Crest-Coronets in Heraldry

Much in the same vein as the last post on helms in heraldry, we’ll be examining the details of coronets (or crowns) in heraldry. Specifically, the use of a coronet in the crest of a heraldic achievement. Though the proper term, as used in the title of this post, is “crest-coronet”, I’ll be using the shorter “coronet” or “crown” throughout. Also, if the crest-coronet does not have the cloth padding it is called a “circlet”.

Coronets as well have special meanings and the details are just as important as the helms. In many grants of arms we see the phrase “a coronet of rank” in the blazon of the armiger’s crest. Just like with helms, coronets differ according to the various ranks of the armiger. Also, there are some minor differences between the heraldic traditions of various countries and they will be pointed out as we go along. Naturally, the display below is not an exhaustive list of all the various forms of crest coronets or circlets used throughout history and the world.


Crowns of sovereigns

Crowns of Sovereigns

The crowns above are those used in the heraldic achievements of sovereigns, such as kings and queens. I would especially like to point out the top left one as it is considered an imperial crown. This one is typically seen in the achievement of the various Holy Roman Emperors and of the Russian Czar. When using this form of crown, the blazon is “imperially crowned”. The other crowns displayed above are versions found throughout Europe:  the UK (top right), Italy (bottom left) and France (bottom right).

Crowns of princes

Crowns of Princes

Those above are those of princes and correspondingly displayed in those heraldic achievements. This is the list of the ones displayed (from top to bottom and left to right):  Hereditary Prince of the Holly Roman Empire; Prince of Wales (or heir to the UK throne); Hereditary Prince (Italy); Generic prince; Prince – offspring of heir apparent (UK); Prince – offspring of sovereign (UK); Infant of France; Prince of the Blood Royal.

Crowns of dukes

Crowns of dukes

When it comes to dukes, we have less variety than with the previous ranks of nobility. Not all traditions make distinctions amongst the kinds of dukes (e.g. Royal vs. “normal” or Peer vs. non-peer). The crowns above are: Generic Duke; Royal Duke (UK); Duke of Sweden; non-peer Duke (France). For French dukes who are also Peers of France, the crown is displayed with the cloth top, typically in blue.

Crowns of marquis

Crowns of a Marquis/Marquess

In the rank of Marquess or Marquis, the coronets used are those displayed above. As you can see, the more one moves down the table of precedence, the less ornate the crowns become.

Crowns of counts

Crowns of Counts & Earls

When it comes to the rank of count or, the English equivalent, Earl, the crowns are even simpler. Of the crowns displayed above, the one on the right is the one typically used for Earls of the United Kingdom.

Crowns of Viscounts

Crowns of Viscounts

Moving on to the next level, Viscounts use the crowns above. A little simpler but, still with their own beauty.

Crowns Barons

Crowns of Barons

If you were a Baron, you would probably use those above. In the case of a Scottish feudal baron, a chapeau would be used instead of a crown. As such, I have not included it in this list. Perhaps when I write a post on Scottish feudal baronies, that appear to have a lot of controversy surrounding them, I will cover all the heraldic entitlements the title has.

Crowns of Lords

Crowns of Lords, Knights and untitled nobility

At the end of the table of precedence, we have those titled as Lords or Señores, as well as Knights or Chevalier, in addition to the untitled nobility (most famously the Hidalgo of Spain). These armigers would use the crowns displayed above.

Crown burgher

Burgher/Esquire crown

Finally, we have the rest of us 🙂 Those who are not of the nobiliary ranks, but are nonetheless armigers, also have the right to use a coronet. It would be, as expected, the least decorated of them all and it is the one seen above.

Of course, the use of the coronet is not required and especially in the case of burgher arms it is not very common to see the corresponding coronet. On the other hand, in the cases of the arms of the nobility it is very uncommon to *not* see the armiger’s coronet of rank.

However, the crest coronets and circlets displayed above are not the only ones one finds in heraldry. Beyond the variations of those for the titles previously mentioned, there are “special” crowns as well. These special crowns either apply to individuals or ships or even towns and cities!

Crowns loyalist

Loyalist crowns

When in 1776, the British colonies that became the United States declared their independence and chose to rise up against the Crown, not all the residents of those territories agreed. A large number of Colonials preferred to remain loyal to Crown and chose to stand against the American Revolution. As we all know, the Loyalists lost. What many don’t know is that these Loyalists and their descendants (if they choose to honor this part of their heritage) have the special heraldic entitlement to use one of the crowns displayed above. The one on the left is the civilian version while the one of the right is the military version. A good summary of the history of the Loyalists during the American Revolution can be found in the corresponding Wikipedia article.

Crowns naval

Naval crowns

As we all know, heraldry is not restricted to individuals. All entities are eligible to have a coat of arms to identify them and, in many cases, have special heraldic considerations. In the case of the heraldry of naval vessels or even naval units, the use of a naval crown is common. There are, as always, many variations but, the general pattern is the same: they all display ship’s sails and helms. Above we can see two variations of naval crowns that are used.

Crowns mural

Mural crowns

When it comes to communities of residents (i.e. towns, cities, etc.) another special crown type is used, the mural crown. The crowns resemble castle walls and the number of towers increases as the type of community rises in rank. Though there are many variations encountered in different traditions (e.g. in Italy, many of these mural crowns are silver), a sampling is displayed above.

Note: All images are courtesy of Wikipedia


3 Comments

  1. Ton de witte says:

    Dutch naval crowns do not have sails, only the bows of ships see http://www.defensie.nl/marine/operationeel/schepen/hr_ms_de_ruyter/naam_embleem

  2. kimon says:

    Ton de witte: Dutch naval crowns do not have sails, only the bows of ships see http://www.defensie.nl/marine/operationeel/schepen/hr_ms_de_ruyter/naam_embleem

    That’s very interesting Ton

    Is there a story behind that or did it just develop that way?

  3. Ton de witte says:

    It is a very old crown as you can see here : http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:Praalgraf_De_Ruyter.JPG this is a picture of the tomb of Admiral Michiel de Ruyter who died in 1676. The navy reinstated ships emblems in 1950 after they had been absent for about 135 years (first reason was a royal decree in 1815 that the arms of the kingdom should be put on the ships of the navy, second wood carving was non excistent after the invention of steamships), for the design of the emblems they went back to the old carvings and decided to take the old crown who was typically Dutch. As they are old the development of the crown is not clear but it contains the bows of 5 ships.

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