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Based in London; Formerly of New York, Buenos Aires, Fife, and the Western Cape. Saoránach d'Éirinn.

Heraldry

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

The carto-heraldic creativity of MacDonald Gill

If anything, I am a lover of maps, and as a cartophile it’s a fine thing that I spend half my life in South Kensington. Here you will find two of the best antiquarian map merchants around: the Map House on Beauchamp Place and Robert Frew across from the Oratory and right next door to Orsini. Milling about in front of church after mass today I received a tip-off from a friend suggesting I have a look at the window of Robert Frew, as there was a London Underground map with coats of arms of mostly abolished boroughs.

“Sounds like the sort of thing MacDonald Gill would do,” I said, and sure enough upon investigating earlier tonight it is the work of that inventive designer (and brother of Eric Gill).

The most splendid and ridiculous aspect is that in the central place among the municipal heraldry was a putative coat of arms MacDonald Gill thought up for the Underground: a rabbit rampant. Indeed, given the twin characteristics of being speedy and digging the earth, the rabbit is a perfect animal avatar for the London Underground to adopt. Don’t go looking for this design anywhere in the rolls of Garter King of Arms, though: it’s merely the invention of the creative mind of master map-maker MacDonald Gill.

January 5, 2014 11:20 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

A Lecture by Andrew Cusack

The
College of Arms Foundation
and the
Committee on Heraldry
of the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society

cordially invite you to a talk by

ANDREW CUSACK
on

‘THREE ANNULETS OR’
THE VAN RIEBEECK ARMS
& THEIR SOUTH AFRICAN LEGACY

Tuesday 17 September 2013
at
6:00 PM

Reception to follow

New York Genealogical & Biographical Society
36 West 44th Street, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10036

Open to the public. No charge.
Please rsvp to rsvp@coaf.us to reserve a place.

This lecture will provide an overview on the history and evolution of South African heraldry by explaining the significance of the coat of arms of Jan van Riebeeck (1619-1677). Van Riebeeck was the founder of Cape Town and the first governor of the Dutch colony at the Cape.

As the founder of the oldest European settlement in southern Africa, he came to be seen as the father of South Africa after the country was unified in 1910. The central elements of his arms — three annulets or — obtained local, regional, and finally national significance, and influenced the design of a wide variety of South African coats of arms, many of which will be examined in this lecture.

September 11, 2013 11:00 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

Danzig in Flag & Arms

The first time I met my friend Rafal, I noticed his necktie bedecked with a subtle heraldic pattern. “I gather you’re German,” says young Cusack, summoning his Sherlockian deductive genius. “What makes you say that?” “The coat of arms on your tie: it’s Danzig.” “Actually I am Polish, and it’s Gdańsk!”

Well, so much for my deductive powers, (and Rafal is a secret wannabe-German anyhow) but the arms and flag of the Baltic city — once German, now Polish — combine the usual strong characteristics of any design: simplicity and beauty. (more…)

April 26, 2013 2:30 pm | Link | 11 Comments »

Hark, the Heralds!

A Humorous Guide to Heraldry
by Jack Carlson
133 pages, hardcover, $15.99

In anticipation of a party in Oriel recently, I enjoyed a pint with some friends by the fire in the King’s Arms and was given a copy of this book, mysteriously shrouded in a plastic bag. Jack Carlson’s Humorous Guide to Heraldry is a welcome addition to the Cusackian library. The author, who wrote the book when he was fourteen, is now an Oxford archaeologist (and rower) but his interests span a broad spectrum. (He is currently researching for a work on rowing blazers, a subject unjustly neglected by academics).

Aficionados of the light-hearted-guide-to-heraldry genre will notice one or two gentle riffs off of Sir Iain Moncrieffe of that Ilk’s Simple Heraldry Cheerfully Illustrated, and, since that book is long out of print, evangelists of heraldry will find A Humorous Guide to Heraldry a useful tool for introducing the uninitiated to the appreciable realms of this field. Godfathers will not want their spiritual charges to grow into adults without being able to distinguish the mêlée from the affronté and every life-long student of the world should be able to recognise a cinquefoil or a pheon.

