Arms of Prince Albert Edward

Edward VII

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

The text gives the blazon as follows: “the Royal Arms, differenced by a label of three points and an escutcheon of pretence, for Saxony, viz. barry of ten, sable and argent, a bend treflé vert.”

I was so distracted by the fuckup on the charge of Saxony last week (seriously, how is that a cross? It’s a bend! It’s obviously a bend!) that I missed the other glaring fuckup in the blazon: sable and argent? It’s or! Saxony has never involved argent at all! Argh. Also worth noting is the escutcheon of pretense; we typically see these in the arms of men married to heiresses, but here, it indicates that Edward is also an heir to Saxony, though as a kingdom, the UK takes precedence over a duchy.

The Burkes, bless their status-obsessed little hearts, very carefully place the at-the-time infant Prince Albert Edward (who will, eventually, become Edward VII) above his father due to his status as heir apparent. Victoria and Albert’s first child, Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa, gets her label placed just below her younger brother and just above her father, as second in line to the throne. Despite the fact that this edition was republished in 1844, it doesn’t look like anyone added the arms (or even the label) of Princess Alice, born 1843. Next week, we’ll take a look at a whole bunch of fancy labels that differentiated all the many princes and princesses of the United Kingdom in 1842.


Arms of Villanueva de los Infantes, Spain

Villanueva de los Infantes

Granted 1421

Blazon: Argent a cross of Santiago gules between in bend two escutcheons or four palets of the second, and in bend sinister a lion rampant of the last and a castle triple-towered of the third windowed azure

There might be a better way to describe the positioning of the charges, but I’m not entirely sure what that would be. I’m hesitant to say they’re laid out in saltire, since most of them are different, and describing the individual position of each charge (eg. in dexter chief, in sinister chief, etc.) seems excessive. I ended up going with the bends because the charges seem to naturally fall into two groups – the lion and castle of Léon and Castile, and the shields of Aragon for Enrique and Alfonso, Infantes of Aragon.

Arms of Prince Albert

Prince Albert

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

The Burkes give the blazon as follows:

“Quarterly, first and fourth, the Royal Arms, differenced by a label of three points, on the center point a cross gules; second and third, barry of ten, sable and argent, a cross treflé vert, for Saxony.

Supporters – Two lions rampant or, crowned proper each charged on the shoulder with a label as in the arms.”

Okay, first off, because I can’t not point it out: the charge of Saxony is not, and never has been a cross treflé (or botony, as I typically prefer.) It’s a ducal coronet (embowed or not might be a point of dispute), but it’s…. definitely not a cross. The arms of Saxony aren’t hard to find, and this is a second edition of the text, and this particular slip-up isn’t mentioned in the errata, AND they blazon it correctly (or anyway, less wrongly) on literally the same page, so I’m gonna have to blame shitty editing here. Like, come on, that is demonstrably not a cross. The artist got it right, at least.

Also, the label is worth a word. English royalty tend to use labels with differences to distinguish between the inevitably numerous heirs to the throne. We’ll see more of this a bit later on, since the Burkes have included depictions of the labels for many of the other members of the royal family. You will probably notice that Albert has a label with a difference (the cross gules) instead of the undifferentiated label of three points. This is due to the fact that, as Prince Consort, he wasn’t actually first in line to the throne. That honor goes to his and Victoria’s eldest son, Albert Edward, whom we’ll look at next week.

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 Queen Victoria


The Burkes give the royal blazon as follows: 

Arms – Quarterly, first and fourth, gules, three lions passant guardant in pale or, for England; second, or, a lion rampant within a double tressure, flory, counterflory gules for Scotland; azure a harp or, stringed argent for Ireland; all surrounded by the Garter.

Crest – England – Upon the royal helmet, the imperial crown proper thereon a lion statant, guardant or, imperially crowned, also proper.

Supporters – Dexter, a lion rampant guardant or, crowned as the crest. Sinister, an unicorn argent armed, crined, and ungled or, gorged with a coronet composed of crosses pattée and fleurs-de-lis, a chain affixed thereto, passing between the forelegs, and reflexed over the back, also or.

Crest – Scotland – On an imperial crown proper a lion sejant affrontée gules imperially crowned or, holding in the dexter paw a sword, and in the sinister a sceptre erect, also proper.

Crest – Ireland – On a wreath, or and azure a castle, triple-towered, gold, a hart argent springing from the gate.

I’ve written out the abbreviations used – gu. into gules, pass. into passant, etc. but everything else is copied directly. I can’t quibble with the actual content of the blazon, although I would use a lot fewer commas. I’m also not sure why they give the blazons for the crests of Scotland and Ireland, but good to know, I guess.

The depictions of the royal arms are excellent examples of nineteenth-century heraldic art; whatever else I can say about the Burkes, they got some pretty good and period-typical heraldic artists. I’m planning on posting the rest of the complete achievements given for the royal family, as well as some of the labels, and possibly a few of the simple arms given for former monarchs.

Arms of the Aosta Valley, Italy

Aosta Valley

Granted 1987; possibly in use since 1720

Blazon: Sable a lion rampant argent armed and langued gules

The association of the lion with the region of Aosta (whether as a county, duchy, autonomous region, or city) appears to be both obscure and extremely ancient. It was apparently already in widespread use by noble families of the area, as well as some ecclesiastics, in the twelfth century. The regional government admits they’re not sure of its exact origins, so I’m not sure I’m going to be able to dig anything else up. By the early 1700s, though, the current blazon was firmly associated with the duchy, and it appears on both state seals and as a quarter in other, more complex coats of arms. The ducal line of Savoy-Aosta preferred gules a cross argent within a bordure compony or and azure, but it seems like the lion remained in use for municipal purposes.

Arms of Normandy, France


In use since 1189 at the latest

Blazon: Gules two lions passant guardant or armed and langued azure

Oh, Normandy. Never change. You haven’t since like, 1189 at the latest, but we already saw what happened to Aquitaine, so. And I do say 1189 instead of 1066, because we don’t have any contemporary records of William the Conqueror using the two lions. The number of lions was a little flexible for a while, but it was pretty solidly established as two by the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

I will also take this opportunity to point out the issue with the leopards. The position of “passant guardant” in English heraldry is blazoned as “leopardé” in French. Often, from translation errors, confusion, or laziness, this results in lions passant guardant being recorded in English as leopards. This problem is especially acute in regards to the Norman coat of arms, which a. actually has lions passant guardant, and b. belongs to a region that kept switching back and forth between France and England for a while. If you ever see an English reference to the leopards of Normandy, it’s technically incorrect, but a very common and understandable error.