Arms of Alcázar del Rey, Spain

Alcazar del Rey

Granted 2001

Blazon: Per pale azure a castle triple-towered or windowed gules and of the second, a crescent decrescent argent and a lion rampant of the second

The representation of the lion and the crescent moon don’t seem consistent; some depictions, as here, have the lion almost within the curve of the moon, and in others, it looks more like the lion is supporting the moon with its front paws. The dexter half of the shield is apparently a canting element, since alcázar is Spanish for a fortified castle. The sinister half replicates the arms of Huete, to which the town previously belonged. Allegedly, the lion represents the victory of the Christians over the Muslims (represented by the crescent) in the Reconquista, but I don’t have a good source for that theory.

Arms of Ebensee, Austria


Arms of Ebensee, Austria

Granted 1929; in use since 1919

Blazon: Or chapé azure, water in base of the second and argent, issuant therefrom a mount, surmounted by a pine tree proper issuant from a base vert; in dexter chief, three baskets in pile reversed of the third, in sinister chief a pickaxe of the field; overall on a fess gules two dexter arms clasping hands in fess proper, vested of the field and sable

Oh. Oh no. This is definitely twentieth-century; you can tell from the multiplicity of complex charges that are specifically concerned with industry, as well as the fairly literal symbolism. This is kind of the heraldic definition of Doing Too Much. I know it’s been in use for over a hundred years, but this is just … not visually appealing at all. I’m sort of reluctant to explain all of the symbols, just because they’re so obvious, but I might as well. The pine tree stands for the local forests, the mount and the water stand for a nearby lake and mountain, the baskets and hammer refer to the salt mining industry, and the clasped hands represent the solidarity of the local workers, who absolutely deserve to be represented by something a little nicer than this.

Arms of Chieti, Italy


Arms of Chieti, Italy

Granted 1807?

Blazon: Or a boar’s head erased proper, in chief a yoke gules, nails argent

The story here is that the boar’s head was a symbol of the local Samnite people, allegedly dating back to 258 BCE when it was stamped on coins. I found two different stories about the yoke. It could represent the eventual subjugation of the Samnites to the Romans, or – quite the contrary – it could be a reference to the “battle” of the Caudine Forks, where the Samnites tricked the Romans and forced them to surrender, humiliating them by making them pass under a yoke as a sign of their defeat.

I have no idea of the accuracy of any of the prior information. On the one hand, it goes back so far that the connection seems improbable; on the other hand, this is Italy, and if there’s anything they’re good at, it’s preserving Roman iconography. I think it’s most probable that the symbolism in these arms dates back to antiquity, but it wasn’t actually used in a heraldic manner, much less the above configuration, until much later.

Arms of Nehren, Germany


Granted 1909

Blazon: Gules a chevron argent

It looks like the town of Nehren adopted the arms of the von Nehrens, a noble family who ruled in the area from at least 1305 through 1441. The arms allegedly originated with a Lescher family, but I can’t find any solid evidence for that. (I’ve found plenty of records of Leschers, but none with an associated blazon or depiction of arms.) Nehren’s website does feature a lovely depiction of their arms in begonias; one of the advantages of simpler arms.

Arms of Norman d’Arcy


From the Dering Roll (c. 1270-1300)

Blazon: Argent three cinquefoils gules

There’s not a whole lot of information on Norman d’Arcy, who has got to be the third or fourth Norman in that family. Probably born around 1220 in Nocton, where his father was the lord, he died after a fairly uneventful (or at least unrecorded) life around 1314. He was the fourth son, which may make you wonder why the arms aren’t differenced, but it looks like he was the oldest (and maybe the only) son left alive when the Dering Roll was compiled.

(And yes, Austenites, this could conceivably be *the* Darcy’s coat of arms.)

Arms of Vienne, France


Designed before 1965

Blazon: Gules a pale wavy argent surmounted by five castles triple-towered in saltire or

Yep, another Robert Louis! Which also makes me think these arms probably aren’t official. Unlike many other of Louis’ designs, this one does violate the law of tincture by placing one of the castles or on the pale argent; this could have been avoided by counterchanging, or making the center castle a different color. I don’t have a good idea of what the castles are supposed to represent, so I don’t know if there’s a reason for not doing that. It’s possible, maybe even probable, that the pale wavy is supposed to stand for the river Vienne which gives the department its name.

Arms of Bleddyn ap Cynfyn

Bleddyn ap Cynfyn

(? – 1073)

Blazon: Or a lion rampant gules armed and langued azure

Bleddyn “inherited” Gwynedd after the death of his half-brother Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, by which I mean that Harold Godwinson installed Bleddyn as ruler in 1063 after defeating and killing Gruffydd. Bleddyn swore allegiance to Harold, as did his brother Rhiwallon ap Cynfyn, who was granted rule of Powys. Their allegiance didn’t last five years; by 1067, the ap Cynfyn brothers were invading Godwinson’s home base in Hereford. Two years later, Rhiwallon died, and Gruffydd’s sons challenged their half-uncle for the throne. Bleddyn won. In 1073, Rhys ab Owain of Deheubarth killed Bleddyn and took over both Gwynedd and Powys. Gwynedd ended up going to Trahaearn ap Caradog, but Powys eventually passed to Bleddyn’s third son, Maredudd ap Bleddyn, establishing the House of Mathrafal. (Please insert the usual disclaimers about the improbability of Bleddyn using these arms during his lifetime, given the nascent-to-nonexistent state of Welsh heraldry at the time.)