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Archive for September, 2010

National Arms Spotlight: Andorra

According to legend, in the year 784, Charlemagne guaranteed that the people of Andorra could live in freedom forever. In 843 Emperor Charles II appointed the Count of Urgel to be the overlord of Andorra. From this family the rights passed, through inheritance, to the French Comte de Foix, with whom, by the Pareage of 1278, the Catalan Bishop of Urgel was made joint suzerain or feudal lord. The rights of the count passed via the House of Albret to King Henri IV of France and from the monarchs to the French Presidents after the French Revolution. Andorra is located in the Eastern Pyrenees between France and Spain. Its population is less than 100,000 and the official language is Catalan, although French, Spanish and Portuguese are also commonly spoken. At the present time the Catalan Bishop of Urgel rules jointly with the President of the French Republic as co-princes with France taking care of the country’s foreign affairs.

The co-principality has always maintained virtual independence, even to the extent of a trial period in 1806 as a republic. The State Coat of Arms, because there are two princes, occurs in two distinct forms, the image above, which appears on the State flag,  is the Spanish version. The French version is not often seen  and differs only in the arrangement of crozier and mitre in the first quarter. These refer to the Bishop of Urgel; the three red stripes refer to the Comte de Foix; the four red stripes, the Catalan colors, refer to Catalonia; the two cows refer to the Comte de Bearn. The Coronet at the top of the shield is that of a French Count and the Motto: Virtus unita fortitor is translated “ Strength is increased through unity”.


National Arms Part 6

Albrecht I with his Son

Up until the end of the 13th century the arms used by the Swedish rulers, those of Knutt the Tall and the Folkunga dynasty were of Swedish origin and were family Coat of Arms converted through regal and official use into the Arms of the State. A different situation arose in 1363 when Duke Albrecht I of Mecklenburg, who had married a sister of Magnus Eriksson, attacked his brother in law and the next year secured the proclamation of his own son as King of Sweden. The choice of what Arms to bear as king of Sweden was one fraught with difficulty. Although he had a claim on the Folkunga Arms through his mother, Albrecht could not adopt the Arms of te family he had driven out of the land, even though those very Arms had been used as the Arms of the State. As an heir of his father, Duke Albrecht I of Mecklenburg, he was entitled to bear some combination of the Arms of Mecklenburg, Schwerin and Rostock; but as King of Sweden these would be inappropriate and he would need some insignia of his own representing his newly acquired territory. He had to create a new Coat of Arms and naturally he adopted the Crown as a charge on his shield, the Crown being the symbol of dignity. Yet by doing so he was not creating an entirely new Coat of Arms; his own Arms of Mecklenburg would have made him familiar with the Crown as a charge. Undoubtedly Albrecht calculated that he could not politically use his ancestral bull’s head in Sweden and so he retained its Crown as a convenient symbol, arranging three of them on his shield. This is a typical medieval arrangement giving convenient symmetry. Such an arrangement first appeared on his seal in 1364.

When Albrecht was defeated and captured by Margaret, Queen of Norway and Denmark, at Falköping in 1389, the three Scandinavian countries were united. One of Queen Margaret’s seals shows a shield charged with three crowns, but this is said to represent the union of the three countries rather than the Swedish National Arms. In another seal Sweden is represented by the Folkunga Arms. Her successor, Erik of Pomerania, used both the three crowns and the Folkunga Arms to represent Sweden.  His second Great Seal has a shield quartered, the quarters separated by a cross with an escutcheon ( smaller shield) separated overall. This escutcheon shows the Arms of Norway while the four quarters show respectively the three leopards of Denmark, the crowns of Sweden, the bendlets and lion of the Folkungar, and the griffin of Pomerania. A different arrangement appeared on the ship’s flag of this period which was formerly in the Marien Kirche at Lübeck. This displayed the Arms of Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Pomerania in the four qurters of the flag separated by a white cross.

