Category Archives: Blazonry

Varying Versions

A recent Facebook post of mine on the arms of three English Kings of Arms on a College of Arms devisal for the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Alabama piqued my interest about how some armigers employ different versions, not just renderings by different artists but actual different versions, of their armorial achievements. Sometimes this reflects added honors; sometimes the exercise of a new or different office (appointed or elected); sometimes it’s a version to be used specifically on certain occasions or under specific circumstances or only for use within a particular group, etc.

One of the Kings of Arms whose coat of arms appeared in that post was the late, great John Brooke-Little. Here we see his full achievement as Norroy & Ulster King of Arms:

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Brook-Little’s own personal coat of arms were used by him without any extras. Here the arms are rendered by Anthony Wood:

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In addition, we see that sometime he added quite a bit to the achievement to indicate offices held such as a bookplate depicting his coat of arms and banner as Richmond Herald (1967-1980) including both the Richmond Herald badge and the badge from when he had been Bluemantle Pursuivant (1956-1967):

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Finally I include one probably not seen by many: a version of his arms impaled with those of The Heraldry Society which he founded and served for many years as chairman and later as president. This last one was simply for use within that Society:

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All his life his own coat of arms remained as it is depicted in the second image. In other words he did not “change” his coat of arms. However, throughout his life and career he did employ various versions of his achievement some of which included personal honors, some ornaments of office and others additions for private use. This is a good thing to know about and an idea that many interested in heraldry, especially the various uses for a coat of arms, too often overlook. A coat of arms as a personal mark of identification may be employed in various ways to suit the various things one does in life. The armorial achievement does not have to be singular and include everything from every aspect of the life of the armiger. To be sure there are those who prefer this “maximum display” theory. However, an equally meritorious theory is one that makes use of varying versions or varying achievements suited to the time, place, group or activity in which the armiger is engaged.

Here is another example, again from the English College of arms, using the coat of arms of Sir Henry Paston-Bedingfeld, Bt. which are:

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Sir Henry, when he was still just plain old “Mister” served the College as Rouge Croix Pursuivant from 1983-1993 and the as York Herald from 1993-2010. In that latter capacity and prior to the death of his father and his inheriting the title “Baronet” he used the following achievement:

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Sir Henry was appointed Norroy & Ulster King of Arms in 2010 and served in that capacity until his retirement in 2014. Here is a version of the shield of his arms from that time:

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Finally, another example of a different version for private use and also only for a set period of time. From 2012-2013, for just a year Sir Henry served as Master of the Worshipful Company of Scriveners and impaled his arms with the arms of the Company for use in that capacity while at the same time also using the version above and the version in the first photo:

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Again we see that he maintained the personal arms he had inherited from his father and did not “change” his coat of arms. Rather, he chose to display it in varying versions to suit the role of the moment or group.

The world at large already, for the most part, sees heraldry as effete but there are many within the (for lack of a better term) heraldic community, that is to say, the rather small group of people in the world who account themselves heraldic enthusiasts, who, through their own ignorance, misunderstand the concept I’m illustrating here. The advent of the internet has increased the possibility for communication between such enthusiasts throughout the world but has also made for a rash of self-appointed heraldic “experts” who don’t wish to engage in any scholarly pursuit of the heraldic arts and sciences and, either accidentally or purposefully, seek to limit the possibilities for heraldic display accusing anyone who deviates from their own preconceived notions as guilty of self aggrandizement.

It strikes me as slightly ironic that in a modern world that eschews heraldry as an anachronistic pretense anyone possessing a coat of arms themselves could accuse others of self aggrandizement. Then again, ignorance and irony can, at times, be seen to be cousins.

Coat of Arms of Pope Pius XII (Before and After)

Much has been written in recent years about the practice of a prelate modifying the design of his coat of arms when he moves from one position to another in the Church. Generally speaking I am against the practice. A coat of arms, even an assumed one, becomes a unique personal symbol and is associated with the person who bears the arms. To change the original design simply because one is taking up a new position or ministry is ill advised.

I am, of course, not referring to marshaling the personal arms with those of a jurisdiction (see, abbey, or even a parish). When a cleric is translated from one jurisdiction to another of course he will then marshal his personal arms to those of the new jurisdiction because, after all, impaling or quartering the personal arms with those of a jurisdiction is a means of displaying two or more separate coats of arms together on one shield. The arms of a diocese do not “become” part of the bishops personal coat of arms. They are displayed along with the personal arms of the incumbent during the tenure of his office as part of the overall achievement but that is all.

Rather, I am speaking of a cleric slightly modifying or even changing entirely the design on the shield of his personal coat of arms. In some cases the change is a result of unhappiness with the design originally adopted. Sometimes it is the case that a cleric is appointed to be a bishop and wishes to make use of his new coat of arms at his episcopal ordination which may be as soon as only six weeks away. So, a design is hastily adopted. later, when being translated to a new see the bishop has had time to second guess his original arms and wishes to tweak the design or even change it altogether. While this is understandable it still should be frowned upon. His new position doesn’t mean he is becoming an entirely new person.

Yet we see that this has and continues to happen. Even no less than Pope Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli 1939-1958) bore arms that were slightly different before and after he became pope. When a bishop and cardinal his arms depicted a dove displayed (i.e. with its wings spread) holding an olive branch in its beak. This is a reference to the name Pacelli which means “peace”. The dove was perched on a trimount and sitting below the arc of a rainbow, an allusion to the story of Noah from the Scriptures.