In short: a worthy purchase for the heraldically inclined.

Jack Carlson’s A Humorous Guide to Heraldry is available here.

March 22, 2013 4:04 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

Pope Francis’s Arms

The Vatican released information about Pope Francis’s coat of arms on Monday but the image they provided of it was very poorly drafted. Many of us were waiting for the Italian heraldic artist Marco Foppoli to craft his own rendering of our new pope’s arms, and he has duly released it today (see above).

The central motif is the emblem of the Society of Jesus — the Christogram with nails on a sunburst. The star represents the Blessed Virgin while the sprig of nard-flower represents Saint Joseph, the patron of the universal church. Thus the three emblems on Pope Francis’s arms together represent the Holy Family.

Further info available from Il Foglio, Fr Z, and Whispers in the Loggia. (more…)

March 20, 2013 7:50 pm | Link | 3 Comments »

Arms of the Irish Universities

University of Dublin
Universitas Dublinensis; Ollscoil Átha Cliath

Dublin University was founded with the idea of creating a collegiate university along the Oxford and Cambridge model. The University of Dublin, however, failed to develop along those lines, and so its sole foundation was the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin, more commonly known as Trinity College. Strictly speaking, TCD and the university are distinct entities in law, Trinity being the only college of the university.

The university’s arms, granted in the nineteenth century, are blazoned Quarterly azure and ermine. First quarter a book open proper, bound gules, clasped or, and in fourth quarter a castle of two towers argent, flamant proper. Overall in the centre point the harp of Ireland ensigned with the royal crown. The castle with fired towers is a reference to the arms of the city of Dublin. While it is the university, not Trinity College, that awards degrees, the university arms were not used on degree certificates until 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was granted an honorary doctorate of law in St. Patrick’s Hall at Dublin Castle. (more…)

April 14, 2011 8:02 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

The House of Moctezuma

Noble Descendants of the Aztec Emperor

The last Emperor of the Aztecs, Moctezuma II (usually anglicised as ‘Montezuma’) suffered an ignominious end: defeated by the Spanish, some accounts have him being stoned by his former subjects, while others claim he died of starvation, refusing to eat food not worthy of an emperor, still more claim Cortés had him killed. Many of his descendants embraced Christianity and found favour from Mexico’s new overlord, the King of Spain. (more…)

October 24, 2010 10:00 pm | Link | 11 Comments »

Antipodean Heraldic Philately

One of my favourite series of stamps comes from New Zealand. In 1929, the New Zealand Post Office commissioned the Englishman H. L. Richardson, an artist and teacher at the Wellington Technical College, to design a series of fiscal revenue stamps, or duty stamps. The design employed the New Zealand coat of arms in a variety of colours depending on the value of the stamp. Richardson erroneously had the lion in the crest of the arms hold aloft a New Zealand flag instead of the Union Jack that he was supposed to carry. The crest was changed to a crown in 1956 (along with a series of other changes) to signify that New Zealand had by then become a sovereign realm of its own. Richardson’s stamps were withdrawn from use in 1967 when New Zealand’s currency was decimalised. (more…)

September 26, 2010 4:54 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

Heraldic Discrepancies in Fashion

Ralph Lauren’s Modern Field Collection

THERE IS ATTENTION to detail and then there is pedantry, and I hope this falls into the former rather than the latter. Among the numerous e-mails which find their way into my electronic postbox are occasional notifications from the Polo Ralph Lauren corporation, a multi-faceted operation involved in the design, sale, and distribution of fairly decent items of clothing. Just one such e-mail received just the other day informed me of Ralph Lauren’s new ‘Modern Field Collection’, yet another judicious tie-in to take advantageous of the patriotic (or vicariously patriotic) impulses of the consumer before, during, and after the 2010 World Cup. As someone who is interested in national and cultural symbolism, most especially heraldry, I was mildly intrigued and clicked through to find a veritable gold mine of discrepancies which I hope the reader will forgive my exposition of. (more…)

