Family History ACT

The Heraldry & Genealogy Society of Canberra Inc.


Heraldry Special Interest Group

Convenor: Niel Gunson

SIG Purpose: Please see the links below.

Meeting Time: The Heraldry group meets on the third Thursday at 8pm every even month except December, when there is usually a Christmas get together.

Contact: Convenor Niel Gunson on 6248 0971 or the Heraldry Liaison Contact Chris Lindesay on 6254 6211.

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About Heraldry

by Ian Mackay, FHGSC

The knights of mediaeval Europe decorated their military equipment and other belongings with a variety of colourful designs. Sometimes, because he used a simple design in bright contrasting colours, a knight was easy to identify. For example, he might have chosen a white outfit and added a large red cross to his banner, his surcoat and shield, and placed a few similar crosses in prominent positions on his horse-cloth. Such a knight could be recognised by his military equipment, that is to say his arms and armour, which were commonly referred to simply as his arms. The design he used, in this case a white background with a red cross, was called a 'cognisance'. Eventually every knight used a cognisance, and every cognisance was supposed to be different.

Knights spent only part of their lives on the battlefield. Most of them were landowners and passed many years peacefully at home attending to the daily business of their estates. Like any business today, this involved numerous documents, and, although we sign documents nowadays, it was customary to attach a wax seal to them in mediaeval times. A knight's cognisance, displayed on a little shield, was the central feature of his seal, and there his cognisance performed exactly the same task as a signature. Seals were also used by civilians, clergymen for instance, and city councils too. These people all designed cognisances for themselves or their councils, just as the knights were doing, and these civilian cognisances were even shown on seals in the same knightly fashion - engraved on shields.

About the year 1125 it became the rule for a knight's cognisance to be inherited by his heir, who was usually his eldest surviving son. During his father's lifetime the heir-to-be used the same cognisance as his father, which he expected to inherit one day, but altered it slightly with a temporary addition to avoid confusion. We call an alteration of this sort a 'difference'. A typical difference was a narrow stripe right across the cognisance. When the father died the difference was discarded. Younger sons, and sometimes their father's tenants too, tended to employ the same basic design with a permanent and more striking alteration, such as a different colour-scheme. More variations could be made when they ran out of colour-schemes by adding a star or a crescent, and so on.

A woman's cognisance was produced by adding the right-hand half of her husband's design to the left-hand half of her father's. We call this method of making a new cognisance 'dimidiation'. It became more usual however for the whole of the men's designs to be brought together side-by-side, and this practice is called 'impalement'. Either system created an entirely new and different cognisance for every married woman. Clothing was often used by women to display their cognisances, in which case the husband's portion occupied all the garment's right-hand side and the father's all the left. Alternatively the entire surface of one garment featured the father's design while the husband's appeared similarly on a mantle or cloak worn over it. A third method of display was to use material covered with a pattern of dimidiation or impaled shields. It was not unusual for mens' duties to be performed by women, who also used seals, managed estates when necessary, and used their cognisances accordingly.

For 250 years or so armory (the design, use, and inheritance of these cognisances) was a practical matter governed largely by the common sense of the men and women concerned. Meanwhile heralds had acquired a professional interest in armory. They acted as messengers, identified casualties on the battlefield, and were employed in the organisation of tournaments. They also assisted during marriages, funerals, coronations, and other ceremonial occasions. All these activities involved the identification and display of cognisances, and heralds came to be regarded as authorities on the subject of armory, which is popularly called 'heraldry' as a result.

