Arms of Saône-et-Loire, France


Designed before 1965

Blazon: Or two palets wavy azure, a chief per pale of the last semé de lis of the first within a bordure gobony argent and gules and bendy of six of the first and second and a bordure of the fourth

Okay, okay, technically these aren’t official arms. They were designed by Robert Louis, a French heraldic artist who is probably most famous for his series of heraldic postage stamps. It doesn’t look like they were ever adopted by the department, but they do look pretty good, so I’m going with it. You may recognize the arms on the chief as Touraine and Burgundy, respectively. I don’t know this for absolute certain, but I’m willing to bet that the blue wavy lines represent the two rivers that give the region its name.

Arms of William the Conqueror

William the Conqueror

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

The Burkes have kindly included a list of all the monarchs since the Conquest with their associated arms. Given their somewhat spotty record on historical accuracy, this should be fun.

First up, of course, is William the Conqueror! They do get this one right – I’d be shocked if they didn’t – with the classic gules two lions passant guardant or. They also include a line about the lions vs. leopards controversy, but come down (correctly) on the side of lions. Some heraldic texts, especially older ones, will describe lions passant as leopards; this is most likely due to a mistranslation. While English blazon borrows a significant number of words and phrases from French (tenné, purpre, semé, etc.) it’s important to note that they are not identical. In French blazon, the position “rampant” is called “lionné,” and “passant guardant” is “leopardé.” Hence, the arms of Normandy, Aquitaine, and England would all contain lions leopardé. Add to that the somewhat… loose medieval idea of what big cats looked like, and you can see where confusion would arise.

Czech Statehood Day


I had a few options for national days of the Czech Republic. As you can see, I ended up going with Czech Statehood Day, which commemorates the feast day of St. Wenceslaus, also known as Wenceslaus I or Good King Wenceslaus, who is the patron saint of the Czech Republic. (Sounds a little nicer than, “on this day, over a thousand years ago, the king got stabbed by his brother with a lance.”) Like many countries made up of numerous historical regions, the Czech coat of arms features three individual coats: Bohemia in the first and fourth quarters, Moravia in the second, and Silesia in the third. The full blazon is as follows: Per quarterly, I and IV, gules a lion rampant double-queued argent, armed, langued, and crowned or (Bohemia); II azure an eagle displayed chequy argent and gules, armed and crowned or (Moravia); III or an eagle displayed sable armed and langued gules, crowned of the field, charged with a cross couped issuant from a crescent argent (Lower Silesia). 


The first properly Czech state was the Duchy of Bohemia, which became part of the Great Moravian Empire around 830. Bohemia was established as a kingdom around 1198 by Ottokar I, and by 1300, the double-queued lion with the crown was firmly established as the arms of Bohemia. There’s a legend that in the 12th century, Emperor Frederick granted Vladislaus II the arms of gules a lion rampant argent to symbolize his valor, and the second tail was added later, as recognition for the military assistance Ottokar I provided against the Saxons. It’s a nice story, but it’s exactly the kind of unfalsifiable nice story that a lot of arms have, which is to say that it has the ring of a post hoc justification to me. In any case, the first depiction of these arms was in Gozzoburg Castle, which was probably built in the early- to mid-thirteenth century.


Not that the lion isn’t cool and all, but I can’t not mention the arms of the Přemyslid dynasty. They ruled Bohemia, first as dukes, then as kings, and other assorted parts of Eastern Europe for a good four and a half centuries. St. Wenceslaus, was a member, and their arms were a full-on FLAMING EAGLE. Er, argent an eagle displayed sable armed or enflamed gules. I will confess that, while I understand the desire to represent all the areas of the Czech Republic in the national arms to honor their unique histories and legacies, if I were designing these, I would not be able to resist the temptation of the flaming eagle. It’s just really cool! There are also some great myths around its origin, including one where Břetislav I gets the right to light his father-in-law’s lands on fire for some reason.


Ahem. Anyway. Moving on. Moravia (second quarter) got its start as Greater Moravia in 833; in the 890s, it covered a significant amount of territory and became known as the Great Moravian Empire. It was then promptly overrun by Magyars in 907. After Emperor Otto I defeated the Magyars in 955, Moravia found a second life as part of the Bohemian crown, and reached the status of a margraviate in 1182. The eagle chequy shows up shortly afterwards in 1233, on the seal of the Margrave Přemysl, a younger son of Ottokar I. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to assume this eagle might have some relation to the Přemyslid eagle, but it’s not completely clear. However it got there, it stayed pretty much the same until the establishment of Czechoslovakia in 1918. Some depictions have the chequy as or and gules, but it doesn’t seem like the distinction has any particular meaning.


