Monday, January 31, 2022

No Surprise Here!

No, really! It isn't a surprise to find a model ship in a maritime museum.

Continuing our tour of the National Maritime Museum at Helsingør, Denmark, we came across the following ship model.

Explanatory texts with the model tell us that it is the Disco, a frigate built in 1778, one of the largest trading vessels of its time, voyaging to the East for tea, silk, and porcelain, at a time when such a round trip took about a year and half and was not without its dangers.

The Disco was operated by the Danish Asiatic Company (Dansk Asiatisk Kompagni), a Danish trading company established in 1730 to revive Danish trade with the Danish East Indies and China following the closure of the Danish East India Company the year before. The Company was granted a 40-year monopoly on Danish trade on Asia in 1732, and was taken over by the Danish government in 1772.

And why is all that of any interest to us? Well, it helps us to better understand the flag flying from the sternpost of the Disco.

Here's a close-up of the flag. This image has been reversed to make reading it easier.

Here we see a swallow-tailed version of the national flag, the Dannebrog, and in the expanded white square the initials of the Danish Asiatic Company surmounted by a crown, and in pride of place, between two lions rampant guardant atop a grassy compartment and supporting a royal crown, the cipher of King Christian VII (who reigned 1766-1808), and whose armorial sarcophagus we have already seen in Roskilde Cathedral.

So finding this flag is almost like running across an old friend again, but this time on a painted flag on a model of a ship in a National Maritime Museum.

And how interesting all that is! Finding a quasi-heraldic flag of a king whose tomb we have visited, on a model of ship that led us to learning more about both the ship and the Danish Asiatic Company and its place in history.

Okay, if you, too, have now learned something new (and you should try to learn something new every day), then your duty is fulfilled and you can go take a nap now. I know I'm going to do so!

Thursday, January 27, 2022

The Arms of Denmark in the M/S Maritime Museum in Helsingør

The port of Helsingør is also home to the Danish National Maritime Museum, a place well worth the visit when you go there, even if you are not as big a fan of all things ships as I am. (What can I say? I'm a historian, so I love it all!) And as a bonus, they have a very nice café there where you can refresh yourself before, during, or following a tour of their many exhibits.

Anyway, in amongst the many items that they have on display there, some of the coolest, to me at least, are a few old wooden ship's figureheads.

But, of course, this blog is about heraldry, so we're going to limit ourselves to the one that sported a coat of arms, one which you will probably recognize from its appearance a number of time in recent posts here.

Isn't she great? (Alas, I neglected to look for the name of the ship this figurehead came from. Sorry about that!)

Naturally, what drew me especially to this particular figurehead was the shield by her side.

These are, of course, the lesser arms of Denmark, though the lions here appear to be running, in heraldry, courant, rather than walking, or passant. Still, no one would mistake these arms, with the three blue lions amongst the nine red hearts, for any other entity.

What a neat find to run across!

Monday, January 24, 2022

Ship "Heraldry" at Helsingør

Imagine that! Seeing some maritime, well, not "heraldry" exactly, but a heraldic-adjacent house flag on a ship in the port of Helsingør.

Here at the bow of the merchant ship Silve you can see flying from the foremast both the Danish national flag, the Dannebrog, as well as the house flag of the shipping company.

Fortunately for me, and thus for you, the website Flags of the World ( has a section where you can look up the flags of merchant shipping companies by country, and - taking a wild, guess that this company was based in Denmark - I was able to find this flag.

It is the house flag of Echoship ApS, and it is a nice, simple, and fairly heraldic design.

There was also some additional information about the company itself:

Echoship ApS is a Danish shipping company established at Svendborg, on the island of Funen in southwestern Denmark. Their homepage - in English - showing the house flag as a drawing and as a table flag is at Founded in 1990, the firm is active in complete management of coasters (in Europe), currently 26 in number, and freight brokerage (globally). Sawn timber, it is stated, is the most important bulk transported; then there are grains, fertilizers, steel products, etc.

The house flag is white with a thin blue border; in the center is a blue logo made up of four horizontal rows of stacked timber above three stylized waves. (If you click on the image immediately above, you will go to a larger, more detailed photograph where you can see the details much better. By looking at an enlarged image, I was able to understand the significance of the upper part of the design, which really does look like stacked timbers.)

