Tag Archives: coat of arms

A coat of arms for Bath, Maine

bath maine flagbath flag city hallBack in 2013, a Maine resident, Jeremy Hammond, succeeded in having a new city flag adopted by the City Council, after a process of consultation and drafts involving the councillors and others. Unlike so many awful seal-on-bedsheet-with-writing American civic flags, the Bath flag a well-designed, clear, heraldic flag, alluding to the history of the city and reminiscent of arms of the place from which it takes its name – Bath in Somerset, England. The story of the flag’s creation is on Jeremy’s blog.

My first thought on seeing the flag last year (apart from thinking how good it looked) was “there’s a banner crying out for a coat of arms”! So, after having been distracted by other things for several months, I googled Bath and came up with ideas for supporters and a crest to add to the shield, which was taken directly from the flag.

bath maine arms
 
bath-maine-seal

For supporters I took two birds which frequent the Kenebec River, on which Bath stands – an osprey and a bald eagle – but gave them collars with anchors hanging from them as an additional reference to the shipbuilding industry for which Bath is renowned. The crest is the City Hall, one of a number of the city’s attractive buildings, and the motto (“The Union”) is lifted from the City seal.

The existing city seal is typical of the genre – an uninspiring fussy scene within a circle – so I decided to make a couple of seals out of the coat of arms too, one with the entire achievement and a simpler one with only the shield and motto.

bath-maine-seals-in-line
I don’t know that the dignitaries or people of Bath would have any interest in a coat of arms, but I enjoyed having a go at it!


Copyright © 2015 Vexaldry
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Is that the end of the UK "flag question"?

So Scotland has chosen to stay in the union. The UK can leave the prospect of break-up behind and move on. As part of their campaign, the unionist side made promises which will have remifications outside Scotland and perhaps re-define the UK as a more federal union of four constitutionally equal nations.

Perhaps as a small part of that redefintion a couple of symbolic inconsistencies should be put right. The main one, of course, is the exclusion of Wales from the national flag and arms, but perhaps this would also be a good time to make a gesture to Scotland by altering the blue of the Union flag to a lighter shade, in keeping with the Scottish flag itself. This could give us a new, brighter, flag to take us into our more devolved and, hopefully, more democratic future:

uk-four-crosses-two-versions2

As for the coat of arms, as I’ve posted before, it should look like this (unless we change the arms for Nothern Ireland too – see the previous post):-

uk-with-wales2

Addendum: When I posted this flag elsewhere, someone suggested that the white and red saltires should be un-counter-changed, leaving a simple narrower red saltire on a wider white one. This would get over the problem of people unknowingly or accidentally flying the flag upside down. I wasn’t too sure at first, but I have warmed to the idea and think it probably looks better; so here it is:

uk-four-crosses-nocc-and-flying

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Copyright © 2014 Vexaldry

UK royal arms : ditch the harp?

vx-uk-shieldDespite the fact that most of Ireland left the UK in 1922, and became a republic in 1949, the British royal arms still uses the arms of Ireland (Azure, a harp Or stringed Argent), presumably on the grounds that it represents Northern Ireland; but perhaps also because of a conservative resistence to change (also seen in resistence to changing the UK flag if Scotland becomes independent).
But does it make sense to use the arms of the Irish nation to represent an entity which consists of only six of the nine counties of one of the four provinces of Ireland? Does it make sense when the reason for Northern Ireland’s existence is that its unionist majority wanted to be British rather than Irish? Would it not be more sensible to replace the Irish harp with something specific to Northern Ireland, and leave the harp to the republic?
The question is : what should replace the harp for Northern Ireland? The obvious place to go for arms is to the province of Ulster.
vx-ulster
The arms of Ulster

The ancient symbol of Ulster is the famous Red Hand of O’Neill, which dates back to pagan times. In the 13th century this was placed on a white shield on the red cross on yellow of Walter de Burgh, who had become Earl of Ulster. This remains the arms of the whole province (nine counties). 

vx-niarms
Northern Ireland government arms, pre-1972
The government of Northern Ireland which existed until 1972 used the hand on a six-pointed star (for the six counties) ensigned by a royal crown and placed on a St.George’s cross (red on white). The banner of these arms are still used (unofficially) as a flag of Northern Ireland today, but it is particularly associated with unionism (the English cross and royal crown are not exactly popular with nationalists!). What is needed now is something which is acceptable to the whole community.
The traditional arms of Ulster seem the obvious starting point, but they need to be modified to represent the six counties, instead of the whole province. Since the six-pointed star is fairly sectarian, another alternative would be to use a hexagon. The six sides still represent the six counties, but the shape also alludes to the basalt columns of Giant’s Causeway, a spectacular and thoroughly non-sectarian natural site in Northern Ireland.

