Arms of John de Balun


From the Dering Roll (c. 1270-1300)

Blazon: Barry dancetty of six argent and gules

The father of this John de Balun, who has exactly the same name, because of course he does, was evidently a participant on the wrong side of the First Barons’ War. After he died in 1235, his son (who is probably the John de Balun referenced here, just based on dates) paid a fine to rehabilitate his father’s name and claim his inheritance. This evidently didn’t stop John Jr. from participating in the Second Barons’ War, though. His name is mentioned in one old chronicle at the capture of Gloucester Castle. Apparently he and Sir John Giffard managed to talk their way into the castle by posing as wool merchants, and then promptly opened the doors for the rest of the barons’ army. Apparently, he managed to survive the civil war, but died about ten years later. He had married Auda Paganell, sister and heiress of William, baron of Bahanton, but it seems like they didn’t have any children; the Balun inheritance went to John’s brother William, and the Paganell lands to a cousin.

Arms of Prince Albert

Prince Albert

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

The Burkes give the blazon as follows:

“Quarterly, first and fourth, the Royal Arms, differenced by a label of three points, on the center point a cross gules; second and third, barry of ten, sable and argent, a cross treflé vert, for Saxony.

Supporters – Two lions rampant or, crowned proper each charged on the shoulder with a label as in the arms.”

Okay, first off, because I can’t not point it out: the charge of Saxony is not, and never has been a cross treflé (or botony, as I typically prefer.) It’s a ducal coronet (embowed or not might be a point of dispute), but it’s…. definitely not a cross. The arms of Saxony aren’t hard to find, and this is a second edition of the text, and this particular slip-up isn’t mentioned in the errata, AND they blazon it correctly (or anyway, less wrongly) on literally the same page, so I’m gonna have to blame shitty editing here. Like, come on, that is demonstrably not a cross. The artist got it right, at least.

Also, the label is worth a word. English royalty tend to use labels with differences to distinguish between the inevitably numerous heirs to the throne. We’ll see more of this a bit later on, since the Burkes have included depictions of the labels for many of the other members of the royal family. You will probably notice that Albert has a label with a difference (the cross gules) instead of the undifferentiated label of three points. This is due to the fact that, as Prince Consort, he wasn’t actually first in line to the throne. That honor goes to his and Victoria’s eldest son, Albert Edward, whom we’ll look at next week.

St. Stephen’s Day

Today is the feast day of St. Stephen of Hungary, the very first King of Hungary, canonized in 1083. (In addition to Hungary, he is also the patron saint of kings, masons, bricklayers, and severely ill children.) In honor of him and the nation he founded, I figured we’d take a look at their arms.


The nation of Hungary bears per pale barry of gules and argent and of the first, a cross patriarchal paté of the second issuant from a crown upon three mounts in base all proper. I appreciate that it’s a union of old and new(er) arms, and the repeated gules and argent help give the arms a visual unity. 

The dexter arms, barry of eight gules and argent, were used by the Árpáds dating back to 1202. Supposedly, the four white stripes represent the four major rivers – the Danube, Tisza, Dráva, and Száva, which is just boring enough to be plausible. The explanation could just as easily be a post hoc rationalization, though. Depending on the particular ruler and who was drawing the arms, sometimes the red stripes were charged with lions of various positions (passant, respectant, etc.). There are also a few depictions that add linden leaves, such as the Golden Bull of 1222 displaying the seal of Andrew II.

The use of the patriarchal cross is only slightly younger than the bars; Béla IV used it on a royal seal around 1235. However, the mount doesn’t show up for another 35 years or so until the reign of Stephen V. The patriarchal cross was in fairly consistent use until the Catholic House of Anjou came to power in 1308. They impaled the arms of Hungary ancien with the azure semé de lis or of France. With the exception of Louis the Great, the patriarchal cross didn’t reappear in the royal arms until Władysław III in the 1440s. After that, Hungary ancien and Hungary moderne were both in fairly common use in various royal arms (please don’t make me talk about the Habsburgs, please don’t make me talk about the Habsburgs, you thought Liechtenstein was bad, have you seen some of the Habsburg arms?). The combination was popular enough that it was also used by republican governments, and it was reestablished as official in 1990. (From 1957 to 1990, the arms were tierced per fess gules, argent, and vert, which just seems like a cheap knockoff of Italy to me.)

Interestingly, what’s going on around the base of the cross in any particular version can tell you a lot about what was going on with the political situation of Hungary at the time. Louis the Great seems to have been the first to add the crown to the patriarchal cross, and it stuck around until the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. At that point, the crown was removed from the arms as a symbolic rejection of the monarchy, and replaced with a laurel wreath instead. Similarly, the First Hungarian Republic used the ancient-and-moderne combo, but without any crown at all. The crown didn’t really come back until the current version of the arms, and it sounds like it was a minor point of contention, but they obviously ended up going with the crown.

Liechtenstein National Day

Today marks the 79th Liechtenstein National Day since the holiday was established in 1940. The date reflects both the feast of the Assumption of Mary and (almost) the birthday of Franz Josef II, who was the prince in 1940. (After he died in 1989, they just decided to keep the same day going forward.) The national arms of Liechtenstein are, unsurprisingly, the same as the arms of the House of Liechtenstein, and they have been unchanged since the union of the regions of Vaduz and Schellenberg in 1719. The arms consist of six separate coats (four quarters, a point in point, and an escutcheon). So, let’s go section by section on this. Buckle in, folks; this is gonna be a long one.

(Also, fair warning – this is going to deal very heavily with the family history, and not so much with the national history. That’s where the arms come from, and that’s kind of why I’m here.)


