International Heraldry

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Asian Heraldry[edit | edit source]

OVERVIEW - As mentioned above, a form of organized symbolism to denote clans and groups appeared in the mid-13th Century in Asia, about the same time heralds became part of European noble and royal courts. These symbols were worn on flags on the back of soldiers, in the case of the Japanese ‘Mon,’ who wore a form of wooden or bamboo armor and rode horses or walked into battle.

Japan[edit | edit source]

In Japan the ‘Mon’ system was developed to be able to tell which clan or group the soldiers belonged to or were fighting with/for. The chrysanthemum ‘Mon’ was saved for the sole use of the Emperor. Veneration of the sun is another area common to many people, east and west, north and south. Japan’s Tenno clan laid claim to descent from the sun. Stylized forms of this symbol are also as common, although eastern Asian nations have found strict graphic forms for representing the sun, which are given specific names. The Japanese ‘rising sun’ is completely red without rays and is perfectly true to nature.

China[edit | edit source]

China also venerates the sun in symbolism - now only found in the arms and flag of Taiwan - is fully risen, alluding to the twelve hours with “blue sky and white sun.” One study of Chinese history found no examples of inheritable coats of arms for individuals or families, during the era of Europe’s Middle Ages (the seven Han dynasties). China did not develop anything similar to the Japanese mon,either, but the Han dynasty did use banners and standards to identify military units and, occasionally, commanding officers (as officers rather than as specific individuals). The Chinese did use graphic symbols going quite a ways back, into very ancient times. One example is the blue dragon, red phoenix, white tiger and black tortoise which are used even today, by some, as symbols for the eastern, southern, western, and northern celestial quadrants, a practice which goes back for at least 3000 years.

European Heraldry[edit | edit source]

England[edit | edit source]

Today, the Royal College of Arms, in London, England, is the pre-eminent heraldic authority in the world. It has been in continual existence for well-over 500 years - established in 1483/4 by Richard III. The last time the Court of Chivalry sat to adjudicate a case of heraldic justice was 1964, but achievements of arms are issued annually and the heraldic history is still being written by this College of Arms. With the Lyon King of Arms (for Scotland) and Ulster King of Arms (for Ireland) the Heraldic Empire of Great Britain is secure and on-going. Even Canada uses the Royal College for matters heraldic.

The College is overseen by the Earl Marshall of England and the Queen of England [Queen Elizabeth II (born 1926) rules in a Constitutional Monarchy since ascending to the throne in 1952; she celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 2012 -- her grandson, William, and his wife, Kate, have given the Royal Family two new members: George and Charlotte, as of this writing - one more is expected in 2018). The Rules of Heraldry were formulated and the Royal College Herald's wrote prolifically on the subject over the centuries: A.C. Fox-Davis' 1907 revision of Rev. Charles Boutell's (1867) English Heraldry, or the 1950 edition of Boutell's Heraldry (from 1863) edited by Wilfred Scott-Giles and the 1970 edition of the same tome edited by J.P. Brooke-Little, revised again in 1977 also by Brooke-Little. Rules like "No Metals upon Metals, nor Colors upon Colors," and other such have guided both the amateur heraldists and pursuviant heralds for seven centuries. The impact on International Heraldry has been profound, as well as continuity is also almost not able to be measures.

Scotland[edit | edit source]

For in-depth information on Scotland Heraldry click here

Ireland[edit | edit source]

Heraldry on the island of Ireland was a function of the Ulster King of Arms, a crown office dating from 1552. Since 1 April 1943 heraldry in Ireland was regulated in the Republic of Ireland by the Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland, and in Northern Ireland by Norroy and Ulster King of Arms, of the Royal College.

Ecclesiastical Heraldry (Anglican Heraldry)[edit | edit source]

And then there is the Anglican Ecclesiastic Heraldic customs – while we are covering Ecclesiastic Heraldry, we need to touch on another form, the Church of England (Anglican, Episcopal, etc.). Many of the ancient religious houses had arms and in some cased these have been preserved in the insignia of present-day institutions; e.g., the three gothic letter 'B's appeared in the shield of the former priory is now in the arms of the Borough of Bridlington; the three escallops of St. James, which were in the arms of Reading Abbey, are included in the arms of Reading University.

Insignia, usually religious in character, were employed in arms and seals of Bishops before they began to use heraldic arms, and in some cases the arms subsequently devised repeat the emblems. And the arms of several Sees contain the emblems of St. Peter and St. Paul. The See of London has borne two crossed swords, the emblem of St. Paul, since the 14th century. The See of Peterborough displays St. Peter's keys, and Winchester a sword and two keys. While different types of mitres and pastoral staffs are frequently found, as well.

Customs regarding the use of arms by dignitaries of the Roman Church have evolved along different lines than the Church of England, noteably by the use of a variety of different ecclesiastical hats to signify rank. In 1976 (Dec. 21st, to be specific) the Earl Marshall issued a Warrant, after the Archbishop of Canterbury's letter to him on the subject of ecclesiastic arms and the use of hats, which listed appropriate hats annexed to the Warrant. They included: black hat with three red tassels pendent from purple cords on either side for Deans; black hat with three purple tassels pendent from purple cords on either side for Archdeacons; black hat having one black tassel pendent from a black and white cord for priests; black hats without cords or tassels for deacons, etc. The methods of marshalling ecclesiastical arms, in England, needs to reference different periods of history: post-reformation English Church, years between the Reformation and the restoration of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy in England in 1850, etc. So, as you see, ecclesiastical heraldry is complicated and differs by both denomination and custom and history.

Denmark[edit | edit source]

Several European countries have Constitutional Monarchies, such as Denmark (which is ruled by Queen Margretha II since 1972 – born in 1940, she celebrated her 70th birthday in 2010 and her Ruby Jubilee in 2012). Almost all still have heralds and an office of heraldry, or such, as part of their staff or part of some governmental agency. Modern heralds are more protocol officers and event planners than used in the ambassadorial or military intelligence (battle) or even tournament (sports announcer) modes of ancient times. An estimated 80% of Danish private coats of arms are burgher arms - burgher arms are coats of arms borne by persons of the burgher (merchant or peasant) social class of continental Europe (usually called bourgeois in English) since the Middle Ages. By definition, this term is alien to Gallo-British tradition of heraldry but is used in many German-Nordic traditions.Although the term ‘burgher arms’ refers to the bourgeoisie, it is often extended also to arms of the Protestant clergy and even to arms of peasants. In most European countries, the use of armorial bearings is restricted to a particular social class, e.g. the use of supporters in Great Britain, tinctures in Portugal or coronets in Sweden. In other countries, every individual, family and community has been free to adopt arms and use it as they please, provided they have not wrongfully assumed the arms of another. Use of coats of arms by burghers and artisans began during the 13th century and in the 14th century some peasants took to using arms. The arms of burghers bore a far wider variety of charges than the arms of nobility like everyday objects, in particular, tools and rune-like marks - also known as 'house marks' which are not met in arms of nobility. Most widespread burgher heraldry was and still is in Switzerland and in the Netherlands. In the Netherlands only a small percentage of the existing arms belong to the nobility.Regulation of heraldic matters falls to the National Heraldic Consultant, an officer under the Danish National Archive, for approval of municipal arms and ensuring official coats of arms adhere to the rules of heraldry. He has no jurisdiction over private arms. Danish heraldry falls in the German-Nordic tradition of hereditary use of arms (with no cadency marks and rules as the Gallo-British tradition holds).