The flag of Echoship ApS is very close to that of Nielsen Chartering A/S [white flag bordered blue; in bottom two engrailed stripes; a lot of rectangles, all blue] also of the town of Svendborg. Echoship is the continuation of Nielsen Chartering.

And wasn't that all very neat to see while walking along the wharfside, and to learn about later?

Thursday, January 20, 2022


It's always interesting to me to see the various logos of different football (what we Americans call "soccer"*) teams.

Some of them can be quite heraldic; others, less so. And a few, I think, are heraldic only by happenstance.

A homegrown example of the last is the logo of the Baltimore (Maryland) Blast:

I've been playing with heraldry for far too long, apparently, because when I see this logo, I want to blazon it as a soccer ball incensed. (Per Parker's A Glossary of Terms Used in Heraldry, "Incensed, (fr. animé: said of panthers and other wild beasts borne with fire issuing from their mouths and eyes.") But really, doesn't incensed seem to describe it?

Anyway, as we continued our walk from the train station in Helsingør, Denmark, towards Kronberg Castle, we passed this delivery van whose owner is clearly a supporter of the local football team:

Here's a close-up of the team's logo:

This logo for FC Helsingør is one that I would classify as quasi-heraldic, as it mimics some of the traits of an heraldic achievement: a (here, pentagon-shaped) shield, topped by a crown, charged with a football between in chief two mullets. On the downside:  the field would be blazoned Argent six pallets bleu celeste, an extremely unusual and low-contrast combination; the crown is also bleu celeste, a non-standard heraldic tincture; and the name of the team extends beyond the boundaries of the (non-standard shape) shield.

So, it's got some heraldic elements to it, but they are combined with some non-standard or non-heraldic elements, making it not-quite-heraldry.

Still, I always enjoy finding football club logos when I travel, heraldic or not, and I watch for them even while I am keeping my eyes out looking for heraldry!

* Some people have, I think rightly, noted that American "football" is misnamed, for the reasons below:

Monday, January 17, 2022

On Our Way to Visit "Hamlet's Castle"

And now, off to our final stop(s) of our trip to Denmark. This day we took the train from Copenhagen up to Helsingør, which you may recognize as the Elsinore of Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Now, Helsingør is not the castle; that would be Kronborg Castle. No, Helsingør is the port and town, and we visited more than just the castle while we were there. But more on that in later posts.

For now, I'd just like to share one of the waterfront displays with which we were greeted on our way from the train to the castle.

You'll probably want to click on the image above to go to a full-size photograph, so that you can get all of the details of the ten (count 'em! ten!) pennants flying in the brisk sea breeze there.

They are, of course, not strictly heraldry, but they are pennant forms of national flags.

Take a look at the larger photo; can you identify all of the countries? (I'll put my identifications of these pennants further below, but try your hand first before seeing if your identifications match mine.)

As you can tell, it was both gray and windy that day, for most of the day. Indeed, my wife avowed as how she could see why Prince Hamlet seemed so depressed throughout the play, if that day's conditions were indicative of the weather generally in Helsingør.

Anyway, that said, here are my identifications for these national flag pennants, all from countries in and around the Baltic Sea, North Sea, and far North Atlantic Ocean.

From left to right, they are:

 1. Denmark
 2. Sweden
 3. Norway
 4. Iceland
 5. Finland
 6. Greenland
 7. Faroe Islands
 8. Germany
 9. The Netherlands
10. Poland

Thursday, January 13, 2022

How Old Is "Old"?

Reviewing my last several photographs from Roskilde Cathedral in Denmark, I got to looking at one memorial board, and it reminded me of an article a number of years ago about a Town Crier in a city in England (it was most likely either Nottingham or York, but I do not recall which city for sure) who, in addition to advertising some of the many tourist shops and their wares available, made some remark about the many "American visitors, who come here to share in our history because they have so little of their own."

And in some ways that statement is correct, as the history of British North America only goes back to 1585 with the founding of the short-lived Roanoke colony in what is now North Carolina, but doesn't really begin until 1607 (the founding of Jamestown in what is now Virginia) and 1620 and 1635 (the founding of Plymouth and Boston, respectively, in what is now Massachusetts).