Mecklenburg Arms

National Arms Spotlight: Denmark

Denmark is a nation of 5 million people in Northern Europe. Denmark is a very old European monarchy and its rulers have, at various times, ruled over extensive empires including not only the Scandinavian Peninsula but also England. The present Royal House of Denmark descends from the ducal House of Oldenburg which came to the Danish throne in 1448. The lion coat of Denmark is found as early as the 12th century and is among the oldest Coats of Arms anywhere, but the complete armorial achievement is the product of historical development.; it virtually embodies the country’s history among its many quarterings which include Denamrk, Schleswig, Sweden, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Gothland, and Vandalia; the quarters are separated by the cross of the Dannebrog, over which is placed the Arms of the House of Oldenburg to indicate the kingly rights exercised by that House over the kingdom. This is always the true significance of these escutcheons, which have nothing to do with the election. The Oldenburg Arms include those of Holstein, Stomarn, Ditzmarschen and Lauenburg, upon which are placed those of Oldenburg and Delmenhorst. This latest version of the complete achievement dates from 1948 and is based on the Arms of 1819; occasionally the motto  Dominus mihi adiutor ( The Lord is a helper unto me) appears upon a ribbon behind the crown surmounting the mantle

National Arms Part 5

Upon the death of King William IV in 1837 Victoria was unable to succeed to the throne of Hanover due to the enforcement of the Salic Law which forbade female accession to the throne. In order to accommodate this the final reorganization of the Royal Coat of Arms took place. The Arms of Hanover were omitted  and the Royal Achievement became as it is today. It will be seen that the development of the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom admirably illustrates the way in which National Arms can reflect territorial representation in addition to showing the effects of changes both in dynasty and regime. The Royal Arms of Sweden illustrate the subject in an even clearer light. Sweden has had more changes in dynasty than most and the stages are clearly indicated in its Arms.

The seal of King Erik Knutsson ( 1208 – 16) presents heraldic decoration in the form of two crowned leopards facing each other, but are probably not intended as real heraldic charges; no arms are known for him or for his successor John Sverkersson, who was succeeded in 1222 by the six year old Erik Eriksson, the son of Erik Knutsson and of Rikissa, daughter of King Waldemar I of Denmark. He bore three crowned leopards in pale, the Arms of his mother’s family, yet they could not have been exclusively the Danish Royal Arms as he could not have used them if this were the case. He was succeeded by Knut the Tall who deposed him between 1229 and 1234. Knut was probably a member of the Erik Family and it is significant that his Coat of Arms, which are known from a tapestry, are entirely different; they are obviously family Arms used as State Arms.

In 1250 the Folkunga dynasty came to power in the person of Waldemar, the son of Erik’s sister. He did not use the Arms of his family, but instead used the three leopards that had been borne by Erik. On his Seal he used two crowns but they are not armorial charges as they stand freely in the field of the seal, their purpose is to symbolize the king. The other members of this dynasty bore the family Arms which Magnus Ladula ( 1275-90 ) augmented by crowning the lion, a proof of the importance of the lion as a symbol of royalty. These Arms have come to be associated with Gotaland, the southern part of Sweden, yet it is clear from the motto on the shield Sigillum magni dei gracia Regis sweorum that the Folkunga Arms as State Arms represented the whole of Sweden.

Sweden Arms

National Arms Part 4

Queen Anne

Queen Anne succeeded to the throne upon the death of William II in 1702. She bore the Arms of her father James II. Within a few years of her accession to the throne the Union with Scotland in 1707 enacted a constitutional change which in turn required a change to the Royal Arms. Remarshalling the contents of the shield indicated the change. These then continued to display four quarters, but the first and fourth quarters now bore the impaled Arms of England and Scotland, France was relegated to the second quarter, and the third quarter remained as before containing the Harp of Ireland.

In 1714 the House of Hanover , in the person of George I, succeeded to the throne. He did not follow continental practice but introduced an abbreviated version of his Arms as Elector of Hanover onto the fourth quarter of the Royal Coat of Arms. This quarter contained not only the arms of Brunswick, Lüneburg and Hanover, but also an inescutcheon ( smaller shield within the arms) to represent the office of Arch-Treasurer of the Holy Roman Empire. On the Union with Ireland, on January 1st 1801, the opportunity was taken to remove the Arms of France, which had for so long represented an empty claim which was no longer even possible following the French Revolution and subsequent extinction of the Monarchy. The Arms were once more remarshalled to show England in the first quarter, Scotland in the second, Ireland in the third with England once again in the fourth, overall was placed an inescutcheon containing what had previously been in the fourth quarter and this shield was ensigned by the Electoral bonnet.( image below ). When Hanover became a kingdom this bonnet was replaced by the Royal Crown that we see today.