The military value of our colourful individualistic knights was gradually diminished. By the 16th century knightly cognisances were no longer a striking feature of the battlefield. On the other hand prosperous merchants and money-lenders had become powerful members of the community at home, but they were still regarded as an inferior breed. However, if they believed themselves to be inferior it was possible for them to rectify the situation. Senior heralds, called 'Kings of Arms', had already been given the authority to grant knightly cognisances to applicants who were not knights, and many people came to think of such cognisances as indicating social superiority rather than as a means of identification. Heralds appear to have shared this attitude. It seems that they misinterpreted or forgot the uncomplicated and unaffected practice of the first 250 years. In England they introduced one or two unnecessary innovations, all of which emphasised family or social status. One innovation was a quite unworkable system intended to indicate every junior male descendant's exact relationship to the ancestral head of his family by an assertment of little marks on their cognisances. These are called 'differences for cadency' and are hardly ever used beyond one or two generations, with the result that many people in England have used identical cognisances. This has led to the belief that persons sharing a surname are all entitled to a certain cognisance, and this in turn has led to the sale of so-called 'family crests' over the counter according to the customers' surnames. Apart from any decorative value they may possess, these things are quite worthless.

A knight often had two cognisances. The principal one was the two-dimensional design already mentioned which decorated his banner, surcoat, shield and indeed any surface. Through misunderstanding, this cognisance (singular) has come to be called 'arms' (plural). The other cognisance was a three-dimensional device, an animal's head for example, which was attached to the top of the knight's helm and sometimes to the head of his horse too. This secondary cognisance is called a 'crest'. For the purposes of illustration a knight's two-dimensional cognisance was always shown decorating a shield, which was slung beneath a helm bearing his crest if he had one. This continues to be the popular method of illustrating a person's two cognisances, his 'arms and crest', and an illustration of this sort is called an 'achievement'.

There is no essential difference between personal achievements and those of corporate bodies (that is to say societies, commercial organisation, municipal councils, governments and the like). However any corporate body may be granted a pair of 'supporters', which are otherwise allowed only to Peers and a few other high-ranking individuals. A supporter may be any variety of creature imaginable and it is depicted on one side of the shield as if supporting it, with its companion (often of a different species) doing likewise on the other. Creatures of one sort of another were sometimes included in the design of seals by mediaeval artists simply to fill space. Seals with such additional ornament probably cost more, resulting in a tendency for them to be owned by the more prosperous high-ranking members of society, which may account for supporters eventually becoming status-symbols.

In the 16th century seals went out of fashion in favour of signatures, and the public display of personal cognisances subsided, but the Kings of Arms, the Heralds and junior heralds called 'Pursuivants of Arms', continued to be succeeded in office. To this day they perform duties associated with coronations, state funerals and certain other ceremonial occasions, and the Kings of Arms still grant cognisances to individuals and corporate bodies. Such grants are made by means of 'letters patent', which are open documents issued on behalf of the Crown. Those concerning cognisances are called 'grants of arms' or 'confirmation of arms'. A confirmation is made when it can be proved that an applicant is entitled to a cogniance by inheritance. This process requires genealogical research, a field in which heralds also specialise.

In the text of every grant and confirmation is a description of the cognisance being granted or confirmed. This description is phrased in technical language and is called a 'blazon'. A coloured illustration is usually provided too, but it is only one artist's version of the blazon, which, in fact, may be interpreted correctly in innumerable ways. The cognisance itself is not altered, but the style and manner of its presentation can be modified to suit all purposes and tastes. It is as if blazon determined the spelling and colour-scheme of a name-plate, while the proportions and shape of the name-plate, the materials used to make it and the style of lettering chosen, were entirely up to the owner and the craftsmen working for him.

That is a very brief and incomplete account of armory. What, then, is a 'coat of arms'? This term has been used rather carelessly. It is Caxton's literal translation of a French term, 'cotte d'armes'. The mediaeval English term for this garment worn over a man's armour was 'cotearmure'. Although a cotearmure was not necessarily decorated with a man's cognisance, the practice nevertheless became so common that the word 'cotearmure' came to be substituted for 'cognisance'. 'Cotearmure' was eventually modernised to 'coat armour', but authors now use it as a generic term roughly equivalent to 'armory'. On the other hand Caxton's 'coat of arms' became a popular synonym for 'cognisance', for which there is some historical justification. Unfortunately even authorities on armory sometimes refer to a whole achievement as a 'coat of arms', and this sort of thing leads to confusion.

† The late Ian Mackay designed the Society's badge.