Compare that relatively short history with that of England, where I've been able to visit: St. Martin's Church, Canterbury, founded as a church about the year 580 (and still used for church services today!), and where you can still see some of the original Roman wall; or the Tower of London, originally built by William the Conqueror in 1066 shortly after his victory at the Battle of Hastings.

And thinking about all that reminds me of the old saw about "What is the difference between Europeans and Americans? Europeans think that 100 kilometers is a long way, and Americans think that 100 years is a long time." The truth of this was impressed upon me when we were on the tour following the 2016 International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences held in Glasgow, Scotland, when we were on the bus for quite a while and eventually found ourselves near the outskirts of Edinburgh. Checking a map later, we discovered that Edinburgh was about 40 miles from Glasgow, or roughly the distance from downtown Dallas to downtown Fort Worth. Some of our European friends seemed to feel that 40 miles was a very long way; we Americans would drive that far to meet some friends for lunch. On the flip side, though, we were visiting places whose history sometimes ran back into the 1600s, 1500s, 1400s, and 1200s; a very long time ago! At least to us, living next to a large city founded in, let's see, 1841, "only" 180 years ago.

Anyway, to get back to the object that started this whole reminiscence, there is in the Cathedral an armorial Epitaph to Saxo Grammaticus, the late 12th Century author of the Gesta Danorum, the first full history of Denmark. (Books 3 and 4 of the Gesta give the history of prince, later king, Amleth, the historical figure who served as the inspiration for William Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.)

The memorial is all in Latin, so I find myself a bit like Casca in Shakepeare's Julius Caesar, where when reporting the effect of Cicero orating in Greek, and not understanding Greek himself, says, "those that understood him smiled at one another and shook their heads; but, for mine own part, it was Greek to me." Thus, this Latin inscription is "Greek to me."

I just found it interesting that there are two dates here; one says that Saxo died in 1190, (Wikipedia says that he lived c.1150-cs.1220.) The other date notes that this memorial was renovated in 1728. (You can click on the image above to go to a larger version, where you can see the details far more clearly than in the thumbnail above.)

Two dates; one roughly 300 years ago, and the other more than 800 years ago!

There are two shields painted on the top of this Epitaph.

The one on the left is, I am assuming, the arms of the Cathedral or Diocese of Roskilde. (I could, of course, be wrong about that assumption, but it looks likely, and the arms bear some similarities with the current arms of the Diocese of Copenhagen.)

The other (which did not come out as well-focused as I would wish) is the lesser arms of Denmark. (I do not see the hearts on the shield between and around the lions that you normally see on these arms.)

Anyway, there you have it! Heraldry; old stuff; even older stuff. All just a "short" train ride from Copenhagen, in Roskilde.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Heraldry in the News!

A recent grant of arms by the College of Arms in London has created a bit of a stir around the world.

In a number of news items (I'll include links at the end of this post), much discussion has been made of the grant of arms to Baron Aamer Sarfraz, a British-Pakistani businessman and member of the House of Lords.

This grant of arms breaks ground as the first such to incorporate the green dome of al-Masjid an-Nabawi (the Prophet's Mosque) in Medina, Saudi Arabia, a well-known landmark in the Muslim world.

Of this grant, Dr. Qibla Ayaz, Chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology, said that "the British government has set an example of religious tolerance at the official level, which will further strengthen religious tolerance in the world." And Chairman of Interfaith Harmony and Peace Committee, Syed Izhar Shah Bukhari said that, it "is an expression of the fact that British society and culture openly recognise other religions and cultures."

Commenting on the grant, Lord Sarfraz said, “It is a great honour to have the mosque of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) featured prominently on a Coat of Arms. “I would like to thank the Garter and the College of Arms for their excellent work,” he added.

In addition to the dome of the Prophet's Mosque on the shield, there are two heraldic supporters: a lion representing the UK, and a snow leopard representing Pakistan. The coat of arms also features the coronet of a Baron. The crest at the top of the Arms has the Himalayan Mountains, a nod to Islamabad, where Lord Sarfraz grew up. Finally, at the peak of the crest is a crescent, the symbol of Islam.

