Thursday, 1 May 2014

This is not your coat of arms

It's unfortunate that heraldry is such a misunderstood subject that I feel obligated to title this article that way, but things being what they are it's a necessary step, to prevent someone googling "Craven coat of arms" or "Craven family crest" and ending up here. These are not your coat of arms, they're mine.

The notorious "Coat of arms for the Name of Jones, Smith, or whatever," purchasable by mail order or in one's local shopping mall, represents no more than improper and illegitimate armorial bearings.

I'll just link to this page at the American College of Heraldry as a standard disclaimer, and assume anyone reading further is already aware that a coat of arms does not belong to a name, but to an individual, and there are accepted rules and traditions that define how those arms are transmitted to his or her offspring. There are a great many people in the world with the surname Craven, and as I've explained before, we are not all related by any stretch. Unless you are my paternal grandfather or descended from him, then, these arms are not yours, and this article is only for heraldic interest.

My family's arms, then, are blazoned as follows:

Gules a fess Vair, in chief a cross crosslet fitchy between two fleurs-de-lys, in base a salamander, all Or.

As my grandfather bears them, they look like this:

(There I put them on a French-style shield, for variety.) Since I am the eldest son of his eldest son, I show my relation to the armiger by adding a label of five points, which is why I could insist at the start that the arms depicted were mine, and mine alone. Eventually I should inherit the undifferenced coat, presuming I live long enough.)

As it happens, grandpa has the distinction of having raised eight sons (and one daughter), meaning that my uncles could nearly run through the entire Anglo-Irish system of cadency marks, if they chose to. For fun I've made up a few images to show what that might look like:


(* Tracy and Duffy's arms shown are only hypothetical, since changing one's last name also generally entails changing one's coat of arms. But what's shown is what would have been their coat of arms at birth.)

Anyway, it's not quite as memorable as the sign on the house at Clear Lake, but it is an interesting coincidence that the traditional cadency marks match up with our family structure so well!

Posted by jon at 10:00 PM in Heraldry 
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Non enim id agimus ut exerceatur vox, sed ut exerceat.