vx-nothernIreland vx-giants-causeway

Northern Ireland: coat of arms idea

Giant’s Causeway, with its hexagonal columns

The would give us a nice, completely red-and-gold, royal coat of arms, with or without Wales:

vx-uk-nowales-altni vx-uk-wales-altni

And if Scotland leaves the union:

vx-uk-noscot-altni

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Copyright © 2014 Vexaldry,
except the image of the pre-1972 Northern Ireland arms is from Wikipedia by Adelbrecht, and the image of Giant’s Causeway is from Wikipedia by Chmee2; both reproduced under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence.

UK local flag ideas : Bristol (England)

bristol-flag-mini A flag for Bristol?

The City of Bristol, in the west of England, straddles two of England’s historic counties – Gloucestershire and Somerset, although the extension into Somerset (south of the River Avon) only occurred in the late 19th century. However, it has been a City and County in its own right since 1373, except for the 22 years between 1974 and 1996 when it was part of the now-departed and unlamented County of Avon.

For centuries, Bristol competed with Norwich for the status of England’s second city, until both were overtaken by rapidly-expanding industrial cities further north (Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool …). It was a major port, accessing the Atlantic Ocean via the River Avon, which flows through the city and into the Severn Estuary. Bristol has the honour of being the home port of John Cabot, who, in 1497 set sail in his ship The Matthew to become the first European since the Vikings to set foot on the North American mainland. The city also has the dishonour of having been heavily involved in the slave trade, from which much of its wealth emanated.

city bristol

Bristol has a history of innovative engineering achievements, such as the SS Great Britain, which was the World’s largest ship when it was launched in 1843, and the first screw-propelled, ocean-going, wrought iron ship. The same engineer who designed the Great Britain, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was also responsible for the Great Western railway which ran from London to Bristol, and for the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge in the west of the city. In the 20th century, Bristol developed an aircraft industry, producing aircraft for use in both World Wars and later becoming the British centre for the construction and testing of the World’s first supersonic passenger airliner, Concorde. It is now involved in the construction of the Airbus A380, the World’s largest passenger airplane.

The shield of Bristol’s coat of arms dates from the 14th century, and the full arms were granted in 1569. They reflect medieval Bristol’s status as a well-fortified city and a port. These arms now belong to Bristol City Council, and I think I have seen the banner of arms in use by the council.

For a city (as opposed to Council) flag, I opted for simple representations of the city’s maritime and engineering heritage. Maritime activity has to be represented by a ship, as it is in the coat of arms, although I have chosen to use Cabot’s Matthew rather than the medieval vessel in the arms. For engineering and innovation, in the interests of keeping things simple, I opted for nothing more than an inverted arch, indicative of the Clifton Suspension Bridge. The colours – red, white and blue – are from the coat of arms.

bristol-flag-idea bristol-flag-clifton

Copyright © 2014 Vexaldry

UK local flag ideas : Swansea (Wales)

There’s been a big surge in recent years in the adoption of flags for British counties, normally for historical counties rather than the more recent local government areas. Once adopted, by various means, they are registered on the Flag Institute’s “UK Flag Registry” and can be seen here.

There has been less activity in the adoption of more local flags – for cities, towns and districts, or (shock, horror!) present-day local government areas, although there are a few city and town flags on the Flag Institute’s registry. While in many areas there is still a strong identification with pre-1974 counties, I suspect that isn’t true everywhere (especially among the young), and that many people feel more affinity with their city or town than their county. So why not have more local flags as well? I thought I’d make a start with some ideas for places I know:

swansea2a-flying-noback The City and County of Swansea
swansea-map-os

The City and County of Swansea became a local government area in 1996. It covers almost the same geographical area as the old semi-independent Lordship of Gower, which existed from the 12th to the 16th centuries, and which itself was a Norman-English re-incarnation of the native Welsh Commote of Gŵyr. From a historical point of view, perhaps it is a shame that the City and County of Swansea wasn’t called the County of Gower.

city swansea3
Coat of arms of Swansea, granted in 1921

In medieval times, the town of Swansea was the capital of the Lordship of Gower and a seaport, and the remainder of the lordship was primarily engaged in agriculture and fishing.

Coal was being exported from Swansea by the 16th century, and during the industrial revolution the ready availability of coal led to the town becoming a major copper-smelting centre. Copper was brought from southwest England, and later from much further afield, because it was cheaper to transport the ore to the coal source than the other way round. For a time, about 80% of the World’s copper supply was smelted in, and exported from, Swansea, giving the town the nickname “Copperopolis”. Other coal-dependent industries, such as pottery, also thrived in the town.

