Monday, June 6, 2022

Some Heraldic Wit and Wisdom

I have over the years in my study of heraldry occasionally run across a quote regarding the topic which I found to be particularly apt, especially insightful, or occasionally just plain funny.

Where I have found such a quote, I have copied or typed it into a document on my computer where I could periodically and re-read it and others, as a way of reminding me how others have viewed my peculiar interest.

Today, I thought I would share with you a sampling of some of these quotes, some serious, some humorous, selected more or less randomly from that document. Some of them may be familiar to you. Some you may have seen on this very blog, in the "Random Quote" section. And still others might be entirely new to you, as they were once to me.

In any event, enjoy!

"You can study heraldry until you are azure ... in the face but inevitably discover, from time to time, that you really are quite vert.... I have found this over and over again but, never forget, herein lies the fun and if heraldry ever ceases to be fun- chuck it." (J.P. Brooke-Little, An Heraldic Alphabet, Introduction)

"[Genealogy] is the very warp and woof of history, my dear Commander Bond." (Griffon Or Pursuivant in On Her Majesty's Secret Service by Ian Fleming)

"Every poem is a coat of arms. It must be deciphered." (Jean Cocteau, "The Blood of a Poet", 1930)

"Nothing can more emphatically convict a gentleman of degeneracy and stupidity than to be ignorant of a science [heraldry] which commemorates ancestry and the rise of families, and symbolizes the permanence of nobility." (Introduction, The Compleat Gentleman by Henry Peacham)

"Another cause of the bad effect of much modern heraldry is the unnecessary adherence to the rules laid down in some of the textbooks and manuals as to the relative widths of ordinaries and subordinaries. The old heralds certainly did not fetter themselves with such shackles. A cheveron, a bend, a fesse, or a cross was drawn of the best proportion to look well.... If charged it would be wider than when plain. If placed between charges it was drawn narrower, if itself uncharged, and thus took its proper relative position with regard to the size and arrangement of the charges. So too with a border; if uncharged or merely gobony (i.e. formed of short lengths of alternate colours) or engrailed, it was drawn very narrow, and even if charged it was not allowed much greater width.... It thus never unduly encroached upon the field or other contents of the shield, and yet remained an artistic addition in itself." (W.H. St. John Hope, Heraldry for Craftsmen and Designers, The MacMillan Company, New York, 1913, pp. 81-85)

"I shall, therefore, confine myself to a description of [a hatchment] as it ought to appear, ... which, through the ignorance of herald painters, or at least of such as pretend to be so, is often erroneously and very improperly depicted, as every coach, house, and sign painter pretends to a knowledge of the science of heraldry, rather than lose the job when offered." (William Berry, An Introduction to Heraldry, 1810, p. 135)

"Unnatural animals appear in the heraldry of all nations. It is related than an Austrian nobleman asked an English ambassador at Vienna, whose arms presented a griffin, 'in what forest that beast was met with?' to which the ambassador readily answered, 'the same in which the eagles with two heads are found.'" (Thomas Moule, Heraldry of Fish, 1842, p. 206)

"A microscopic piece of heraldry necessarily stands condemned, because it merely pretends to hint that the owner thinks himself a person of distinction, instead of performing the true function of enabling the casual observer to identify the owner. Monograms and unostentatious heraldry are therefor the badge of the parvenu, and such heraldry is usually bogus. Genuine arms are almost always displayed boldly and beautifully at every possible opportunity, indoors and out." (Thomas Innes of Learney, Scots Heraldry, pp. 161‑162)

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