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Q.1What does the word “Arms” mean in the context of heraldry?
A.The word “Arms” in the heraldic context (as in “coat of Arms”) refers to a distinctive design worn on a knight's shield, his banner, and elsewhere on his clothing that enabled him to be identified in battle.  A knight in full armour, including a face-covering helmet, was difficult to identify without these distinctive insignia.  A coat of Arms is depicted on a shield, referring to the origin of the term.
Q.1How did the term “coat of Arms” originate and what does it mean?
A.The term “coat of Arms” is derived from the cloth garment or surcoat that a knight wore over his armour.  On the front and back of the surcoat there would often be displayed the knight's arms.  Originally the surcoat was full length, reaching almost to the ankles; it was sleeveless and was split at front and back to allow the material to hang freely when the wearer was riding his horse.
Q.2What is the connection, if any, among heraldry, genealogy and family history?
A.Heraldry can be regarded as the root from which genealogy and family history grew and developed.  This is because genealogical studies developed from the work of Heralds in recording pedigrees in order to determine lines of succession and the rights of individuals to inherit arms.  All modern library systems recognise this and regard genealogy and heraldry as two faces of the same genre; and similarly, all booksellers group the two together, usually in the reference section.
D'Arcy Arms A.D. 1300
Q.3Is there a family or clan coat of Arms, and can all people with the same surname use the same arms?
A.No.  There is no such thing as a coat of Arms for a family, clan or surname.  A coat of Arms is a visual mark of identity of an individual.  There is an ancient heraldic principle which states that each person's coat of Arms is unique to that individual and cannot be used by anybody else.  In Scotland, a Chief of a Clan has his or her personal coat of Arms that belongs to that individual alone.  A member of the clan or a person with the same surname may, with the Lord Lyon's approval, have a variation or a “differenced” version of the Chief's Arms by way of different tinctures (colours), bordures or other devices to make the Arms unique to the individual seeking Arms.  A clan member may also use the clan badge consisting of the Chief's “crest” (see next Q.4) within a belt and buckle design containing the Chief's motto.
Q.4Is the crest the same thing as a coat of Arms?
A.No.  The word “crest” is often misused, particularly by the popular press, as a general overall description for a coat of Arms. The word “crest” has the same meaning in heraldry as in the dictionary, namely “on the top of” as in “crest of a wave” or “crest of the hill” or a Cockatoo's crest.  In heraldry it refers to the three-dimensional object on top of the helmet, which itself is on top of the shield on which the Arms are shown.  The Arms themselves are depicted on the shield.  The shield is the essential part of a coat of Arms.  Without it the device may be more correctly called a badge, emblem or a logo.  (See the labelled illustration of the various elements that make up the full achievement of Arms).
Q.5Is the “Bar Sinister” a mark of illegitimacy?
A.In heraldry there is no such thing as the “bar sinister”.  When people talk about the “bar sinister” they are referring to the couped (cut of at both ends) bendlet sinister.  A bendlet sinister extends from the top left (sinister) to the bottom right of the shield.  This is just one of the many marks of cadency to differentiate one coat of arms from another and does not necessarily mean illegitimacy.  The origin of the “bar sinister' may have come from the French “barre” which is always in the sinister position, so the term “bar sinister” is incorrect and is an example of heraldic tautology.
Q.6Why are there marks of illegitimacy?
A.Where marks of illegitimacy were used, they were not used to denote punishment or disgrace.  They were used simply to denote that the illegitimate child (particularly if he were a first born male) could not inherit his father's arms unchanged.  He could carry his father's arms provided they were so marked to indicate that he was establishing a separate branch of the family without any right of succession to the unchanged arms.  Some of the illegitimate sons of King Charles II bore the Royal Arms debruised by a “baton sinister”, as do the illegitimate male descendants of King William IV.  (The term 'debruised' indicates a charge in front of or obscuring another).
Q.7Why is the description of coats of Arms made in what seems to be an arcane or technical language instead of plain English so that everyone can understand it?
