Former arms of Breitenholz, Germany


Blazon: Gules an S-shaped crampoon argent

I’m afraid I don’t have a lot of information on these arms; since Breitenholz was incorporated into Ammerbuch in 1971, it doesn’t have a website, and secondary sources are thin on the ground. I suspect these arms are relatively new; there is an 1892 municipal stamp that just uses a “B” instead of any arms.

The charge is identified as a Wolfseisen, which seems to be a highly stylized version of a crampoon. This specific version has the terminal ends curling around into almost an S-shape. This is specified in the German blazon as an “S-förmiges Wolfseisen,” which I’ve roughly translated to “S-shaped crampoon” in my English version.


Arms of Walter Giffard


From the Dering Roll (c. 1270-1300)

Blazon: Azure three lions passant guardant argent crowned or

There are several Giffard coats of arms with three lions passant (sometimes guardant) argent, but the field is generally gules, and the lions are not usually crowned. The first creation of the Earl of Buckingham, which applied to two Walter Giffards, was extinguished in 1164 when the son died without issue. This means I can’t find a Walter Giffard alive around the same time as the Dering Roll was published, so I’m not entirely sure where this comes from – though I think it is worth noting the original Walter Giffard, Lord of Longueville, was from Normandy, the region of gules two lions passant guardant (sometimes crowned) or.

Arms of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France


Granted 2016

Blazon: Argent in dexter three palets wavy azure, in sinister a lion rampant gules

Another new coat of arms for the administrative regions! Personally, I prefer the former arms of Aquitaine (gules a lion passant guardant or, armed and langued azure), and Limousin was pretty sharp, too (ermine a bordure gules), but design-wise, this is pretty good. In terms of the charges selected… well, I suppose I understand the reasoning. The palets are probably intended to represent the rivers that run to the Atlantic, much like the lion’s mane in the new logo. They also could be a canting charge, if you subscribe to the etymology that has “Aquitaine” derived from the Latin for “water.” I feel that it’s worth mentioning the competing theory – that it’s actually named after the pre-Roman tribe of the Ausci.

The lion has been used for Aquitaine since at least the twelfth century, and possibly earlier, so it isn’t like they could leave it out. And I guess if we’re going to get picky about the law of tincture, and we really want those palets wavy, then fine, gules works. There are several cities in the region that use a lion gules, so it’s not like it’s coming from nowhere. (I really did like the former arms, though.)

Closing Complaints from the Author

Wyrley closes out his essay with three complaints about heraldic pedantry, two of which I think are legitimate, and one which seems like the other side of a very petty coin.

The first complaint is an interesting one, especially in light of the typical “older is better” attitude that was (and is) pervasive in heraldry (which I fall victim to myself sometimes). Wyrley scoffs at people who consider pre-Conquest ancestry and arms to be more prestigious than those post-Conquest. He points out that evidence from before the Conquest is scarce and unreliable, which is both fair and true, and that it is “more glorious and honorable to be descended from a most famous nation conquering” than the people they subjugated, which… sure is a viewpoint, I guess? (26)

Next, Wyrley takes aim at heraldic pedants, especially those who treat the law of tincture as a law instead of a guideline for legibility. He does say that color-on-color and metal-on-metal are harder to see properly, but he also gives some examples of perfectly respectable arms that violate the law of tincture, including those of the Mac Murchada dynasty in Ireland. (He gives the blazon as sable a lion rampant gules, though gules a lion rampant or passant argent seems to be more accurate). He’s also contemptuous of the idea that certain charges, i.e. the eagle or falcon, are more or less noble than others. Wyrley proposes that instead of particular arms bringing honor to the bearers, the armigers “do honor their bearings by their renowne, vertue, and valure.” (27) If you’re a good person, your arms don’t deserve criticism, even if they violate heraldic rules and tradition, or if they’re kind of goofy. One example he gives here is the Hopewells – argent three hares playing bagpipes gules. On the one hand, that is inherently silly; on the other hand, Wyrley has a really good point, and I have to believe those arms have a much better story behind them than the generic ordinaries or lions.