July 18, 2010 7:50 pm | Link | 5 Comments »

Dr. Cornelis Pama

Die grootste Suid-Afrikaanse heraldikus

Ferreira — Bezuidenhout — Swanepoel

THE GRANDPAPA OF South African heraldry studies is undoutedly Dr. Cornelis Pama, a heraldist, genealogist, author, and editor of great importance in the field. Pama was one of the original members of the State Heraldry Council when it was founded in 1963 and refined the genealogical numbering system invented by Christoffel Coetzee de Villiers in the nineteenth century and which is now known as the de Villiers/Pama system in recognition of his contribution.

When I resume acquisitioning for my personal library, a whole slew of Pama’s works are on the ‘works sought’ list. Foremost among them is the excellent Lions and virgins: Heraldic state symbols, coats-of-arms, flags, seals and other symbols of authority in South Africa, 1487-1962 which I frequently made use of in the Stellenbosch university library.

Pama also wrote Heraldiek ABC (1980), Heraldiek in Suid-Afrika (1956), Simbole van die Unie (1960), British Families in South Africa: Their Surnames and Origins (1992), The Wine Estates of South Africa (1979), Vintage Cape Town: Historic Houses and Families In and Around the Old Cape (1973), and a history of the South African Library (the Cape Town institution which has since been foolishly merged with the Staatsbiblioteek in Pretoria to form the National Library of South Africa). The S.A.L. received his important private collection of over 800 genealogical and heraldic books and other works after Dr. Pama’s death in 1994. (more…)

May 4, 2010 8:02 pm | Link | 6 Comments »

Hollandic Heraldry

The Eden Spiekermann group, who were responsible for the redesign of The Economist in 2001, recently developed this logotype for the Dutch province of North Holland. The conjoined legs of the ‘N’ and ‘H’ integrate the province’s coat of arms.

March 14, 2010 8:02 pm | Link | No Comments »

Scotland

Written and illustrated by Andrew Cusack (at 7 years of age)

Were I to review this book, I would say it is riddled with inaccuracies and depicts a stereotypical Hollywood version of Scotland far-removed from reality. But then, it was written in 1991 by a seven-year-old (yours truly), which is already eighteen years ago now. The ultimate schoolboy error is that I was apparently incapable at age 7 of producing a vexillologically accurate reproduction of the Saltire. My incorrect version of the Scottish appears like the old Greek flag, a white cross extended across a blue field. (See the correct flag here). (more…)

January 17, 2010 4:07 pm | Link | 21 Comments »

The Coat of Arms of Massachusetts

Massachusetts is all over the news of late as the northerly state holds a special election to fill the seat left empty by the death of the notorious Senator Edward Kennedy. The Democratic Party outnumbers Republicans by three to one in the land, but their candidate is fighting tooth-and-nail against the G.O.P. challenger. Crucially, half of Bay State voters are independents, and the Republican candidate is polling well among floating voters. But, of course, the pedantry of politics does not normally fall under the purview of this little corner of the web. Rather, let us consider the heraldic achievement of the Bay State. The most handsome and successful arms are marked by their simplicity. (For a host of excellent examples, consult the roll of Sweden’s provincial and town arms). The heraldry of the American states can tend toward the over-complicated, but the coat of arms of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a noble exception.

The central motif of the Indian with bow and arrow has appeared almost consistently from the beginning. A native appears in the seal of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, in which the appeal “Come over and help us” pours from his lips. The arms of the neighboring Plymouth Plantation likewise depicted a native, in Plymouth’s case quartered between the arms of a Cross of St. George. Disregarding the earlier attempt to form the Dominion of New England, the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the Plymouth Colony were finally united in the Province of Massachusetts in 1691, and received a seal depicting the English royal arms.

Late in 1774, revolutionaries established the Massachusetts Provincial Congress to subvert legitimate authority in the province, subversion which erupted into open warfare in April of the following year. The rebels created their own emblem depicting an English colonist instead of an Indian, now armed with a sword and a copy of Magna Carta. The motto Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem (“By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty”) was chosen, a quote attributed to the English republican Algernon Sydney.

