Posts tagged ‘Heraldry’

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)


Genealogical and heraldic formal education

Heraldic and genealogical studies have the distinction of requiring high academic standards in its research, to be taken seriously, but there is very little formal training and education available from traditional educational institutions. The vast majority of us in these fields are amateurs, in the original sense of the word (look it up).

Therefore, it is exciting to see that some universities take these fields seriously enough to establish some educational programs around them.

The list below is not intended to be comprehensive or all inclusive but, it will be an ever growing list (kind of like the list of heraldic artists I have):

  • University of Strathclyde: Offers a Genealogical Studies Postgraduate Programme offering postgraduate certificates and diplomas via distance education. Graduates of the Diploma program have the option to continue their education and receive a MSc.
  • University of Dundee: Offers a Heralrdy Course (only) that is part of its Postgraduate Certificate in Family and Local History, or as part of the University of Dundee’s Masters degree in Archives and Records Management.
  • Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED): A top Spanish university, offers three levels of education via distance education at a postgraduate level also that covers not only heraldry and genealogy but also nobiliary law. The levels are “Expert”, “Specialist” and “Master” in the mentioned areas. Naturally, the language of the program is Spanish.

At this point, I’d like to quote Martin Goldstraw from his excellent Cheshire Heraldry blog where he said:

Courses of this nature can’t be a bad thing however I can’t help but think that once universities get involved we are only one step away from the view often nowadays held by academics that unless one has a recognised qualification in a particular subject one can’t possibly know anything about it.

I agree with this sentiment and would hate for this happen.


Adoption and Heraldry

Arms of Joseph McMillan

The American Heraldry Society (AHS) is very much respected in the heraldic world and maintains one of the most popular forums dedicated to heraldry in the English language. What especially differentiates the AHS from the other societies and forums is the particular focus on heraldry in the United States, taking into account the mixed heritage of its people and the intricacies of its Constitution.

A thread was recently started in the forum of the AHS dealing with the question of how to differentiate the arms of adopted children vis a vis those of biological children.

As expected, the thread evoked a flurry of responses and examples of what happens in other countries were brought up.

Some jurisdictions, such as England and Scotland, have developed elaborate practices on how to differentiate the arms that children inherit and have devised special marks for adopted and “illegitimate” children. For example in England, just like a second-born son would differentiate the arms with a crescent, an adopted child would use a chain link to denote the “link” to the adoptive family.

However, as the AHS covers the United States, what happens elsewhere is not really relevant.

Joseph McMillan, whose arms are at the top of this post, is the Director of Research for the Society and also a member of its Board of Directors. He has a very deep and extensive knowledge in heraldry and has published numerous articles in academic journals both in the USA and abroad. He very clearly put together the most reasonable position, that I agree with 100%, and is very much in line with the traditions and laws of the United States.

Here is his post:

Let me preface this with the obligatory acknowledgement that I know this is a free country, everyone can do heraldically whatever he pleases, and no one elected me the heraldry czar. (I would, however, ask that a family that adopted arms two weeks or two years ago not try to dignify these whims under the heading of “custom.”)

Now here’s why differencing for adoption in the United States is un-heraldic and even un-American.

The English rule requiring a mark of difference to be added to arms inherited by an adopted child is justified on the grounds that the English adoption statute excludes adopted children from succeeding to dignities. Arms were famously described by the Court of Chivalry in the 1954 Manchester case as being “in the nature of a dignity.” But in the United States arms cannot possibly be in the nature of a dignity, because American law does not recognize the existence of inherited dignities.

Furthermore, applying the English (or Scottish) practice on this matter to American arms is anachronistic. Modern adoption–that is, the kind of adoption in which the child of perfect strangers becomes a legally full-fledged member of another family–is a distinctively American invention that was introduced in the mid-19th century. It wasn’t until 1926 that such adoptions were possible in the UK, and some time after that that the kings of arms came up with the chain-link difference to signify that a child was adopted. By that time, we in the United States had been adopting children and presumably allowing them to inherit arms on level terms with their siblings for the better part of a century.

Finally, consider that the reason the English heralds devised a difference for adopted children in the first place was that there was, in their view, a legal distinction between biological and adopted children that still had to be signified in the arms. It is the same logic that drives them to insist on differences for bastardy and, until recently, to insist that married women could only bear arms impaled with those of their husbands. In all these cases, the heraldic “sign” signified a reality that existed in the law of the land outside of heraldry. The same is true of the logic behind differencing for cadency.