Dutch (Netherlands)[edit | edit source]

Dutch heraldry is concerned, primarily, with heraldic matters in the country of the Netherlands, or the Low-Lands of Europe. It is characterized by a simple and sober style reminiscent of medieval arms, strong use of ordinaries, etc. Coats of arms in the Netherlands are not controlled by an official heraldic system. Anyone can develop and use a coat of arms, if they wished to do so, provided they did not usurp another’s arms, and this right was historically enshrined in Roman Dutch law. Many merchant families had coats of arms (known as burgher arms) even though they were not members of the nobility. Dutch civic heraldry is regulated the High Council of Nobility, which grants the arms of provinces, municipalities, water boards, Roman Catholic dioceses and Roman Catholic basilicas. Generally, the high Council pursues a policy of stylistic simplicity, as decreed by Interior Ministry guidelines in 1977 – regional historical and genealogical societies were known to have been involved drawing up these initial designs. Generally the High Council disapproves of quartering of existing arms and has a policy of excluding figures of saints on shields.The King of the Netherlands is William 1st, and works under a Constitutional Monarchy.

France[edit | edit source]

French heraldry is unique in Europe for several reasons. Regulated personal heraldry has gone and today the law recognizes both assumed and inherited arms – considering them to be legally equivalent to a visual representation of a name, and given the same protections. There is no central registry of arms and it is up to the individual to prove the longest right to the blazon of arms to be successful in court. But civic heraldry, on the other hand, remains a visible part of daily life.The language of heraldry is Norman French and it’s history exists going back to the 11th Century, but it does not have a national coat of arms. France has, instead, an emblem produced in 1953 at a request for a national coat of arms by the United Nations, but it does not follow the technical rules of heraldry and is associated with the Ancient Regime. In addition, one of the significant floral charges of heraldry has very close ties to France; the fleur-de-lys (translated as ‘lily flower’ – a stylized design of an iris or lily). The fleur-de-lys is depicted on the British arms for the ancient claim of portions of France by the English crown … and is used on multiple civic arms to denote their country ( Paris, Lyon, Alsace, Brittany, Lorraine, Pays de la Loire, Centre, Rhone-Aples, Ile-de-France, etc.).

Germany[edit | edit source]

German heraldic style stands in contrast to Gallo-British, Latin and Eastern heraldry and strongly influenced the styles and customs of heraldry in the Nordic countries, which developed comparatively late. Germanic heraldic tradition is noted for its scant use of heraldic furs, multiple crests, inseperabililty of the crest, and repetition of charges in the shield and the crest. Instead of Norman-French, the language of heraldry in Germany is German: tinctures are schwarz (black), rot (red), gold or gleb, silber (silver), grun (green), purpur (purple); furs are hermelin (ermine), grauwerk (vair), kursch (fur proper), buntfeh (vairy); and this follows through with ordinaries, etc.One of the earliest examples of heraldry originated in Germany with the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne, who erected an imperial (single headed) eagle at his palace after his coronation in the year 800 C.E., establishing the eagle as the enduring symbol of the empire and Germany for several subsequent centuries, right up until today, since the imperial eagle (one of the oldest state symbols in Europe, originating with ancient Rome) is on the flag of Germany – black eagle with red beak and claws – tracing it’s roots back to Charlemagne.Germany was one of the early sources of signet rings and seals (German: siegel), used extensively in the later Middle Ages, and was instrumental in spreading heraldry to the various institutions of feudal Europe, especially to the Nordic countries. One expert (Carl-Alexander von Volborth) says: “the custom of the warrior-caste of using their [heraldic] arms on seals made this kind of pictorial identification fashionable and led to the adoption of arms by anybody using a seal.” Noble women began using armorial seals in the 12th Century and then heraldry spread well into the burgher class (hence the European use of Burgher Arms in many counties) in the 13th Century; even some peasants used arms in the 14th Century.Two of the most common animal charges in heraldry bear special political significance in medieval Germany. Ottfried Neubecker (in his 1979 Guide to Heraldry [Maidenhead, England: McGraw-Hill]) states: “heraldic antagonism … makes the eagle the symbol of imperial power and the lion the symbol of royal sovereignty.”

Italy (Papal Heraldry)[edit | edit source]

Italy formed their College of Arms (Italian: Consulta Araldica) in 1869, by royal decree, to advise the government on titles, coats of arms and related matters. It was placed in the Ministry of the Interior, combining the roles of several pre-unification Italy of various heraldic colleges: Lombardy's Tribunale Araldico (Heraldic Tribunal), Rome's Congregazione Araldica Capitolina (Capitol's Heraldry Congress), Venician Commissione Araldica (Heraldry Commission). But the Italian Royal College of Arms was dissolved after the Italian Constitution formed the Italian Republic in 1948, and after the abolition of state recognized and regulation of noble titles.

Today, no government official or office can grant titles of nobility and some of the other functions are performed by the Heraldic Office (Dipartimento del Cerimoniale di Stato – Ufficio Onorificenze e Araldica pubblica – Department of Ceremonies of State's Office of Honorari and Heraldry) within the Office of the Prime Minister.

The Italian College of Arms rarely dealt with armorial heraldry. Yet, an official armorial was in an early stage of production when the monarch was abolished in 1946, and it was to include balzons of Italian families whether titled or not. Central Archive of Italy (Archivo Centrale dello Stato, Sezione Araldica) Heraldry Section, in Rome, contains official directories of the Consulta Araldica approved by the Council of Minister and by Royal Decree. There are also nobility association in existance, includ-ing the 'Corpo della Nobilta' Italiana,' as private associations and organizations.

Ecclesiastic Heraldry (Vatican/Papal Heraldry)[edit | edit source]

In Addition, in Italy is the Ecclesiastic Heraldry of the Vatican, aka: the Holy See - which is it's own city-state. The Holy See has it's own coat of arms, as does the Swiss Guard and each Pope (Pope Francis – as of this writing).

One of the unique things about Vatican Heraldry is the papal shield is officially rendered in the shape of a chalice, concave top and rounded point. Bishops and Archbishops can use varied other shields. Many of the charges used in Ecclesiastic Heraldry deal with items from their vocation: crosses, monastic items, symbols of various saints, religious artifacts, as well as things from nature (e.g., a scallop shell invokes a story about St. Augustine as well as being an allusion to baptism as a shell is often used to pour water over the head of the infants being baptized, and a shell stands for pilgrimage especially if it tops a staff – Jacob staff – such as the pope being a pilgrim among the peoples and nations of the world, etc.).

Traditionally, a papal coat of arms are externally adorned by only the three-tiered papal tiara with lappets and the crossed keys of St. Peter tied with a cord (which basically make the arms of the Holy See). No other objects nor motto were added, but Pope Francis' arms has his personal motto: Miserando atque eligendo (taken from the 21st homily of St. Bede, in the Liturgy of the Hours 1975, pg 1418, which is translated as "by having mercy, by choosing him" discussing Matt. 9:9-13 with the salient point that Jesus chose Matthew as his disciple not in spite but because of his being a sinner).

One approximation of Pope Francis' arms is: Azure on a Sun in Splendour Or the IHS Christogram ensigned with a Cross paty fitchy piercing the H Gules all above three nails fanwise points to center Sable, and in dexter base a Mullet of eight points and in sinister base a Spikenard flower Or. The three charges on a blue field, the uppermost charge is the emblem of the Jesuits, referencing Francis being a Jesuit (of the Society of Jesus), the main charge is composed of a Sun radiant, within which is the IHS Christogram (a monogram of the Holy Name of Jesus) in red, with a red cross surmounting the H and three black nails below the H. Below the Jesuit emblem is an eight-pointed star, being a long-standing symbol of the Virgin Mary, and a spikenard representing St. Joseph.

In Hispanic iconographic tradition St. Joseph is often depicted with a branch of spikenard in his hand. These charges appeared on Bergoglio's previous coat of arms displayed when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, but as Pope the tincture of the star and the spikenard elevated from Argent (Silver) to Or (Gold).

Francis replaced the traditional papal triregnum by adopting a silver mitre with three gold bands, the bands allude to the papal tiara's three crowns, which came to represent the three powers of Order, Jurisdiction, and Magisterium, all joining at the center depicting unity in the same person.

