Arms of Villamayor de Calatrava, Spain

Villamayor de Calatrava

Granted 1984; possibly in use since 1576

Blazon: Or a stone column* proper on a base vert, in chief a cross of Calatrava gules

Obviously, these are partly canting arms, but I’m more intrigued by the stone column. One of the sources I found implies that these arms are significantly older and, moreover, that there was actually a column in the town square in the 16th and 17th centuries. It seems the column was demolished sometime before 1639, but I have no idea why. It also seems that the original use of these arms dates back to around the same time, and putting a local landmark on municipal arms is an extremely common practice.

*I know, but I’m trying very hard to be mature about it, and the… distinctive shape seems to be unique to this particular depiction


Arms of Dorfgastein, Austria


Granted 1952

Blazon: Gules pointé in base or, three roundels counterchanged

The partition of the field is from the arms of the Lords of Goldegg, who held (disputed) control over the valley from 1272 presumably through the house’s extinction in 1449. The roundels are derived from the arms of Nonnberg Abbey, which formerly held possession of the village of Unterberg, one of the six villages included in the municipality. (You can see the abbey’s arms on the dexter here, though the tinctures are hard to make out; the sinister arms are those of the Schneeweiß family.)

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.

Former arms of Breitenholz, Germany


Blazon: Gules an S-shaped crampoon argent

I’m afraid I don’t have a lot of information on these arms; since Breitenholz was incorporated into Ammerbuch in 1971, it doesn’t have a website, and secondary sources are thin on the ground. I suspect these arms are relatively new; there is an 1892 municipal stamp that just uses a “B” instead of any arms.

The charge is identified as a Wolfseisen, which seems to be a highly stylized version of a crampoon. This specific version has the terminal ends curling around into almost an S-shape. This is specified in the German blazon as an “S-förmiges Wolfseisen,” which I’ve roughly translated to “S-shaped crampoon” in my English version.

Arms of Walter Giffard


From the Dering Roll (c. 1270-1300)

Blazon: Azure three lions passant guardant argent crowned or

There are several Giffard coats of arms with three lions passant (sometimes guardant) argent, but the field is generally gules, and the lions are not usually crowned. The first creation of the Earl of Buckingham, which applied to two Walter Giffards, was extinguished in 1164 when the son died without issue. This means I can’t find a Walter Giffard alive around the same time as the Dering Roll was published, so I’m not entirely sure where this comes from – though I think it is worth noting the original Walter Giffard, Lord of Longueville, was from Normandy, the region of gules two lions passant guardant (sometimes crowned) or.

Arms of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France


Granted 2016

Blazon: Argent in dexter three palets wavy azure, in sinister a lion rampant gules

Another new coat of arms for the administrative regions! Personally, I prefer the former arms of Aquitaine (gules a lion passant guardant or, armed and langued azure), and Limousin was pretty sharp, too (ermine a bordure gules), but design-wise, this is pretty good. In terms of the charges selected… well, I suppose I understand the reasoning. The palets are probably intended to represent the rivers that run to the Atlantic, much like the lion’s mane in the new logo. They also could be a canting charge, if you subscribe to the etymology that has “Aquitaine” derived from the Latin for “water.” I feel that it’s worth mentioning the competing theory – that it’s actually named after the pre-Roman tribe of the Ausci.

The lion has been used for Aquitaine since at least the twelfth century, and possibly earlier, so it isn’t like they could leave it out. And I guess if we’re going to get picky about the law of tincture, and we really want those palets wavy, then fine, gules works. There are several cities in the region that use a lion gules, so it’s not like it’s coming from nowhere. (I really did like the former arms, though.)

Closing Complaints from the Author

Wyrley closes out his essay with three complaints about heraldic pedantry, two of which I think are legitimate, and one which seems like the other side of a very petty coin.

The first complaint is an interesting one, especially in light of the typical “older is better” attitude that was (and is) pervasive in heraldry (which I fall victim to myself sometimes). Wyrley scoffs at people who consider pre-Conquest ancestry and arms to be more prestigious than those post-Conquest. He points out that evidence from before the Conquest is scarce and unreliable, which is both fair and true, and that it is “more glorious and honorable to be descended from a most famous nation conquering” than the people they subjugated, which… sure is a viewpoint, I guess? (26)

Next, Wyrley takes aim at heraldic pedants, especially those who treat the law of tincture as a law instead of a guideline for legibility. He does say that color-on-color and metal-on-metal are harder to see properly, but he also gives some examples of perfectly respectable arms that violate the law of tincture, including those of the Mac Murchada dynasty in Ireland. (He gives the blazon as sable a lion rampant gules, though gules a lion rampant or passant argent seems to be more accurate). He’s also contemptuous of the idea that certain charges, i.e. the eagle or falcon, are more or less noble than others. Wyrley proposes that instead of particular arms bringing honor to the bearers, the armigers “do honor their bearings by their renowne, vertue, and valure.” (27) If you’re a good person, your arms don’t deserve criticism, even if they violate heraldic rules and tradition, or if they’re kind of goofy. One example he gives here is the Hopewells – argent three hares playing bagpipes gules. On the one hand, that is inherently silly; on the other hand, Wyrley has a really good point, and I have to believe those arms have a much better story behind them than the generic ordinaries or lions.

Lastly, he throws in a very brief defense of his refusal to use the French terms of art for tinctures – the argent, azure, vert, etc. that are common practice in blazon – by saying it is “more proper to speake and use English termes and phrases in an English booke dedicated to Englishmen, than French or Latine.” (27) This is literally the only mention of this authorial choice in the entire essay, so perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but it’s hard for me not to see this decision as stemming from English nationalism and anti-French sentiment. He doesn’t seem to have an issue with a lot of the French-derived terminology that makes up the rest of the language of blazon, so this feels like a highly specific and unnecessary nit to pick. Unless, of course, you’re just being a dick to the French. 

Personally, I have no issue with using the traditional terminology (as you’ve probably noticed). I like the #aesthetic, but more importantly, I think the traditional language helps deal with one of the traditional problems of tincture. “Or” and “argent” in particular have multiple translations in English – “or” could map to “yellow” or “gold,” and “argent” to “white” or “silver.” However, both of those translations are interchangeable in heraldry. The blazon “argent a cross gules” can be depicted with a white field or a silver field, depending on the preferences and technical and material capabilities of the artist, and the original blazon is accurate either way. However, translating “argent” to “white” automatically makes any depiction using a silver field incorrect, and vice versa. Essentially, the traditional language correctly reflects the ambivalence of tinctures, and I’d rather stick to that than make a translation choice that could be wrong.

That wraps up the heraldic part of Wyrley’s text. I did manage to find an edition with the two poems attached, but I’ll spare you those recaps. As a poet, Wyrley was an excellent herald. Instead, next week, we’ll introduce the next text, Encyclopaedia of Heraldry, or General Armory of England, Scotland, and Ireland by John Burke and John Bernard Burke.