Arms of Marche, Italy


Granted 1980

Blazon: Argent the letter M surmounted by a woodpecker close so that the latter forms the first part of the former sable within a bordure vert

Another coat of arms that bears more visual resemblance to a logo than a more traditional heraldic design. I don’t have a problem with these, but they are a little outside my wheelhouse. It’s not that these are bad choices for symbols – the green woodpecker was evidently a totem of the ancient Piceni people – or that the combination of native animal plus initial letter isn’t already common in municipal heraldry. Blazon, as a technical language, doesn’t really have the capacity to describe the type of heavily stylized iconography that’s used here. I’ve tried anyway, but I’m not sure I’m happy with the result.

Arms of Hemmendorf, Germany


Probably in use since 1987

Blazon: Azure a lion rampant or, armed and langued gules; in the dexter chief a Maltese cross argent

I’m pretty confident in saying that the Maltese cross derives from the Knights Hospitaller, given their long association with the town. The Knights Hospitaller owned the town outright from 1281 through 1805, though they had a presence in the area dating back to 1258. I’m not sure about the lion, though.

Arms of Elias Giffard


From the Dering Roll (c. 1270-1300)

Blazon: Gules three lions passant argent a bordure indented or

The last Elias Giffard I can find (the fourth one) died in 1248, so I’m not entirely sure if this is supposed to be him, or perhaps another descendant, Regardless, rebellion runs in the Giffard family. Elias IV, Lord of Brimpsfield, joined the First Baron’s War against King John. He later lost all of his land and titles for his efforts, but Henry III restored them. Then his grandson, Sir John Giffard, the second Baron of Brimpsfield apparently died on the wrong side of the Battle of Boroughbridge and was buried as a traitor. He had no children, so the tradition of Giffards being angry at their monarch ended with him.

Polish National Independence Day


November 11th, 1918 marked the establishment of Poland as a sovereign state after World War II, when Józef Piłsudski became the Chief of State. After 123 years of being partitioned, conquered, and variously divided up, Poland was finally back on the map!

It seems like the white Polish eagle does not derive from the aquila of the Roman Empire or the black eagle of the later Holy Roman Empire. Instead, it appears to have derived from the Piast dynasty, going back to the turn of the second millennium. That is extremely early for any heraldic figure, but there are Piast coins that are about a thousand years old that show an eagle. I suppose it’s remotely possible that the Piasts adopted the symbol from Charlemagne and his succeeding Holy Roman Emperors, but there’s no solid evidence for that. They seem to have been ethnically Slavic and mostly settled around Gniezno, so it’s unclear whether they would have encountered the Franks.

Like any good ancient coat of arms, Poland’s has a historically dubious legend associated with it. The legend holds that Lech, one of three brothers, found a white eagle’s nest while out hunting. The bird reared up to defend its nest, the light from the sunset behind it. Lech was so struck by the sight he decided to found a town near the site and use the white eagle for his emblem. (In Polish, gniazdo means “nest” and is the source of the name Gniezno.)

The white eagle has persisted through the centuries without many changes at all. Even the Soviets didn’t manage to ruin a perfectly good coat of arms for once; the biggest change they made was removing the crown. Even that was replaced when the Communist government fell in 1989, though, and the present arms were readopted in 1990.

Arms of William III and Mary II

William and Mary

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

Blazon: Per quarterly, I and IV per quarterly i and iv azure three fleurs-de-lis or (France) and gules three lions passant guardant in pale or armed and langued azure (England); II or a lion rampant within a tressure flory counter-flory gules (Scotland); III azure a harp or stringed argent (Ireland), overall an escutcheon azure billette a lion rampant or (Nassau)

After the Glorious Revolution ousted James II in 1688, the English Parliament invited his eldest (legitimate) daughter, Mary, and her husband, William of Orange, to rule instead. Technically, the arms above are Mary’s, although they were joint rulers; she inherited the arms of England, Scotland, and Ireland from her father, and the arms of William’s House of Orange-Nassau are placed in an escutcheon of pretense, indicating she does not truly have a claim to those arms.

Arms of Dölsach, Austria


Granted 1970

Blazon: Azure a Corinthian capital argent

The capital (decorative top part of a column) was adopted in honor of the Roman city of Aguntum. Part of the ruins of the city lie within Dölsach, and the town hosts some of the archaeological finds in a museum. It was a thriving trade town until it fell victim to first the Huns, and then a succession of Western European tribes, including the Ostrogoths. What remained of the city was rediscovered in 1882.

Arms of Lombardy, Italy


Arms of Lombardy, Italy

Granted 1975

Blazon: Vert a Camunian rose argent

Okay, this one is cool, and deceptively simple. The Camunian rose isn’t a flower at all, but a common symbol in prehistoric carvings in the Italian Alps. It’s a design based around nine dots or cup marks, like this: 

pasted image 0

It’s not clear what it means, exactly, but it seems like it was a symbol of luck and happiness – sort of like doodling a four-leaf clover or peace sign. It’s a simple and distinctive symbol with a deep connection to the region, which I think makes a fine choice for heraldry. (The colors are, unsurprisingly, more esoterically symbolic – argent for light, and green for the Po Valley.)