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However, after his election to the papacy there are some differences. The dove now has folded wings and sits perched on the trimount which is depicted on field and above waves of water. In addition, the rainbow is now gone. Perhaps Pius XII felt the reference to the story of Noah was redundant or superfluous? Perhaps he wished to express a global desire for peace since he was elected at a time when the world was on the brink of World War II? Perhaps he simply liked this newer design more? We shall never know yet here is a good example of arms modified when going from one position in the Church to another.

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Bishop Comensoli of Broken Bay, Australia

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The Broken Bay diocesan Arms display a lighthouse spreading the light of the gospel over the diocese. The detail echoes the detail of the Barrenjoey lighthouse which unites the two main land masses that comprise the regions of the diocese.

The arms and motto which Bishop Comensoli adopted at the time he was named Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney in 2011 are of a personal character and are blazoned: Azure, on a Latin cross inverted Or four seven-pointed mullets (or Commonwealth stars) Gules, in the first quarter a lion’s head erased Argent crined and langued Or and in the second a unicorn’s head erased Argent crined and armed Or respectant.

In layman’s terms, the arms may be described as: On a blue field, a gold cross inverted with a red seven-pointed (or Commonwealth) star at each extremity, in the upper left quarter, a silver lion’s head erased at the neck with gold mane and tongue and in the upper right quarter a silver unicorn’s head erased at the neck with gold mane and horn. The motto ‘Praedicamus Christum Crucifixum’ is a quotation from the Apostle Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians (1Cor1.23), and can be translated as ‘We preach Christ crucified’.

The inverted Latin Cross symbolises the Bishop’s nominal patron, the Apostle Peter and the stars reflect the Southern Cross, which shines out over the Great South Land of the Holy Spirit. The lion and the unicorn respectively symbolise the mind and the heart of love. The meaning of these symbols, while of medieval provenance, is especially associated with the seminal work on Christian love by the English Jesuit, Martin C D’Arcy SJ, “The Mind and Heart of Love: Lion and Unicorn: A Study in Eros and Agape”. Bishop Comensoli will be installed as the Third Bishop of Broken Bay on Dec. 12.

The personal arms were designed by me and Mr. Richard d’Apice of the Australian Heraldry Society and originally emblazoned as well as marshaled with the arms of the diocese and emblazoned again by Mr. Sandy Turnbull also of the Australian Heraldry Society.

The Nobility in The Clergy

Here we have two examples of the arms that became well known in Europe as being associated with territories or noble families being employed by members of the hierarchy, Cardinals to be exact, in their ecclesiastical achievements. The first is of Innio de Avalos de Aragon Cardinal Deacon of S. Lucia in Silice. He was Bishop of Sabina in 1586, Bishop of Frascati in 1589 and Bishop of Porto in 1591. The arms are:

Quarterly, 1&4 per pale Aragon, Hungary, Anjou (ancient) and Jerusalem; 2&3 Grand Quarterly 1&4 Azure, a triple towered castle Or, a bordure compony Argent & Gules; 2&3 Bendy Or and Gules quartering per fess Or and Gules a lion rampant Counterchanged.

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The next one is the arms of Damian Hugo Philip von Schönborn, Cardinal Deacon of S. Nicolo in Carcere, Prince-Bishop of Speyer. The arms are:

Speyer (Quarterly 1&4 Azure a cross throughout Argent; 2&3 Gules a crozier in bend Or debruised by a two towered castle Or) overall on an escutcheon Gules on three piles issuant in base Argent a lion passant crowned Or (Schönborn) and below the shield on another shield Argent the cross of the Teutonic Order. Supporters: Two lions affronteé crowned Or, armed and langued Gules each supporting a banner, to dexter of the Empire and to sinister of Austria

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(artwork for both is by the late Michael McCarthy)

Bishop of Porto, Portugal

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The arms (above) of António Francisco dos Santos, newly installed bishop of Porto, Portugal. It is a simple and elegant design. Some would be critical of the green collé on a blue field but the so-called “tincture rule” isn’t so much a hard and fast rule as much as it is a custom as frequently honored in the breach than in the observance. Read Bruno Heim’s book, “Or and Argent” if you don’t believe me. My only criticism would be that the episcopal cross behind the shield is depicted as a teeny tiny one. It could be larger. I also find the choice of an oval shield (usually used by women in heraldry) as interesting, but not necessarily wrong as its use is not exclusive to females.

 

Canting Arms

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There is a tradition in heraldry of so-called “canting arms” or armes parlantes where the design of the coat of arms literally depicts the meaning of the name of the armiger and, so, ‘says” his name. One that I came across recently which illustrates this well is the coat of arms of Cardinal Vegliò who was created cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012. The main charge on the shield is a crane standing with one foot off the ground and holding a stone. This is usually referred to as a crane “in its vigilance”. This comes from Pliny the Elder wrote that cranes would appoint one of their number to stand guard while they slept. The sentry would hold a stone in its claw, so that if it fell asleep it would drop the stone and waken. The cardinal’s name means “watchful”.

Crest or Coat-of-Arms?

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This photo illustrates something well. The banners at the top of the photo contain the coats-of-arms of the individuals who bear them. In the middle part of the photo there are those sort of dorky looking statues standing on top of the helmets. THOSE are crests. (They are placed at the crest of the helmet…get it?) The two terms are NOT synonymous. Many people use the word crest to mean a coat-of-arms. I know, those extra two syllables are a killer to have to say! A crest is a part of the full achievement of arms but it may be depicted alone. However a coat-of-arms and a crest are different things.