and for the man, there is a black and white portrait.

And there you have it! A lot of great historical information about this home and its owner, and also something to serve as inspiration for sprucing up the façade of your own "small city cottage" or large Rococo mansion. Put your coat of arms up there in stone not only to increase the resale value of your home, but also so that 350 years from now people will know that you once owned it!

Monday, May 24, 2021

Congratulations to You!

Here's a hearty "Congratulations!" to those of my eagle-eyed readers who may have noticed another, different coat of arms on the building housing the embassy of the French Republic in my last post.

You are indeed correct! There is a coat of arms over the tympanum on the façade of that building which is not the arms of the Republic.

Can you see the shield here? (Feel free to click on the image above to go to a larger, more detailed photograph.)

No? How about this one?

Looking a little closer, we see this:

If you search carefully (and again, click on the image above to see a larger version), you will find that the shield is surrounded by the collar of the Order of the Elephant.

A quick review of the Arms Books of the Order (which can be accessed on-line at, we discover that these are the arms of Otto Thott (in the Latin of the Arms Books, Ottonem de Thott), Quarterly gules and or.

Looking for him on-line, we find that Otto Thott (1703–1785) was a Danish Count, minister of state, and land owner. During his lifetime, he acquired Gavnø Castle and one of the largest private collections of book and manuscripts in Denmark. (Books and manuscripts. Ah, a man after my own heart!) His library contained some 138,000 volumes at his death. (Okay, he’s got me beat by a long ways!)

The building here is the Thott Mansion, which takes its current name after the Thott family who owned it from 1750 to 1930. It now (obviously) houses the French embassy.

And there you have it! A second, more prominent coat of arms on a building which also bears the arms and flag of the French Republic, situated in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Congratulations to those of you who spotted it in the previous post!

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Foreign Arms and Flags in Copenhagen

Of course, Copenhagen being the the capitol of Denmark, we should not be surprised to find the flags and/or arms of other nations appearing there, as capitol cities will generally host the embassies and consulates of foreign countries there.

So, during our walkabouts in Copenhagen, we found the following (in alphabetical order), without really trying to look very hard:

The flag of Finland:

The flag and arms of the French Republic:

The flag of Georgia (the country, not the U.S. State of Georgia!): Argent a cross between four crosses patty gules.

The flag and arms of the Italian Republic:

On a ship in the harbor, the ensign of the Republic of Poland. This ensign is based on the naval ensign, but instead of the fly being swallowtailed, this is a standard flag shape. Per fess argent and gules in chief the arms of Poland in chief (Gules an eagle displayed argent beaked and crowned or). (The national flag of Poland is simply Per fess argent and gules.)

The flag of the Republic of Slovenia:

And, finally, the arms of Sweden

Quite the international tour, for simply walking about the streets of Copenhagen, Denmark!

Monday, May 17, 2021

The Dannebrog

The Dannebrog, the flag of Denmark, a white cross on a red field, has a great story behind its origin. Or, more accurately, it has three great stories behind its origin which share elements: its appearance falling from the sky at a battle in the first half of the 13th century, with these stories first appearing in written form in the 15th and 16th centuries. (If you'd like more details about the where and when of these origin stories, please feel free to check them out in the Wikipedia article on the Danish flag at

Given all that, it was not at all surprising to find several iterations of the Dannebrog in our excursions around Copenhagen.

On the back of a tourist bus (here on the left, immediately above the French tricolor):

At a souvenir shop (in, really, two different versions: flag, and round shield):

And as modified as the Royal Standard of Denmark, personalized for each King, current (top) and historical (bottom):

The Dannebrog is an instantly identifiable and unifying symbol of Denmark, and it was fascinating to see some of the ways in which it is being used, both historical and modern.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Some of the Many Iterations of the Arms of Copenhagen

It wasn't just the greater and lesser arms of the Denmark that can be seen in Copenhagen; the city itself has an ancient coat of arms. These arms are based on seals used by the city as early as 1254, though the present arms were not granted until 1661.

The early seals show a city wall with three towers above a base of water. This later devolved into just the three towers unconnected by a city wall, atop a base of water (often shown heraldically as barry wavy argent and azure), with a decrescent (or sometimes, increscent) moon and star (or stars) above the towers. You can see some of the early seals and various arrangements of the charges in the arms over the years on Heraldry of the World at

The city is justly proud of its coat of arms, and depictions of it can be seen in various media all over. Here are some of the versions that we saw while walking the streets or riding the tourist buses. (We often spend the better part of a day riding the hop on-hop off tourist buses, as they let us get an overview of the city, and explain a lot of what we are seeing along the way. These buses are a great way of familiarizing ourselves and assist in deciding what we want to see and visit while we are there.)

