The Language of Heraldry Part 3
The rules of Heraldry prohibit placing a color on a color, a metal upon a metal or, a fur upon a fur. There is one well known exception to the rule about metals and this is on the well known arms for the kingdom of Jerusalem, where the gold cross and crosses are placed on a silver field. On the basis of these three materials, Color, Metal and fur all coats of arms are created. The items placed on the field are called charges. The original shields were very simple with few charges as there were very few knights and nobleman that had arms. However as Coats of Arms became more widespread the need to differentiate arms led to the addition of more and more charges to the shield.
The earliest charges were such things as bends ( diagonal lines), Chevrons (inverted v’s), chiefs (band across top of shield), piles ( v shape), fesses (horizontal lines) and crosses. These charges would naturally suggest themselves to the early users. For example, Azure a bend argent ( blue background with a silver diagonal line). This was a very easy design for a coat of arms. Generally speaking the simpler a coat of arms is the further back it can be dated. Many writers have asserted that every coat of arms must consist of at least the field and a charge, however there are a number of exceptions to this, The Brittany arms which are simply “Ermine”.
John of Brittany Arms
A plain shield of Ermine was borne by John of Brittany, Earl of Richmond who died in 1399. Additional examples of a single field shield include: A plain shield of Gold was borne by the Italian family of Bandinelli,, of Silver by the French families of Maigret and Bocquet, of Blue by the French family Fizeaux, of Red by the House of Dalbret borne by the kings of Navarre, Spain, and Black by the family of Gornay. A plain Green shield is borne by the French family Barbotte and Purple by the French family Aubert.
The Language of Heraldry Part 2
It was only natural that if French should be the lingua franca of the worldly gentleman, just as Latin was of the churchman and the scholar, Heraldry would also speak that language. There was a movement in England around 1400 to substitute English words for old French terms in Heraldry, Silver instead of Argent, Gold instead of Or and so on, but this movement died out and the French terms are used to this day. This is not surprising, Norman French was used in the English Law Courts for pleading until 1735, so it’s use to the present day in Heraldry is understandable.
Now to the terms used in Heraldry. A shield, which is the main and essential part of the coat of arms, may be of a certain number of colors, of metals or, of furs. These are the 3 possible bases of the shield. This base is called the field. The derivation of these three classes is straightforward. The colors are those which were the earliest forms of differentiation between one shield and another. The metals are derived from the nature of a shield. The furs come from the rich drapings thrown or worn over the armor of wealthier knights.
All heraldic colors are primary. There are no pastel shades in Heraldry. The colors are:
There are two metals:
There are four furs:
Ermine White fur with black spots
Ermines Black fur with white spots
Erminois Gold fur with black spots
Vair or Vaire Rows of small shields alternately reversed
Two other rarely used furs are paen, another variant of ermine, this time black with gold ermine spots, and potent, a fur composed of T-shaped divisions.
The Language of Heraldry Part 1
Old French is the language of heraldry and many of the phrases used in the descriptions of the coats of arms are of Anglo-French derivation, the primary reason for this is that the French language was the first of the native tongues of Europe to arrive at anything resembling an equality with Latin. Since the time of the Roman Empire, Latin was the language of officialdom and had gradually become the everyday speech of people in Britain, France, Spain, and other western European countries.
When the Roman Empire crashed, the rule of Rome was overthrown in many countries and Latin was replaced with the local dialect. In some countries such as France and Spain Latin lived on, albeit in a changed form. The French language, itself derived from Latin, became a very fluent and powerful medium of expression and by the end of the 11th Century French was the language in which the cultivated gentleman expressed himself whether he were French by birth, or English, Irish, Sicilian, or even Palestinian. Latin remained the language of choice for the scholar and the religious.
It was a strange accident which brought this to be true in England. The Norman Conquest destroyed a great fabric of literature which the invading Frenchmen for all their apparent brilliance could not match. The literature written in Old English ranged from poetry, drama, history and biography to philosophy and the novel but the Norman Conquest put the control of the country in the hands of French speakers. For 300 years the official languages of England were Latin and French until the loosening of the feudal system returned the English language to it’ people.
THE NORMAN EMPIRE
Castle of the Week, Vianden Castle, Luxembourg
Vianden Castle was constructed between the 11th and 14th centuries on the foundations of a Roman 'castellum' and a Carolingian refuge. It is one of the largest and most beautiful feudal residences of the romanesque and gothic periods in Europe. Until the beginning of the 15th century it was the seat of the influential counts of Vianden who could boast their close connections to the Royal Family of France and the German imperial court. Henry I of Vianden (1220-1250) is known as 'the Sun Count' for it is during his tenure that the holdings, lifestyle and influence of the House of Vianden reached its zenith. His ancestors were influential in the Ardennes, Eifel and Luxembourg regions for hundreds of years.