Norway[edit | edit source]

Norwegian heraldry comes from the German-Nordic heraldic tradition, a blend of both. All citizens are allowed to assume their own arms. Since 1814 there has been no granting of nobility and arms in Norway rather than a noble privilege.

Coats of arms were in older times relatively frequent, used by nobles as well as citizens and farmers. There are today comparatively few personal arms in Norway, especially in active use, and many are of foreign origin. Norwegian family arms have been created and established by private individuals and needed no grant or confirmation by any official authorities – not many Norwegian family arms are those of former noble families.

New arms need no official sanction and there is no legislation, official regulation or registration of such citizen arms. But the situation is different with the national and royal arms, the arms of military and civil governmental bodies, counties and municipalities; they are sanctioned by the king and they are protected by the Norwegian Penal Code. Norway's national arms are among the world's oldest national arms still in use.

There is no special Norwegian heraldic authority bu the government uses the National Archives of Norway as expert consultants for municipal arms. The Norwegian ministry of Foreign Affairs is the heraldic authority for use of the national coat of arms and the symbolic royal crown.

One peculiarity of Norwegian heraldry is the lack of use of the stain Orange, using five main colors, furs. Another is the use of 'house marks' (Bumerke or plural: Bumerker), often used on seals and signet rings or displayed within a escutcheon or a shield; and are basically simple lines or runic-like letters and other symbols which signify a specific person or family. Before literacy became widespread, a bumerke would often be used instead of a signature, much like arms.

Norwegian Heraldry Society (Norsk Heraldisk Forening, or NHF) is a private organization and was organized in 1969 in Oslo. It organizes lectures and publishes the member publication Vapenbrevet (Letters Patent); co-operates extensively with the Society of Scandinavian Heraldry (Societas Heraldica Scandinavica). NHF co-organized, in 2014, the XXXI International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences held in Oslo. (Sources included:; and )

Russian[edit | edit source]

Armorial bearings were not historically used in Russia until the 17th Century, although some have speculated about uses in earlier periods. The arms were obviously inspired by more Western designs, Early designs were not following the usual rules of heraldry and by 1689 some showed influences of ideas attributed to Peter the Great. He oversaw the first officers of arms, the turning of the state symbols into true heraldry, and stated to protect certain family rights to particular arms.

The coat of arms of the Russian Federation harkens back to the arms of the Russian Empire (1721-1917), and were restored as the National Arms of the Russian Federation in 1992/3 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Though modified more than once since the reign of Ivan III (1462-1505), the current coat of arms is directly derived from its medieval original. The geenral chronmatic layout corresponds to the early 15th century standard. The shape of the eagle can be traced back to the reign of Peter the Great (1682-1725), although the eagle in the modern arms is godl instead of the imperial black. It is quite similar to the national emblems of the Russian Empire. The current arms were designed by artist Yevgeny Ukhnalyov; it was adopted officially on Nov. 30, 1993.

A horseman, considered to be St. George, killing a dragon, is the second of the two main Russian symbols. It is the coat of arms of Moscow and used on the flag of Moscow (which is a banner of arms) and as an inescutcheon (smaller shield) on the coat of arms of Russian.

The state coat of arms of the former Soviet Union was adopted in 1923 and was used until the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. Although it technically is an emblem rather than a coat of arms, since it doesn't follow heraldic rules, in Russia it is called repo (transliteration: gerb), the word used for a traditional coat of arms.

In Imperial Russia, the use of coats of arms was not regulated – although comparatively common among the upper classes, arms of non-nobles were rare, although they were not banned. However, since they were not condoned, they were rare. In modern times, use has become more common. There has been no change in regulation, although the use of traditional noble indicators (certain types of helms, and supporters, for example) is restricted.

When the Soviet regime took over in Russia, it abolished all types of nobility (although at that time they did not control the whole of Russia). However, this failed to abolish their heraldic lineage, which continued. There are, therefore, a large number of noble arms, complete with supporters and helms. In the Russian Empire, arms were actively used as a symbol of one's nobility. Unlike coats of arms in other countries (such as in British heraldry), they were largely granted to the family as a whole.

The Heraldic Council of the president of the Russian Federation advises the President, and hence the State, on heraldic matters. This includes the use of official symbols, and preventing their use by non-authorized sources. It helps local and regional governments devise coats of arms. It also discusses matters, and researches heraldry in Russia. It runs, and has authority over, the State Heraldic Register. Some states have State Herald Master, which have some regulating effects. (Sources include:; Russian Heraldry: A Brief survey (

Spain (Spanish Office of Heraldry)[edit | edit source]

Heraldry in Spain is not regulated, in the sense that there are no laws or rules on who can take what arms, and no official has ever had enforcement powers of any kind. There are, however, heralds (Cronistas Reyes de Armas, in Spanish or Chronicler King of Arms, in English, or Recording Kings of Arms – meaning they document rolls of arms with no regulatory power), which is an office dating back to the 16th Century, which have judicial powers in matters of titles of nobility, and also serve as a registration office for pedigrees and grants of arms.

The heralds in Spain grant arms to residents of areas currently or formerly under the governement of the Spanish Crown. This means that a resident of the Western United States and from Texas to Florida – or any area in the US which were even once under the Spanish Flag – could get a grant of arms for around $1000 (the address is: Ilmo. Sr. Don Vicente de Cadenas Y Vicent; Cronista Rey de Armas; Decano Del Cuerpo; Calle De Aniceto Marinas, 114; 28008 Madrid, SPAIN).

The Heraldic History of Spain doesn't start with the current monarch of Spain, King Felipe VI, but we can trace the Royal Heraldry and Line of Kings of Spain back to the Visgoth Kingdom and Reconquest of the Iberian peninsula in the 11th Century. The arms of Isabel and Fernando (yes, the one's Columbus met and the one's which financed his voyage), whose marriage unified Spain in the late 15th Century, was: quarterly, 1 and 4, quarterly Castile-Leon, 2 and 3, per pale Aragon and Argon-Sicily. Their arms used in Navarra (until 1700) were: Quarterly, 1. quarterly Castile and Navarra; 2. per pale Aragon and per pale Leon and Jerusalem; 3. per pale, a. per pale Hungary and Aragon, b. Aragon-Sicily; 4. quarterly Castile and Leon; ente' en klpoint Granada.The arms used in Aragon were either Aragon, or per pale, Castile-Leon and Aragon or tierced per pale, Hungary, Anjou-Naples and Jerusalem. In Naples, the arms were Quarterly, 1 and 4, Castile-Leon, 2. per pale Aragon and per pale Jerusalem-Hungary; 3. per pale Aragon and Aragon-Sicily.

The Imperial arms used after 1530 were:

quarterly: 1 and 4. Spain, which is quarterly A and D. Castile-Leon, B. per pale a. per fess Aragon and Navarra, b. per pale Jerusalem and Hungary; C. per pale a. per fess Aragon and Navarra, b. Aragon-Sicily. 2 and 3. Austria, which is quarterly Austria, Bourgogone modern, Bourgogne ancient and Brabant. Ente' en point Granada. Overall an escutcheon per pale Flanders and Tryol. The arms are borne by an imperial double-headed eagle sable, surmounted by an imperial crown, surrounded with the dollar of the Golden fleece and accompanied by the pillars of Hercules and the motto PLUS ULTRA.

On down to Juan Carlos used as personal arms those of the last kings of Spain, Alfonso XII and Alfonso XIII, with the closed crown and the color of the Golden Fleece. The same arms without the French escutcheon were already in use in the last years of the Franco regime as abbreviated arms. By a law of Oct. 5, 1981, Franco's national arms were abolished and the following state arms were adopted namely:

Quarterly Castile, Leon, Aragon and Navarra, en surtout Anjou (France with a bordure gules); closed crown, pillars of Hercules.

