Monday, May 21, 2018

A Successful Hunt for a Blazon

I always think that the late J.P. Brooke-Little said it best, in the introduction to his An Heraldic Alphabet:

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.

It is a truism which I find myself reminded of from time to time, and just the other day was another one of those times.

I'm in the middle of completing a big project which I am doing in order to better do another big project. (More about that second project another time, perhaps.) This project involves compiling the blazons of coats of arms from Florence into a single, and thus for me more easily usable, document.

The sources I am using consist of a book of blazons of Florentine heraldry in English done about 1900, a photo-reproduction of an old Florentine armorial with no blazons, and a compilation of several Florentine armorials with the blazons done in French. So as you can see, a diverse set of books!

Copying the English blazons into my document was pretty easy; converting it to Word from .pdf and then cleaning up the formatting and the places where it didn't recognize, or misrecognized, a word was comparatively simple. I expect that between my familiarity with blazon terms in English and general familiarity with many French blazons, I shouldn't have too much difficulty in translating those blazons from French to English, with occasional resort to a French heraldic dictionary and my pocket French-English dictionary.

It's the other book, of pictures of the pages of an old Florentine armorial but without any blazons, that taught me once again that I still have so much to learn about heraldry. In the course of going through that armorial page by page, I ran across several coats of arms with a charge I do not recall ever having seen before. This charge:

"Well," I said to myself, "it's not a cog wheel, exactly. The center of the wheel is too small, and the 'cogs' are way too long and they flare out a bit at the ends. But what is it?"

I didn't really want to flip through the entire Italian dictionary of heraldry that I have in the hopes of eventually finding a drawing of this charge, or at least something very similar. But then I thought, "maybe these same arms appear somewhere in the French book of Florentine heraldry. I wonder how they are blazoned there."

So I starting searching the index for the names and then looking up the blazons of the arms, and found this charge blazoned as a roue déjantée, which the on-line Bing translator (the word déjantée doesn't appear in my French-English dictionary) translated into English as a “crazy wheel.” Looking up "wheel" in my English-Italian dictionary gave me the word ruota, and looking under ruota in my Italian heraldic dictionary finally allowed me to identify this charge. It is a ruota di mulino: “É la ruota a pale, che veniva un tempo utilizzata dai mulini ad acqua.” (Dizionario di Araldica, di Valfrei, p. 173) It is a mill wheel (not to be confused with a mill stone!): “It is the paddle wheel, which was used once by the water mills."

So there you have it! A not-terribly-long, but involved, search through a number of books in three different languages, and success! I now feel slightly more azure in the face, and a little less vert. But it is just this sort of thing that keeps heraldry fun for me!

How about you?

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Two Pieces of Jacobite Heraldry

Tucked away in Mount Stuart we ran across a couple of items decorated with some Jacobite heraldry: the arms of Henry Benedict Thomas Edward Maria Clement Francis Xavier Stuart, the younger son of the Old Pretender, James Francis Edward Stuart, and brother of the Young Pretender, Charles Edward Stuart, "Bonnie Prince Charlie".

The grandson of deposed King James II and VII, Henry Benedict Stuart was the fourth and final Jacobite heir to publicly claim the thrones of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland. Unlike his father and his brother, he made no effort to seize the throne. Following the death of his brother, the Papacy did not recognize him as the lawful ruler of England, Scotland, and Ireland, but referred to him as the Cardinal Duke of York. He had been named Duke of York while in his youth by his father, and held a number of offices in the Catholic church, including Archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica. For more specifics on these, and on his life in general, see the Wikipedia article at

But more to the heraldic point here, during the pretense of his father and brother, he bore a coat of arms consisting of the Royal Arms of France and England quarterly, Scotland, and Ireland, differenced by a white crescent (the cadency mark of a second son).

Those arms were found in two places in Mount Stuart:

Prominently displayed on an old print:

And also on a (presumably, pewter; it doesn't look like silver to me) plate or charger, surmounted by an ecclesiastical galero. Nowadays, the heraldic convention is to use a galero with six tassels on each side (as on the plate below) for a bishop; one with ten tassels on each side for an archbishop; and one with fifteen tassels on each side for a cardinal.

You can click on the pictures to see the full-size images, which more clearly show the crescent in the center.

I found these items to be a fascinating display of heraldry in the context of history, encompassing the history of both Great Britain and of Mount Stuart.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Non-Personal Heraldry Displayed at Mount Stuart

Among the many heraldic stained glass windows to be seen at Mount Stuart was this pair of windows displaying some non-personal heraldry.

The window on the left displays a variant of the coat of arms of the Royal Burgh of Dumfries:

I say "a variant" since the depiction here leaves out the shield (Argent a cross gules) born by the Archangel, and shows him brandishing a staff to attack the dragon while his sword remains in its scabbard by his side. It has also changed (e.g., the placement of the sun and moon) or is missing (e.g., the cloud) a few other minor elements.