His wife, Margarete of Courtenay, was of the French Royal Family, daughter of the Latin Emperor of Constantinople, sister-in-law to the King of Hungary and cousin to King Philip-Augustus. Margarete's ancestors, included the Crusaders from the Houses of Flanders and Hainault, Henry's and Margarete's son, Frederic had served in the Fifth Crusade. In 1417, the dominion passed by inheritance to the House of Nassau, which, in 1530 collected the principality of Orange as well. From then on, the castle was no longer the official residence of the counts. People can still see the rich architecture the House of Nassau inherited, as no further modifications were made.
The main construction parts of the castle which are preserved today, in particular the chapel and the small and large palaces, originate from the end of the 12th and the first half of the 13th century. The 'Quartier de Juliers' on the western side of the large palace (no longer existing today), originates from the beginning of the 14th century. The House of Nassau was only constructed at the beginning of the 17th century.
In 1820, under the reign of King William I of Holland, the castle was sold piece by piece, and as a result, it fell into a state of ruin. It was a pile of rubble until the family of the Grand Duke of Luxembourg transferred it to State ownership in 1977. Since restored to its former glory, the castle now ranks as a monument of not only regional, but European importance.
Castle of the Week, Carrickfergus, Ireland
One of the finest examples of Norman castles still standing today, Carrickfergus Castle was built by John De Courcy, a Norman Knight, in 1177 as his headquarters. From here he conquered considerable territory in the north and east of Ireland. Carrickfergus Castle is one of the few remaining edifices exhibiting the old Norman military stronghold and is considered one of the most noble fortresses of that time now left in Ireland.
The Castle stands on a rocky peninsula 30 feet high and is surrounded by water on three sides. The keep is ninety feet high with walls nine feet thick, making this a most imposing and formidable castle. In 1210, after John De Courcy had died, Carrickfergus Castle was captured by King John. In 1216, after King John's reign, the second building phase to improve the castle started. The keep was raised to its present height and a second set of walls, now called the Middle Ward, was built. Only foundations of these walls remain at present.
A third phase of building took place between 1226 and 1242 when the castle and the region were under the rule of another Anglo Norman lord, Hugh de Lacy. The walls were extended to encircle the whole of the rock the castle stood on. This area is now called the Outer Ward. The entrance to the Outer Ward was guarded by a strong gate house formed by 2 large circular towers. During the Edward Bruce invasion the English retreated to Carrickfergus and the castle fell to the Scots in September 1316, after a year's siege.
In the early 1600's Carrickfergus Castle was updated for artillery. The round towers of the gate house were lowered by half and transformed in the present D-shape amongst other improvements. However, by 1689 the castle had fallen into disrepair and was easily captured by General Schomberg in 1690. His leader, William of Orange, landed at Carrickfergus on June 14, 1690, bringing with him an army made up largely of foreign mercenaries. His force included the Dutch Blue Guards, two regiments of French Huguenots, some English and Scots, and contingents of Danish, Prussian, Finnish, and Swiss mercenaries totaling about 35,000 men.
In 1760 Carrickfergus briefly fell into the hands of the French under the command of Francois Thurot. They looted the castle and town and then left. In 1797 the castle became a prison and in the early 1800's, under the threat of a possible French invasion, its defenses were considerably strengthened with 22 cannons. Until 1928 Carrickfergus Castle was used as a magazine and armory and during WW II it served as an air raid shelter. Today it is maintained by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and can be visited for a small fee.
JAPANESE HERALDRY PART 2
Differences between Eastern and Western Heraldry
The differences between the Japanese method of heraldry and that of the West are numerous and profound. Perhaps the most striking is the tremendous simplicity compared to heraldic devices in the West. Mons are always monochromatic, being a metal or colour on the contrasting background. In addition, as cadency was not used in Japanese heraldry, the emphasis on each mon being distinctly different was not as much an issue as in the west.
A. Single charge element without enclosure
These are the simplest of Mon, having only a single charge element and no enclosure.
Color, a cherry blossom metal.
Color, a cherry blossom metal.
Color, a demi-crane rising metal
B. Single charge element with enclosure
Color, a cross coinjoined with an annulet metal.
Metal, an igita (japanese well frame) within an annulet color.
The annulet is by far the most common enclosure, but the voided hexagon (called a kikko) is another rather popular enclosure.
