The heraldic world is not very pretty

I have written extensively in the past about the blog I consider to be the best on the topic of heraldry: the Blog the Heraldica maintained by the Spanish Air Force Major José Juan Carrión Rangel. His blog has evolved from being a simple hobby blog (like this one) to becoming the equivalent of the New York (or London if you prefer) Times of the heraldic world! A top notch blog in its own right and the absolute best on heraldry.

One of the characteristics of a popular communication medium is that everyone wants to publish there so that it reaches a large audience. This means that, like the traditional media, not only do articles that the blogger wrote & believes in get published but also “letters to the editor” as well as “op-eds” from other persons.

The good Major’s blog is no stranger to controversy having published articles/letters written by others that contain ideas or opinions that are not very popular. Many times, these very opinions caused a maelstrom in our small but vociferous global heraldic community, so much so that many Spanish-language heraldic bloggers decided to form an alliance to improve the community.

Unfortunately, as the most recent events on the blog demonstrate, this was but a pipe dream….

On September 18, the noted heraldist José Luis Sampedro Escolar (distinguished member of the Royal Heraldic & Genealogical Academy of Madrid – Real y Matritense Academia de Heráldica y Genealogía) and frequent contributor to the blog wrote a scathing article about the Viscount of Ayala & Marquis of La Floresta, Dr. Alfonso de Ceballos Escalera critiquing his armorial achievement and arguing the legal validity of his certification of personal arms. I won’t go into the details as the article is available to be read in the original Spanish on the blog.

The article was very strongly worded and made no secret that its author had no love lost for the Viscount & Marquis.

When I read it, I expected a similarly strongly worded retort by the equally (if not more so) noted heraldist Dr. Ceballos Escalera, with perhaps this back and forth dragging for a couple more days and then subside. Occasionally, third parties would give their 2 cents too picking a side or arguing with all. This has usually been the pattern.

However, this time there was a different turn of events.

It’s true that the retort came through and the third parties appeared but, what was surprising and a first was the attack on the Major himself.

The blogger clearly marked the article as being authored by another and has repeatedly posted in the past that he takes no ownership of the contents of any articles posted that have been submitted by third parties. He only provides the medium for the article to be published. This is no different than an op-ed in a major newspaper.

I was surprised to see that persons whom I hold in high regard would question the motives of a person that, through his blog, has contributed immensly to the proliferation of heraldic knowledge in the Spanish speaking world and beyond.

That is not to say that the original post by Mr. Sampedro Escolar was not incendiary, because it was.

If the article had remained an analysis of the legal authority of the Viscount & Marquis as the Chronicler of Arms for personal heraldry & genealogy, it would have been just fine. Honestly, this truly is something that should be (and has been) debated and I have my own personal opinions on the matter (that I might share sometime but, meanwhile you can read what the expert on heraldic law Mr. Cerda Acevedo had to say).

Where I think Mr. Sampedro Escolar crossed the line was in his questioning of the rights of Dr. Ceballos Escalera to use the external ornaments of his achievement. This is a personal affront considering the status of the latter and his vast heraldic knowledge. These sorts of allegations cannot and must not be made without concrete evidence, otherwise it is (in my opinion) tantamount to calling him a fraud or ignorant. Particularly when, as in this case, the person in question is rightfully using all the external ornaments.

For a good example of how to handle these situations where one is questioning the legality of a person’s arms or title one can refer to the case of the false Baron of Gavin which case was thoroughly researched and an irrefutable case made, relying solely on the facts and removing any emotion.

Regardless of the content of the posting by Mr. Sampedro Escolar and whether one agrees with it or not, the blog and its owner are not at fault. Any personal attacks are, at best, ill thought.

After some of the attacks, the good Major has rightfully moved to the counter-attack and I cannot blame him. I would have done the same and fully support him in this.

By now, several others have commented on these events and one can say that I’m kind of late to the game. Honestly, I don’t care 🙂  I have a day job that takes priority over any heraldic (and non) ramblings since it pays the bills.

Below are links to commentary by two other bloggers that I respect and recommend to be read:

What is the saddest part of this story is that some of the biggest names in Spanish heraldry, people whose work I truly respect and admire, have ended up in a spitball war.

In a personal email to Maj. Carrion Rangel, I likened this whole thing to a Mexican telenovela and I stand by that analogy. The only thing missing is a love interest (I guess heraldry can assume that role).


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