Arms of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France


Granted 2017

Blazon: Per quarterly, I or a gonfanon gules fringed vert (Auvergne), II gules a cross argent (Savoy), III gules a lion rampant argent (Lyonnais), IV or a dolphin embowed azure finned gules (Dauphiné)

The gonfanon of Auvergne has been in use since at least the 12th century, as evidenced by several seals. There’s a story that it’s taken from the banner that Eustace III, Count of Boulogne (brother of Godfrey of Bouillon and Baldwin of Boulogne) took on the First Crusade, but it’s more likely derived from the banner of the abbey of Saint Géraud d’Aurillac.

This is (as the name implies) combined with the coats of arms featured in the former flag used by Rhône-Alpes. The Lyonnais coat of arms is derived from the arms of the city of Lyon, which is pretty obviously a canting charge; I’m skeptical of the claims that it’s derived from the arms of Marc Antony, allegedly a patron of the city – not least because the Romans didn’t have coats of arms in the same way that we think of them. By contrast, it seems like Dauphiné got its name from the arms, rather than the other way around; it was formerly ruled by the Counts of Albon, who have borne a dolphin since the 1100s. (The charge does seem to derive from a possible relative of the family named “Dolfin.”) And, of course, the Savoy arms have been that since the Crusades; they’re probably an inversion of the red cross that all crusaders wore as a symbol of their mission.

The designer of these arms says something here that I really like, which is that a coat of arms is “a way of anchoring an institution in history.” I think that’s a great way of thinking about heraldry in both the ancient and modern eras: as a way of understanding where a particular nation/region/family/organization stands in relation to the larger tide of history. What are its allegiances, its inheritances, its legacies? What has it chosen to keep, and what has it chosen to discard? What’s the story the arms convey? I hope to keep these questions in mind as I continue to research and practice this weird, wonderful little discipline.

It looks like Hauts-de-France hasn’t been officially granted arms yet, either, which wraps up the new administrative regions. Next week, I’ll start revisiting some old friends.


Arms of the Kingdom of Italy

Kingdom of Italy

In use 1861 – 1946

Blazon: Gules a cross argent (Savoy)

Supporters: Two lions rampant or

Unfortunately, the site I had been using for the Italian family coats of arms appears to have been taken down, so I figured I might as well start in on the national and geographic arms of Italy. First up – the arms of the Kingdom of Italy, established 1861. (I know there were still reunification efforts going on after this, but that’s most of the peninsula under one ruler.) The arms are just those of the first king, Victor Emmanuel II of Savoy, though the supporters are unique to the kingdom. Over the 85 years of the kingdom’s existence, it passed father-to-son for four generations, so there was never any cause to change the arms.

Arms of Stetten am kaleten Markt, Germany

Stetten am kaleten Markt

Granted 1978?

Blazon: Per quarterly argent and gules a cross quarterly counterchanged

These are potentially a variation on the arms of the bishopric of Constance (argent a cross gules.) The town belonged to the monastery of Reichenau from 799 until until about the 13th century, and the monastery was subsequently ceded to Constance. It’s possible that later researchers conflated the two.

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.

Arms of the House of Piccolomini

In use since at least 1324; variations dating back to 1055

Blazon: Argent on a cross azure five crescents or

Some sources place the origin of the family and the arms around 508 BCE, or even earlier during Roman times, but this is probably a fifteenth-century embellishment added after Enea Silvio Bartolomeo Piccolomini became Pope Pius II. From the Middle Ages through 1821, Piccolomini marriages were tightly controlled by a consortium to ensure that their considerable wealth and property stayed within the family. Two branches of the Piccolomini survive today – the Piccolomini Naldi Bandini and the Piccolomini Clementini Adami.

Arms of Birmingham, England


Granted 1977

Blazon: Per quarterly I and IV azure a bend of five lozenges conjoined or, II and III per pale indented or and gules, overall on a cross ermine a mitre proper

Crest: On a wreath or and azure issuant from a mural crown or charged with a Tudor rose a dexter arm embowed holding a hammer all proper

Supporters: On the dexter a figure representing Art proper vested argent wreathed with laurel vert tied by a riband gules, holding in the sinister hand resting on the shield a book bound of the last and in the dexter a palette with two brushes proper; on the sinister a figure representing Industry habited as a smith, holding in the dexter hand resting on the shield a cupel and in the sinister a hammer resting on an anvil all proper

Mantling: Azure lined or

Motto: Forward

Both coats quartered here were used by the de Bermingham family at various points in time. The family also quartered the coats, but in opposite quarters; the city changed the order for difference. The city was previously granted arms in 1889, which used a fess ermine instead of a cross, and a mural crown instead of a mitre. The supporters in the previous arms were also reversed, with Industry on the dexter and Art on the sinister.