C. Multiple charge elements without an enclosure
Color, three oak leaves, 1 and 2, conjoined at the base metal.
Color, three Japanese ivy leaves, 1 and 2, points to center, metal
Metal, two feathers in fess color
A few things to note here. The primary orientation for multiple charge elements in a group is that of radial symmetry, normally with the elements being conjoined as in the first example. Secondly, when there are an odd number of charge elements, the orientation is almost always ‘point up’. Thus, a group of three elements would read 1 and 2, a group of five elements would read 1, 2 and 2. There appears to be no default for groups of two elements, with in fess, saltire and pale all being common enough.
D. Multiple charge elements with an enclosure
Metal, two bars conjoined with an annulet color.
Color, two feathers in saltire within an annulet metal.
Color, four lozenges pierced, 1,2 and 1, within an annulet metal.
1. Mon are restricted to one color and one metal, either one being the field and the other the charges.
2. Mon normally consist of a single charge or charge group
3. The primary (or default) orientation for a charge group containing more than one charge is radial symmetry
4. When there are an odd number of charge elements in a group, the default grouping is with the ‘odd’ element being placed to chief (1,2 or 1,2,2 or 1,3,1).
5. Mon are most often (but not required to be) surrounded by an enclosure, which is usually an annulet.
The general emphasis is on simplicity and symmetry of design
JAPANESE HERALDRY PART 1
A Mon is the term for the traditional Japanese heraldic emblem. It is depicted in two tinctures, one colour and one metal, with one of the tinctures serving as the field. It is normally constructed of a primary charge group, on occasion surrounded by an annulet or other enclosure. The mon was used as both a badge and a device and represented either a person or (more commonly) a dynastic house. If defined strictly by western heraldic standards, a mon would be considered closer to a badge than a device.
The mon was worn on three places. Traditionally, a samurai or general would not use a shield in a classical 'western' sense, instead using the large yumi (war bow), the two sword style of dai-sho (katana and wakazashi) or occasionally a two-handed dai-katana or polearm. If a shield was used, it was a large tower shield that was stood in front of the samurai and used as a defensive position whilst he fired arrows from behind it. In addition, a large mon was worn upon the back of the warrior, and the design is replicated in miniature upon each breast in front. Some samurai and generals would travel into battle with a flag attached to their backs, emblazoned with the mon. In the event that armor was not worn, the mon would be displayed in the above pattern on a ceremonial daimon, suo or kataginu.
The mon traces its roots back to the early 11th century (the late Heian period), when noble families started to adopt particular emblems to decorate their carriages and other personal items. Thus, the mon is, at its very inception, a heraldic badge. These mons were used by the courtiers and other, non-martial, aristocrats. With the ushering in of the Kamakura period, this changed. During the Gempei War (1180-85), the two factions used unadorned red and white banners to denote the opposing sides. By the 13th century, the mon was being utilized as a means of identification in battle. . By the opening of the 14th century, an army would sport over two hundred different mon-emblazoned banners. As time wore on, the Japanese analog to the knight, the Samurai, was transformed from a simple fighter to a gentleman with refined tastes and appreciation of the courtly ways. As part of that, the mon became adopted by the Samurai and their overlords, the Daimyo. It transferred a modicum of respectability and mon became synonymous with the name of the person who it belonged to. A mon was usually passed down through the generations unchanged, each member being able to be identified by their predecessors deeds.
All of this came to an end in the ‘Age of Battles’ (mid 15th century through 1600), for this time was an era of civil war and many families were torn apart by political divisions. Thus, differencing in mons was needed. In addition, mons were awarded to persons for conspicuous heroism and gallantry. This was, as can be imagined, when the most profuse proliferation of new mon designs was seen.
Castle of the Week Alcázar of Segovia
This Majestic example of Spanish architechture, incorporating both the Moorish and Medieval Catholic traditions is situated in the picturesque province of Castile-Leon, Northwest of Madrid. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the old city of Segovia is spectacularly situated atop a long, narrow promontory. It contains a wealth of monuments, including a cathedral, a magnificent ancient Roman aqueduct, and the beautiful fairy-tale spires of the Alcázar, or castle-palace, that towers over the countryside below.
Alcazar castle in Segovia, Spain, was first mentioned in records dating back to 1122 as a hill-fort set atop a rocky outcrop between the rivers Bergsma and Clamores. By 1155 this hill-fort became known as “Alcazar”, which in Arabic meant royal residence. It is a stone fortification, located in the old city of Segovia, Spain. Rising out on a rocky crag above the confluence of the rivers Eresma and Clamores near the Guadarrama mountains, it is one of the most distinctive castle-palaces in Spain by virtue of its shape - like the bow of a ship. The Alcázar was originally built as a fortress but has served as a royal palace, a state prison, a Royal Artillery College and a military academy since then.