The blazon of the arms of Dumfries is as follows: Azure semy of estoiles or, standing on a cloud the figure of the Archangel Michael wings expanded brandishing in his dexter hand a sword over a dragon lying on its back in base with its tail nowed fessways all proper on his sinister arm an escutcheon argent charged with a cross gules, in dexter flank an increscent in the sinister flank the sun in his splendour of the second [or].

The arms in the window on the right are those of the Royal Burgh of Ayr:

This coat of arms is blazoned: Gules a castle triple-towered argent betwixt a Holy Lamb cross staff and banner of Saint Andrew on the dexter and on the sinister the head of John the Baptist in a charger proper, in the base the sea azure.

As happens fairly frequently in heraldry, the water here ("the sea azure") is portrayed barry wavy argent and azure instead of plain blue. (We see this in other depictions of the arms of Ayr, too.)

As with the other stained glass windows at Mount Stuart, heraldic and otherwise, the workmanship is first-rate. And it's nice to see some non-family heraldry displayed there.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Another Pair of Shields Over the Doorway

In my last post, I shared some pictures of a pair of shields over a doorway on the ground floor of Mount Stuart.

Today, we're looking at a similar pair of shields, with different arms on them, from a similar doorway (again, between rooms with that wonderful carved heraldic ceiling).

The arms here are proving a little tougher to track down, though they share the nude supporters and both are surmounted by the coronet of a marquess.

The shield on the left would be blazoned Argent a lion rampant sable armed and langued gules.

Papworth's Ordinary of British Armorials notes over twenty families (and even more branches of families) bearing this coat of arms. Without finding someone with a distinct connection to the Crichton-Stuart family, it is difficult to narrow down the likely owner of this coat of arms.

The shield on the right would be blazoned Gules a lion rampant within a bordure or charged with eight roses gules barbed and seeded proper.

Papworth's Ordinary of British Armorials gives this coat of arms as that of Dunbar, but as a quartering with Randoph. Burke's Peerage cites several Dunbar baronets, all of whom bear Dunbar quartered with Randolph (Or three cushions within a double tressure flory counter-flory gules), with various differences between them.

I am not finding any Dunbar family connections to the Crichton-Stuarts sitting here with Burke's Peerage cutting off the circulation in my lap. (Well, it is a large book, after all!)

I am unable at this time to give you a positive identification of the origins for either of the coats of arms depicted here. Clearly there is some relation to the Marquess of Bute; why else would they have been carved or molded onto the walls of his house? But without the who, I cannot even speculate as to the why.

Still, they remain fine examples of heraldic art at Mount Stuart.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Meanwhile, Back on the Ground Floor at Mount Stuart

I know, right? There is just so very much heraldry to be seen at Mount Stuart that we're probably all getting a bit weary. At least, I know I am. You can only spend so much time looking at other people's stuff without it becoming a bit of a sensory overload.

But never fear! There's only a very few blog posts remaining for this wonderful, heraldry-filled, house, and we'll have to move along to something else.

In the meantime, though ...

Back on the ground floor in the rooms with those beautifully carved heraldic ceilings (, the doorways had some more carved or cast coats of arms.

 (You can see parts of those ceilings in the above picture.)

Supported by two nude figures with strategically place ribbons, and surmounted by the coronet of a marquess, we have on the left

the arms of Windsor, and on the right,

the arms of Stuart, both of which we have seen a number of times before in the house (e.g.,

The level of detail in these depictions is truly wonderful!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Slightly Understated Heraldry at Mount Stuart

If you are going to try to impress people by displaying your arms all over your house, on the walls and ceilings, there may be places where you just don't want everything to be quite so much in everyone's face.

In one of the upper rooms at Mount Stuart (a game room, really, for just relaxing) there was a set of wooden chairs along one wall that did not display the Crichton-Stuart coat of arms on them.

No, they just display a painted shield shape with the three crests used by the family underneath the coronet of a marquess.

The three crests (from left to right) are:

Stewart: A demi-lion rampant gules beneath the motto Nobilis ira (Noble ardour)

Crichton: A wyvern wings elevated and addorsed fire issuant from the mouth all proper

and Herbert: A wyvern wings addorsed vert in the mouth a sinister hand couped gules

Just the sort of heraldic display, really, that you could do in your own home, even if you weren't entitled to a coronet and/or had only one crest. Properly scaled and painted, it could make a nice, even slightly understated, exhibit.

It also wouldn't require obtaining a second mortgage on the house to pay for it.

Just a thought. Do with it what you will.

But I thought these chairs at Mount Stuart created a very pleasing heraldic atmosphere.