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

Monday, November 12, 2018

Next Stop: Arras, France!

Our most recent trip overseas took us to the city hosting the XXXIII International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences, Arras, France.

We arrived a couple of days before the Congress was to begin, for two reasons: (1) it helps us deal with jet lag; and (2) it gives us some time to wander about the town, finding our way to the various venues, to learn more about and get a feel for the town itself, and it gives me a chance to find and photograph some of the heraldry which may be seen there.

First and foremost, of course, were the various depictions of the city's coat of arms to be found. In French, they are blazoned: De gueules au lion d'or, armé et lampassé d'azur, chargé en coeur d'un écusson d'azur semé de fleurs de lis d'or au lambel de gueules de trois pendants chargés chacun de trois petits châteaux d'or rangés en pal. The English blazon is: Gules a lion rampant or armed and langued azure overall an inescutcheon Azure semy-de-lis or a label of three pendents gules each pendent charged with three castles in pale or.

According to the website Heraldry of the World (, the origin of the lion is not known; the inescutcheon is the arms of the County of Artois, of which Arras was the capital.

These stained glass windows of the arms are found in Le Beffroi, the large multi-story building and bell tower situated at one of the Place des Héros (, which edifice is a symbol of Arras and a multi-purpose civic building:

This carved achievement of the arms is also found in Le Beffroi:

And the city's arms appear on street signs all around the city center:

There is also a carved version (of just the field and lion, without the inescutcheon) on the side of the city's train station.

There were some other places where the city's arms are found, but I think those deserve their own posts, so I will get to them in future posts.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

"Primrose, Maybe?": A Follow-Up

In my post of October 2, 2017 ( I'd uploaded two photographs of a corbel in St. Cuthbert's Church in Dalmeny, Scotland which contained a carved coat of arms that could not be identified for certain, but which might have been related to the Primrose family, or a couple of others.

An article by Ian Shepherd in the latest Tak Tent, the quarterly newsletter of the Heraldry Society of Scotland, states:

On 27 May 2018 I was the duty person welcoming visitors to the church. It was a quiet afternoon and I whiled away my time by looking at an old scrap book which I found in the apse. In it I read an article which stated inter alia that these two corbels bore the Arms of New College, Oxford, described as being the Arms of the then Lord Dalmeny's College....

The arms of New College are blazoned Argent two chevronels sable between three roses gules barbed and seeded proper. These are also the arms of the founder of the College, William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester. (This information is taken from a recent acquisition to my heraldic library, Oxford College Arms by John Tepper Marlin. If you'd like a copy of your own, it is available on Amazon.)

The above image of the New College arms was taken from the Trinity Ball Guide 2013,

So there you have it! Mystery solved, and positive identification made!

If only all of the other heraldic mysteries I run across could be solved so easily.

Monday, November 5, 2018

A Final Post From Our London Trip

Walking across one of the many bridges across the Thames River to get back to the north bank from whence we could catch the Tube back to our hotel, we passed several cast iron panels with these arms painted upon them:

The are, of course, the Royal Arms as borne by Queen Victoria (Quarterly: 1 and 4, Gules three lions passant gardant in pale or (England); 2, Or a lion rampant within a double tressure flory counter-flory gules (Scotland); and 3, Azure a harp or stringed argent (Ireland), and the arms of her consort, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

On his marriage to Queen Victoria in 1840, Prince Albert was granted his own personal coat of arms, which was the royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom differenced with a three-point label bearing a red cross in the center, quartered with the arms of Saxony. The blazon is written as: Quarterly, 1 and 4, the Royal Arms with overall a label of three points argent charged on the center with a cross gules; 2 and 3, Barry of ten or and sable a crown of rue in bend vert.

The Prince's unusual coat of arms was a "singular example of quartering differenced arms, [which] is not in accordance with the rules of Heraldry, and is in itself an heraldic contradiction." (Boutell, Charles, Heraldry, Ancient and Modern: Including Boutell's Heraldry) Prior to his marriage to Victoria, Albert used the arms of his father undifferenced, following German practice.

Why the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom (suitably differenced) in the first and fourth quarters, rather than his paternal arms as would normally be expected there? Victoria and Albert were first cousins, plus the arms of a kingdom normally supersede those of a duchy. Besides, it is apparently what Victoria wanted, and as we all know from Mel Brooks' movie The History of the World, Part I, "It's good to be the king." (Because people give you what you want.)

Thursday, November 1, 2018

A Nicely-Carved Achievement of Arms

Continuing our walk from St. Mary-at-Lambeth back toward the Houses of Parliament in London, we came by the Marriott Hotel, which as a sign on its facade indicates, used to be the London County Hall.

Also indicative of its former use was this carved achievement of arms:

The arms are those of the London County Council, which used to meet in this building.

(Don't you just love those wide-eyed dolphins on either side of the shield?)

The London County Council was granted this coat of arms in 1914. The arms can still be seen on buildings constructed by the council (like this County Hall become Marriott Hotel) before its dissolution in 1965. The final design for the arms, "simple in character and in every way suggestive of the corporate life of London," was agreed by the Council on May 26, 1914.

The arms were blazoned as: Barry wavy of six azure and argent on a chief argent the cross of St George [gules] charged with a lion of England [or], the shield ensigned with a mural crown or.