But ever since adoption as we know it was invented, the laws in the United States have always treated adopted children as fully equal to biological children. For example, the first modern adoption statute, the Massachusetts Adoption of Children Act of 1851, states: “A child so adopted, as aforesaid, shall be deemed, for the purposes of inheritance and succession by such child, custody of the person and right of obedience by such parent or parents by adoption, and all other legal consequences and incidents of the natural relation of parents and children, the same to all intents and purposes as if such child had been born in lawful wedlock of such parents or parent by adoption, saving only that such child shall not be deemed capable of taking property expressly limited to the heirs of the body or bodies of such petitioner or petitioners.” To require differencing for adoption in the United States would therefore be to impose the use of a sign when there’s nothing substantive for it to signify.

Which strikes me as bad heraldry.

Joseph McMillan, posted on May 9 2011 in the forums of the American Heraldry Society

I don’t think any commentary is necessary as the above stands on its own.


Heraldic privileges of the Knights of the Order of the Eagle of Georgia

Order of the Eagle of GeorgiaInsignia of the Order of the Eagle of Georgia
(source: Georgian Heraldry blog)

Recently, I was honored to be admitted into the Order of the Eagle of Georgia and the Seamless Tunic of our Lord Jesus Christ (or Order of the Eagle of Georgia for short).

Naturally, as a heraldic enthusiast, my first question was “what are my heraldic privileges?”. The reason for the question was to understand how I can incorporate the Order (and my rank therein) into my achievement of arms. I know that some Orders allow their knights to place their shields atop the cross of the Order (such as the Order of St. John, the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, etc.) while others allow a full ribbon or collar.

For reference, these are the ranks within the Order:

  • Grand Collar
  • Grand Cross
  • Grand Officer
  • Knight Commander
  • Knight

Unfortunately, no immediate answer was found nor was much published on the official site of the Royal House of Georgia and of the dynastic orders. Many were assuming/guessing but, nothing definitive while more than one person said that there weren’t any official heraldic rules instituted within the Order.

However, I felt that it couldn’t be the case. Especially considering that the Order has an office of Herald of the Order occupied by none other than José María de Montells y Galán, Viscount Portadei and one of the top heraldic experts in Spain. This prompted me to do further research.

In the end, I did find the information I needed by either inferring it or seeing it mentioned explicitly.

First of all, let’s cover the specific privileges of the various ranks of the Order of the Eagle:

  • Knights Grand Collar and Knights Grand Cross may encircle their arms with the Collar of the Order
  • Knights Grand Officer may use a circular ribbon 3/4 around their arms
  • Knights Commander and Knights may drape the medal of the Order beneath their arms

This was finally validated after a series of email exchanges with the Royal House of Georgia where it was also confirmed to me that there is a Georgian College of Arms!


Order of the Eagle of Georgia - Grand CollarGrand Collar of the Order of the Eagle of Georgia
(source: Official site of the Royal House of Georgia)

However, these privileges are not automatic.

As the Royal House mentioned to me in our email exchanges, the privilege is granted after a knight petitions the Grand Master in writing and the authorization is given, also in writing. This is the outline of the process:

  1. A formal request for the authorization to display the insignia of the Order with one’s arms needs to be submitted to the College of Arms. The petition includes the blazon of the arms along with any supporting documentation and other information available, as well as an image.
  2. The College of Arms reviews the petition and performs an investigation to confirm that the arms of the petitioner are unique and not claimed by any other knight of the Order and meet the criteria of the College.
  3. If the arms are found to meet the criteria of the College and, in their opinion, the petitioner is the legal owner of the arms the knight is invited to request to have his arms officially registered and confirmed with the College.
  4. Once the process of registration with the Georgian College of Arms is completed, then and only then is the written authorization to display the insignia granted. A signed document with this permission is mailed to the knight and a duplicate is kept in the Royal Archives.


The official site of the Royal House of Georgia is

Heraldic dictionary – Tinctures part 2

It’s been over a year since I last posted an entry on my internationally known1 heraldic dictionary and now that one of the readers of this blog, Clyde Webb, shared with me some pages from the excellent book “Vocabulaire-Atlas Héraldique” by the Académie Internationale d’Héraldique I decided to share them with everyone.

Thank you Clyde!

1: more than one country = international 🙂