Fiesta Nacional de España

There are actually two important Spanish holidays on this date; the Fiesta Nacional, chosen to commemorate Christopher Columbus’ landing in the Americas, and the feast day of Our Lady of the Pillar. The former might be more official, but the latter is apparently more popular culturally – understandable in a majority-Catholic country. She is the patron saint of the Civil Guard, and also of the region of Aragon, which provides a nice segue into discussing the Spanish national arms!

Spain

Blazon: Per quarterly, I gules a castle triple-towered or windowed argent (Castile), II argent a lion rampant purpre crowned or (León), III or four palets gules (Aragon), IV gules a chain in saltire, cross, and orle or, charged with a center point vert (Navarre); enté en point argent a pomegranate slipped, leaved, and seeded proper (Granada); overall in the fess point an escutcheon azure three fleurs-de-lis or within a bordure gules (Bourbon-Anjou)

Supporters: Two columns argent, capitals and bases or, standing on five waves azure and the first, the dexter surmounted by an imperial crown and the sinister the Spanish royal crown proper, and entwined with a ribbon gules charged with “Plus ultra” of the second

The current depiction of the arms was formally granted in 1981, but the individual elements are all very old. The first two quarters of Spain are the best counterargument I’ve ever seen against the idea that canting arms are somehow ‘lesser.’ (Canting arms are arms that are essentially puns on the name of the family, country, etc. – think mountains for Bergs, eels for Ellis, etc.) There’s a weird idea in some heraldic texts that canting arms are less “noble” than non-canting arms. But Spain features three coats of canting arms, beginning with the somewhat obvious Castile and León. 

Castile and León were two of the more powerful states in medieval Spain. They went back and forth between unified and not for a few centuries until they were formally unified under Ferdinand III in 1230. The lion and castle show up in a lot of Spanish arms, usually as quarters or smaller sections, although often the lion will be rendered gules instead of purpre. (Gules is a much more common and easily-rendered tincture in heraldry than purpre.)

 

The third quarter, the widely-used Bars of Aragon (not bars in the heraldic sense), joined the arms along with the Crown of Aragon when Isabel I of Castile – the several-times-great-granddaughter of Ferdinand III – married Ferdinand II of Aragon in 1469. The pomegranate (the third canting element) was added shortly afterwards, perpetually enté en point, after the conquest of Granada was concluded in 1496 and it was added to the Spanish crown. 

 

It is with immense gratitude that I can skip over the two hundred years of Habsburg rule in Spain, because while their arms are mind-bendingly complicated, none of the several dozen coats with which the Spanish arms were combined stuck around. However, the kings of Spain used the title “King of Navarre” after the War of the League of Cambrai, and some of the variants of the Spanish arms (especially those used in Navarre) incorporated the chain figure, especially as an escutcheon. A smaller version of Navarre officially survived as an independent kingdom until they were incorporated into Spain in 1833, which is also when the Navarre arms start showing up as a full quarter in the Spanish royal arms.

 

The last of the current elements of the Spanish arms appear when Philip V inherited the Spanish throne in 1700. Philip was a Bourbon – specifically, of the cadet line of the dukes of Anjou. Because everyone in European royal circles was pretty inbred at this point, his arms as the King of Spain also included Austria, Burgundy, and Flanders, among others. However, he bore the arms of Anjou in an escutcheon, and that’s stuck around since then. My theory is that they’ve also stayed in the escutcheon due to the agreement laid out in the Peace of Utrecht that the French and Spanish crowns would never be unified. Because of that, the Spanish monarchs could only “pretend” to the French throne, and never have any territorial claim.

 

Finally, while the unique supporters aren’t quite canting, I think they’re worth a mention. They are, specifically, the Pillars of Hercules, which flank the Strait of Gibraltar, i.e. Spain’s gateway to the Atlantic Ocean. The motto “Plus ultra,” or “Farther beyond,” is a reference to the legend that the pillars were carved with “Non plus ultra” to warn seafarers to stay on the side of the strait without (as many) storms and sea monsters and other such dangers. The removal of the negative is a nice nod to Spain’s history as a seafaring and exploratory nation.

