Archive for January 2009

Laurent Granier

COA Laurent Granier

(arms of Laurent Granier)

Laurent Granier is perhaps the premier French heraldic artist with a vast knowledge of French heraldry. A descendent of a minor noble family of the Duchy of Savoy, he has been active since 1995 and enjoys a broad recognition of his work worldwide. Many have included him in the company of the so called “masters” and I cannot say that I blame them.

As opposed to other artists who had the privilege to study at an art instruction school, Granier is entirely self-taught in the techniques of graphics and design. His innate talents came out and developed through trial and error over the years. However, he has benefited from speaking and consulting with professionals in the field, especially in that of the heraldic arts.

COA Fr. Turpault

Having graduated with a Master’s degree in History and Modern French Letters, he began working as a heraldic artist in 1995. Being the talented artist that he is, his name began circulating in heraldic circles, first in France and then elsewhere. By 2006, a mere decade after entering the field professionally, he had become established enough that the Vlaamse Heraldische Raad (Flemish Heraldic Authority) had asked him to become of their staff heraldic artists.

COA Ségyo

Granier’s bilingual website (in French and English) shares a lot of information about the artist, his work and the services he provides. He also lists , in chronological order, the exhibitions he has had over the years through 1995. The website also includes a lot of interesting information on heraldry in general but also specifics to the environment in France and the minor details that most would not know, especially those outside of France. A case in point are the pages “Overview of Heraldry”, where he shares information from Michel Pastoureau’s book “Traité d’héraldique”, and the one titled “Advices”. However, my favorite besides the gallery (of course) is the page “More Information” where a list of excellent books is presented that would allow a researcher to expand upon their knowledge of Heraldry and specifically, French Heraldry.

COA La Rivière près d'Auge

This noted artist has been commissioned to emblazon arms by customers with very exacting demands and an expectation of perfection over the years. Some of the recipients of his emblazonments have included Cardinal Philippe Barbarin (2004), Cardinal Louis-Marie Billé (2001) and Princess Isabelle of Orléans-Braganza (1997). In 2005 he was asked by the Prefect of the Pontifical House to create a few black and white sketches of the arms of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.

Alliance arms of the families de Valpergue de Masin and Le Deschault  de Montredon

His media exposure has included newspaper and journal publications, conferences, personal and group exhibitions as well as working on the heraldry of the 2006 French film “Les Aristos”.

Samples of his work are displayed in this entry and many more images can be viewed in the gallery hosted on the website mentioned above.

It must be noted that not only is Laurent Granier a most excellent heraldic artist, he also has extensive experience in navigating the often confusing waters of heraldic legislation in France. This is a talent, as well as a knowledge base, that is very rare to find and I’m sure can prove helpful to those interested in their rights in the French jurisdiction.

COA Champs de St Léger

When commissioned to design a coat of arms, his research is extensive spending hours going through books, manuscripts and other resources that most haven’t even heard of, let alone thought of. His formal academic training achieved by obtaining a Master’s degree in French History and Letters from the University of Grenoble in 1991 further validates the rigor of his work. The arms above of Champs de St Léger were derived by researching such obscure sources as the Tacuinum Sanitatis so as to come up with truly unique and expressive arms.


In the case of the arms above of Ms. Maureen Yeo from Singapore, Granier accomplished to fuse the best European heraldic tradition with the Asian tradition of the armiger. Notice the charges, helm and crest all being Asian inspired but the combination 100% traditional heraldry!

Bookplate of Michel Popof

Naturally, as with most other heraldic artists, emblazoning heraldic achievements is not all this extremely talented artist does. What you see above is a simple, yet masterfully executed Ex Libris (or bookplate) for Mr. Michel Popoff, President of the International Academy Of Heraldry.

An outstanding heraldic artist who’s work not only accomplishes what an armiger desires in an emblazonment but they can also stand alone as works of art.

Lucky charms heraldry

The term lucky charms heraldry sounds odd or even funny but, it describes a type of heraldry that has existed for centuries very accurately. The best definition of the term I can come up with is: Heraldry that includes an element to represent every bit of the armiger’s ancestry, religion, career, etc.