Quarters mentioned above are:

Castile: Gules, a castle triple-towered or, pierced and ajoure azure. Leon: Argen, a lion purpure (or gules) crowned or. Aragon: Or, four pallets gules. Aragon-Sicily: quarterly per saltire, in chief and base Aragon and in flanks Argent, an eagle displayed sable. Granada: Argent, a pomegranate gules leafed vert. Navarra: Gules, a cross, saltire and orle of chains linked together or. Hungary: bary of eight argent and gules. Anjou-Naples: Azure, on a semis of fleurs-de-lys or a label gules. Jerusalem: Argent, a cross potent beween four crosslets or. Austria: Gules, a fess argent. Bourgogne ancient: bendy of 6 or and azure, a bordure gules. Bourgogne modern: Azure, on a semis of fleurs-de-lys or a bordure compony argent and gules. Brabant: Sable, a lion rampant or. Flanders: Or, a lion rampant sable. Tirol: Argent, an eagle displayed gules, crowned and bearing Klee-stengeln on the wings or. Portugal: Argeny, five escutcheons in cross azure in each as many plates in saltire, within a bordure gules thereon seven castles or. Anjou: Azure, three fleurs-de-lis or within a bordure gules. Franese: Or, six fleurs-de-lis 3, 2 and one azure. Medici: Or, six balls 1, 2, 2 and 1, that in chief of France, the others gules. France Imperial: Azure, an imperial eagle or.

Spain's recent history is interesting as it moved from the Bourbon Dynasty to a brief First Spanish Republic, in September 1873, to a coup d'etat which restored the Bourbon dynasty in 1874 until 1931. Local and municipal elections produced candidates favoring an end to the monarchy and establishing a republic. King Alfonso XIII (lucky 13) went into exile but did not abdicate. The provisional government was set up into a short-lived Second Spanish Republic which evolved, after the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39, into a Nationalist Facist government under General Francisco Franco – who was aided directly by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany during the Civil War.

In 1947, after 16 years without a monarchy or kingdom, Franco made Spain a Kingdom, who claimed to rule through a coalition of the Flange political party, supporters of the Bourbon royal family, and the Carlists, until his death in 1975. Before Franco died he appointed Prince Juan Carolos I de Borbon (the younger brother of Ferdinand VII and the heir to the crown, per Salic Law) as his successor, who presided over Spain's transition from dictatorship to democracy by fully endorsing political reforms. In 1978 the then King Juan Carlos signed into law the new liberal democratic Constitution of Saping, which was approved by 88% of voters. He also successfully survived an attempted coup in 1981, and worked toward establishing reliable political customs when transitioning one government administration to another, emphasizing constitutional law and protocol while professionally maintaining a non-partisan and yet independent constitutional monarchy.

According to the Spanish Constitution voted in referendum, the sovereignty power emanates from the people, so it's the very same people who give the king the power to reign. And 'National Sovereignty' belongs to the self-same Spanish people, from whom all State powers emanate.

June 19, 2014 King Felipe VI took over from his father Juan Carlos as the monarch of Spain. (Sources include Spanish Constitution of 1978, ConstitucionINGLES.pdf ; Boletin Oficial del Estado (BOE) & _Constitution_of_1978/Preliminary_Title; PDF in English; _of_Spain; and .)

Sweden[edit | edit source]

Swedish heraldry is from the German-Nordic tradition, noted for its multiple helms and crests treated as inseparable from the shield, as well as repetition of colors and charges between the shield and the crest, and a scant use of heraldic furs. Heraldic differences between Scandinavian countries is a more recent development, due to the history of the region being so interwined. Swedish and Finnish heraldry have a shared history prior to the Diet of Porvoo in 1809,; these, together with Danish heraldry, were heavily influenced by German heraldry. Unlike the highly stylized language (Norman French) of English heraldry, Swedish is blazoned in the Swedish language, in most cases.

The earliest achievements of arms in Sweden are those of 1219 for two brothers, Sigtrygg and Lars Bengtsson. The earliest civic example is a city seal from 1247 (Kalmar: Argent, a tower embattled gules, with door and windows Or, issuing from a wavy base azure, between two mullets of six points gules.). Seals were extensively used in the Middle Ages, was instrumental in spreading heraldry to churches, local governments and other institutions. Armorial seals of noblewomen appeared in the 12th Century, burghers and artisans began adopting arms in the 13th Century, and even some peasants took arms in the 14th Century.

Today, heraldry in Sweden is mostly corporate and governmental arms, with the rights of these private entities and official bodies upheld by Swedish law. To become legally registered and protected under Swedish law, an official coat of arms needs to be registered with the Swedish Patent and Registration Office (PRV), and is subject to approval by the National Herald (Statsheraldiker) and the beaurucratic Heraldic Board of the National Archives of Sweden. Heraldic arms of common citizens (burgher arms), are less strictly controlled and regulated. These are recognized by inclusion in the annual Scandinavian Roll of Arms.

Common features of Swedish heraldry are similar to those of other Nordic countries and Germany distinguished from Gallo-British heraldry and other heraldic traditions by several keky elements of heraldic style. As mentioned above, one of these is the use of multiple helms and crests, which cannot be displayed separately from the main shield. The multiple helmets and crests are considered just as important as the shield, each denoting a fief over which the bearer holds a right. In Scandinavia (as distinct from the German custom), when an even number of helmets is displayed, they are usually turned, with their crests, to face outward; when an odd number, the center helm is turned affronte' and the rest turned outward (whereas in Germany the helmets are turned inward to face the center of the escutcheon). Additionally, crests are often repetitive of charges used on the main shield, and marks of cadency typically occur in the crest, rather than on the shield as in Gallo-British heraldry. Also the use of heraldic furs on the shield, while coming in Gallo-British heraldry, is rare in the German-Nordic tradition. Furs in Scandinavia are generally limited to ermine and vair, which sometimes appear in mantling, supporters, or the trimmings of crowns, but rarely on the shield.

The most common charges in Swedish heraldry include lions and eagles. Additional animals include griffins and (especially in the northern provinces) reindeer. Stars are common and are usually depicted with six-points and straight sides, in contrast to the five-pointed straight-sided star (mullet) or as a six-pointed wavy-sided star (estoile). These stars are usually described as “six-pointed stars” (sexuddig stjarna). In terms of blazoning, Swedish heraldry is described in plain terms using common Swedish language, rather than Norman-French. Also canting arms occur frequently.

The five basic colors and two metals (Blue, Red, Green, Purple, Black & Gold, Silver) in Swedish are: Bla, Rod, Gron, Purpur, Svart and Guld (gul), Silver (vit); instead of the Norman-French versions (Azure, Gules, Vert, Purpure, Sable & Or, Argent). The same holds for ordinaries: Pale is Stolpe, Fess is Bjalke, Bend is Balk, Bend sinister is Ginbalk, Cross is Kors, Saltire is Andreaskors, Chevron is Sparre, Bourdure is Bard, etc.

The greater national arms (stora riksvapnet) originated in 1448 and has remained unchanged in Swedish law since 1943. Since 1523 it has been customary in Sweden to display the arms of the ruling dynasty as an inescutcheon in the center of the greater arms. The coat of arms of Queen Silvia of Sweden is similar to the greater arms of Sweden, but without the ermine mantling, and with the central inescutcheon exchanged for her personal arms: Per pale gules and Or, a fleur-de-lis countchanged. The shield in encircled by an azure ribbon with dependent cross of the Order of the Seraphim.

The lesser arms of Sweden (lilla riksvapnet) is blazoned: Azure, ith three coronets Or, ordered two above one; crowned with a royal crown. This is the emblem used by the government and its agencies; it is, for example, embroidered on all Swedish police uniforms. The three crowns have been a national symbol of Sweden for centuries; historians can trace the use of the symbol back to the royal seal of Albrecht of Mecklenburg (1338 - 1412), and even earlier. The three crowns have been recognized as the official arms of Sweden since the 14th Century. The earliest credible attribution fo the three crowns is to Magnus Eriksson, who reigned Norway and Sweden, and in 1330s, bought Scania from Denmark.

