Heraldry and Orders of Chivalry

Over the past years or (more accurately) decades, the world of heraldry has been merging with the world of orders and I think it’s ridiculous!

I agree that the two intersect but they are not the same!

Let’s examine each a little closer:

The world of orders of chivalry has traditionally been a world where the “best” or “noble” or richest would enter either to deal with a particular cause or as a reward by some sovereign. I won’t go into the details of their medieval origin as it’s very well known but, I will mention that heraldry was a part of it as a means of identification. It was no more important than genealogy to establish the proofs of nobility that many orders required.

Heraldry, as most would know, was originally and still is primarily a means of identification. Having a coat of arms did not and does not imply any nobility, merit or anything special just like having an email address doesn’t imply you are a computer hacker (in the Hollywood sense). The study, analysis, etc. of heraldry in the various jurisdictions and in the specific areas of the Church and elsewhere has been a passion and a noble endeavor for centuries. In Spanish, the study of heraldry is called “ciencia heroica” or “heroic science” showing that it is something that stands on its own.

It is not a problem that the same people are in both, the problem is that the prejudices of one affect the other. Especially, the prejudices of the world of orders affecting the world of heraldry.

Put another way, the study of heraldry is an academic endeavor and the people in this sphere should be judged on the academic work they’ve produced and nothing more. However, even some of the most respected “academic” (and I put the word in quotes on purpose) institutions of heraldry seem to be blind to that and let their patently unchivalrous (not to mention completely uneducated and stupid) prejudices guide them.

It’s no different that to deny a professor tenure because he supports the “wrong” soccer team.

One Comment

  1. cdqa says:

    100 % in agreement with the content of this article. Heraldry and Chivalry do NOT confuse themselves.
    Heraldry as a science to identify someone or a family or a lineage isn’t necessarily and exclusively for the nobility; it can be used by anyone within its principles.
    Those fond of Heraldry have the right to create their own associations to develop this heroic and precise science.
    The Orders of Chivalry are more into choosing who gets in.
    The Orders of Chivalry aren’t for everybody but for those that fulfill their bylaw requirements as in any other association.
    To be a member of a Chivalry Order doesn’t make the Knight or Lady better or worse than someone that isn’t a member of that entity. He/she has the right to associate with whom he/she wants. Nobody should question his/her right. This is a basic principle of human freedom.
    And to be more precise, a Heraldry association has NO right to question its members the belonging in a Chivalry Order. A Chivalry Order has NO right to question a membership in a Heraldry Association. They ARE two separate and very different associations because HERALDRY and CHIVALRY ORDERS do NOT confuse. If it happens it is just bad politics and it should be fought and accused publicly.
    Fernando de Quinta Alegre,
    New York

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