Lithuanian Restoration of Independence Day

Today is the wonderfully named Lithuanian Restoration of Independence Day – I love the emphasis on how they were an independent nation before the USSR, thankyouverymuch. On March 11th, 1990, Lithuania became the first Baltic state to break away from the Soviet Union, so congrats to them on 30 years of reinstated independence, and let’s take a look at their arms!

Lithuania

Blazon: Gules a knight armed and armored mounted on a horse salient argent, caparisoned azure, ornamented gules; bearing a sword proper and a shield of the second, a cross patriarchal of the third

Supporters: On the dexter a griffin and on the sinister a unicorn argent, armed or, langued gules

The Lithuanian coat of arms (or the arms of the Lithuanian ruler) has remained pretty consistent since its first appearance in 1366, attributed to the Grand Duke Algirdas. It continued to appear on 14th-century coins and seals. The positioning of the knight and horse, and the overall tinctures were established by the beginning of the 15th century. 

(The charge of the knight and horse has a specific name in Lithuanian – Vytis. There are, of course, numerous theories behind this – it could be derived from the verb “to chase,” from a Slavic title of “knight,” etc.)

The knight’s shield didn’t quite settle until the 16th century. It’s not entirely clear why the cross patriarchal was selected – it could be a reference to the Hungarian cross, or possibly to Ladislaus II Jogaila’s conversion to Catholicism. I find the former explanation more credible; the cross patriarchal tends to be associated with the Orthodox, not Catholic church. 

Aside from some minor modifications in the depictions, the arms stuck around even after Lithuania’s incorporation into the Russian Empire in 1795. (Okay, technically the arms were abolished, but the arms they were awarded instead are basically the same except for the shield and the tincture of the horse’s trappings. Why fix what isn’t broken?) Unsurprisingly, the Vytis became a symbol of national pride and, often, resistance to foreign rule. When Lithuania broke away from the Russian Empire in the late nineteen-teens, the arms became extremely popular, despite not having an official version. I’m not clear if the Republic of Lithuania ever established an official version, but the basics don’t ever seem to have been in question. 

Unfortunately, in 1940 – say it with me – the USSR annexed Lithuania and replaced its national symbols with the bog-standard Soviet heraldry. Wheat, sun, hammer and sickle, five-pointed star, the works. Interestingly, as part of the slow liberal thaw in the late 80s, display of the previous national arms was re-legalized in 1988 – two years before the country broke with the Soviet Union. They didn’t waste any time readopting their beloved arms; the Vytis was returned to his place of honor on March 20th, 1990.

 

Arms of Ebbs, Austria

Ebbs

Granted 1972

Blazon: Argent a chevron gules, in base a horse’s head couped sable

The chevron is apparently drawn from the medieval arms of the Lords of Ebbs, though I could not find an example of their arms. The horse head is both a formerly canting element – the Roman name of the town translates roughly to “horse river” – and a reflection of the importance of horse breeding in Ebbs. Haflingers are a popular breed in the region, and the Fohlenhof has been an established stud since 1947.

Arms of George III

George III

From Encyclopedia of Heraldry by John Burke and John Bernard Burke (1844)

Blazon: Per quarterly I and IV gules three lions passant guardant in pale or armed and langued azure (England); II or a lion rampant within a tressure flory counter-flory gules (Scotland); III azure a harp or stringed argent (Ireland); overall an escutcheon crowned proper tierced per pale and per chevron I gules two lions passant guardant or (Brunswick), II or semé of hearts gules a lion rampant azure (Lüneburg), III gules a horse courant argent (Hanover/Westphalia), in the fess point an escutcheon gules the crown of Charlemagne or (Archtreasurer of the Holy Roman Empire)

(George II doesn’t even get mentioned by the Burkes. Yeah, okay, he was Not Great in terms of being a king, and his arms were exactly the same as his father’s, but that still seems kinda rude.)

Finally, finally, finally, after what, 460 years, the monarchs of Britain formally relinquished their claim to France. George III dropped the title upon passage of the 1801 Act of Union, which incorporated Britain and Ireland into a single state. That was also the point when the arms of Hanover were moved from the fourth quarter into an escutcheon. This depiction seems somewhat outdated, since the escutcheon was only crowned with a chapeau until 1814. When the Electorate of Hanover was elevated to a kingdom, and George III received the title King of Hanover, the chapeau changed to a crown. (It’s also possible that this is supposed to be a crown, and is just really poorly drawn.)

Arms of George I

George I

From Encyclopedia of Heraldry by John Burke and John Bernard Burke (1844)

Blazon: Per quarterly, I gules three lions passant guardant in pale or armed and langued azure (England) impaled with or a lion rampant within a tressure flory counter-flory gules (Scotland); II azure three fleurs-de-lis or (France); III azure a harp or stringed argent (Ireland); IV tierced per pale and per chevron I gules two lions passant guardant or (Brunswick), II or semé of hearts gules a lion rampant azure (Lüneburg), III gules a horse courant argent (Hanover/Westphalia), in the fess point an escutcheon gules the crown of Charlemagne or (Archtreasurer of the Holy Roman Empire)

George preserved the first three quarters of Anne’s arms, but the fourth quarter represents a very condensed version of his previous arms as Elector of Hanover. Brunswick and Lüneburg were part of his personal holdings which he received from his father; the white horse is the ancient symbol of Hanover and Westphalia, of which he was the Elector. (Not that the arms of the Elector of Hanover are actually that simple, but including all of them seems to have been a bridge too far even here.) The crown of Charlemagne is not connected to any particular piece of land, but it is instead the heraldic representation of the purely ceremonial title of Arch-Treasurer of the Holy Roman Empire.

I swear to God, I don’t think the Burkes actually know what Saxony is. In their version of this blazon, they specify the white horse is for Saxony. It’s not. It’s Westphalia, or Hanover, or potentially Lower Saxony, but that is not the same thing as Saxony at this point in history. Given the Burkes’ previous fumbles on the Saxony arms, I’m really starting to question their grasp on this. Their British heraldry seems fairly solid, especially once they hit more recent history, but I’m really not confident in their grasp on Continental arms.

Arms of Wallhausen, Germany

Wallhausen

In use since at least 1987; granted 1974?

Blazon: Sable in the dexter chief a six-spoked wheel and in the sinister chief a horse salient, pointé in base argent a lion rampant gules

The wheel in the arms is probably drawn from those of Michelbach an der Lücke, a former municipality incorporated into the town in 1974. Hengstfeld, incorporated the same year, bore the arms argent a horse salient sable on a base vert; the horse may be a counterchanged reference to this town.

Arms of the borough of Croyden

Croyden

London, England

Granted 1965

Blazon: Argent on a cross flory sable between in chief dexter two swords in saltire and sinister two keys in saltire, both azure and gules, five bezants

Crest: On a mural crown or a fountain between a branch of oak leaved and fructed and a branch of beech slipped proper

Supporters: On the dexter a lion sable and on the sinister a horse argent each with a cross formy fitchy pendant from a collar counterchanged

Mantling: Sable lined argent

Motto: Ad summa nitamur (Let us strive for perfection)

The cross flory comes from the arms of John Whitgift, Archbishop of Canterbury, by way of the County Borough of Croyden. The keys and swords refer to the Abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul. The fountain symbolizes the source of the River Wandle, and the white horse is from the arms of the Earls of Surrey.