In 1780, the rebel provisional government adopted a new device created by Nathan Cushing. The Cushing design resurrected the Indian, and added a single star symbolizing the province’s statehood to accompany the native. Paul Revere engraved the design, the original impressions of which are preserved in the Archives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (more…)

January 13, 2010 9:44 pm | Link | 7 Comments »

The Zamoyski Window

Downside Abbey, Somerset, England. (more…)

October 12, 2009 12:01 am | Link | No Comments »

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.

October 5, 2009 8:04 am | Link | 2 Comments »

Die Wapenskild van die Universiteit

EDUCATION IN STELLENBOSCH began as early as 1685, but it wasn’t until 1866 that the Stellenbosch Gimnasium was founded. Like the (English-language) South African College in Cape Town, the Dutch/Afrikaans Gimnasium was a school covering secondary, and tertiary education. Twenty years after the foundation of the Gimnasium, it was renamed the Victoria Kollege in honour of the Queen’s jubilee of 1887. In 1918, the Parliament of South Africa finally reorganised education in the Cape, and separated both the South African College and the Victoria Kollege into their respective secondary and tertiary parts. SAC was divided into the University of Cape Town & the South African College Schools, while the Victoria Kollege was divided into the University of Stellenbosch & the Paul Roos Gymnasium.

Along with gaining proper status as a university, the Universiteit van Stellenbosch also adopted a coat of arms in 1918. In the language of heraldry, the University’s coat of arms (or wapenskild in Afrikaans) is described as:

Quarterly: I and IV: Or, three towers gules 2 and 1; II: Azure, the head of the Roman goddess Minerva wearing a winged helmet, argent; III: Azure, three oak twigs each with two leaves below and an acorn above, argent, 2 and 1; Upon an inescutcheon sable, an open book proper, with a red initial letter S in upper dexter, and with two seals, one red and one blue, pendant from the book.

The “three towers gules” come from the arms of the town of Stellenbosch, and find their origin in the personal arms of Governor Simon van der Stel who founded the town in 1679. The quartering of yellow and blue (“or” and “azure”) was also inspired by van der Stel’s arms. Minerva symbolizes learning obviously, while the oak twigs represent the magnificent oak trees planted by Governor van der Stel, many of which still grace the streets of the town. The motto, Pectora roborant cultus recti, is Latin for “A sound education strengthens the spirit/character”.

Regrettably, the university tends to use its corporate logo of a stylised ‘S’ and oak leaf instead of its splendid heraldic achievement. The arms of the university can nonetheless be found around the town, displayed architecturally on numerous university buildings, in official university publications, on student clothing, and of course on the university tie.

September 17, 2009 4:59 pm | Link | No Comments »

Celebrating a Great Scot: David Lumsden

I can’t tell you how often I come across something and think to myself “I must ask Lumsden about that”, and then suddenly realise that no such thing is possible anymore. I only had the privilege of knowing this gentle giant of a man towards the end of his life, but am grateful even for that relatively short friendship. Below is the address given by Hugh Macpherson at the Thanksgiving Service for the Life of David Lumsden of Cushnie that took place at St. Mary’s Church, Cadogan St., London on Monday, 27th April 2009. May he rest in peace.

It is difficult to mark the passing of such a remarkable personality as David Lumsden. We have done with the requiems and the pibrochs and must now look forward to celebrate an extraordinary life lived to the full.

David was a man of many parts and passions. He was a renaissance man with a wide variety of interests, and if he did not know the answer to any particular question, he certainly knew where to look it up, and in a few days there would be an informative card in the post. He had a lively curiosity and sense of adventure.

Perhaps the ruling passion in his younger life was that of rowing. He rowed at Bedford School and when he went up to Jesus College Cambridge, he joined the boat club, eventually becoming Captain of Boats. There were, I think, eventually eight “oars” on the walls of his various houses. I think that David was one of the few people I know who went to Henley to actually watch the racing, and when one went into the trophy tent his name could be found on some of the trophys. The expedition to Henley was one of the fixed points of David’s year.

