Recent Posts

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

New Arms

Private Commission, Copyright 2014.

I recently completed a new achievement of arms for a close friend of mine.  While I'm only displaying his crest, the full blazon reads:

Arms:  Gules, on a pale azure fimbriated argent three escallops of the third enfiled with as many vidame coronets or;

Crest:  On a wreath of argent and gules, a lamb rampant gorged of a vidame's coronet or holding in dexter arm a market stick proper erect with crook facing sinister and on sinister arm an eschuteon of the first thereupon a Chi Rho of the second;

Motto:  "From Strength to Strength."

The new armiger is a devout Christian who adores the image of Christ the Good Shepherd, which really helped me design a crest befitting great meaning for him.  The market stick is a lovely example of how a shepherd's tool (and also a great walking stick for support) can be incorporated along with the Shield of Constantine.  I think the crest creates a compelling image of a pilgrim preparing for battle with instruments of love and compassion.

The vidame's coronet creates a nice symbol for lay Christians.  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Arms of the College of William & Mary

The Arms of the College of William & Mary
Williamsburg, Virginia 

One can hardly discuss academic heraldry in the Commonwealth of Virginia without mentioning the arms of the state's oldest institution of higher learning, the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg.  Granted by the College of Arms in London on May 14, 1694, the arms are blazoned:  "Vert, a colledge or edifice mason'd argent; in chief a sun rising or the hemisphere proper, as in the margent hereof is more plainly depicted."  (Donald M. Sweig, "Vert a Colledge...:A Study of the Coat-of-Arms and Seals of the College of William and Mary in Virginia," The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 84, No. 2, April 1976, page 143).  Jack E. Morpurgo gives the blazon as, "Vert, a colledge or edifice mason'd argent in chief a sun rising or" (Their Majesties' Royall Colledge,Washington, DC: Hennage Creative Printers, 1976, 36). 

I am somewhat conflicted about these arms.  I'm reminded of L.G. Pine's statement regarding good heraldry and the legitimacy of arms--just because they're legally granted does not mean that they're good arms.  With the opening of a new colony, new resources, new everything, I suppose the heralds were not inclined to change convention with regards to new charges. Is it a coincidence that the "colledge" looks a bit like Oxford?  The brilliance of the sun seems overshadowed by a depressed star.  In some way, I suppose the heralds saw the new world with the cracked lens of the old; heraldry was not going to take off in a new direction and create any new trends.  Not then, at least.

It is worth noting that the college changed their seal, dropping these arms, in favor of a republican-looking temple which has been recorded on an honorary degree granted March 6, 1790 (Sweig, 146).  Moreover, the seal of Virginia also changed in 1776.  Sweig recounts this poignant quotation from Lyon G. Tyler (1894):

"The Revolution was, in Virginia, a revolution not only in government, but in church, education, and sentiment generally.  Monarchy in every guise became odious.  The Roman Republic presented at that time the highest exemplars of virtues and heroism known to history...Heraldry, the history of pedigrees, fell into utter disrespect" (Sweig, 146).

Eventually, however, the arms granted by the Herald's College would resurface as the official arms used for the seal of the college.

Another grant of arms from London came a few months prior to the college's, those of Francis Nicholson (1655-1728) who would later serve as Governor of the Province of Virginia among other offices.  Nicholson was also a founder of the college.  His arms are blazoned: "Azure, on a cross argent between four suns or, a cathedral church gules" (Morpurgo, 36).  Below is a sketch of Nicholson's arms as found in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register1885, Vol XXXIX, page 73.

The Arms of Francis Nicholson (1655-1728)
Granted March 9, 1694

This should help give a sense of heraldry at the close of the Seventeenth Century.  All in all, I love history, especially Virginia history.  I am proud that this old Virginia institution is and has been such a force in the Commonwealth.  Whether or not I like their arms, of course, is irrelevant.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Arms of Hampden-Sydney College

The full achievement of arms of Hampden-Sydney College, 
The Record, December 1976, Vol. 53, No. 4, pg 4. 

I remember my days at Hampden-Sydney well.  I recall my freshman year being enamored by the College's coat of arms, a young symbol for an old place.  They adorn the front gates to campus along with a promise etched in Latin, Huc venite iuvenes ut exeatis viri.  “Come here as youths so that you may leave as men,” it warns.  Travel down College Road further and you will see a giant bronze relief of the coat of arms surrounded by a banner.  I remember spending most, if not all, of my high school graduation money in the Bookstore on cufflinks, ties, and the like all sporting the College's most ubiquitous symbol.  