Lucky charms(fictional “lucky charms” shield)

The fictional shield above, however attractive it may appear to be, is an example of such heraldry. When designing it, I thought of the following regarding my fictional armiger:

  • He is of Irish descent, hence the tinctures Vert (green) and Argent (white) for the field.
  • He is an architect, hence the arches
  • He served in the Navy, therefore the anchor
  • He is an avid chess player, therefore the chess rook
  • While in the Navy, he served in Alaska. He also currently resides in Alaska, therefore the 2 snowflakes
  • He was born in the Chinese Year of the Dragon, hence the dragon
  • He is a devout Christian and has made the pilgrimage to the Holy Land, hence the coquille (sea shell)
  • He owns a vineyard, hence the grape leaf
  • As a further allusion to his Irish heritage, he used the colors of the Irish flag (green, white and orange) on the bottom side of the shield. Orange exists in heraldry as the stain tenné.

As you can see, this is a bit much…. The arms are overly complex, the blazon too complex and there is no point in having so much on a coat of arms. I’ll attempt to blazon the arms: Per fess Vert and Argent in chief a double arch Sable masoned Argent above two snowflakes above in dexter a chess rook and in sinister an anchor Argent, in base a dragon Vert between a coquille and a grape leaf tenné.

As mentioned in the conclusion of the guide on designing your own coat of arms, the most basic rule to follow in any new design is to keep things simple. A coat of arms should convey what enough to know the armiger without being a full life story or curriculum vitae.

It should also be generic enough that the armiger’s descendents, even 200 years later, will still feel a relationship to the shield. Imagine if the great-great-….-great grandson of the armiger, 200 years in the future, feels absolutely no affinity to Ireland, is allergic to wine, is a Buddhist, gets easily seasick and lives in Florida?

Designing your own coat of arms – Conclusion

In this last post in the series on how to design your own coat of arms, we’ll try to bring everything together.

In all of the posts in the series, we saw how you can come up with ideas for the charges, tinctures and style of your coat of arms. You can draw from your ancestry, your familial symbols, family tradition, career and religion. Anything that defines you and your family can very well be a source of inspiration.

However, a very basic principle should be adhered to: the principle of KIS or Keep It Simple. Some may know it with an additional S for “Stupid” 🙂

Regardless of the number of Ss, the principle is to not make the shield overbearing and fall into the trap of lucky charms heraldry. In other words, you don’t have to include an allusion to everything that represents you, just enough to identify you.

Also, don’t forget the original purpose of heraldry: to identify a knight on the field of battle from a distance. If the arms are too complex and have too much on it, it becomes a bungled mess.

Grenville Diptych

Above is the Grenville Diptych displaying all the quarterings of the arms of the Dukes of Buckingham and Chandos. It contains all the information about the family but it’s a mess. A wonderful find for any lover of heraldry to try to identify all the arms depicted and the stories behind them but, as a shield on it’s own it’s too much.

Your arms are a place where you can express yourself, identify yourself, put your own personal touches but it is not a curriculum vitae or a family tree. Take the elements that you think fit best together, use the appropriate tinctures, follow the basic heraldic rules (tinctures, crests, etc) and you’re sure to come up with a very attractive coat of arms.

If all else fails, you can always reach out to any of the various heraldic artists out there, the various heraldry forums, or, if you want, me 🙂

Previous: Belief System
Start over: Introduction

Designing your own coat of arms – Belief system

Much like you can represent your ancestry in your coat of arms you may want to make an allusion to your faith or philosophy.

Let’s not forget that heraldry was originally a wholly Christian phenomenon and the armigers were very proud of their Christian faith. This explains the wide variations of crosses used as well as the various charges of the faith.

However, one need not be a Christian to have an allusion of their faith on their shield.

