Arms of Eferding, Austria


In use since at least 1900

Blazon: Argent a town gate and tower gules, counterchanged per pale

The gate and tower represents the town’s early status as a fortified city, dating back to 1167. Some depictions also have a “wild man” as a supporter, referencing an old legend where a tailor and his assistants built a terrifying horned and clawed monster out of straw in order to scare away robbers who had besieged the town.

Arms of Ferrara, Italy


Granted 1938

Blazon: Tierced per pall I per fess sable and argent; II per fess azure a bend embattled counter-embattled between six molets in bend 3 and 3 or and argent a shrimp palewise gules, on a chief of the first a label of four points of the fourth interspersed with three fleurs-de-lis of the second; III or a flounder palewise proper

These arms look pretty wild, but the principle behind them is fairly straightforward. They’re just a combination of the arms of the three largest cities: Ferrara in chief, Cento to the dexter, and Comacchio to the sinister. Just a couple of blazon notes: generally speaking, embattled counter-embattled would have the protrusions on one side line up with the indentations on the other, and the number of points on the molets is not specified in the original blazon, which is why I have omitted it here. Also, please enjoy the hieroglyphic shrimp and baffled-looking flounder on this depiction of the arms.

Arms of Börstingen, Germany


In use since at least 1973

Blazon: Gules three arrows bendwise, points in chief argent

It sounds like Börstingen had its own noble family from probably the late thirteenth century through around 1413, though it’s not clear whether the lords of Börstingen had their own arms. The village then passed to the lords of Wehingen in 1522, then to Ehingen, and to the Rassler von Gamerschwangs in the late 1600s. The arms that I can find for these families don’t bear much resemblance to the village’s, though it could be worth mentioning that the town of Ehingen bears barry of six gules and argent. The visual similarities could point to a relationship between the two arms, or they could be purely coincidental.

Arms of Richard de Cornwall


From the Dering Roll (c. 1270-1300)

Blazon: Argent on a fess sable three bezants

I’m about 90% sure that this doesn’t refer to Richard of Cornwall, son of King John, partly because the timeline doesn’t quite line up (he died in 1272, so that would put the Dering Roll on the very earliest edge of the estimated composition), but mostly because we have contemporary evidence that he bore argent a lion rampant gules crowned or within a bordure sable bezanté. I find it hard to imagine that the author of the Dering Roll would’ve fumbled the arms of a member of the royal family that badly. (They’re not the Burkes, after all.)

However, Richard did have an illegitimate son (also named Richard). He definitely wouldn’t have inherited his father’s arms, due to the illegitimacy, but… if he just so happened to be granted arms that had some visual overlap with his father’s, then what could anybody do about it? It’s also worth noting that Sir Richard’s daughter married into the Howard family, and her descendents became the Dukes of Norfolk.

Arms of Tarn-et-Garonne, France


In use since at least 2007 (through 2014?)

Blazon: Per quarterly I gules a lion rampant guardant or (Rouergue), II per quarterly i and iv azure a lion rampant argent, ii and iii gules a garb or banded azure (Gascony), III gules a cross of Toulouse or (Languedoc), IV gules a lion passant guardant or armed and langued azure (Aquitaine or Guyenne)

It seems that these arms were previously borne by the General Council of Tarn-et-Garonne as recently as 2010. The department was formed by taking some territory from each of the former provinces that appear in the arms, which I quite like. The “General Council” was renamed to the “Departmental Council” in 2014, which apparently came with a branding update. They don’t seem to actively use these arms anymore. If you’re wondering if Robert Louis proposed an alternative, he absolutely did! His version cut out Rouergue and Gascony in favor of placing the lion of Aquitaine in chief and the cross of Toulouse in base – on a field gules, of course.

Arms of Eunydd ap Gwenllian

14 - Efuydd ap Gwenllian

From Encyclopedia of Heraldry by John Burke and John Bernard Burke (1844)

“Founder of the XIV. Noble Tribe. Quarterly, first and fourth, gu. a lion ramp. or; second and third, az. betw. three nags’ heads erased ar. a fesse or.”

Obviously, the illustration only shows the first quarter of the arms, for some unfathomable reason. (Pity; I kind of wanted to see the artist’s interpretation of three nags’ heads.) Assuming that he existed – which is always an assumption with the “Noble Tribes” – poor Eunydd’s genealogy is hopelessly mangled. One eighteenth-century source has him as the son of “Gwenllian,” although both of the most famous Gwenllians in Welsh history had, respectively, no children, and no sons named Eunydd. The nags’ heads allegedly come from his mother via her father, Rhys ap Marchen, which is completely unverifiable. It’s possible this Eunydd is intended to be one Eunydd ap Gwerngwy ap Gwrgeneu, who would have lived around 1165 or 1170, or potentially a conflation of multiple people with the same first name.

