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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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 flag

The Flag of Scotland, the Saltire

The Flag of Scotland, (Scottish Gaelic: Bratach nàiseanta na h-Alba, Scots: Banner o Scotland), also known as Saint Andrew's Cross or The Saltire, is the national flag of Scotland. Consisting of a blue background over which is placed a white representation of an X-shaped cross, the Saltire is one of Scotland's most recognisable symbols.

According to legend, the Christian apostle and martyr Saint Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland, was crucified on an X-shaped cross at Patras, (Patrae), in Achaea. Use of the familiar iconography of his martyrdom, showing the apostle bound to an X-shaped cross, first appears in the Kingdom of Scotland in 1180 during the reign of William I. Use of a simplified symbol associated with Saint Andrew which does not depict his image has its origins in the late 14th century. The earliest reference to the Saint Andrew's Cross as a flag is to be found in the Vienna Book of Hours, circa 1503, where a white saltire is depicted with a red background. In the case of Scotland, use of a blue background for the Saint Andrew's Cross is said to date from at least the 15th century. (more...)

Selected coat of arms

Coat of Arms of Canada (since 1994)

The Royal Coat of Arms of Canada (known formally as the Arms of His/Her Majesty in Right of Canada) is, since 1921, the official coat of arms of the Canadian monarch, and thus also of Canada. It is closely modelled after the royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom with distinctive Canadian elements replacing or added to those derived from the British.

The maple leaves in the shield, blazoned "proper", were originally drawn vert (green) but were redrawn gules (red) in 1957. A circlet of the Order of Canada was added to the arms for limited use in 1987. The shield design forms the Royal Standard of Canada, and the shield is found on the Canadian Red Ensign. The Flag of the Governor General of Canada, which formerly used the shield over the Union Jack, now uses the crest of the arms on a blue field. (more...)

Selected picture

A caricature of Sir Alfred Scott-Gatty

A caricature of Sir Alfred Scott-Gatty, Garter Principal King of Arms, from the 1 December 1904 edition of Vanity Fair painted by Sir Leslie Ward.

Did you know...

Flag of Denmark

  • ...that the Dannebrog (pictured) is the oldest state flag in the world still in use, with the earliest undisputed source dating back to the 14th century?

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