Archive for June 2011

de Lesseps

One of the things my wife enjoys a great deal (and I suffer through) is the reality show on the Bravo channel called “The Real Housewives of New York City”.

One of the participants on the show called LuAnn de Lesseps (née Nadeau) and uses the title of “Countess”. The title comes from her now ex-husband, the current Count de Lesseps, Alexandre. The title was inherited through his paternal line from Ferdinand de Lesseps, the Frenchman who designed the Suez Canal and who presented the Statue of Liberty to the United States.

Let’s start with the Coat of Arms of the de Lesseps family displayed above. The image comes from Wikipedia and the blazon can be found in Jean-Baptiste Rietstap “Armorial général” as

D’argent, à un cep de vigne de sinople, fruité de deux grappes de raisin de sable, le pied accosté de deux champignons de sinople, le tout soutenu d’une terrasse du même et acc. d’un soleil rayonnant de gueules, mouv. du canton senestre du chef.

Or, in English:

Argent, a vine Vert fructed of two bunches of grapes Sable, between in base two mushrooms Vert all supported by a terrace of the same, in sinister canton a sun rayonny Gules.

A very interesting Coat of Arms, though I would’ve expected something less “agricultural” from a family known for their diplomats and engineers all the way back to the 16th century. However, I admit I know nothing of the de Lesseps family ancestral origins.

Since we’re talking about the de Lesseps and we touched upon LuAnn from the show “The Real Housewives of New York City”, this would be a good opportunity to answer the two big questions everyone has about her status as “Countess”:

1. How could she be a Countess since France has abolished the nobility?

The answer to this is very simple: The title is a courtesy title that is used only in social circles but has no legal standing whatsoever. In other words, the Count de Lesseps cannot and does not call himself “Count” in any formal legal documents in his home country of France, or anywhere else for that matter. The rule applies to all who claim a title of nobility from a country that no longer recognizes them legally. It is only in social circumstances such as social events, when making dinner reservations, etc. that the title is used and only in those cases. The only exception to the rule is when another country recognizes the title and this is not the case with the de Lesseps title.

2. How could she still be called Countess if she’s divorced from the actual Count?

Ms. LuAnn de Lesseps is not a Countess in her own right (i.e. the title is not hers) but had received it by virtue of marrying the Count, just like Kate Middleton is not The Duchess of Cambridge in her own right but is so because she’s married to The Duke of Cambridge. One would think that upon divorcing the Count, she would lose the title as well but, it is not the case. The former wife of a title-bearer usually retains the right to continue using the courtesy title of her ex-husband, if the ex-husband or Sovereign allows it. Since there isn’t a King of France anymore and titles are not recognized in the Republic of France, it is up to the actual title holder. Furthermore, the mother of the heir to the title also tends to keep the title.

Ms LuAnn would be able to continue the use of the title even if Count Alexandre de Lesseps remarries and the new wife will also be called Countess! However, here comes the key difference: LuAnn would be known as “Countess de Lesseps” whereas the new wife of the Count would be known as “The Countess de Lesseps”. The “The” makes all the difference in the world. In the case of royalty (royalty and nobility are not the same), we find occasions where the former wife of a Prince is called “Dowager Princess X”. This would’ve been the case in the event Princess Diana (note I did not use HRH as she lost that in the divorce) had survived to this day where HRH The Prince of Wales is remarried and she would be known as “The Dowager Princess of Wales”.

See also:

Note: Image from Wikipedia

June 2011 issue of Ireland’s Genealogical Gazette

As announced by Michael Merrigan, General Secretary of the Genealogical Society of Ireland:

A Chairde,

The June 2011 issue of ‘Ireland’s Genealogical Gazette’ the monthly newsletter of the Genealogical Society of Ireland is available on and on the Society’s website

Featured in this issue:

  • “Is Féidir Linn” with Imagination, Innovation and Inclusivity.
  • Fiftieth Anniversary & No Redaction
  • Ireland 1815-1870 – Emancipation, Famine and Religion (review)
  • Summer Cemetery Project
  • GSI Lectures 2011
  • GSI Board News and Events
  • In Memoriam
  • James Scannel Reports…
    • World War 1 Veteran Dies
    • Looting of U-Boat Wreck
    • District Nurses
  • Préis of the May Lecture
  • GSI Membership Package
  • Diary Dates
  • ‘Raids and Rallies’
  • Launch of Munster Landed Estates Database
  • Medal Society of Ireland
  • Academic Books Wanted
  • Railway History

For further information on the Society please see

Mise le meas,


Michael Merrigan, MA, FGSI
General Secretary / Rúnaí Ginearálta
Cumann Geinealais na hÉireann
Genealogical Society of Ireland


Barry University

Barry University is one of the most respected private, Catholic universities in Florida with a long history of dedication to the education of its pupils.

Founded in 1940 by a Benedictine, the Most Reverend Patrick Barry, Bishop of St. Augustine, Florida together with his sister, the Reverend Mother M. Gerald Barry, prioress General of the Dominican Sisters of Adrian, Michigan, it has been an solid institution of learning in the state.

Not only that but, I drive by its main campus every day when commuting to work!

What is most interesting is the coat of arms of this university, mostly because it is an actual coat of arms and not a logo and because it has a story to tell.

Let’s start with the blazon: Impaled: Dexter, barry of six Gules and Argent on each bar Gules an open book Argent; Sinister, borne dimidiated, gyronny of eight Argent and Sable a cross fleury throughout counterchanged (Order of Preachers).

As the blazon implies, this is a shield marshalling (or combining) two other shields. The dexter (left) shield is based on that of its founder, Bishop Patrick Barry, using books instead of shamrocks. The books symbolize the acquisition of knowledge. The sinister shield is that of the Dominican Order with which the University is closely tied.

I should not here that my blazon differs slightly from that registered with the US Heraldic Registry in that I do not use the qualifier “entire” for the dexter arms.


Above you see the arms alone used by the university that were inspired by Bishop Barry’s.

Above you can see the Barry family arms on their own, as borne by the Bishop’s family.


Again the Barry arms impaled with the arms of the Diocese of St. Augustine, FL of which Patrick Barry was Bishop. The dexter arms are those of the Diocese, of course.


These arms are those of the Dominican Order or, officially, the Order of Preachers. The Gyronny Cross Flory symbolizes the veneration of the Virgin (the cross flory) and the Dominican habit: a long white tunic, contrasting with a black cloak, cappa (shoulder cape) and/or scapular. The black and white representing truth over heresy or good over evil. The cross alone is also known as the “Dominican Cross”.

Do you notice a difference between these arms and those on the sinister side of the University arms? The order of tinctures on the University arms are reversed!


Speaking of the Dominicans, you can find two different shields used by the Order. One (and the more famous) is the one with the cross flory depicted further up. The other, the one depicted just over these lines, is the one you tend to see more often these days and what is found on the official website of the Order. The blazon for this, simpler, shield is: Sable a pile reversed throughout Argent.

There are two things that strike me as odd in the arms of Barry University:

  1. The Dominican arms that are dimidiated on the sinister side are wrong (reversed tinctures).
  2. The Barry inspired arms are placed in the position of honor while one would expect the Order’s shield to be there. Apparently, this was a conscious decision by the leadership of the University at some point in its history. Originally, the order was reversed.
  3. The dexter arms are shown in their entirety whereas the arms of the Order of Preachers is dimidiated. Usually, as can be seen in the Bishop’s arms above, when arms are marshalled via impaling they are both squeezed in their entirety into their respective portions.


Related links:


(note: all images created by me with clipart from Wikipedia)