In the fall of 1974, an "unusually generous and imaginative friend of the College made an intriguing offer" (The Record, Dec. 1976, page 5).  This man, Mr. James Lewis Kirby (my opinion) of Claremont Manor, was immensely interested in English heraldry, and even published a beautiful book of his family and personal arms, Heraldry of the Kirkby and Kirby Families (Petersburg, VA: Plummer Printing, 1989).  Kirby proudly displays his honorary grant of arms from the College in London.  Moreover, he had two sons that would both graduate from the College in the coming years.  Kirby, I contend, made the approach to the College to sponsor an honorary devisal of arms from London.  That the College officially opened its doors on November 15, 1775 meant that it was operating under George III--much to the chagrin of the Scots-Irish Presbyterians who inhabited that part of central Virginia.  For Hampden-Sydney would stand in stark contrast to the Anglican College of William & Mary in Williamsburg.  However, it would take a full two hundred years (depending on how you count the College's founding) until the school would bear arms.  Thankfully, Mr. Kirby made this possible.

With a generous grant from the F.M. Kirby Foundation, the College was able to obtain an honorary devisal of arms from the College of Arms.  It would serve as a proud moment during the College's bi-centennial celebrations in 1976.  The grant, done completely in Latin, was dated with a touch of irony, July 4, 1975. Then Richmond Herald, John P. Brook-Little, came to campus--dressed in the herald's tabard--and presented the letters patent on October 19, 1976.  Another touch of irony, as Professor John L. Brinkley '59, pointed out in his remarks that day, that the 19th of October was in fact the 195th anniversary of the Lord Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown (Ibid., page 7).  The letters patent were granted to the President and Trustees of Hampden-Sydney College, the official name of the corporation.

A Blazon for Hampden-Sydney's Arms: Per saltire argent and or, a saltire gules between two eagles displayed and as many pheons azure; overall an open book proper edged of the second and inscribed “καὶ γνώσεσθε τὴν ἀλήθειαν" (Ye shall know the truth).  Since the blazon on the letters patent is in Latin, this is an educated guess from a colleague at the American Heraldry Society.

What is more interesting, at least to me, is how the coat of arms changed once in the hands of the College. My friend and former colleague, Dr. Richard McClintock, who spent his career at the College and held immense influence over the design of everything published there, recently shared with me what happened. The pheons from the Sidney Family (spelled with an "i") are somewhat small in the cantoned field between the cross saltire.  He redrew the charges to better fit the field, and I believe he did the arms a favor.

The unique device on these arms is the open book containing in Greek a verse from the Gospel according to John 8:32, "Ye shall know the truth."  Greek was selected, rather than Latin, to emphasis the importance placed on the Classics at Hampden-Sydney.  It didn't hurt that Professor Brinkley, of the Classics Department, was the man deputized to work with the College in London.  Brinkley was the College's first Rhodes Scholar and earned a bachelors and masters degrees from Trinity, Oxford.  He used a classmate from Trinity to translate the letters patent into Latin.  Below is a photograph of a plaque I obtained from a London-based firm showing the shield as intended by the College of Arms.

And now see the change!

A rustic image of the shield used in social media.

The College also received a badge, which places two batons in saltire, topped with red liberty caps.  "The batons and Liberty Caps are Roman symbols of manumission and are only incidentally reminiscent of the French Revolution" (Ibid., page 6).  Sadly, the badge is not used at all.  

Moreover, McClintock designed a ribbon to surround the shield in order to identify the shield's owner, Hampden-Sydney College.  I had originally thought that McClintock's inspiration for the banner or ribbon (as he called it) came from the arms of Rice University designed by Pierre de Chaignon la Rose.  It was a good guess, but McClintock drew the banner without inspiration.

It is the shield and banner which is most often used by the College, but note that the College's official seal is still in use on diplomas to certify the corporation's approval.  

The letters patent are currently on display at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC as part of their exhibit, "Symbols of Honor: Heraldry and Family History."  The exhibit runs from July 1-October 26, 2014.  This photo is from the online exhibit catalog.

Below is an interesting article appearing in the The Record of Hampden Sydney, Summer 1991, Vol 67, No 2, pages 11-12.  Click to enlarge.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Commission for New Arms

Private commission, by the Author.  
Copyright 2014.

Arms:  Azure, semé of Masonic compasses erect Argent, a dexter hand couped erect of the second;

Crest:  On a wreath Argent and Azure, a Black Labrador head erased gorged of a collar Or clutching in its jaws a glove of the first;

Motto: "My Soul is Resilient."

A friend of mine asked if I would devise arms for him, and of course I jumped at the chance.  The design came to mind rather quickly, which surprised me.  These are classic canting arms as the hand is a pun on the armiger's surname.  The armiger is a Mason and I thought of a way to incorporate the compass from the Masonic symbol in a pattern, or seme.  I think they came out rather nicely!  The crest was also fun, as the armiger loves his Black Lab.  In the dog's mouth is a white glove, apparently another symbol found in Masonry.  The motto was a collaborative effort and accurately portrays the armiger's war cry.  He loves it and so do I.