The first quarter is fairly easy: the duchy of Lower Silesia, or an eagle displayed sable armed and langued gules, crowned of the field, charged with a cross couped issuant from a crescent argent. Occasionally, the cross will be paté and/or the crescent will terminate in trefoils (treflée); these ornamentations are more common on Czech versions of the arms. (If you’re familiar with the Czech Republic, you may notice that the Lower Silesian eagle appears on its arms as well.) It seems likely that the Silesian coat of arms ended up with the Liechtensteins by way of Elizabeth Lucretia, Duchess of Cieszyn, who inherited the duchy from her brother Friedrich Wilhelm (of course it’s a Friedrich Wilhelm) while she was married to Gundakar of Liechtenstein. Technically, he probably would only have been entitled to use this quarter until 1653, when the duchy reverted back to the Habsburgs, but no one seems to have cared too much. I guess you could also make an argument that the acquisition of additional Silesian territory made the bearing of the quarter more or less accurate.

The second quarter is… tricky. It’s supposed to be the arms of the Kuenringer family (barry or and sable), as Johann VI Kuenringer died without issue in 1594, and Ferdinand II granted their arms to the Liechtensteins in 1620. However, adding the ducal coronet (sometimes blazoned as a chaplet of rue) makes these look a hell of a lot like the arms of Saxony instead. As far as I can tell, the Liechtensteins never had much to do with Saxony. I did find a source that said there are minor differences in the blazon that distinguish Saxony from Kuenringer – Saxony is barry of ten or and sable, a ducal coronet embowed vert, while Kuenringer is barry of eight or and sable, a ducal coronet vert. I’m a bit skeptical of this, since I can find lots and lots of depictions of Kuenringer without the coronet, and none with it (that aren’t affiliated with Liechtenstein.) It’s not an impossible explanation, but it has the slight ring of trying to cover a mistake. However, if it is a mistake, it’s a mistake enshrined in law, so there’s not much to be done about it.

The third quarter is somewhat easier – per pale argent and gules, the arms of the Duchy of Troppau. We know exactly when the Liechtensteins took control of this territory – Emperor Matthias of Habsburg granted it to Karl I in 1614. Evidently, the Protestant inhabitants of the duchy were not thrilled with their new Catholic leader, but after the Battle of White Mountain, it became clear the Liechtensteins weren’t going anywhere. They continued to hold the land until it was incorporated into Czechoslovakia in 1918, and the royal family still holds the formal title “Duke of Troppau and Jägerndorf.” (We’ll get to Jägerndorf in a minute.)

The fourth quarter (or a harpy sable, head and breast argent, armed and crowned of the field) looks like a tincture-swapped version of the Cirksena arms. The Cirksenas ruled the counties of Rietberg and East Frisia. The Liechtensteins got the title to Rietberg (and presumably the arms) as a result of Gundakar’s other marriage to Agnes, daughter of Enno III of East Frisia. (They didn’t get it until 1848, though, when the last of the Kaunitz family died out; the Kautnizes succeeded the Cirksenas in 1699.) Quick blazoning note – I do find it interesting that the same figure is a “harpy” in English blazon, and a Jungfrauenadler or “maiden eagle” in German blazon. Slightly different connotations there!

Next up: the point in point, holding the arms of Jägerndorf, which are azure a bugle stringed or. Jägerndorf was also granted to Karl I, this one by Ferdinand II in 1623. Karl consolidated the two territories into the Duchy of Troppau-Jägerndorf, and his family held the duchy until 1918.

Finally, the escutcheon per pale or and gules are the actual arms of the Liechtenstein family themselves, minus all their possessions and the rest of their titles. As far as I can tell, these go back at least to Karl I, the first Prince of Liechtenstein, and probably back further into the family’s baronial history. I can’t prove their antiquity beyond 1614, but honestly, four centuries is still really old.

If you have noticed that the arms do not actually feature Vaduz and Schellenberg, you would be correct! The County of Vaduz bore gules a gonfanon argent, and the Lordship of Schellenberg bore barry of four sable and or. Both of these coats became obsolete upon the creation of the state of Liechtenstein. This is not especially surprising, given that the creation was highly politically motivated – no one was going to waste time on creating brand new arms when the newly elevated princes already had a perfectly good and prestigious-looking coat.

Arms of Ottavio Piccolomini

Duke of Amalfi 1639-1656 (1599-1656)

Blazon: Per quarterly I and IV argent on a cross azure five crescents or (Piccolomini); II and III paly of four i or four palets gules (Aragon), ii barry of eight gules and argent (Hungary ancien), iii azure semé de lis or, a label of four points gules (Anjou ancien), iv argent a cross paté between four crosses or (Jerusalem)

Ottavio inherited the quarters of Aragon, Hungary ancien, Anjou ancien, and Jerusalem from his ancestor Antonio Piccolomini d’Aragona, who married Maria d’Aragona, the illegitimate daughter of Ferdinand I of Naples. Many representations have Ferdinand’s arms in the first and third quarters, as Maria’s lineage was (though illegitimate) more noble than Antonio’s.

Let me say this, that this coat-armor being Barry, is interpreted by some learned in blazon, to represent to the bearer, force, valour, courage, or wisdom, whereby he hath repelled any peril or danger imminent to his country or sovereign; the Barre… is taken in the like signification.

– From the Blazon of Gentrie by Sir John Ferne (1586) p243

Like most early attempts to assign some kind of symbolism to heraldic charges (especially the ordinaries), this assertion does not seem to be supported by more reliable sources.