In this post, we will explore how one’s individual belief system can be shown on the shield, if so desired.

paschal-lamb martlet

Christianity has had the longest tradition in heraldry and as such can draw upon the largest collection of heraldic symbols. Having said that, nothing is more popular than the cross. There are crosses of all kinds, from the normal Latin Cross all the way to a cross fleury to any combination of crosses. Of course, there are other options. If, for example, you have made the pilgrimage to the Holy Land, you may opt for the escallop (sea shell). You may want to use a Paschal Lamb (purity) or a Martlet (faith) or a heart, etc. All Christian denominations have symbolism specific to them and you may want to use one of those symbols. Above you can see a Paschal Lamb and a Martlet (a bird without a beak and without legs).

Flag of Pakistan

The color Green (heraldic Vert) is sacred in Islam  and may be used as the color of the field. The crescent or combination of crescent and star has become associated with the Muslim faith over the past few centuries and may be used as well. The flag of Pakistan, shown above, displays both the color green as well as the crescent and star.

Star of David

In the Jewish faith, the combination of Blue and White (heraldic Azure and Argent) is closely associated to the religion. Of course, the most well known symbols of Judaism are the Magen David (or Star of David) and the Menorah. Other religious symbols that you may consider using are a tzitzit or a tefillin.

There are, of course, numerous other faiths in the world and there is no way they can all be listed here. The purpose though is to make you think about your belief system and what symbols represent it. Then to see how to incorporate those symbols (in one way or another) in your shield.

Proper care should be taken so that the shield is not mistaken to being those of a Temple or office. For example, while it would be fine to use the Magen David and a representation of the Torah as the shield of a Synagogue, it would be wholly inappropriate for an individual to bear such a shield; even if that person is a Kohanim.

Previous: Ancestry Next: Conclusion

Designing your own coat of arms – Ancestry

In this part of the series on designing your own coat of arms we’ll examine how your ancestry can be represented in a coat of arms. The ancestry to be represented can be as simple as one’s heritage (e.g. English, German, Italian, Greek, Native American etc.) to as complex as the results of thorough genealogical research.

Today, more people have an ancestry that is not 100% completely from the place where they currently live than ever before. Whether they hail (wholly or partly) from another region of the same country or from another country at the other end of the planet, people have mixed heritages. It is not uncommon to hear someone, especially in the United States, answer the question “what’s your ancestry?” and go into fractions; I have worked with someone in the past who answered the question thus: “I’m 1/4 Irish, 1/8 French, 1/8 German, 1/16 Cherokee, 7/16 English”.

This mix can lead down very interesting paths when designing a new coat of arms.

Of course, one need not represent all those heritages proportionately, equally or at all. One may indeed be 1/8 French but may not feel as that French heritage represents them at all; they may have a closer relationship with their 1/16 Cherokee ancestry. In this case, the French ancestry could be ignored and the Cherokee one given more weight.

When drawing upon one’s ancestry to design a coat of arms, it is important to make sure that one uses appropriate allusions so that the whole ties together. Also, one should not use symbols that are very closely tied to the country in question either through it’s government or its royal family. Finally, it is never a good idea to just plop a country’s flag on your arms.

Naturally, it goes without saying, that using another country’s arms in your own is extremely distasteful, pretentious and may even be illegal. Unless, of course, you are member of that country’s royalty; but then, you wouldn’t be designing a new coat of arms 🙂

Some things that should be avoided either because it’s wholly inappropriate or because they have been overused:

  • A clover or trefoil for Ireland
  • A fleur-de-lys for France
  • A saltire for Scotland
  • An eagle for Germany
  • A double headed eagle for Orthodoxy
  • A Greek cross Argent on a field Gules for Switzerland
  • A Greek cross Argent on a field Azure for Greece
  • etc.

The best approach is to use not widely used charges or subtle allusions.

For example, instead of blazoning your arms “Sable a heraldic panther Or” which would leave it up to the artist to emblazon the panther using any form (English or German), you can say “Sable a German heraldic panther Or” to make sure that the one representing your heritage is used (in this case German).

Another example may be to use the national colors, national animal/bird, patron saint etc. of the country. Perhaps a charge representing the most common profession such as shipping, farming.  Alternatively, you can use what is most associated with the country in question, for example a clock for Switzerland.

Just remember that the shield will a representation of you and not of any country or culture from which you claim descent.

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