National Arms Part 3

The National Arms of England remained relatively unchanged until the end of the 16th century. In 1603 Queen Elizabeth I died and the new sovereign was James VI of Scotland who succeeded Elizabeth as James I. He added to the Royal Arms quarterings for Scotland and Ireland, the Harp of Ireland and the Lion of Scotland. The shield then bore four quarters; in the first and fourth appeared the arms of his predecessor Queen Elizabeth I, in the second the Arms of Scotland and in the third the Arms of Ireland. The crest remained the English lion set upon the crown, while the unicorn of Scotland replaced the dragon supporter. The next monarch King Charles I continued this arrangement until he fell upon the scaffold in 1649. England then, for the only time in its history became, nominally, a republic. This was an unprecedented event and had heraldic as well as political consequences. The former Royal Coat of Aarms was at first completely abandoned and replaced by a Seal with two engravings, one bearing the Cross of St. George for England and the other bearing the Harp of Ireland. In 1655 a new Great Seal came into use and bore on the reverse a complete achievement of Arms.

This usage is interesting as it was based on the former royal arms but at the same time there was a nod to the present bearer of the Sovereignty. Once again the shield was into four quarters. In this instance the first and fourth bore St. George’s cross, the second the saltire ( cross) of St. Andrew representing Scotland, and in the third quarter the harp of Ireland retained its accustomed place. The royal helmet, mantling and crest were reintroduced, as also was the crowned lion supporter, the unicorn being replaced by the former dragon. The motto was changed from the royal  Dieu et mon droit ( God and my right) to Pax quaeritur bello ( Peace is sought through war).

Upon the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Charles II continued to use the Coat of Arms borne by his father. His brother James II also used the arms as did James’ daughter and son in law William III and Mary II who succeeded him on the throne as joint monarchs. During this monarchy there was a single Coat of Arms which consisted of the Arms borne by James II but upon which was placed a smaller shield ( an Escutcheon ) of the Arms of William’s paternal House of Nassau ( see below ). It is claimed that the purpose of this was as a token of William being an elected monarch when in fact he merely followed normal continental protocol.

House of Nassau Arms

National Arms Part 2

Enamel Geoffrey Plantagenet

When dealing with National Arms and the countries that use them it is best to begin with the older European monarchies, since this is where the practice originated. Two in particular, The United Kingdom and Sweden merit special attention because when their historical development is examined many aspects of the emergence of National Arms become clear.

The earliest Coat of Arms found in existence to date is that of Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou, who was the father of King Henry II of England. The scribe Jean Rapicault relates the story of the count’s marriage to Princess Mathilda of England in 1127. When his royal father-in-law, King Henry I, bestowed the accolade upon him he hung a shield around his neck with gold lions on it. This very shield is clearly depicted on the enameled plate which was suspended above his tomb in Le Mans Cathedral in 1151(image above). The Chronique d’Ernoul refers to the Arms of the King of England in 1157, but unfortunately does not describe them. A shield does not appear on the seal of Henry II either. In 1189, however, the first Great Seal of Richard I, his son and successor, shows his mounted figure carrying a shield displaying a single lion rampant facing the sinister ( left ). Lions are particularly common among the Arms of the descendents of these early Plantagenets, and it is hard not to conclude that a lion Coat of Arms of some kind was used by King Henry II and by King Henry his grandfather before him.

Lions could easily have been regarded as a royal emblem in the same way that the eagle represented the royal dignity. The Norwegian lion was adopted around the end of the 12th century, with the present form of the Coat of Arms coming into use in 1285. The lions of Denmark came into use in the 12th century also. In 1198 the second great Seal of Richard I of England displays three lions passant guardant which have remained the Arms of England ever since. The lion coat remained in use alone until 1340, when Edward III claimed the throne of France by right of his mother. To emphasize his claim on the Crown of France he quartered the Arms of France with those of England (image below); and thereby instituted an innovation, which was to endure for some centuries. His Successor Richard II, who placed himself under the patronage of Edward the Confessor, retained exactly the same arms but impaled this combined Coat of Arms with that posthumously attributed to his patron. This practice died with him. The succession of the Lancaster, York and Tudor sovereigns produced no more radical changes to the Arms other than a reduction of the number of fleur de lis to three. In addition to the shield the Royal Arms also include a crest and supporters. These took their present form at the beginning of the next century.

Edward III Arms

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