Ecclesiastical Heraldry (Church of Sweden)[edit | edit source]

The Church of Sweden (Svenska kyrkan) was the national church until 2000. The arms of the church have been found displayed on a 14th Century heraldic flag discovered in Uppsala cathedral and is blazoned: Or, upon a cross gules, a crown Or. The crown has long been said to represent St. Erik, but in 2005 the church adopted a “new interpretation” calling it the vicgtory crown of Christ (Kristi segerkrona). The Church of Sweden also has many dioceses and parishes with their own arms.

Bishops traditionally marshall the diocese arms with their own personal arms, adding a mitre in place of the helm and a crosier displayed behind the shield, but these are removed when the Bishop retires. The cross staff or 'primate cross' is used only by the Archbishop of Uppsala and Bishop of Lund, Bishop Antje Jackele'n of Lund uses the traditional oval shield of a woman's arms, and her arms were designed by the dicese's heraldist, Jan Raneke, who also designed the arms of her predecessor, Christina Odenberg, who was the first female bishop in the history of the Church of Sweden.

Switzerland[edit | edit source]

Of 26 cantons in Switzerland, today, each has an official flag and coat of arms. The history and development of these span from the 13th Century to the 20th Century. Historically, the region we know now as Switzerland had eight cantons from 1352 to 1481, then 13 of the Swiss Confederacy from 1513 to 1798, a jump to 20 cantons from 198 to 1803, and 22 cantons during 1848 to 1978 included three cantons divided in half each, 23 from 1979-1999, and now at 26 cantons.

Twenty-two cantonal coats of arms as they stood with the creation of Switzerland as a federal state in 1848, six are simple bicolor designs, one more is bi-color but adds an inscription. The remaining 15 include heraldic designs:

The Swiss cross in two flags, one on a solid red field (Schwyz), and one in the corner of the 'revolutionary' tricolor (Neuchatel).

Seven flags use heraldic animals: - the bear for Bern and for Appenzell - the bull for Uri - the ram for schaffhausen - the ibex for Graubunden - the eagle for Geneva - two lions for Thurgau the bishop's crozier or Baslerstabfor Basel and Jura the image of a pilgrim (St. Fridolin) for Glarus a key for Unterwalden and for Geneva the fasces for St. Gallen stars for Valais and Aargau, the latter with additional wavy lines representing rivers.

The coats of arms of the 13 Cantons were based on war flags and emblems used for seals. A distinction was made for war flags (banners and Fahnlein – the former as the large war flag used only in the case of a full levy for a major conflict; the latter a smaller flag used for minor expeditions). The banner was considered a sacred possession, usually kept in a church. Losing the banner to an enemy force was a great shame and invited mockery from other cantons and enemies alike.

Pope Julius II recognized the support he received from Swiss mercenaries against France in 1512 granted the Swiss the title of Ecclesiasticae libertatis defensores (Church Liberty Defenders) and gave them two large banners, besides a blessed sword and hat. Papal legate Matthias Schiner in addition gave to the Swiss cantons and their associates a total of 42 costly silk banners with augmentations, the so-called Juliusbanner. Some of the banners survive, of the cantonal ones notably those of Zurich and Solothurn. The arranging of cantonal insignia in shields (escutcheons) as coats of arms arises in the late 15th Century. The Tagsatzung in Baden was presented with stained glass representations of all cantons about 1501. In these designs, two cantonal escutcheons were shown side by side, below a shield bearing the Imperial Eagle and a crown, flanked by two banner-bearers. Based on these, there arose a tradition of representing cantonal arms in stained glass (Standesscheiben), alive throughout the early modern period and continued in the modern state. (Source: )

North Amercian Heraldry[edit | edit source]

Canada[edit | edit source]

Since 1988 Canada has had it's own granting authority, the Canadian Heraldic Authority. Canadian heraldry is a blend of both French and British as well as distinctly Canadian emblems and traditions. Use of armorial bearings is not limited to national, provincial, and civic governmental bodies; all citizens of Canada have the right to petition for an award of arms, as do other entities including businesses and religious institutions. The granting of arms is regarded as an honor from the Queen of Canada, via her Viceroy, the Governor General of Canada, and thus are bestowed only on those whom the Chief Herald has deemed worthy of receiving a grant of arms.

US/American Heraldry[edit | edit source]

America is a relatively young country, just over two centuries of existence. Yet, it has a fairly long history of heraldic use by citizens and residents which is now well over 500 years.

Heraldry in North America was first introduced by European settlers who brought their own heraldic customs of their respective countries. Several of the Founding Fathers, including George Washington, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and more than 35 signers of the Declaration of Independence employed personal arms and a great number of Americans continue to do so, more or less accurately. Some European countries may scoff at the statement that America has more than a 500 year tradition of heraldic practices; and yet, review the following:

Heraldry Timeline[edit | edit source]

15th and 16th Centuries[edit | edit source]

European heraldry arrived in North America with the British settlers to Jamestown, VA in the 15th Century. Less than 100 years later the English settlement of Raliegh, VA, applies for a grant of civic arms from the Royal College of Arms in 1586. Examples of Dutch, Spanish, German and English immigrants brought their own granted or assumed arms and continued to display and use the arms here in the New World.

17th Century[edit | edit source]

Lord Baltimore assigned his personal arms to the Maryland colony in 1634 – and it still appears in the Maryland state flag. Harvard College in Massachusetts assumes arms in 1643 and Rhode Island assumes official arms in 1661, while New York City assumes civic arms in 1686. The first English grant of arms to an American colonist was to Francis Nicolson, of Maryland, in 1694, the same year the College of William and Mary, in Virginia, obtained a grant of arms.

18th Century[edit | edit source]

Queen Ann establishes a Carolina Herald at the Royal College of Arms (Lawrence Crump, the first Carolina Herald; but it appears he did not grant any arms) for the Carolina Colony in 1705. Connecticut assumes official arms in 1711. The first Scottish grant of arms was to Rhode island's Governor, Samuel Cranston, in 1724. Yale in Connecticut assumes arms in 1736. Princeton (NJ) assumes arms in 1746. July & August 1776, at least 35 signers of the Declaration of Independence are armigerous (including John Hancock and Benjamin Franklin). Five states assume official arms during or shortly after the War of Independence: NJ & PA in 1776, Delaware and NY in 1777, and Mass. In 180. Congress of the United States assumes official arms in 1782. Congress president George Washington states in 1788 that “heraldry is not incompatible with the purest ideals of republicanism.” (or as quoted elsewhere “heraldry is not unfriendly to the purest spirit of republicanism.”). The US Treasury assumes official arms around 1789. President Thomas Jefferson bears a coat of arms.

19th Century[edit | edit source]

President John Adams bears a coat of arms. Maine assumes state arms in 1820; Vermont does so in 1821; Missouri in 1822; and Michigan in 1836. The Mexican province Texas, which has a large American settler population, becomes a republic in 1836 and later assumes official arms depicting a 'lone star.' Wisconsin assumes state arms about 1848; Philadelphia assume civic arms in 1874; Colorado assumes state arms in 1877. Pres. James A Garfield bear arms, as does President Chester A. Arthur. America Heraldica, by Edgar de V. Vermont, is published in 1886; Eugene Zieber's Heraldry in America is published in 1895. Idaho assumes state arms in 1891. US annexes the Pacific island state of Hawaii in 1898, which retains existing official arms, dating from 1845. US takes over the former Spanish colony of Puerto Rico in 1898, which already has official arms dating from 1511. The US Army assigns arms to the US Military Academy at West Point in 1898.

