Portal:Heraldry

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Welcome to the Heraldry and Vexillology Portal!

Flags of the Nordic countries
A herald wearing a tabard

Vexillology (from the Latin vexillum, a flag or banner) is the scholarly study of flags, including the creation and development of a body of knowledge about flags of all types, their forms and functions, and of scientific theories and principles based on that knowledge. Flags were originally used to assist military coordination on the battlefield, and have evolved into a general tool for signalling and identification, particularly identification of countries.

Heraldry encompasses all of the duties of a herald, including the science and art of designing, displaying, describing and recording coats of arms and badges, as well as the formal ceremonies and laws that regulate the use and inheritance of arms. The origins of heraldry lie in the medieval need to distinguish participants in battles or jousts, whose faces were hidden by steel helmets.

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Example of arms attributed to Jesus from the 15th-century Hyghalmen Roll, based on the instruments of the Passion

Attributed arms are coats of arms given to legendary figures, or to notable persons from times before the rise of heraldry. Beginning in the 12th century, imaginary arms were assigned to the knights of the Round Table, and soon arms were given to biblical figures, to Roman and Greek heroes, and to kings and popes who had not historically borne arms. The specific arms could vary, but the arms for major figures soon became fixed.

Notable arms attributed to biblical figures include the arms of Jesus based on the instruments of the Passion, and the shield of the Trinity. Medieval literature attributed coats of arms to the Nine Worthies, including Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and King Arthur. Arms were given to many kings predating heraldry, including Edward the Confessor and William I of England. These attributed arms were sometimes used in practice as quarterings in the arms of their descendants. (more...)

Selected flag

The Australian Flag at full mast.

The flag of Australia was chosen in 1901 from entries in a worldwide design competition held following Federation. It was approved by Australian and British authorities over the next few years, although the exact specifications of the flag were changed several times both intentionally and as a result of confusion. The current specifications were published in 1934, and in 1954 the flag became legally recognised as the "Australian National Flag". The flag is a defaced Blue Ensign: a blue field with the Union Flag in the canton (upper hoist quarter), and a large white seven-pointed star known as the Commonwealth Star in the lower hoist quarter. The fly contains a representation of the Southern Cross constellation, made up of five white stars – one small five-pointed star and four, larger, seven-pointed stars. (more...)

Selected biography

Sir Bernard Burke as Ulster King of Arms in 1867

Sir John Bernard Burke (January 5, 1814 - December 12, 1892) was a British officer of arms and genealogist. He was born in London, and was educated in London and in France. His father, John Burke (1787-1848), was also a genealogist, and in 1826 issued a Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the United Kingdom. This work, generally known as Burke's Peerage, has been issued annually starting in 1847. While practising as a barrister Bernard Burke assisted his father in his genealogical work, and in 1848 took control of his publications. (more...)

Selected picture

Coat of Arms of Austria-Hungary

Coat of Arms of Austria-Hungary, designed in 1915 in order to replace an older coat of arms, also used as the coat of arms of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and for other countries under Austro-Hungarian rule.

Did you know...

Flag of Brisbane

  • ...that the three caducei on the Flag of Brisbane (pictured) represent Hermes' role as the protector of commerce, and not its more familiar meaning associated with medicine?
  • ...that while the 126.8 metre Raghadan Flagpole is both earthquake and weather-resistant, the 60 metre by 30 metre Flag of Jordan that it flies must be lowered during high winds due to excessive noise?

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