History of the US Flag

(Reposted from last year; please enjoy this quasi-heraldic history of the flag of the United States!)

During the Revolutionary War, various commanders and militia groups flew their own flags. The Gadsden flag was used by the Continental Navy starting in December 1775, possibly borrowing the symbolism and motto from the flag of the Culpeper Minutemen, established earlier that year. The rattlesnake was a fairly common symbol of the colonies, being both a native and extremely dangerous animal. The pine tree also appears pretty frequently, in both the Continental flag reportedly used at Bunker Hill and the eponymous Pine Tree Flag used by a small naval squadron under George Washington’s direct authority as well as the Massachusetts state navy.

Once the Second Continental Congress got properly up and running, they adopted the Grand Union Flag, possibly based on the flag of the British East India Company. If you take a look at that first link, you’ll notice the red saltire is missing from the Grand Union’s version of the British flag; it wasn’t added until Ireland joined the UK in 1801, and by then, the US flag had moved on. Putting the then-contemporary British Union Flag in the canton seems like an odd choice for a country trying to declare independence, but both Massachusetts and New York had been doing the same thing.

The Grand Union flag lasted for about two years before the Second Continental Congress adopted the first stars-and-stripes pattern in 1777, consisting of “thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” It’s not entirely clear where the stars came from. There’s a legend that they were adapted from the Washington coat of arms (argent two bars, in chief three molets of five points gules), but this seems unlikely. While the cult of personality that grew up around George Washington, especially after his death, could get pretty intense, the widespread cultural disdain for monarchy in early US history makes me doubt that they would adapt an individual’s personal arms for a national flag.

In 1795, two additional stars and stripes were added to represent the new states of Vermont and Kentucky. The fifteen stripes persisted until 1818, when Congress decided to add a new star for every state, but also to revert to 13 stripes for the original colonies. While the pattern of one new star per state has been consistent throughout US history, I find it fascinating that the specific arrangement of the stars wasn’t set until 1912. Throughout the 1800s, we see a wide variation of star arrangements – I think my personal favorites are the Great Star flags, though the snowflake is also pretty neat.

(Quick tangent – this is why describing the positioning of charges is so important in blazon. “Thirteen molets of five points, 3, 2, 3, 2, 3” is not the same as “a circle of thirteen molets of five points,” and writing only “thirteen molets” doesn’t help other heralds, artists, and historians distinguish between the cases.)

The last change to the flag was made in 1960, when the 50th star was added for Hawaii, making the current design the longest-lasting in US history at 59 years. Both Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have held statehood votes in the past few years, and American Samoa also explored the possibility of becoming a state, so a 51-star design may be necessary someday.

Arms of Edt bei Lambach, Austria

Edt bei Lambach

Granted 1980

Blazon: Vert on a fess in base argent two torteaux each charged with a cross paté, in chief a turbine or

The wind turbine is a legacy from the American occupation of the area after World War II, when several were built for extracting groundwater. Only one remains today. The crosses represent two former churches in the localities of Mairlambach and Mernbach, and the green field symbolizes the predominance of forests and fields in the region.

Arms of Bologna, Italy


Granted 2015

Blazon: Argent a lion rampant bearing a double-headed spear azure, flying a banner tierced per fess vert, the first, and gules emblazoned with the motto “Liberta” of the last

The tinctures and stylization are different than the former arms (granted 1933), but the general symbology is basically the same. The lion rampant (which apparently symbolizes the people?) is drawn from the 1831 seal of the Provisional Government of Bologna, which later evolved into the United Province of Central Italy. Presumably, that is where the tricolor flag comes from, while the “Liberta” motto is from the arms of the city of Bologna. (I should point out that this Bologna is a “metropolitan city,” closer to a province than an actual city or municipality.)

Arms of Bodelshausen, Germany


In use since at least 1987

Blazon: Per fess gules a lion passant or and of the last an antler fesswise sable

While I don’t have any direct information on the arms, it seems reasonable to assume that the antler in the base half is drawn from the arms of Württemberg, which is the municipality’s state. I’d speculate that the lion is from the arms of the von Ows, who ruled the area around the 13th-15th centuries. The von Ows bore per fess or a lion passant gules and azure, which seems awfully close to the lion in these arms. Of course, it’s possible it’s just a coincidence.