Lastly, he throws in a very brief defense of his refusal to use the French terms of art for tinctures – the argent, azure, vert, etc. that are common practice in blazon – by saying it is “more proper to speake and use English termes and phrases in an English booke dedicated to Englishmen, than French or Latine.” (27) This is literally the only mention of this authorial choice in the entire essay, so perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but it’s hard for me not to see this decision as stemming from English nationalism and anti-French sentiment. He doesn’t seem to have an issue with a lot of the French-derived terminology that makes up the rest of the language of blazon, so this feels like a highly specific and unnecessary nit to pick. Unless, of course, you’re just being a dick to the French. 

Personally, I have no issue with using the traditional terminology (as you’ve probably noticed). I like the #aesthetic, but more importantly, I think the traditional language helps deal with one of the traditional problems of tincture. “Or” and “argent” in particular have multiple translations in English – “or” could map to “yellow” or “gold,” and “argent” to “white” or “silver.” However, both of those translations are interchangeable in heraldry. The blazon “argent a cross gules” can be depicted with a white field or a silver field, depending on the preferences and technical and material capabilities of the artist, and the original blazon is accurate either way. However, translating “argent” to “white” automatically makes any depiction using a silver field incorrect, and vice versa. Essentially, the traditional language correctly reflects the ambivalence of tinctures, and I’d rather stick to that than make a translation choice that could be wrong.

That wraps up the heraldic part of Wyrley’s text. I did manage to find an edition with the two poems attached, but I’ll spare you those recaps. As a poet, Wyrley was an excellent herald. Instead, next week, we’ll introduce the next text, Encyclopaedia of Heraldry, or General Armory of England, Scotland, and Ireland by John Burke and John Bernard Burke.

Arms of Villamanrique, Spain


Granted ?

Blazon: Gules a cross of Santiago voided argent between two cauldrons chequy or and sable, each containing six serpents facing the exterior, in base a point dancetté vert, all within a bordure chequy of the first a castle triple-towered of the third windowed azure and of the second a lion rampant of the field crowned of the third

Whew, okay. Sadly, that blazon is probably going to be longer than anything I can write about it (if I cut out my frustration about the mystery of the snake cauldrons, which I will.) The city was actually named after a Manrique – specifically, Rodrigo Manrique, Grand Master of the Order of Santiago, which probably explains the cross of Santiago. He evidently split the town off from Torre de Juan Abad, and the citizens renamed it in gratitude.

Arms of Dorfbeuern, Austria


Granted 1965

Blazon: Per pale gules and azure two wings displayed argent, surmounted by three roundels in pile of the first, second, and third

The wings (and possibly also the division per pale) are derived from the arms of Michaelbeuren Abbey, though I’m not quite clear on whether those are the arms of the abbey itself, or the abbot Ulrich Hofbauer. (The positioning here suggests the abbey, though; I’d guess the sinister coat is the abbot’s personal arms. Traditionally, in ecclesiastical heraldry, the arms of one’s office take precedence over any personal arms.) The three roundels are a symbol of St. Nicholas, the town’s patron saint, albeit with a tincture swap; they are more usually depicted as bezants, the better to recall the story of the anonymous gift of three dowries.

Arms of Abruzzo, Italy


Granted 1986

Blazon: Tierced per bend sinister argent, vert, and azure

Okay, I was toying with the idea of going into the historic arms of the various kingdoms, principalities, and dukedoms that eventually became the Republic of Italy, but (a) if I’m going to do something that wickedly complicated, I’m going to need a LOT more planning and (b) just look at these arms! They’re sharp af, and I couldn’t resist. Who needs a charge when you have a good, clean, visually pleasing division of the field? I’m sure some of the historical stuff will come up as I work my way through the boot; if it doesn’t, that’ll be a good future project. As for these arms specifically, the tinctures are evidently a highly abstracted representation of the landscape – white for snowy mountains, which gives way to green for wooded hills, and finally going down to blue for the sea. It’s an elegant  explanation for some very elegant arms.