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.