The blue and silver waves represented the River Thames and the Port of London. The English lion on St. George's cross was to show that London was the "Royal centre of England," encompassing the nation's capital city. The gold mural crown indicated that the arms were those of a municipal body.

As the arms included part of the royal arms (the "lion of England," a lion passant gardant or) a royal warrant was issued granting the arms on July 29, 1914. The arms were registered at the College of Arms by letters patent dated October 20, 1914.

Simple and suggestive arms indeed!

Monday, October 29, 2018

A Newly-Digitized Heraldic Research Tool

For those of you who know of the four-volume set Dictionary of British Arms: Medieval Ordinary, you know it's a great set of books, but one which may be a bit beyond many budgets. There is some recent good news about this set of books.

OAPEN, Open Access Publishing in European Networks, has digitized and uploaded all four volumes of the Dictionary of British Arms and these books can be downloaded from their website.

You can visit the OAPEN website and see these digitized books at, or go to the OAPEN Library main page at, click on "advanced search options", and in the Metadata box, type "dictionary of british arms" in the "Title" field, and then hit the "Search" button.

I have also added the first link above to the section "Some Good On-Line Armorials" in the left-hand column of this blog, so you should always be able to find the link, even if you can't remember which blog post it's in.


Thursday, October 25, 2018

A Pseudo-Heraldic Logo

It is interesting to note how often a shield shape is used to exemplify protection.

Continuing our walk beyond St. Thomas' Hospital, we passed a construction area which boldly announced that it was being protected by a specific security company. Oh, and guard dogs, which I think may possibly have been the bigger deterrent.

The company's logo is an interesting combination of an heraldic shield, a clenched gauntlet, and a pun on it's name.

If I had to try to blazon it, I would make it Quarterly argent and azure a clenched gauntlet grasping a rolled and sealed charter scroll fesswise whose margins extend beyond the edges of the shield azure.

Admittedly, the larger image of the two on the sign reverses the tinctures, and makes the gauntlet and charter argent.

Still, though, however quasi-heraldic and difficult to blazon the logo may be, it does tend to leave the viewer with a feeling of guardianship and protection, which is what you really want in a security company, isn't it?

Monday, October 22, 2018

A High School Class Creates a Coat of Arms

Well, if you're going to get a classroom full of high school students to enjoy studying Shakespeare, this is certainly one way to go about it!

Teacher Megan Schott of St. Joseph High School got the students in her AP Literature and Composition course to take inspiration from their study of Shakespeare and his works to create a Renaissance doorway, which incidentally also won the Texas Renaissance Festival's Door Decorating Contest.

The coat of arms, one of the main elements of the doorway, was created after the students researched Shakespeare's own heraldry, represented here by the tilting spear on the cross. The book represents literature, and the blue and white are the school's colors.

Above the shield, acting like a crest, is what I would blazon as A dragon statant affronty breathing flames of fire proper. (The flames are three-dimensional, popping "off the door in a really ferocious way they were proud of," said Ms. Schott.

An October 20, 2018 article with more details about the background and creation of this door, and another Door Decorating Contest winner in the Elementary School category, can be found on-line on the website of the Victoria Advocate at

The Arms of a Hospital

Leaving the little church of St. Mary-at-Lambeth and its many heraldic offerings behind us, we took a stroll down one of the nearby streets and came upon this:

The large, and busy, St. Thomas' Hospital on Westminster Bridge Road, London.

Its arms, granted on February 14, 1950, are blazoned: Argent on a cross between in the first quarter a sword erect gules and in the second quarter a chough proper, a roach haurient argent, on a chief azure a rose argent barbed and seeded proper between two fleurs-de-lys or.

The crest is: Between four spears points upwards sable embrued gules three Madonna lilies argent stalked and leaved vert.

As supporters, it has: dexter, A chough proper; sinister, A nightingale proper.

The cross and sword are clear references to the city of London, where the hospital is located. The nightingale supporter represents Florence Nightingale, and is a symbol for a hospital. The two choughs (the one on the arms and the other a supporter), popularly known as the Becket bird, represent St. Thomas Becket, after whom the hospital is named. The spears in the crest represents St. Thomas the Apostle, who was martyred by being killed with spears. (I am at this time unaware of the symbolism of the remaining charges on the arms and crest, though I could probably make some reasonable guesses; e.g., the Madonna lilies and fleurs-de-lys are often used as symbols of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the hospital is very near St. Mary-at-Lambeth. The church of St. Mary-at-Lambeth has pre-Norman origins, being recorded as early as 1062 as a church built by Goda, sister of Edward the Confessor, and dedicated to St. Mary.)

It is both unusual and gratifying to seen a modern organization displaying its coat of arms so boldly on the face of its building.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

An Unexpected But Familiar Coat of Arms at St. Mary-at-Lambeth Church

In looking at the stained glass windows in St. Mary-at-Lambeth, I noticed a coat of arms that I found very familiar from our trip to Glasgow, Scotland.

The window contains images of St. Ninian and St. David, with arms which are associated with, but not ascribed to, them.

The arms with St. Ninian are a shield of Scotland (Azure a saltire argent), most often seen in the form of a flag, and then this one:

These are the arms of the City of Glasgow, which can be found all over that city in many forms, styles, and media, as I noted in my post of September 1, 2016 (

So to find the Glasgow coat of arms here on the south bank of the Thames in metropolitan London was almost like running into an old friend there.