In a pretty glaring omission, none of the articles that I have seen actually included a depiction of the coat of arms. Fortunately, on Lord Sarfraz's web page, he has put up a depiction (, below:

There has also been a fair bit of discussion on the Facebook page of the International Heraldry Society about how appropriate it is to place the depiction of a specific building on a coat of arms. One commenter there, Stephen Szabo, has responded to that criticism with several examples:

In 1964 the Australian Academy of Science was granted "Azure a representation of the building of the Australian Academy of Science ensigned of a mullet of seven points Argent on a canton Argent a representation of the Royal Crown proper".

In 1969 the English Kings of Arms issued a confirmation of the arms assumed by Macquarie University, viz: "Vert the Macquarie lighthouse tower masoned proper in chief the star Sirius Or.

In 1893 the English Kings of Arms granted Sir Samuel Wilson "Per pale Sable and Gules a wolf rampant Or charged on the shoulder with an estoile Gules between four mullets in cross Or on a chief Or a representation of the end elevation of the Wilson Hall of the Melbourne University between two salmon naiant proper."

And this practice is not limited to Great Britain: for example, the arms of the Latvia student fraternity Fraternitas Academica includes a silhouette of the building of the University of Latvia ( And the city of Borgholm, Sweden, has a specific building on its shield (

Thursday, January 6, 2022

A Final Chapel in Roskilde Cathedral, The Glücksburger

Our final stop on our tour of armorial Royal burials in Roskilde Cathedral, we come to the Glücksburger Chapel.

This Chapel was built in 1924, inspired by Romanesque and Byzantine architecture, and named after the first king of the Glücksburger dynasty, King Christian IX. There are three double burials in this Chapel - King Christian IX and Queen Louise, King Frederik VIII and his Queen Louise, and King Christian X and Queen Alexandrine - but only the first is armorial. (Christian X and Alexandrine's stone coffins have finely carved Dannebrog flags that cover them.)

King Christian IX (d. 1906) (who reigned for 43 years) and Queen Louise of Hesse-Kassel (d. 1898) were initially buried in oak coffins in Frederik V's Chapel. The stone double sarcophagus in which they are now entombed, designed by Hack Kampmann, was felt to ruin the balance in Frederik V's Chapel, and so when the new Glücksburger Chapel was completed, their bodies were moved into it. 

The double sarcophagus has two gold crowns adorning the top. The three female sculptures, by the sculptor Edvard Eriksen (who also did the famous statue of the Little Mermaid), surrounding it are Remembrance, Love and Grief.

On the side of the sarcophagus we find the Royal Arms of King Christian IX (to the left) and Queen Louise of Hesse-Kassel (to the right).

The style of the room and the carvings may be simpler than we have seen in some of the other Royal burials in the other Chapels in the Cathedral, but the arms are every bit as complex.

Just sayin'.

Monday, January 3, 2022

Armorial Burials in King Christian IV's Chapel in Roskilde Cathedral

Over on the other side of the church from Frederik V's Chapel, almost directly across from it, we come to King Christian IV's Chapel.

This chapel has five burials in it, four of which are armorial.

First, we have the sarcophagus of Christian, Prince Elect (d. 1647). He was the heir apparent of his father, King Christian IV, but predeceased his father by a year, and so never became King.

On the upper side of the coffin are the Royal Arms of Denmark as used by his father.

 Next to Prince Christian, we find the coffin of King Christian IV (d. 1648):

Here, also on the upper side, the Royal Arms, done in a very similar (indeed, nearly identical) style to those of his son, Prince Christian.

In the final two burials in this Chapel, we return once again to the Baroque excesses of the 17th Century.

First, the coffin of King Frederik III (d. 1670):

With a closer view of the Royal Arms of Frederik III, surrounded by the arms of Danish territories (rather like we saw done with the arms of King Christian IV in Frederiksborg Castle):

And next to him, in a similarly-extravagant coffin, his wife, Queen Sophie Amalie of Brunswick-Calenberg (d. 1685):

Here, because her head is to the right as we are looking at it, we have her paternal arms to the left and her husband's arms to the right (instead of the more usual husband's arms to the left and wife's arms to the right):

All in all, this Chapel is an amazing display of Royal heraldry!