20th Century[edit | edit source]

Pres. Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt bears ancestral Dutch arms, also borne by Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt. William A Crozier's General Armory is published in 1904 with John Matthews' A Complete American Armory is published in 1905. Los Angeles (CA) assumes civic arms in 1905. The US Army estsablishes a heraldry office and a system of unit coats of arms in 1919 (and later reorganized as The Institute of Heraldry in 1959 after Pres. Eisenhower signed enabling legislation September 2, 1957, Public Law 85-263, which became US 71 Stat. 589). An early example of an English honorary grant of arms to a US citizen descended from a pre-1783 colonist: Alain C. White, in 1920. Rhode Island has civic arms devised for all its towns in the 1920s. The 51st Artillery Regiment is the first army unit to adopt a coat of arms in 1922. Pres. Calvin Coolidge has a coat of arms. Publications include Charels K. Bolton's American Armory in 1927; the first volume of the New England Historic Genealgocial Society Heraldry Committee's A Roll of Arms in 1928; and Eugene Spofford's Armorial Families of America in 1939. Alabama assumes state arms in 1939. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) assumes arms in 1940. The US Army Air Corp establishes a system of unit emblems and coats of arms in 1945 and when it becomes the US Air Force, in 1947, President Truman assigns it official arms. Pres. Truman assigns official arms to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1950. Movie star Douglas Fairbanks Junior obtains an English grant of arms in 1951. Pres. Dwight David Eisenhower assumes arms in 1955. North Dakota assumes state arms in 1957. The Irish government presents President John Fitz-gerald Kennedy with a coat of arms in 1961. A private, American College of Heraldry & Arms (ACH&A) is established in 1966 in Maryland – closes in 1970 – reopens in Las Vegas, NV, in early 1971, closing offices before 1980, but staying loosely organized, in Utah, into the 21st Century (being called The American College of Arms, or ACA). The ACH&A devises arms for President Lyndon Banes Johnson in 1968, and Pres. Richard Millhouse Nixon in 1970. A new,private American College of Heraldry (http://www.americancollegeof is established in 1972. John Brooke-Little, Richmond Herald, presents a coat of arms to Hampden-Sydney College on Oct. 19, 1976. Virginia assumes state arms devised by the Royal College of Arms in 1976. President Ronald W. Reagan bears self-assumed arms, registered in Spain and Switzerland. The College of Arms Foundation ( is established in 1984, to make donations to the Royal College of Arms in London, England. The Mescalero Apache Tribe obtains a devisal of arms from the Royal College of Arms in 1986. The Irish government presents President Bill Clinton with a coat of arms in 1995.

21st Century[edit | edit source]

The Society of Scottish Armigers ( is founded in 2001 – it obtains a grant of arms from Lord Lyon in 2004. The American Heraldry Society ( is founded in 2003 – it lauches a journal, The American Herald, in 2006.

The use of coats of arms may be seen as a custom of nobility and royals but The American Constitution “guarantees the right to bear arms” in the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights – as the American College of Arms touts, albeit only slightly tongue in cheek. One of the actual definitions of the word “arms” is armorial bearings (Black's Law Dictionary).

Most states do not employ coats of arms, but have chosen to use seals as their official emblems, and while he United State has a coat of arms, which is the basis of most governmental seals, the Great Seal of the United States is the official emblem of the Nation. Our National Coat of Arms appears on the reverse of the $1 dollar bill, and on the Presidential Flag.

While the US Constitution prohibits federal and state governments from conferring or recognizing title of nobility (see Title of Nobility Clause) hence, there are few noble coats of arms in the country. However, private persons, including several past presidents, employ traditional coats of arms either personal or family related. Sicne there is no official regulation on arms, except for the official seals, military badges, insignia, decorations and medals of the country and the states, many private individuals have assumed arms.

There is one anomalous exception to this lack of heraldic regulation within the United States, the coat of arms of the Swiss Confederation is specifically protected from unauthorized use within the Unites States, under penalty of a fine and/or imprisonment for up to six months. (US Code Title 18, Part I, Chapter 33, Section 708)

Various private or non-profit organizations have tried to fill the need for Americans of heraldic authority in the United States, several of these are:

The U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry - Heraldic and other military symbols have been sued by the military forces as well as other organizational elements of the government since the beginning of the Revolution. However, until 1919 there was no coordinated overall military symbolism program. In that year, within the War Department General Staff, an office was delegated to take responsibility for the coordination and approval of coats of arms and insignia of certain Army organizations. In 1924, former staff responsibility for military design was delegated to The Quartermaster General. As the needs for symbolism by the military services and the national government expanded, the scope of the services furnished by The Quartermaster General's Office evolved into a sizable heraldic program. Then, with the acceleration of activities brought about by World War II, the expansion of the Army and subsequent increase of interest in symbolism, contributed to more growth in the program.

In 1949, the Munitions Board, acting for the Army, Navy and Air Force, directed the Army to provide heraldic services to all military departments. The program was expanded further as a result of the enactment of Public Law 85-263, approved by Congress and signed by Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower in September 1957, becoming 71 Stat. 589, which delineates the authority of the Secretary of the Army to furnish heraldic services to the military departments and other branches of the federal government through the US Army Institute of Heraldry - the closest thing America has as a formal College of Arms, unfortunately it is solely for military and governmental uses. The Institute of Heraldry was established at Cameron Station in Alexandria, Virginia. Within the Institute, functions formerly performed within the Office of the Quartermaster General and several field activities were consolidated. Upon reorganization of the Army in 1962, responsibility for the heraldic program was assigned to the Judge Advocate General's Office. In 1987, with the realignment of certain Army Staff agency functions, the Institute was transferred to the United States Army Human Resource Command.

In April 1994, the Institute of Heraldry was relocated from Cameron Station to Fort Belvoir, Virginia. As a result of a realignment in October 2004, responsibility for the Heraldic Program was assigned to the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army, Resources and Program Agency. It has since been reassigned back to the Quartermaster General office, while remaining at Ft. Belvoir. The US Army Institute of Heraldry consists of a staff of twenty civilians. The mission of the Institute remains to furnish heraldic services to the Armed Forces and other US government organizations, including the Executive office of the President. The activities of the Institue encompasses research, design, development, standardization, quality control, and other services relating to official symbolic items – seals, decorations, medals, insignia, badges, flags, and other items awarded to or authorized for official wear or display by government personnel and agencies. Limited research and information services concerning official symbolic items are also provided to the general public.

The American Heraldry Society - The American Heraldry Society was formed 5 November 2003 as a learned society to promote the study of heraldry and education of U.S citizens about heraldry. The current president of the Society is Joseph McMullen, of Virgina; elected 2 July 2012. Their office is in Washington, D.C.

The Society is a Texas corporation, filed in 2007 (10 April) incorporated in Austin, Texas, with Hugh L. Brady as the registered agent, and four principles listed: Hugh L. Brady from Austin, TX; Kenneth Mansfield from Winchester, KY; Philip D. Blanton from O'fallon, MO; and W.B. Henry Jr. from Beaver, PA. The Society is governed by a seven-member board of governors, including: Joseph McMillan, of VA (President); Hugh L. Brady, of TX (Secretary); Kenneth F. Mansfield, of KY (Treasurer); Rev. Guy W. Selvester, of NJ, & Stephen J. (Joe) Winslow, of D.C. (both as Gov. at Large); Philip D. Blanton, of MO (Director of Education); Kimon A. Andreou, of FL (Director of Information Technology); Stephen J. (Joe) Winslow, of D.C. (Director of Public Policy); Joseph McMillan, of VA (Director of Research); with Jeremy Keith Hammond, of ME (Asst. Director).

As the educational aspect of the Society's aim, this part of the mission is headed by the Society's Directors of Education (Dr. Philip D. Blanton) and Research (Joseph McMillan). They undertake an education program to increase the heraldic knowledge of Americans. On of its primary concerns is to combat popular misconceptions about heraldry, which include:

  • Heraldry is snobby, pretentious and anti-egalitarian.
  • The study of heraldry and its use belong to an 'old world' sensibility that was shrugged off during the War of Independence; and
  • There are no such things as “family-name coats of arms” (i.e., a coat of arms which may be borne by anyone who has a particular surname).

