Monday, December 17, 2018

Another Armorial Regimental Flag

If I'm at a museum, no matter how many times I've been there before, when I get the opportunity to go again, I'm going to look around to see what's new or if there's something I hadn't noticed before.

The members of my Camp of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War had been invited to the Texas Civil War Museum to see the regimental flag for which we had donated some money to conserve in its final restored state. (My last post contains pictures of this 150+ year old flag of the 45th New York Infantry Regiment.)

So while there, we all wandered about a bit to see what we could see, and I ran across another regimental flag on display, which contained an unusual "coat of arms" as its central element.

The unit to which this flag had belonged more than 150 years ago was the Second Regiment, New York State Militia (which was later redesignated the 82nd Regiment of Infantry) during America's Civil War (1861-1865).

The central element of the flag contains an achievement of arms based on that of the State of New York, having the same crest, motto, and supporters (for which, see my previous post). But the shield itself has been divided "per pall reversed" into three:

The upper left portion of the shield (dexter chief) contains the (incorrect) arms of the United States (this version has twelve rather than thirteen stripes, and places stars on the chief which are not present in the actual arms of the U.S.).

The upper right portion of the shield (sinister chief) contains the arms of the City of New York, the arms of a windmill set saltirewise between in pale two beavers statant and in fess two barrels/tuns palewise.

Finally, the lower third of the shield contains the landscape arms of the State of New York, a scene of the Hudson River with the sun rising over a mountain peak beyond the river..

Once again, hardly a sterling example of heraldic design, but one which does say quite clearly, "New York City, New York" on its face. So to that extent, I suppose, "identifiability has been maintained." And identifiability has always been one of the watchwords of heraldry and heraldic design.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

State Arms on a Regimental Flag

A few years past, the Texas Department of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (of which I am a member) donated some money to the Texas Civil War Museum to help pay for the restoration of a regimental flag which was in need of conservation. It was made of silk, and the past 150 years hadn't always been kind to it.

We recently got word that the conservation work had been completed, and we were invited to the Museum to see the results.

Here it is in its frame, stabilized and behind glass: the Flag of the 45th New York Regiment of Infantry.

The central painted panel is a representation of the achievement of arms of the State of New York.

It is, as you can see more clearly in the drawing below, an example of "landscape heraldry."

The arms are a view of the Hudson River, with the sun rising over a mountain, supported on each side by the figures of Liberty and of Justice, with the crest of an eagle spreading its wings atop a representation of the globe, and the motto Excelsior ("Ever upward").

Not the best example of heraldry, but the arms - and the flag - are a part of New York's history, and it was certainly a pleasure to see this particular bit of history is being preserved.

Monday, December 10, 2018

New U.S. Army Insignia Has an Echo of a Famous General's Coat of Arms

A recent (December 6, 2018) article by Meghann Myers in the Army Times features the insignia and shoulder patch designed for the new Army Futures Command, which is a new organization "in charge of leading the Army through its modernization renaissance."

Charles Mugno, The Institute of Heraldry's director, was quoted as saying that: "What we try and do here is keep designs as simple as possible, which is really the essence of what heraldry is about."

A guiding principle with which I completely agree.

The AFC's motto, "Forge the Future," was the primary inspiration for the design.

The article goes on to note that "the anvil motif was very reminiscent of [former five-star general] President Dwight D. Eisenhower's coat of arms," which you may see here below.

All in all, the AFC's new insignia is an interesting design, meaningful and evocative; the only issue I might have with it is the arched "shadow" across the lower half of the shield, though I can think of a potential rationale - that of moving from the shadowed* past and into the lighted future.

You can find the full article, along with a picture of the cloth shoulder patch of the insignia, on the website of the Army Times at

Another article about this new insignia can be found on the website of the Stars and Stripes at

* "Shadowed,", not "shady." The meanings are quite different. 😉

Thursday, December 6, 2018

This Again?

I recently purchased a new book with an heraldic theme: Oxford College Arms by John Tepper Marlin. (You can find it on Amazon at a very reasonable price, and I am finding it well worth the reading. It covers the history of the various Colleges and the origin and meaning of their coats of arms.) It does have a few minor issues, in that not all of the blazons of the arms are complete (e.g., in the blazon of the arms of Harris Manchester College, the tincture of the field and the number of torches are missing), but the color illustrations of the arms totally eliminate any questions about what the blazons should be.

But on page 23, in the article on Brasenose College, the author touches on a subject about which I have written before:

[M]any (including the author) believe that the mullets and bars of the Washington arms were a decisive influence on the creation of the U.S. Stars and Stripes.

For my earlier take on this topic, and Dr. Marlin's responses to it, you can find my October 8, 2012 post, "An Old Controversy Refuses to Die" at

The flag of the United States of America was officially described in a Flag Resolution passed by the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1777:

Resolved, that the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.