To the west of the city lies the Gower Peninsula, the UK’s first officially-designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Agriculture is important on the peninsula, but tourism is also significant, with visitors coming for the beautiful countryside, beaches, castles and other attractions.

So … I wanted a flag which represented the city, its industrial heritage, the peninsula, the sea, the rural environment and agriculture. I didn’t want a heraldic banner of the arms (which rightfully belong to the City & County Council, not to the area or people in general), nor anything with complex charges. This is what I came up with:

swansea2-flag swansea-flag-mumbles

The widening band, left-to-right, west-to-east, represents the Gower Peninsula stretching into the rest of the county. The battlement comes from the Swansea coat of arms, representing the city and the area’s medieval castles (mostly ruins). Blue is for the sea and maritime activity, yellow beaches, green countryside and agriculture, and copper for Swansea’s industry. I would have liked to include black for coal-mining, but I didn’t like the look of any configuration I tried, so the copper colour stands homage to all industry, including the coal-ming without which the copper smelting could never have taken place.

There’s plenty more which could be represented, from past and present, but flags need to be kept simple! No flag can be a complete narrative about what it represents.


Copyright © 2014 Vexaldry, except … 
The map is from Wikipedia, derived from Ordnance Survey OpenData, licensed by Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license, © Crown copyright and database right.

Wales in the UK

For partly historic, partly spurious (“Wales is only a principality”) reasons, Wales is not represented in either the national flag or the royal arms of the United Kingdom. Since Wales was conquered by the English many centuries ago, it is supposedly covered by the English symbols, St.George’s Cross and the three lions. Whether the people of Wales ever felt that these were their symbols too is not for me to say, but regardless of the history they certainly don’t now, and in today’s Britian the idea is clearly nonsense.

Wales is one of the four nations of the UK. Although it is more closely linked to England than are the other Celtic nations (e.g. there is a common legal jurisdiction), nobody imagines that it is actually part of England. Even in law, the combined area has, for decades, been called “England AND Wales”, not just “England”, as it once was. Wales has its own devolved government and legislature, it’s own royally-designated capital city and national flag, national sports teams, and de jure official language.

Surely, therefore, it is time that our national emblems caught up with reality and gave Wales and the Welsh their proper recognition.

There have been suggestions, in Parliament and elsewhere, that the Welsh red dragon should be added to the Union flag. I can understand resistence to this, because the flag is so iconic and it is difficult to add anything new without undermining that internationally-famous image; an image which is present not only in the UK and its remaining overseas territories, but also in flags outside British jurisdiction (e.g. Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and even a state of the USA). One could add a small dragon without doing too much “damage”:

uk-wales-dragon

However, I think the reality is that the existing Union Jack will remain the flag of the UK as long as the UK exists in its present form.

The royal coat of arms is another matter. Although famous, it is not as iconic, not as commonly used, and has, historically, been subject to more change than the flags, even though the last change was as long ago as 1837. Also, it has a space just waiting to be used for Wales! The fourth quarter of the arms duplicates the English first quarter, and could easily be replaced by the four lions of Wales : four quarters, four nations. It should be a no-brainer, shouldn’t it?

The royal arms of the UK as they are and as they should be (in my humble opinion!) :
uk-two-arms


Copyright © 2014 Vexaldry.

Coats of arms for Wales

It’s St.David’s Day, the national day of Wales (UK).

Officially, the coat of arms used for Wales is that of the ancient kings of Gwynedd, who eventually became Princes of Wales, ruling the entire country except the south. This shield, Quarterly Or and Gules four lions passant guardant counterchanged armed and langued azure, has been included in the arms of the last two princes of Wales, and in the royal badge for Wales since 2008:-
wales royal badge

However, as far as I know there has never been a full coat of arms for Wales, including supporters and crest, although a Welsh red dragon was used as a supporter in the English royal arms by the Tudor monarchs. So I thought I would put one together> No element of this is new, except putting the dragon on the crown as a crest:
 
wales-full
And then I thought, since the kings/princes of Gwynedd never ruled all Wales : in fact, well over half the population probably lives outside the areas ruled by the “Princes of Wales”, and the capital itself – Cardiff – is outside the medieval principality. So perhaps a coat of arms for the whole of Wales should incorporate more than the arms of Gwynnedd. The old Welsh kingdoms and principalities changed considerably over time, but I think those of Morgannwyg, Deheubarth, Powys, Gwent and Gwynnedd covered the whole territory between them at one point or another, which could give us this:
wales multi

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Copyright © 2014 Vexaldry