The Society has a newly updated website (updated in 2016) and publishes The American Herald, an annual journal, and Courant, an electronic newsletter.

Regular Membership is an annual $20 or $30 for a family membership. While the Society does not grant coats of arms, they do register arms and provide information on Trademark and Copyright regulations to help protect one's coat of arms. They also provide information for granting authorities overseas and private heraldic organizations that can assist those interested in becoming armigerous. This information and addresses are on the Society website (

New England Historical and Genealogical Society Committee on Heraldry - One of the most preeminent private heraldry organizations in the United States is the New England Historical and Genealogical Society's Committee on Heraldry. The NEHGS was founded in 1845, with the CoH being established in 1864; and the longevity of both of the group only adds to their reputation, as does the eminent scholars they have nurtured and produced.

The CoH is the oldest non-governmental heraldic organization in the world. It produces an annual Roll of Arms, which records and registers coats of arms, of US citizens abroad and the “rightfully borne” within the United States; after the application being accepted for one of four categories: registration applies only to arms of 'pre-1917 origin' borne by an immigrant to the U.S., recorded from foreign source subsequent to 1917, record assumed arms used in the past within the United States, and record new assumed arms (with an explanation of the design) for individuals, associations, companies and other corporate bodies.

Current charges for this service is about $200, which only covers the costs and no certificate of registration or blazon of the arms is provided. More information is available on the CoH website (

American College of Heraldry - The American College of Heraldry was founded in 1972 and subsequently chartered as a non-profit corporation. The college registers personal and organizational arms, including those granted or certified by foreign heraldic authorities, those borne historically by families without having been granted by an official authority, as well as newly designed and assumed arms. Registration with the College is limited to US citizens or residents and those with significant business or personal connections in the United States.

The College's basic registration fee, as of 2015, is $325, or $350 if combined with membership in the college. Registrants receive a certificate of registration and a black-and-white line drawing of the arms suitable for duplication. In addition, for those requiring it, the registration fee includes assistance with the design and blazoning of a new coat of arms.

Arms registered with the ACH are published in the organization's quarterly journal, The Armiger's News, and periodically collected and printed in book form as The Heraldic Register of America.

Further information and forms for registration can be found on the American College of Heraldry website (, The College's executive director is David Robert Wooten.

College of Arms Foundation - The Foundation is independent of the College of Arms in London; however, its effectiveness is dependent upon the goodwill and cooperation of the College and, more specifically, the Officer of Arms (or heralds), who are the custodians of the ancient art and traditions of heraldry in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Foundation also liaises with the College of Arms Trust, a UK charity.

The Foundation welcomes all persons interested in heraldry and, in particular, English heraldry, to participate in and support its activities.

The Foundation was incorporated in New York State in 1983 originally for the purpose of raising funds towards the upkeep and renovation of the College of Arms building in the City of London and to promote the study of heraldry. In 2001, the Foundation's focus was changed to promote knowledge of and interest in English heraldry in the United States.

Augustan Society - The Augustan Society, an association based in Orlando, FL, and devoted to research on historic, genealogical, heraldic and chivalric matters, was organized in 1957 and began registering arms in 1966. Both members and non-members of the society may register personal as well as institutional coats of arms, banners, and badges, whether for themselves or on behalf of an ancestor.

The basic fee as of Feb. 2010 is $150 ($120 for Augustan Society members). If multiple items are registered simultaneously, such as arms and a badge, cost adjustments are applicable. If arms are claimed by inheritance, genealogical evidence supporting a right to the arms must be submitted for review by society's genealogy committee.

Assumed arms must pass review by the society's heraldry committee for adherence to the laws and traditions of heraldry, lack of obvious usurpation, and the broad limits of good taste. Previous registration by private registries may speed the process but is not a guarantee of approval. The design of arms that are found unacceptable can be amended and resubmitted without an additional fee. After approval and registration, the petitioner will receive a certificate with a new illustration of the arms. Beginning in 1967-68, the society has occasionally issued printed installments of The Augustan Society Roll of Arms, in which selected arms from the society's registry are included. Registering arms with the Augustan Society does not guarantee that they will be published in the Roll of Arms.

For more information and further details, see the Augustan Society's website (

United States Heraldic Registry - The United States Heraldic Registry was established in 2005 to provide free on-line registration of inherited, granted, or assumed arms in the United States. Registration is available to individuals, private organizations, other corporate bodies, and local, state, and federal government entities. The Registry publishes an online database of registered coats of arms which can be searched using names and blazon keywords. For a modest fee, registrants may order a computer-generated certificate of registration. The Registry also offers heraldic design assistance.

The United States Heraldic Registry was founded by Michael Swanson and its operation was taken over in 2014 by Philip Blanton. For further information, see the registry's website (

The American College of Arms - The American College of Arms aims to be the paramount information clearinghouse for proper heraldry, family history, chivalry and associated areas of interest. We offer certification testing in the above areas, through our education and testing office. We also can do the design and research work for individuals, through out research services branch and more. If a person needs books, forms, materials, ancient or modern weaponry, armor, movies, toys or any number of heraldic items, the need can be filled through the ACA store and merchandising division.

Originally incorporated in Baltimore, Maryland, as The American College of Heraldry & Arms, Inc., in 1966 by four men: Donald Franklin Stewart, William Henry Lloyd, Charles Francis Stein, Jr., and Gordon Malvern Fair Stick; with a corporate address in the Harbormaster's Building, Herald's Mews on Longneck, Pier 4 Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD. The College closed this operation in 1970 and reorganized in 1971 in Las Vegas, Nevada, as The College of American Heralds and Pursuviants of Arms, more commonly called The American College of Arms (ACA).

During the 1980's and '90's the College was a looser organization and moved to Utah, renown for a genealogical record archive and family history records and resources. The current CEO and Regent of Arms is Gregory C. Duerden; who has been affiliated with the College since 1971, when he became an accredited 'Research Herald,' and has since held progressively more responsible positions of 'Earl Native' Pursuviant of Arms, 'Amadis' Herald of Arms, 'Jefferson' President of Arms, Executive Director before becoming the Regent of Arms and CEO of the College.

ACA uses the historic heraldic techniques (ancient standards of design, both traditional and more modern colors and charges, still using the established rules of heraldry) but have also done several more modern and 21st Century grants and designs. We also accomplish well-recognized research in multiple disciplines (heraldry, genealogy, family history, hereditary organization applications – DAR, SOC, SOP, DUP – and associated areas of interest such as Chivalry, Royals & Modern Noblity, Heraldic-Anthropology; commercial heraldic logo design, consultations for family history/genealogy/ heraldic research, and more).

The College maintains multiple membership levels (members of the College of Heralds or members of the College of Pursuviants, Emeritus Members category, and Fellows of the ACA) and testing with certification of interested individuals in multiple levels of heraldry (Pursuviants of Arms; Heralds of Arms, Presidents of Arms, Research Heralds, Tournament Marshall, Genealogical Record Researcher, Research Specialist in various specific cutlural disciplines – Native American, Jewish, Afro-American, Scandinavian, Asian, Oceania, etc.; Family Historian, Family Record Researcher, Oral History Specialist, Family History Editor/Publication Specialist, Record Archivist, etc.); as well as a full educational division with courseware in four primary categories (heraldry, genealogy, family history and miscellaneous) with several topics in each, such as: Basic Heraldry, Beginning and Intermediate Genealogy, Starting a Family History, Oral Histories, Genealogical specialties: Jewish research, Afro-American research, Native American Resources and research, Research Technology, Archiving Records, Chivalry, Marshaling, Ceremonial Etiquette, Scandinavian-patronymic Research, Latin & Hispanic Research, Tribal Heraldry or Heraldic-Anthropology, and more.