The most recent iteration of that flag, with fifty stars for each of the fifty states, is shown here.

The question is how much, if at all, did the Washington coat of arms (below, from an old postcard) influence the design of that flag.

My argument is that the Washington arms had no influence upon the design of the US flag at all, and that the US flag was a simple evolution from a series of flags, generally naval, that logically resulted in the flag codified by the Flag Resolution of 1777.

Thus we move in progression from the flag of the East India Company used from 1600 to 1707:

To the flag of the East India Company used following the union of the crowns of England and Scotland, used from 1707 to 1801:

A variant of the first East India Company flag was the so-call Pine Tree Flag of 1776:

We find similarly striped flags in the US merchant ensign used from 1776 to 1800:

And the ensign of the Continental Navy, which added a rattlesnake and motto to the merchant ensign:

We come at last to the Continental Colors or so-called Grand Union Flag, in use from 1775 to 1777:

Then, of course, the Flag Resolution of June 14, 1777 was passed, replacing the Union Flag in the canton with a "new constellation," here, arranged in a circle:

This final flag, "Old Glory," simply removes the cross of St. George of England and the cross of St. Andrew of Scotland from the blue of the canton, the "union" of the Flag Resolution of 1777, and replaces them with a "new constellation" of thirteen stars, which were displayed in various arrangements and with varying numbers of points (5, 6, 7, 8, or more) at the whim of the manufacturer or seamster/seamstress, until custom settled on five-pointed stars in the era following America's Civil War of 1861 to 1865. In short, they were replacing one Union with another Union, one a union of two kingdoms joined in one (England and Scotland, since joined by Northern Ireland with a cross of St. Patrick in the modern Union Flag, often called the Union Jack) for a union of thirteen states.

So, the U.S. flag: an evolution from earlier designs, or an homage to a man who, in 1777, had not yet become the "Father of His Country," but was the man leading the Continental Army in a war whose outcome at that point was far from decided?*

I know which one I think is by far the most likely.

* By June 1777, the date of the Flag Resolution, the Continental Army under Washington had: forced the British to evacuate Boston in March 1776 by placing artillery on the heights overlooking the city; lost the city and port of New York in a series of battles from August through November 1776; and convinced the British to evacuate New Jersey in another series of battles from late December 1776 through January 1777. The war continued with mixed results for nearly five more years before culminating in the surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia in 1781.

Monday, December 3, 2018

An Entirely Unexpected Coat of Arms in Arras

At the top of the facade of the building which displayed the arms of the City of Arras which I wrote about last time, was another different, and in this case, entirely unanticipated, coat of arms.

I had noted in an earlier post about how Arras had been about 80% destroyed during World War I. Following the war, the city was rebuilt, and many of the buildings restored to what they looked like before that War.

That restoration even included, in this instance, an historical coat of arms which had been superceded at good 100 years earlier.

Yes, indeed, my friends! That is the coat of arms of the French Empire under Napoleon Bonaparte. If you look carfully, you can see the hatching on the shield, and the collar of eagles surrounding it, with a shield bearing a large N on its face suspending the Napoleonic Legion d'Honneur. (Or click on the photograph above, to see a larger version where this is even more clear.)

I had no idea that when they were restoring Arras to its pre-WWI state, they would also be restoring on a public building a coat of arms no longer in use, one which had been superseded twice, once following the defeat and exile of Napoleon I in 1815, and again following the defeat of Napoleon III at the Battle of Sedan in 1870.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Another Version of the City Arms

While wandering about the center of the city of Arras, France, I walked by a public building which had a couple of coats of arms on its facade.

In this instance, I'm not speaking of the arms at the top of the facade; I will discuss those in my next post, and they aren't the arms of the City in any case.

No, I'm talking about the three shields in a row at the top of the arched window in the center of the building.

Now, that said, the two outer shields are, alas, merely decorative; they do not contain heraldry of any sort. As you can see for yourself here:

See? Very decorative, and beautifully carved, but not heraldic.

The central shield, however, while also decorative and beautifully carved, display the arms of Arras.

Or, more correctly, it displays a variant version of the arms of the city. If you click on the image above, it will take you to a larger image, where you can see there more clearly that the label of three tags, each of which is charged with three towers, is carved her as a label of four tags, each charged with three towers.

Despite this "error," though, it is a remarkably detailed carving, even down to the hatching,* with vertical lines on the main shield for red and horizontal lines on the smaller inset shield (inescutcheon) for blue.

It was, as it always is, a real pleasure to see a city using its coat of arms in such a public way.

* Hatching: a system developed in the 17th Century of drawing parallel lines in various directions used to indicate colors in a monochromatic environment, such as a book printed in black and white, or a stone carving, as here.