This first one is probably one of the most detailed versions we saw:

This one, on the corner of a building, I thought was pretty cool!

Here we have the city's arms on a bus stop:

And on the central train station, with a gold background near the peak of the roof:

Here's a closer view of those arms:

Marking a city vehicle:

On another building:

Again, here's the close-up:

A simpler version on the building containing the Electric Corner Café:

Again, a close-up:

Inside the central train station in stained glass, center top:

And center bottom:

Finally, as in so many European cities, we find the arms on streetside trash receptacles:

And a final close-up:

And there you have it! The arms of the city of Copenhagen carved, gilded, painted, applied, and done in stained glass. (Not to mention the tee shirt I bought while there with the city's arms on it.)


Monday, May 10, 2021

Boy, Did I Blow _That_ Question!

So there I was, already somewhat intimidated by the names of several of the people attending my on-line presentation to the Oxford University Heraldry Society last Thursday (May 6, 2021). (The topic was "Heraldry, History, and Mayflower Connections".) And it is a bit intimidating, when you've prepared a lecture to a group of people you expect mostly to be of university student age, and then find out that a number of the people attending are long-standing members of the Heraldry Society (and I mean, even longer-standing than me!), or another who is a herald at the Court of the Lord Lyon King of Arms in Scotland and who has probably forgotten more heraldry than I will ever know! So that was the audience to whom I had to present.

Nonetheless, I put on my "game face" and carried forward.

And it seemed to be going pretty well. Though I do still have an unfortunate habit of my speech speeding up as I go along, especially if I can't see the faces of the people I am talking to (you know, like in a Zoom meeting when I am sharing my screen), and I need to work on that some more!

But everyone seemed to enjoy it, and there were a number of good questions at the end. And then someone asked a question that was from a direction I hadn't expected, and it threw me off more than a bit.

The question? "What do you do with your coat of arms?"

Now, I will admit that I should have been better prepared to answer a question like this. But I wasn't. So my poor reply was that I mostly used my arms on my personal business cards, like this one:

But that was the sole extent of my answer, which is a shame, because in fact I have done, and do, a lot more with my arms that merely that.

I mean, for one thing, I have a library painting of my arms created by a friend of mine on the wall of my office:

I have made a table banner of my arms for the (admittedly fairly rare as of late) times I attend a formal dinner:

I recently had a blank notebook made with my arms printed on the cover (thus helping to make sure it gets returned to me if I accidentally leave it laying around somewhere):

And over the years, I have created a number of bookplates (usually by modifying heraldic clipart which I have bought to show my arms and crest) to go into some of my (and especially my older) heraldry books (some of which already have bookplates in them from one or more previous owners):

I could have said any and all of those things in response to the question "What do you do with your coat of arms?"

But I didn't. To use an American baseball expression, "I whiffed it." I only mentioned the business cards, when I could have added all these other things that I do and have done with my arms.

Heck, I even had the armorial notebook sitting right next to the desk I was speaking from. It was right there where I could have seen it if I'd just turned my head!

So I've been kicking myself for the past several days, and felt I needed to reach out to say, "I'm sorry! These are the things that I do with my arms, even though I live in a country with comparatively fewer opportunities to display such a thing. I am proud to be able to use my arms in these ways, and I look forward to making yet more ways to use them."

Still not brave enough to get them tattooed onto myself yet, though.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

The Lesser Coat of Arms of Denmark

Having looked at some of the iterations of the greater coat of arms of Denmark in our last post, this time we look at some of the depictions of the lesser coat of arms (once described by the author of Scandinavia and the World as "Three horny blue lions". See

The lesser arms can be blazoned a couple of different ways, partly because the "hearts" (originally, water lily pads) have varied in number over the years. So a blazon of Or semy of hearts gules three lions passant in pale azure crowned or would be appropriate. More recently, however, the number of hearts has been specified at "nine" (thus contravening the old joke about how high heralds can count: "One, two, three, four, five, six, semy (many)"), making the modern blazon Or three lions passant in pale azure crowned or between nine hearts gules.

Whichever way you may prefer to blazon these arms, here are some of the examples seen in the streets of Copenhagen. (Again, you can click on an image to go to a larger, more detailed photograph where the images may be more clearly seen.)

In the next four pictures, a couple of cannons on a monument, with close-ups of the lesser coat of arms on them.

Again, taken as a whole, a great display of national heraldry!