Monday, May 22, 2023

Heraldry in the News!

Well, there has been quite a kerfuffle* recently, at least in the on-line world of heraldry, about the announcement that Canada had created a new crown to go with its coat of arms, in conjunction with the coronation of its titular head, King Charles III.

The crown has been changed from the representation of St. Edward's crown used for many years to a different, more uniquely Canadian one, based on the Tudor crown which the new King prefers, and changing out some of the symbols on it (e.g., replacing the crosses paty and fleurs-de-lis on the rim with maple leaves, replacing the orb at the top with a snowflake, etc.).

Here is a copy of one of the announcements with a comparison between the previous and new crowns:

Reaction amongst the denizens of the internet has been immediate and varied, with opinions ranging from "A new crown for the Dominion of Canada has just been unveiled. Perfectly hideous in my humble opinion" to "This is just more woke madness" and "It's more appropriate for the weak minded today... it's topped with a snowflake!" to "This move isn’t about making the crown look more Canadian. That’s a red herring. It’s actually an attack on religion" to "I must say, that I am in total disagreement with the new design of the 'Canadian Crown' by the Government." One headline to a newspaper story on the crown went so far as to say: "Trudeau’s culture war on Canada’s symbols erases history."

Others, somewhat less negative, have pointed out that "the King personally approved the new design for Canada" and that "In place of the orb and cross at the top of the crown is a stylized snowflake, a reference to Canada being a northern realm. It was inspired by the Canadian Diadem, a coronet of maple leaves and snowflakes designed as a heraldic symbol in 2008 and used for honours insignia. The stylized snowflake makes a direct connection with the insignia of the Order of Canada,** one of our country’s highest honours, of which The King is the sovereign."

While there certainly may be some legitimate concerns about the crown ("there was no public consultation — as there was for our flag in the early 60s; that’s principally what I object to. (On the other hand, we all know what a horse designed by a committee looks like!)", it certainly looks to me like many, or even most, of the complaints are coming from people who are not, in fact, Canadians, and hence "have no dog in this fight".

That said, far be it from me to tell people they can't, or shouldn't, express their opinions of the new Canadian crown. However, it seems to me that those opinions can be stated without resorting to inflammatory language: "perfectly hideous" (Really? Have you seen some of the actual crowns that have been used in history? Ask me about the one the Venetians created for the Ottoman Emperor sometime); "woke madness" (can someone please give me a decent definition of "woke"? I've heard the term used to apply to too many different things to be able to comprehend what it is actually supposed to mean, beyond being a "dog whistle"); "more appropriate for the weak minded" (truly?); "an attack on religion" (How? Whose religious liberties are being attacked by this change?); and, of course, it "erases history" (what history is being "erased"? The crown traditionally used by Canadian monarchs? As one writer noted: "It’s worth pointing out that the St. Edward’s Crown wasn’t really 'traditional'. Traditionally the 'Tudor crown' now used by King Charles was used for the arms of the King in right of Canada. It was only at the accession of Elizabeth II 71 years ago that the crown was changed to match the one she preferred to use on her arms. Only because she had an extraordinarily long reign did that crown come to be seen by many as 'traditional'…but it wasn’t").

And there have even been few who had an initial negative reaction to the crown but have come to have it "grow on them" in a more positive way.

Anyway, it's been in the news lately, and I thought it worth talking about, and hopefully lowering the temperature of the rhetoric just a bit.

* Kerfuffle: a disturbance or commotion typically caused by a dispute or conflict. Fuffle is an old Scottish verb that means “to muss” or “to throw into disarray”—in other words, to (literally) ruffle someone’s (figurative) feathers.

** The Order of Canada is a Canadian state order and the second-highest honour for merit in the system of orders, decorations, and medals of Canada, after the Order of Merit. The medal of the Order is the snowflake which appears atop the new crown.

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