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A writer, blogger, historian, and web designer born in New York, educated in Argentina, Scotland, and South Africa, and now based in London. read more

The Evolving Heraldry of the Dominions

WHAT DO THESE three coats of arms, their representations produced for the 1910 coronation, have in common? The first thing that might come to the mind of most of the heraldically-inclined is that all three are the arms of British dominions; from left to right, of Australia, Canada, and South Africa. Aside from this commonality, however, each of these three arms have been superseded.

The Australian arms above were granted in 1908, and superseded by a new grant in 1912, though the old arms survived on the Australian sixpenny piece as late as 1963. The kangaroo and emu were retained as the shield’s supporters in the new grant of arms which remains in use today.

The Confederation of Canada took place in 1867, but no arms were granted to the dominion so it used a shield with the arms of its four original provinces — Ontario, Québec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick — quartered. As the remaining colonies of British North America were admitted to Canada as provinces, their arms were added to the unofficial dominion arms, which became quite cumbersome as the number of provinces grew. A better-designed coat of arms was officially granted in 1921, and modified only slightly a number of times since then.

South Africa‘s heraldic achievement, meanwhile, was divided into quarters, each quarter representing one of the Union’s four provinces: the Cape of Good Hope, Natal, the Transvaal, and the Orange Free State. While South Africa is (like Scotland, England, Ireland, and Canada) one of the few countries to have an official heraldic authority — the Buro vir Heraldiek in Pretoria — the country’s new arms were designed by a graphic designer with little knowledge of the rules & traditions of heraldry. As a result, the design produced is unattractive and very unpopular, unlike the new South African national flag, introduced in 1994, which was designed by the State Herald, Frederick Brownell, which enjoys wide popularity and universal acceptance.

The current arms of Australia, Canada, and South Africa are represented below.

This post was published on Monday, October 5th, 2009 8:04 am. It has been categorised under Australia Canada Design Heraldry South Africa and been tagged under , , , .
Afonso Miguel
5 Oct 2009 7:00 pm

The first one looks like portuguese arms…

8 Oct 2009 9:41 am

I can’t say I think much of the old South African arms – at least the shield component – either.

I found this unfortunate photograph of the State Herald donning the national arms tabard at St Andrews; he looks very miserable indeed… I wonder if his pseudo-heraldic outfit has anything to do with that.

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