Heraldic Questions Answered Here

People often ask me heraldic questions, and I take pleasure in answering them whenever I can.  Here are some examples of questions put to me in the past few years.

  1. What arms did Owen Glendower, the last native Prince of Wales, actually use back in the 13th century, and is this design I plan to publish close enough?
  2. Is this World War II German military cap from the Army or from the Luftwaffe?
  3. What are these arms I saw in a stained glass window in a cathedral in Poland?
  4. Does this painting of George Washington in a Masonic costume mean the artist was a mason too?
  5. Yes, the Confederate States of America had a seal, but did they use arms as well?
  6. There’s a seal on the back of this painting – is that the arms of the Rothschilds?
  7. I see in a description of the coronets of British peers the term strawberry leaves.  What’s that about anyway?
  8. The coat of arms usually attributed to George Washington – is there any evidence he actually used those arms himself?
  9. Is there a symbolic meaning to the pattern on the skins of the snakes in this painting?
  10. Did Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth II’s sister, have a special flag of her own, and if so what were its dates of use?

Often the question is about arms the questioner wants to adopt, or thinks may belong to him or his family, or thinks may have a specific meaning. I try to answer these questions in as liberal and empowering a way as possible, and where the question allows for suggestion I try to guide the questioner toward the best heraldic practice.

Sometimes I don’t even wait to be asked, but write to correct an error in a journal article or museum label.

  1. That’s not the Vietnam Service ribbon in the decorative border of this painting of President Lyndon Johnson, it is the Asiatic-Pacific campaign ribbon for World War II, which President Johnson was awarded for his Navy service.  [National Archives]
  2. That heraldic fur lining the cloak of Geoffrey Plantagenet in his 12th century enameled brass tomb plate is not ermine, it’s vair.  [Metropolitan Museum of Art]
  3. It is not correct to say that a preference for blue as the “senior color,” always to appear to the top or left of a design, is a “principle of heraldic design” beyond the specific practice of the U. S. Army Institute of Heraldry.  [Journal of the Orders and Medals Society of America]

I enjoy answering questions like this for private inquirers, and gladly do so without charge.  Send your inquiry here and I will do my best.

For commercial enterprises I charge a modest consulting fee.  But would it not be worth it not to issue a Hollywood movie showing the Emperor of Austria with his breast star on sideways (Amadeus), or not to show Princess Victoria at the opera before her accession, with anachronistic arms draped over the rail of her theatre box (The Young Victoria), or not to decorate the sets of a medieval drama with entirely made-up hangings wholly wrong in style and period (too many to list)?  Inquire here.  My fee will be tax-deductible.

I also design arms for individuals and businesses.  Sometimes I charge for this, sometimes I don’t.  Under the ancient law of arms Americans (and citizens of many other countries) may adopt arms without having them granted by any heraldic authority, as is required for example in Britain.  My goal in designing arms is to express what the inquirer wishes to express, in the authentically restrained and allusive style of classic heraldry, without cluttering up the shield or turning the arms into a résumé.  Inquire here.