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!

Spain

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.

Arms of Saône-et-Loire, France

Saône-et-Loire

Designed before 1965

Blazon: Or two palets wavy azure, 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

Okay, okay, technically these aren’t official arms. They were designed by Robert Louis, a French heraldic artist who is probably most famous for his series of heraldic postage stamps. It doesn’t look like they were ever adopted by the department, but they do look pretty good, so I’m going with it. You may recognize the arms on the chief as Touraine and Burgundy, respectively. I don’t know this for absolute certain, but I’m willing to bet that the blue wavy lines represent the two rivers that give the region its name.

Arms of Centre-Val de Loire, France

Centre-Val de Loire

In use since at least 2005

Blazon: Azure three fleurs-de-lis or and a label of as many points argent within a bordure compony argent and gules

Weirdly, I can’t find much information on the origin of these arms, though I’ve found identical files going back to 2005. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they’ve been in use for much, much longer, though. The arms themselves look like a composite of the arms of two former provinces: the three fleurs-de-lis and the label are the arms of both the House of Orléans and the former province of Orléanais. These are, of course, just the royal arms of France differenced, since the House of Orléans is a cadet branch of the Bourbons.The bordure compony seems to come from Touraine, though I don’t know how that originally got started.

Arms of Villamanrique, Spain

Villamanrique

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 Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, France

Bourgogne-Franche-Comte

Granted July 12th, 2017

Blazon: Per quarterly I azure semé de lis or a bordure gobony argent and gules, II and III azure biletté and a lion rampant crowned or, armed and langued gules, IV bendy of six or and azure a bordure gules

This is why I’m glad I’m revisiting these! As it turns out, there was an administrative reorganization of France in 2016 – and I did most of the regional French arms in 2014, so some of these arms are going to be brand new! (To me, at least.) Some regions did stay the same, but Bourgogne-Franche-Comté is only about three and a half years old. That being said, the design operates on pretty much the same principle as the name – the first and fourth quarters come from the former arms of Burgundy, and the second and third are the former arms of Franche-Comte.

The Burgundian quarters are, respectively, the arms of the county (later duchy) of Touraine and the House of Burgundy. The arms of Franche-Comté were allegedly adopted by Count Palatine Otto IV in 1280 when he switched his allegiance to France from the Holy Roman Empire. He previously bore gules, an eagle displayed argent, but opted for the azure and or to mimic the French arms.

Arms of Torre de Juan Abad, Spain

Torre de Juan Abad

Granted 1273

Blazon: Argent a tower and lion rampant gules, in chief a molet of five points azure, all within a bordure of the first charged with eight saltires couped or

Unfortunately, I have no idea who Juan Abad might have been, and it seems like nobody else does, either. It seems reasonable to speculate that the tower is a canting element (“torre,” or “tower” in Spanish). The lion is possibly taken from the arms of Alfonso X of Castile, who granted the town’s arms, but I don’t have anything on the saltires or the molet. One last fun fact – Francisco de Quevedo, a prominent satirical Baroque poet, ruled the town for a while after his mother purchased the title for him. While the town apparently didn’t take too kindly to him at the time (read: they sued him, and he won, but only after he died), they now host an “International Graphic Humor Center” in honor of his snarky legacy.