The Alcázar of Segovia, like many fortifications in Spain, started off as an Arab fort. The first reference to this particular Alcázar was in 1120, around 32 years after the city of Segovia returned to Christian hands (during the time when Alfonso VI of Castile reconquered lands to the south of the Duero river down to Toledo and beyond). However, archaeological evidence suggests that the site of this Alcázar was once used in Roman times as a fortification. This theory is further substantiated by the presence of Segovia's famous Roman Aqueduct. The shape and form of the Alcázar was not known until the reign of King Alfonso VIII (1155-1214), however early documentation mentioned a wooden stockade fence. It can be concluded that prior to Alfonso VIII's reign, it was no more than a wooden fort built over the old Roman foundations. Alfonso VIII and his wife, Eleanor of Plantagenet made this Alcázar their principal residence and much work was carried out to erect the beginnings of the stone fortification we see today.
The Alcázar, throughout the Middle Ages, remained one of the favorite residences of the monarchs of the Kingdom of Castile and a key fortress in the defense of the kingdom. It was during this period a majority of the current building was constructed and the palace was extended on a large scale by the monarchs of the Trastámara dynasty. In 1258, parts of the Alcázar had to be rebuilt by King Alfonso X of Castile after a cave-in and soon after the Hall of Kings was built to house Parliament. However, the single largest contributor to the continuing construction of the Alcázar is King John II which built the 'New Tower' (John II tower as it is known today).
In 1474, the Alcázar played a major role in the rise of Queen Isabella I of Castile. On the 12th December news of the King Henry IV's death in Madrid reached Segovia and Isabella immediately took refuge within the walls of this Alcázar where she received the support of Andres Cabrera and Segovia's council. She was crowned the next day as Queen of Castile and Leon. It was also the site where she married Fernando II. The next major renovation at the Alcázar was conducted by King Phillip II after his marriage to Anna of Austria. He added the sharp slate spires to reflect the castles of central Europe. In 1587, architect Francisco de Morar completed the main garden and the School of Honor areas of the castle.
The royal court eventually moved to Madrid and the Alcázar then served as a state prison for almost two centuries before King Carlos III founded the Royal Artillery School in 1762. It served this function for almost a hundred years until March 6 1862 where a fire badly damaged the roofs and framework.
It was only in 1882 that the building was slowly restored to its original state. In 1896, King Alfonso XIII ordered the Alcázar to be handed over to the Ministry of War as a military college. Today, the Alcázar remains one of the most popular historical sights in Spain and is one of the three major attractions in Segovia. Notable rooms are the Hall of Ajimeces which houses many works of art, the Hall of the Throne and the Hall of Kings with a frieze representing all of the Spanish Kings and Queens starting from Pelagius of Asturias down to Juana la Loca after moving to El Palacio Real in Madrid, Spain
THE ORIGINS OF HERALDRY, PART 9
Heraldry was not only confined to Western Europe but to those sections which were feudal in origin and had close links to the Catholic Church. Poland has Heraldry because she is linked with the West through the fact that alone of the Slavic nations she is Catholic, and has thus received western civilization. In Ireland, Wales and the Highlands of Scotland, Heraldry has been imitative, and the arms of ancient Celtic families are found to be much more recent than the pedigrees of these families would seem to warrant. The reason is that the arms have been adopted in the later Middle Ages in imitation of those of non-Celtic families which belonged to the Western feudal tradition.
There is one important exception to the rule laid down above. In Japan for many ages the mon has been used, which corresponds to the crest (part of the coat of arms in Europe) and is the family symbol of the Japanese people. The Mon is depicted in two tinctures, one colour and one metal, with one of the tinctures serving as the field. It is normally constructed of a primary charge group, on occasion surrounded by an annulet or other enclosure. The mon was used as both a badge and a device and represented either a person or (more commonly) a dynastic house. If defined strictly by western heraldic standards, a mon would be considered closer to a badge than a device.
In Japan, the long feudal period during which the Mikado was kept a prisoner under the rule of the Shoguns all the conditions flourished which in Europe made the Medieval period so picturesque and so uncomfortable for peaceful persons. The Japanese knights were certainly no less venturesome than their European counterparts and their ladies no less beautiful, added to which the Japanese had a love of fighting verging on the insane.