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 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.

Arms of John le Breton


From the Dering Roll (c. 1270-1300)

Blazon: Per quarterly or and gules, a bordure azure

There are a lot of people who are or have been named “John Breton”, “Jon le Breton,” etc. so it’s very hard for me to narrow down exactly which one this is and who might have been related to him. It seems like he was possibly lord of a few small parishes – Blatherwycke and Laxton in Northamptonshire, and Sporle-with-Palgrave in Norfolk. It’s possible that “Sporle” is a misnomer for “Spelhoe,” which is also in Northamptonshire; the Domesday Book had Blatherwycke, Laxton, and a number of manors in Spelhoe all belonging to the same person, but that was in 1066, well before the Dering Roll was compiled.

Arms of Yonne, France


Designed before 1965

Blazon: Or a pall azure and 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

I thought these looked like another Robert Louis design, and I was right! It’s unclear whether they’ve been officially adopted or not; honestly, I doubt they have. I’m somewhat less on board with the pall being used as a representation of the letter “Y”; it feels kind of like low-hanging fruit, although admittedly, “Yonne” doesn’t really lend itself to a simple graphic representation. Still, though, I’d almost rather see the “Y” represented as its own charge rather than borrowing the originally-religious symbol of the pall for no reason besides visual similarity. Not my favorite of Louis’ work.

Arms of Côte-d’Or, France


Designed before 1965

Blazon: Or a chief per pale azure 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

These are another unofficial Robert Louis creation, but they do look good. These are almost identical to the arms of Saône-et-Loire, with the same chief of Touraine and Burgundy. You’re probably noticing a pattern here: the chief pays homage to former centers of regional power, and the main part of the shield refers to the name of the region (two palets wavy for the rivers of Saône and Loire, and or for… well, the “Gold Coast.”)

Fiesta Nacional de España

There are actually two important Spanish holidays on this date; the Fiesta Nacional, chosen to commemorate Christopher Columbus’ landing in the Americas, and the feast day of Our Lady of the Pillar. The former might be more official, but the latter is apparently more popular culturally – understandable in a majority-Catholic country. She is the patron saint of the Civil Guard, and also of the region of Aragon, which provides a nice segue into discussing the Spanish national arms!


Blazon: Per quarterly, I gules a castle triple-towered or windowed argent (Castile), II argent a lion rampant purpre crowned or (León), III or four palets gules (Aragon), IV gules a chain in saltire, cross, and orle or, charged with a center point vert (Navarre); enté en point argent a pomegranate slipped, leaved, and seeded proper (Granada); overall in the fess point an escutcheon azure three fleurs-de-lis or within a bordure gules (Bourbon-Anjou)

Supporters: Two columns argent, capitals and bases or, standing on five waves azure and the first, the dexter surmounted by an imperial crown and the sinister the Spanish royal crown proper, and entwined with a ribbon gules charged with “Plus ultra” of the second

The current depiction of the arms was formally granted in 1981, but the individual elements are all very old. The first two quarters of Spain are the best counterargument I’ve ever seen against the idea that canting arms are somehow ‘lesser.’ (Canting arms are arms that are essentially puns on the name of the family, country, etc. – think mountains for Bergs, eels for Ellis, etc.) There’s a weird idea in some heraldic texts that canting arms are less “noble” than non-canting arms. But Spain features three coats of canting arms, beginning with the somewhat obvious Castile and León. 

Castile and León were two of the more powerful states in medieval Spain. They went back and forth between unified and not for a few centuries until they were formally unified under Ferdinand III in 1230. The lion and castle show up in a lot of Spanish arms, usually as quarters or smaller sections, although often the lion will be rendered gules instead of purpre. (Gules is a much more common and easily-rendered tincture in heraldry than purpre.)


The third quarter, the widely-used Bars of Aragon (not bars in the heraldic sense), joined the arms along with the Crown of Aragon when Isabel I of Castile – the several-times-great-granddaughter of Ferdinand III – married Ferdinand II of Aragon in 1469. The pomegranate (the third canting element) was added shortly afterwards, perpetually enté en point, after the conquest of Granada was concluded in 1496 and it was added to the Spanish crown. 


It is with immense gratitude that I can skip over the two hundred years of Habsburg rule in Spain, because while their arms are mind-bendingly complicated, none of the several dozen coats with which the Spanish arms were combined stuck around. However, the kings of Spain used the title “King of Navarre” after the War of the League of Cambrai, and some of the variants of the Spanish arms (especially those used in Navarre) incorporated the chain figure, especially as an escutcheon. A smaller version of Navarre officially survived as an independent kingdom until they were incorporated into Spain in 1833, which is also when the Navarre arms start showing up as a full quarter in the Spanish royal arms.


The last of the current elements of the Spanish arms appear when Philip V inherited the Spanish throne in 1700. Philip was a Bourbon – specifically, of the cadet line of the dukes of Anjou. Because everyone in European royal circles was pretty inbred at this point, his arms as the King of Spain also included Austria, Burgundy, and Flanders, among others. However, he bore the arms of Anjou in an escutcheon, and that’s stuck around since then. My theory is that they’ve also stayed in the escutcheon due to the agreement laid out in the Peace of Utrecht that the French and Spanish crowns would never be unified. Because of that, the Spanish monarchs could only “pretend” to the French throne, and never have any territorial claim.


Finally, while the unique supporters aren’t quite canting, I think they’re worth a mention. They are, specifically, the Pillars of Hercules, which flank the Strait of Gibraltar, i.e. Spain’s gateway to the Atlantic Ocean. The motto “Plus ultra,” or “Farther beyond,” is a reference to the legend that the pillars were carved with “Non plus ultra” to warn seafarers to stay on the side of the strait without (as many) storms and sea monsters and other such dangers. The removal of the negative is a nice nod to Spain’s history as a seafaring and exploratory nation.

Arms of Villanueva de San Carlos, Spain

Villanueva de San Carlos

Granted 1773

Blazon: Per fess azure three fleurs-de-lis or within a bordure gules and argent a cross of Calatrava gules

The arms in the chief half of the shield are those of Anjou in honor of Charles III of Spain – presumably the titular “Carlos.” His father, Philip V, was previously Duke of Anjou before he ascended to the Spanish throne in 1700. These arms are sometimes cited as “Bourbon,” but they are specific to the Spanish Bourbons. Azure, three fleurs-de-lis or (without the bordure or any other additional charges) are the arms of the senior (French) branch of the House of Bourbon, which fell from power when Charles X abdicated in 1830.