Monday, November 26, 2018

A Logo to Go With the Arms of the City of Arras

While Arras, France uses and displays its coat of arms all around the city, they also have and use a semi-heraldic logo to help, as so many want their logos to do, "promote the brand". I saw this logo on some of the tourist information published by the City, and it is also displayed quite prominently on a flag flying on the front of the Hotel de Ville, the City Hall.

The text on the flag is simply:


It is placed immediately below a red square which contains, in the fashion of heraldic "dimidiation."* a representation of the regional style facade shape of many of the buildings in the area (for examples, see the photographs immediately below), combined with the upper half of the golden rampant lion which appears as supporters of the City's arms and on the top of the Belfry.

All in all, it's a decent logo, and I am grateful that they use it in conjunction with, rather than as a substitute for, their coat of arms.

* Dimidiation: the combination of two coats of arms by juxtaposing the dexter half of one and the sinister half of the other on a single shield. Dimidiation went out of fashion fairly quickly, as it often created some remarkably ugly, and sometimes very confusing, heraldic displays.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

The Story of the Lion on the Top of the Belfry

On the top of le Beffroi, the belfry rising above the Hotel de Ville in Arras, there is a golden lion statant erect regardant sustaining a weathervane of a sun.

You can see the sun better in a photograph of the upper part of the Belfry on Wikipedia at (The photograph is about 3/5 of the way down that page. Click on the small image to go to a larger version, where the sun can be seen much more clearly.)

A plaque in the city hall discusses the history of this lion and sun:

An English translation of the plaque tells the story behind the lion and the sun this way:


The lion and the sun

At the top of the belfry, 75 meters high, stands a lion, symbol of power, holding a sun, emblem of Louis XIV.

When the Sun King visited Arras in 1667, he was greeted coldly by the inhabitants, who feared that he would restrict their communal liberties, acquired since the end of the 12th century.

Nevertheless, it is said that the Arrageois (the people of Arras) added a sun to the lion who adorned the belfry, in order to show their goodwill to the French monarchy.

So there you have it: the lion holds a sun to honor, or at least respect, the Sun King, Louis XIV.

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Development of the Arms of Arras

In the Hotel de Ville, the town hall of Arras more commonly known by its bell tower, Le Beffroi, there is a plaque with an explanation of the development of the coat of arms of the city.

A rough English translation would be:

Coat of arms of Arras

The shield, symbol of protection, is adorned in Arras with 3 fleurs-de-lys and a label of three pendants surmounted by three towers.

But it is the Lion of Flanders which is on the shield; on his shoulder is the symbol of Artois.

The lion is depicted rampant, vertical, erect on a hind leg with open mouth, tongue sticking out, mane bristling.

In the eighteenth century at the uniting of the arms of the village and the city is added the helmet, in the nineteenth century the taste of the coat of arms is to the exterior ornaments. On the fronts, on the chimneys is added the two rampant lions holding the shield in the center adorned with leaves in scrolls and arabesques.

In 1930, the shield is hung on a pellet [roundel?] embellished with fruit.

The translation the last line may be more than bit off; they placed a screw through one of the words, and I don't know anywhere nearly enough French to be able to guess what it might be.

The plaque above is placed in the main lobby of the building, right next to some casts of a blank shield being supported by the lions.

In the first picture of the dexter supporter, you can see the embellishment of fruits and leaves spoken of.

And here is the completed achievement with the shield (left blank as in the casts above), helm, and lion supporters, along with the leafy arabesques and fruits.

It's an amazing amount of detailed work, and doubly so when you consider that during the First World War, the city of Arras was approximately 80% destroyed, and that the Hotel de Ville, because of the bell tower and its potential use as a place for reconnaissance, was a target for German artillery. So all of this carving was done during the rebuilding and reconstruction of the city and of the building following the war.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Another Application of the Arms of Arras

Our next example of the civic coat of arms of the city of Arras, France, comes from the side of a public weights building.

It's a very pretty little building, standing by itself amid some trees, surrounded by busy streets.

But set into its side over the window on the right in the above picture, we find the achievement of arms of the city of Arras painted and baked into tiles installed in an arch.

It's hard to see it in the photo here (please click on the picture to see the larger version), but the crest on the helm is a lion's head affronty or.

It was an unexpected and quite charming display of the city's arms.

And while it's not heraldic, on the wall next to that window is a plaque to the memory of Léon Jouhaux, a French trade union leader who, as noted on the plaque, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1951. (Dr. Albert Schweitzer won it the following year.) During World War II, for his support of a free France, he was arrested and imprisoned in the Buchenwald concentration camp.

You can find a little more about Léon Jouhaux and his life at