Monday, June 4, 2018

HERALDRY | Vivent les Différences!

Arms of Meghan Markley, now Duchess
of Sussex.
June 4, 2018–The latest recorded initiation of a royal coat of arms was a gift to Meghan Markley of California upon her accession to the title of Duchess of Sussex, after her  marriage to Prince Harry.

The blue background of the sinister side of the dimidiated shield represents the Pacific Ocean off the California coast. The two golden rays across the shield symbolize the sunshine of The Duchess’s home state that she has sacrificed for the chance to spend some time in Windsor Castle and other royal residences.

The three quills represent communication, which the Duchess of Sussex is good at (she was an actress). Beneath the shield on the grass are flowers, including golden poppies, California’s state flower. The sinister supporter is a songbird with open mouth, indicating again the beauty and power of words.

The earliest recorded initiation of a royal coat of arms was on June 10, 1128, when Geoffrey Plantagenet was presented by his father-in-law, King Henry I of England in Rouen, France with a blue shield bearing six gold lions.

Arms of Geoffrey of Anjou.
The occasion was of international significance. Geoffrey was French. He was knighted by King Henry I, the English father of his bride Matilda. Their son became Henry II of England.

Matilda was the daughter of Edith of Scotland and the widow of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry V. Thus three royal lines were united with England – Scotland, France and the Holy Roman Empire.

This is the oldest record of an initiation of international royal arms, although coats of arms are recorded in the Bayeux tapestry after the invasion of William I of England, and royal arms are attributed posthumously to Edward the Confessor and even retroactively to King Alfred.

Geoffrey of Anjou is considered the first person known to have been given arms in an armigerous royal family. For this reason, June 10 is registered on the International Day Calendar by Kathy McClurg as International Heraldry Day. She is a member of the IAAH, the International Association of Amateur Heralds.

My friend Paul Walton has just sent me a family tree of the French Capet-Valois-Bourbon royal succession (Anjou became a cadet branch.) The tree shows how difficult it can get to differentiate royals when they have a big family. Some of the differences are discretely ingenious, some seem to obliterate the shield. The Duchess of Sussex has a more meaningfully designed coat of arms.

Heraldic Differencing of the French Royal Family in the 18th and 19th centuries.

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