ACA is managed by corporate executive officers: CEO, COO, CFO, et al, a cadre of full-time and part-time employees; as well as heralds and pursuviants, a large army of volunteers and members of the various Colleges. The website is currently being updated and is under construction, (

Tribal Heraldry - a potential new study arena Heraldic Anthropology - (Central Am. Indigenous, No-Am. First Nations, Nat. Am., Pacific Oceania Islanders, So. Am. Indigenous, Mid-Eastern Arabian/Persian, Western Asia, Southern Asia, South-eastern Asia, etc.) No one really knows when heraldry started, but there is a striking similarity between Europe and Japan in that both were in a literal feudal system as their individual heraldic systems developed.

The earliest arms in Europe pre-dates the formal office of heralds by centuries. Greek and Roman Legions used military heraldry and Aeschylus records emblems on the shield of those sacking Thebes in 500 BCE. Rev. Charles Boutell (Boutell's Heraldry) draws a distinction between tribal devices and ones used for personal use, yet our purpose here is to refute that premise. Rather we see most unorganized heraldry just as useful, often more genuine in many respects and even better heraldry than some of the more organized counterparts.

The earliest organized arms in the British Isles seem to have arisen in the early to mid-12th Century. After that the office of heralds became institutions in most noble and royal courts, dealing with genealogy, tournaments, military intelligence, diplomacy, protocol of events, etc.

Such a useful concept as we have with heraldry didn't just drop from heaven one day to a select few. To mention Boutell once more, he states the obvious when he says it has always appealed ot the mind, hears of men “For some it possesses a spiritual value.” Yet that doesn't explain First Nations of the Americas, Pacific Oceania Islanders (Polynesia, Micronesia, Melonesia), African tribes (Northern to Southern), Arabian/Persian, Western/Mid-Eastern/Southern and SE Asian tribes.

Each tribe had regalia, many unique weapons, and forms of unorganized tribal heraldry which needs to be investigated and correlated further (perhaps by opening a new field of anthropology/sociology we would call heraldic-anthropology). Many anthrologists can identify tribe, and even down to individual clans of specific tribes, by their regalia, costumes, crafts, etc.; the same depth of study needs to be done for the indigenous members.

Jewish (Biblical) Heraldry - In the Christian Bible (KJV) we have a very early form of organization and use of emblems in the Old Testament (Genisis 49 and Numbers 2). As Moses was organizing the 12 Tribes of Israel by family units as they left Egypt. Each of the 'Tribes' of this literal Nation had its own symbol or emblem “of their father's house;” and both traveled by foot and pitched their tents at night in familial groupings around these standards. In Numbers 2:2 the Lord tells Moses “Every man of the children of Israel shall pitch by his own standard, with the ensign of their father's house ...”

The 12 Tribal ensigns were:

  • Reuban*: wavy lines of water (Gen. 49:3-4)
  • Simeon*: Upright sword
  • Levi*: an open book (divided in Jacob and scattered in Israel)
  • Judah: Lion rampant
  • Dan: snake (adder – Gen. 49:16-17)
  • Naphtali: Hind (Gen. 49:21)
  • Gad: swallow-tailed military flag (Gen. 49:19)
  • Asher: container with a lid (Gen 49:20)
  • Issachar: a horse or donkey (Gen. 49:14)
  • Zebulun: masted ship (Gen. 49:13)
  • Joseph*: Ox

*Benjamin: wolf pouncing (Gen. 49:27)

  • Manasseh*: a fruitful bough (Gen. 48:5,20 )
  • Ephraim*: a bough beyond a wall (Gen. 48:5,20 )

and then there was Israel's daughter, Dinah.

[* - Due to transgression Reuban, for infidelity, and Simeon, for killing in anger, were dis-owned; Levi received no inheritance and as 'scattered in Israel' ( Joseph became the birthright son – the eldest son – with his sons being adopted by Jacob/Israel (Gen 48:5) Ephraim taking the place of Simeon – second son – and Manasseh taking Joseph's place – as the next to the youngest, or 11th , son.)]

Israel must have been a very special person, he had children by two wives and a concubine of each – or was it four wives … my estimation of the greatest of this man just grew dramatically (!) as most of us have a hard time putting up with ONE spouse at a time (!!) not to mention FOUR !!!

One more reference to Biblical heraldry comes from the Austro-Hungarian House of the Esterhazy family, nobles of Hungary. The family had a lineage which was researched back a long-long-way back. Their lineage went back not only to Adam and Eve, but to Adam's grandfather. Now, that's a good trick!!

Then one last mention of another reference work, Basic Heraldry, by Friar and Ferguson (1993) alludes to heraldry going even back to before the creation of earth in heaven before the War in Heaven (mentioned in Revelation of St. John – but contrary to many interpretations of those passages, the War is not part of the Last Days but occurred in the Pre-Earth period, which is why Lucifer was down on Earth in the Garden of Eden, tempting Adam and Eve, as mentioned in Genisis). This reference gives Archangel Michael and even Lucifer/Satan their own coats of arms, as well as Adam, Eve, Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ. The Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit also has their own coat of arms. The idea make one really want to see the 'request for arms' from the “Herald Angels,” who are also known for their singing!!

And the symbolism of colors used in heraldry was important to Moses regarding the Tabernacle they used to worship in the wildness. The outer wall around the Tabernacle was to be made of white fine-twined linen; then, at the one and only gate inside, were 20 cubit hangings of blue (azure), purple (purple) and scarlet (sanguine) made of “...fine-twined linen, wrought by needlework...” (Ex. 27:16). The colors were designated by revelation from God and symbolized individual messages. The white outer wall was the symbol of righteousness and purity, appropriately identified that which separates the things of the world from the things of God; and the colors were at the single gate entrance to the Tabernacle, as there is but one gate to heaven. Blue was for the color of heaven and to be a constant reminder of their obligation to obey the will of heaven. Purple dye was expensive and became known as the royal color. To Israel purple was a reminder that they were a royal or heavenly family and a reminder of the wealth of blessing which awaited righteous heirs. The scarlet or blood-red signified the blood of the Lamb, as a constant reminder of the necessity of the atonement.

The order of the colors is repeated two-dozen times throughout the description of the tabernacle. It is also assumed the symbolism associated with them is constant: white for purity of God, blue represents the Son of God, purple reminds us He is the King of Kings and the scarlet testifies of His blood offering; the interweaving of the colors suggests the union of obedience, heavenly power and the blood sacrifice of the atonement.

Colors often have symbolic meaning in the scriptures. Those most often used in this way are: white, black, purple, red, blue, gold and silver. White signifies spotless purity, chastity, sanctification, righteousness and sinlessness. God and heavenly beings are always clothed in white. It is also associated with transcendent perfections, simplicity, light, the sun, illunination, innocence, holiness, and sacredness. It is a statement of triumph of the spirit over the flesh, of good over evil. Black and darkness are often the symbol of evil or wickedness. Black is also associated with mourning. Purple (or scarlet) is the color of royalty, imperial and sacerdotal (priesthood) power. Red (or scarlet) naturally associates itself with blood and suffering and hence with the blood of atonement. Blue as the color of heaven becomes associated with the idea of revelation and its source. Gold is the color of the sun; it represents divine power, the splendor of enlightenment; radiance and glory. Becasue of its great value, and its radiance, gold is known to us as the possession of kings and great kingdoms. It is a symbol common to scriptural descriptions of God and the heavenly kingdom. Silver, like gold, is of great value and hence is associated with Christ. Traditionally, it is associated with the idea of a Reconciler, Savior, and Redeemer.

The only tintures not used in heraldry in the above paragraph are Green (vert), Orange (tawney) and Mulberry (Murrey) – with 'Sanguine,' almost covered with the 'blood-red' definition of Red (Gules) and Scarlet being lumped together. Both metals were included above and that covers all ten (five colors, two metals and three 'stains').

There are also lots of symbology in the Bible, especially in the books of Ezekial, Isaiah and, of course, Revelation. But most of those symbols don't really have much to do with the basics of heraldry, which is our topic here.