He travelled round the country rather like the “progress” of a monarch of old. This progress encompassed the Boat Race, Henley, the Royal Stuart Society Dinner, the Russian Ball, spring and autumn trips to Egypt, the Aboyne Games, the 1745 Commemoration, the Edinburgh Festival, and numerous balls and dinners, including of course the Sublime Society of Beef Steaks.

Rather like clubs, David and I had a “reciprocal” arrangement: When I was in Scotland I lodged with him, and when he was in London he lodged with me, and I can tell you that there were many times when I simply could not keep up with his social whirl, in fact once or twice I distinctly fell off! I remember one particularly splendid and bibulous dinner at the House of Lords at which we were decked in evening dress and clanking with all sorts of nonsense — after many attempts to hail a taxi, David turned and said to me “You know we are so drunk they won’t pick us up. We’ll have to stagger back.” And so we wound a very unsteady path back to Pimlico, shedding the odd miniature en route.

At Cambridge, David also formed a lasting friendship with Mgr. Alfred Gilbey, Catholic Chaplain to the University, who was to have a lasting influence on David’s faith and life, and, I think, introducing him to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, where he eventually became a Knight of Honour & Devotion.

David’s faith was an important part of his life. When he was in London he would attend this church on a Sunday morning to hear the 11.30 Latin Mass, which finished conveniently near to the opening time at one of his favourite watering holes in the Kings Road. (more…)

July 13, 2009 8:08 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

The Principality of South Africa

“… or some such thing.”

History has shown that good ideas often come from the humblest of sources. One such example, though regrettably one of a suggestion not put into practice, was a proposal submitted by D. M. Perceval, the humble clerk of the Advisory Council of the Cape of Good Hope colony in 1827 to his higher-ups in the Colonial Office in London. Perceval wrote to request an official seal for the British colony at the end of Africa, but he went a step further with his fairly normal request, extraordinarily suggesting that “the opportunity might be taken to erect [the Cape of Good Hope] into the Principality of South Africa, or some such thing, for the present name is really too absurd for the whole country.”

The title “Prince of South Africa” would have been part of the British Crown, and presumably available as a courtesy title for offspring, just as the eldest son is often (such as now) created Prince of Wales. Would the second son then be “Prince of South Africa”, or would the title stay with the Sovereign? “By the grace of God, King of Great Britain & Ireland, Emperor of India, Prince of South Africa, &c.” It does have a nice ring to it. (more…)

July 13, 2009 2:17 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

The Dutch Flags of New York

The vexillological inheritance from our Netherlandic motherland

NEEDLESS TO SAY, New York owes a great deal to our Netherlandic founders, who imbued the city and land with much of its culture, eventually transformed (but not supplanted) by the overwhelming influence of the English who snuck a few warships into the harbour and knicked this land from the Hollanders. One of the many signs of New York’s Dutch history are the numerous flags which so obviously and proudly display this heritage. Here are just a few simple notes about a few of these flags.

(more…)

June 13, 2009 7:24 pm | Link | 7 Comments »

Guinness: Advertising with Imagination

Cheshire heraldry expert Martin Goldstraw stumbled upon this creative ad for Guinness while stumbling through some old copies of The Coat of Arms, the journal of the Heraldry Society. [Mr. Goldstraw's image modified by yours truly].

Among the heraldic terms employed in the text:

achievement
field
vert
bar
proper
regardant
charged
ordinary
bend
sinister
chief
goutte
escutcheon
rampant

per fess
sable
argent
or
gules
compartment
shield
motto
supporters
dexter
tenne
jessant
purpure
triumphant

I expect those unfamiliar with the art & science of heraldry can look up most of these terms in the University of Notre-Dame’s Heraldic Dictionary.
April 24, 2009 2:07 pm | Link | 1 Comment »
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