Heraldry - Notes on Melvyn Jeremiah's Coat of Arms



This is the Coat of Arms granted to me personally and registered with the College of Arms in London. The above version was prepared by an heraldic artist at the College of Arms at the time of grant, and is how the Arms appear on the Letters Patent. It is not the only way the Arms can be represented from the blazon (see below) and an alternative representation has been produced by my friend Aleksandr Kurov, a Russian heraldic artist from St Petersburg now living in Germany, who is a member of the Society of Heraldic Arts. That is shown on the next page. The illustrations below are from the College of Arms version (on the left) and the Kurov version (on the right).

A Coat of Arms, or rather its individual components, should have some significance to the Armiger (the person to whom the Arms have been granted). Sometimes the elements are puns on the Armiger's name - an obvious one would be Bush for example. In my case the links are a bit more obscure (though not very much so).

The blazon

First I should note that the correct description, or blazon, of the Arms is as follows:

Vair, on a Chief Argent a Dragon courant Gules
and of the Crest:
and for the Crest upon a Helm with a Wreath Argent and Azure out of a Crest Coronet Or a demi-Unicorn Argent armed crined and unguled Gold supporting between its forelegs a Staff proper flying therefrom a Gonfannon of the Arms Mantled Azure doubled Argent

Vair is in fact a fur, made up of the skins of some small furry animal (usually assumed to have been a squirrel) stitched together topside and reverse to give a contrasting pattern. It was regarded in mediaeval times as a sign of wealth and prosperity, but I have it as a representation of a sense of style. It gives me my heraldic colours, which are blue (Azure) and silver (Argent). There are various styles of vair, and the style chosen for my shield by the then Garter, King of Arms is that of the lining of the cloak worn by Geoffrey Plantaganet (Count Geoffrey of Anjou, d.1150) in the coloured enamel portrait of him from his tomb in Le Mans cathedral. The purist might blazon this style "vair in pale", but for better or worse the patent says simply "vair".

The dragon


The dragon is relevant to the fact that I come from Wales, the national symbol of which is the red dragon (for details see http://www.fotw.net/flags/gb-wales.html). The Welsh Dragon is gardant, however, (standing, with one front leg raised), whereas mine is courant (running forwards): this is appropriate because I have always been very quick at doing things - it is part of my nature not to let grass grow under my feet. I like the dragon the heraldic artist has represented: it is rather a butch and grumpy one, with a very determined air. There is a very good dragon links page at http://www.draconian.com/.

The Order of the Bath


The shield is surrounded by the ribbon and badge of the Order of the Bath, which was awarded to me in 1994. The ribbon is murrey, an unusual heraldic colour which is supposed to be the colour of the mulberry fruit. It is sometimes described as crimson, but this is strictly incorrect: murrey has a sort of bluish tinge to it. The motto of the order "Tria Juncta in Uno" is inscribed on the ribbon. This motto refers to the joining of the three Ancient Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland in the United Kingdom. The badge has three crowns with the national emblems of the rose, thistle and shamrock.

The Helm


Above the shield is the helm, a stylised helmet from a suit of armour. The direction in which it faces and the position of the visor indicates whether the Armiger is a commoner, a knight or baronet, or a peer. Facing to the left with the visor closed shows that I am a commoner. A knight or baronet would have the helm facing to the front with the visor open, and a peer would have a different style of helm (open barred) facing to the left.

The wreath and mantling

The band of material around the top of the helm is called the wreath or torse, and is always in the Armiger's heraldic colours, in this case argent and azure. Above the wreath is a ducal crown (sometimes called a crest coronet), not signifying that the Armiger is a duke but that (in this case) he has had some connection with government. The material of the wreath falls over the back of the neck to protect from effect of the sun on the metal helm. In heraldic art this practical feature has been stylised to form an exaggerated surround for the Arms. It is interesting to note the flamboyant way in which the College of Arms artist has flung wide the mantling, compared with the restrained treatment in the Kurov version.

The crest


The crest surmounts the helm. In this case it is a unicorn, signifying gentleness and singularity. Between its front legs it holds a gonfannon. A gonfannon is a personal flag bearing the arms, supported by means of a horizontal cross-piece suspended by cords from the top of a pole. The origin of the gonfannon is the standards carried by the Roman Legions. Its advantage over an ordinary flag-pole is that the cloth piece hangs vertically and so is clearly displayed, whilst an ordinary flag hangs limp and obscured unless there is a very strong wind.

Further information

If you would like to learn more about heraldry or see other examples of heraldic achievements, take a look at the website of The International Association of Amateur Heralds. It has a great deal of useful information and links to other interesting heraldry sites.


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