Arms of Granátula de Calatrava, Spain

Granatula de Calatrava

In use since at least 2013

Blazon: Per pale argent a cross of Calatrava gules and azure a pomegranate argent seeded gules

The two halves of the shield are both canting; the cross of Calatrava and the pomegranate (“granada” in Spanish).

Arms of Fuente el Fresno, Spain

Fuente el Fresno

Granted 1973

Blazon: Argent in dexter an ash tree eradicated proper, in sinister an escutcheon of Spain (1 and 4 gules a castle triple-towered or, windowed azure (Castile), 2 and 3 argent a lion rampant gules crowned or (León), enté en point argent a pomegranate proper seeded gules, slipped and leaved vert (Granada)) ensigned with a crown also proper

Unfortunately, I have no information on these arms, and not even anything nice to say about them. This has to be some of the laziest armory I’ve ever seen. They didn’t even bother to quarter the national arms! This is just egregious.

Arms of Great Dunmow Town Council, England

Great Dunmow

Granted 1956

Blazon: Gules on a chevron between in chief two fleurs-de-lis and in base a lion rampant or bearing in the dexter forepaw a civic mace argent, a pomegranate slipped, leaved, and seeded proper between two mascles chevronwise of the field

Crest: On a wreath of the colors on a woolpack proper a boar passant azure armed, ungled, and charged on the flank with three crescents two and one or, holding in the mouth three stalks of barley and a spray of hops also proper

Mantling: Gules lined or

Motto: May Dunmow prosper

Arms of Valdegovía, Spain

Valdegovia

Granted 1999

Blazon: Per fess I per pale i per quarterly 1 and 4 gules a castle triple-towered or windowed azure (Castile), 2 and 3 argent a lion rampant gules crowned or (León), ii per pale 1 or four palets gules (Aragon) and 2 per saltire a. and d. or four palets gules (Aragon) and b. and c. argent an eagle displayed sable crowned or (Sicily), pointé in base argent a pomegranate slipped and seeded proper (Granada); overall in the honor point an escutcheon gules a chain in saltire, cross, and orle or, charged with a center point vert (Navarre), in the nombril point an escutcheon argent five escutcheons in cross azure each charged with as many plates in saltire, all within a bordure gules charged with seven castles or (Portugal); II per quarterly i gules a fess argent (Austria), ii azure semé de lis or within a bordure compony gules and argent (Burgundy moderne), iii bendy of six or and azure within a bordure gules (Burgundy ancien), iv sable a lion rampant crowned or, armed and langued gules (Brabant), overall in the fess point an escutcheon per pale or a lion rampant sable armed and langued gules (Flanders) and argent an eagle displayed gules armed and langued or (Tyrol)

Arms of Elciego, Spain

Granted 1583

Blazon: Per fess I per pale i per quarterly 1 and 4 gules a castle triple-towered or windowed azure (Castile), 2 and 3 argent a lion rampant purpre armed and crowned or, langued gules (Léon); i per pale or four palets gules (Aragon) and per fess 1 per saltire a. and d. Aragon b. and c. argent an eagle displayed sable, armed and langued gules (Sicily) and 2 gules a chain in orle, cross, and saltire charged with a center point vert (Navarre), enté en point argent a pomegranate proper seeded gules, slipped and leaved vert (Granada), in the fess point an escutcheon argent five escutcheons in cross azure, each charged with as many plates in saltire, all within a bordure gules charged with seven castles triple-towered or, windowed of the second (Portugal); II per quarterly i gules a fess argent (Austria), ii azure semé de lis or within a bordure compony gules and argent (Burgundy moderne), iii bendy of six or and azure within a bordure gules (Burgundy ancien), iv sable a lion rampant crowned or, armed and langued gules (Brabant), overall in the fess point an escutcheon per pale or a lion rampant sable armed and langued gules (Flanders) and argent an eagle displayed gules armed and langued or (Tyrol)

The town uses the arms of King Philip II.