Lastly, in the final quarter, are the arms of Lower Silesia, which we’ve touched on before. In my opinion, it’s far more justifiable on the Czech arms than on those of Liechtenstein, given that the Czech Republic does actually include parts of Silesia (though most of it falls in Poland). Silesia came under control of the Greater Moravian Empire sometime in the 9th century. It later passed to Poland and Germany before becoming part of the Crown of Bohemia in 1434. The exact ownership of Silesia fluctuated along with the rest of the borders in Eastern Europe, but it is today split between Poland, Germany, and the Czech Republic. The Silesian arms date back to around 1335; they seem to have derived from the Duchy of Wroclaw. I’m not entirely sure where the eagle comes from, but honestly, there’s no shortage of eagles in this part of the world. Could be the Přemyslids; could be the Piasts; could be the Holy Roman Empire. In the absence of a direct blood tie (like there is with Moravia), it’s not clear.

Arms of Drosendorf-Zissersdorf, Austria


Granted 1560

Blazon: Azure a city gate argent, roofed gules, in the center chief an escutcheon of the last a fess of the second (Austria); on a chief or, a double-headed eagle displayed gules.

The city was designated as an imperial city in 1278 after holding out for over a week while under siege from the army of the Bohemian king Ottokar II. Rudolf von Habsburg eventually instigated the Battle on the Marchfeld, where Ottokar II was killed. It seems likely that the escutcheon of Austria and/or the imperial eagle in the chief are due to the imperial city status.

Arms of Campania, Italy


Granted 1971

Blazon: Argent a bend gules

Unfortunately, I’m afraid that the lack of information on these arms is pretty typical of very simple coats. I don’t necessarily mean a lack of information on the history of the arms – Campania first adopted arms in the thirteenth century, which featured both the bend gules and a Maltese cross (from the arms of Amalfi), so the history of the bend is well-established. No, I mean I have no goddamn idea where the bend comes from. Honestly, there might not be much of a reason, which is not my favorite answer, but still a possibility.

Arms of Dettenhausen, Germany


In use since 2009

Blazon: Or a stag statant gules; on a chief of the last, an ear of wheat fesswise of the first

Sadly, information is thin on the ground here. It sounds like the town was, at one point, included in the duchy of Swabia, but the three black lions don’t make an appearance here. Given how many other local municipalities use or and gules as a reference to Tübingen’s arms, it seems reasonable to speculate that the same applies here, but I don’t know for sure.

Arms of Gerard de l’Ille


From the Dering Roll (c. 1270-1300)

Blazon: Gules a lion passant guardant argent crowned or

This Gerard de Lisle wasn’t quite renowned enough for a title or his own Wikipedia page, but his grandson was! Gerard received the manor of Kingston and the right to bear the FitzGerold arms from his mother, Alice FitzGerold. There seems to be some disagreement as to whether the lion in the FitzGerold arms should be passant or statant, but given the somewhat informal nature of heraldic illustration in the medieval period, I have no doubt that it’s been shown both ways.

Arms of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France

Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur

Granted 1999

Blazon: Per pale or four palets gules and per fess of the first a dolphin azure finned of the second and argent an eagle displayed and crowned of the last upon a triple mount sable surmounted by water in base barry wavy of the third and the fourth*

*Per the official blazon, it looks like the sea in the County of Nice’s arms is supposed to be barry wavy argent and azure, so that’s how I’ve blazoned it, despite this depiction not reflecting that.

The arms used for Provence are those of Aragon, which is understandable; many of the early counts of Provence were from the House of Aragon via Alfonso II, Count of Provence, the second son of Alfonso II of Aragon. (These arms are sometimes called Provence ancien, with Provence moderne being the arms of the dukes of Anjou, who evidently took over as counts of Provence in 1245. “Moderne” is relative.) The dolphin is a canting element from Dauphiné, which used to be an independent principality before Humbert II sold it to the French crown in 1349. Part of the deal was that the eldest son of the French king had to take on the unique title, which is why the heirs of France are called dauphins.

Finally, the eagle is the arms of the County of Nice. Supposedly, the tinctures are derived from the arms of the House of Savoy, and the crowned eagle spreading its wings over the mountains is a representation of the House of Savoy extending its dominance over Nice. (It’s a nice explanation, but I’m somewhat skeptical.)

It looks like both Île-de-France and Pays de la Loire don’t have official arms, so next week, we’ll return to Bourgogne-Franche-Comté to start looking through their departments.

Labels of the Royal Family

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

The label is a very common mark of cadency, often used in English heraldry. Most of the time, it signifies the arms of a first son while his father is alive; once the father dies and the first son inherits, the label is removed from the arms and the son bears them undifferenced. The label then passes to the first son of the first son, and so on. However, because there are always exceptions for the royal family, anyone who bears the royal arms of the United Kingdom who isn’t the current sovereign always gets a label – typically argent, typically of three points. Anyone who isn’t the heir to the throne will have something put on their label to signify that they’re not the heir, just in the line of succession. Below) are the labels of some of the royal family in 1842.

Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa

Princess Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa, daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, later German Empress and Queen of Prussia : a label argent charged with a rose between two crosses gules

Ernest Augustus

Ernest Augustus, King of Hanover and Duke of Cumberland, fifth son of George III (i.e. Victoria’s uncle) (1771-1851): a label argent charged with a fleur-de-lis azure between two crosses gules

Augustus Frederick

Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex, sixth son of George III: a label argent charged with two hearts in pale between as many crosses gules

Mary of Gloucester

Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh, fourth daughter of George III (1776-1857): a label argent charged with a rose between two cantons gules

Princess Sophia

Princess Sophia, fifth daughter of George III (1777-1848): a label argent charged with a heart between two roses gules

Sophia Matilda of Gloucester

Princess Sophia Matilda of Gloucester, first daughter of Prince William Henry (i.e. Victoria’s cousin) (1773-1844): a label of five points argent charged with a fleur-de-lis azure between four crosses gules

Armenian Independence Day

In honor of the twenty-eighth anniversary of Armenia’s independence from the Soviet Union, I figured we’d take a look at their highly symbolic coat of arms:


There’s a lot going on here, so let’s go bit by bit, in roughly chronological order.

First of all, in the escutcheon, there’s a depiction of Mount Ararat with Noah’s Ark. Though this was possibly a mistranslation, tradition holds that the Ark came to rest on Mount Ararat, which is also Armenia’s national symbol. In one shape or another, Mount Ararat has featured on Armenian arms and seals consistently since 1918. Even the Soviets kept the iconography, which ought to say something about its deep national importance.

We venture from myth into (distant) history with the Artaxiad dynasty, symbolized by the dexter base quarter. The Artaxids ruled from 189 BCE through 20 BCE, when Armenia became a Roman protectorate. The last Artaxid client king was overthrown in 12 CE. The two eagles and the eight-pointed star is a fairly well-established emblem of this dynasty – somewhat surprisingly, given its antiquity. From the examples here, it’s pretty clearly a star; I’m not sure how it ended up as an octofoil on the arms, which is typically a more floral shape. (I will say that the artists who designed the arms seem to have played around with the tinctures of the fields; the author in the linked article makes a pretty good argument that the ground for the Artaxiads should have been gules instead of azure, and a prior version of the arms had the same charges, but with the opposite tincture for the field.)

Moving on to the sinister chief quarter, we see the very common symbol of the double-headed eagle. This is apparently intended to represent the Arsacid dynasty, who ruled from 52 to 428 CE, and included the first Christian ruler of Armenia. I’m a little skeptical of the attribution of the double-headed eagle to the Arsacids for a couple of reasons: first, proof of what kind of symbols they used (if any) is thin on the ground, and second, the double-headed eagle is so, so commonly affiliated with the Roman (and later Byzantine) Empire that it’s hard for me to believe that association didn’t have any influence on this choice of charge. I am willing to believe that the Arsacids got it from the Romans, and passed it on here, but they were originally Parthian, so I’m not sure how well that holds up.

The dexter chief quarter, the lion and cross, was the symbol of the Bagratuni dynasty. They came to power in 861, when Ashot I was recognized as Prince of Princes by the Baghdad caliphate, and hung on until 1045, when the Byzantine Empire seized control of Armenia. The Bagratid princes evidently used the same device, though it was (possibly) argent on gules. Presumably, the tincture of the charge was sensibly updated to match the other three charges.

Lastly, the sinister base quarter holds the crowned lion and cross-tipped staff of the Rubenid dynasty, who did not actually rule Armenia. Instead, they established an Armenian state in Cilicia (called the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia), which they ruled from 1080 to 1375, when the Mamluks conquered the state. The Rubenid arms were or a lion rampant gules armed, langued, and crowned argent; if I had to speculate, the staff may have come from the kingdom’s allyship with the other Crusader states. The Rubenids also claimed descent from the Bagratunis, though this would be very difficult to prove.

I know this is long, but I can’t not talk, albeit briefly, about the elements surrounding the shield. The supporters, the eagle of the Artaxiads and the lion of the Bagratunis, mirror the charges on the shield. The elements of the compartment were all chosen for specific symbolic reasons, which I think are worth going through. The sword in pale is for power and strength; the broken chain, the struggle for national freedom; the wheat, hard work and industry; the feather, culture and intellectual heritage; and the ribbon, the Armenian flag, whose colors are represented in the arms. (Hence, I suspect, the unusual use of orange in the arms.)