A.Blazon, which is the technical term for describing the details of a coat of Arms, evolved so that heralds, in whatever country they may be, could describe a coat of Arms precisely, clearly and briefly.  The technical terms in a blazon are in Norman French, reflecting their origin.  Although blazon may seem strange to the uninitiated, it performs the same function that musical notation does on a sheet of music enabling the musician to reproduce sounds the way the composer intended.  Blazon allows the heraldic artist to reproduce accurately the design on the shield as the herald intended.  The use of plain English, by way of contrast, would tend to be verbose and open to widely different interpretations thereby destroying the integrity of the original design.
A example of the difference between a blazon and a plain English description is highlighted in that of the NSW State Arms:
Arms: Azure a cross Argent voided Gules charged in the centre chief point with a lion passant guardant, and on each member with a mullet of eight points Or between in the first and fourth quarters a fleece of the last banded of the second and in the second and third quarters a garb also Or.  And for the crest on a wreath of the colours a rising sun each ray tagged with a flame of fire proper.  And for the supporters on the dexter side a lion rampant quadrant; and on the sinister side a kangaroo both Or.  Together with this motto “Orta Recens Quam Pura Nites”. The shield is blue with a cross overall, which is coloured red with a narrow white edging. In the centre of the cross is a yellow lion advancing to the observer's left with its head turned towards the observer and right paw raised. On each arm of the cross is an eight-pointed yellow star. On the blue background in each of the top left and bottom right corners is a yellow sheep hanging from a white band and in each of the top right and bottom left corners is a sheaf of wheat in yellow. The crest is above the shield and consists of a band of six twisted strands coloured alternately white and blue, above which is a half risen sun with nine yellow rays which alternate straight and wavy with each ray tipped by a red flame. The supporters are, from the perspective of the viewer, to the left of the shield, a lion, and to the right of the shield, a kangaroo. Both supporters are coloured in shades of yellow. The lion is standing vertically on its hind legs facing the shield with its head turned towards the observer displaying a red tongue. The kangaroo is standing facing the shield with its head facing forward to the shield. The paws of each supporter are positioned as if they are holding the shield by its tops and side edges. The motto is on a pink and yellow ribbon below the shield on which are written the Latin words “Orta Recens Quam Pura Nites” which translates into English as “Newly risen, how brightly you shine”.
Q.8Do you have to pronounce heraldic terms (blazon) with a French accent?
A.No.  Blazonry in English is pronounced phonetically.  Gules (red) is pronounced with a hard “G”, Argent (silver) is ar-gent and so on.
Q.9Why do heralds confuse people by calling the right side of the shield sinister, which means left, and the left side dexter which means right?
A.The sides of the shield (arms) are described from the point of the armiger standing behind his shield.  Therefore the armiger's right is the viewer's left and his left is the viewer's right.
Q.10Are the colours used in heraldry fixed in any way and do they have any particular significance?
A.No.  There are no fixed shades in heraldry.  The blazon (description) of a coat of Arms provides the colours (tinctures) as Gules (red), Azure (blue), Sable (black), Vert (green), Purpure (purple).  There are two metals, namely Or (gold) and Argent (silver).  Other colours are called stains and consist of Murrey (mulberry) , Tenne (orange), and Sanguine (blood red).  Sometimes other stains are encountered such as Celestial azure (sky blue) and Carnation ('skin' tone).  It is up to the heraldic artist to decide upon the shade he or she thinks is most appropriate for the whole design.
Typically the following Red-Green-Blue (RGB) and hexadecimal colour values are used:
ColourRGB valueHex value
Or(255, 255, 0)#FFFF00
Argent(240, 240, 240)  #F0F0F0
Gules(255, 0, 0)#FF0000
Azure(0, 0, 255)#0000FF
Sable(0, 0, 0)#000000
Vert(0, 150, 0)#009600
Purpure(170, 0, 170)#AA00AA
Murrey(140, 0, 75)#8C004B
Tenne(250, 150, 50)#FA9632
Sanguine(190, 0, 0)#BE0000
Celestial azure  (150, 200, 250)#96C8FA
Carnation(255, 204, 204)#FFCCCC
Q.11Who can have a coat of Arms?
A.In Australia there is no heraldic authority to administer and regulate Arms so there is a legal vacuum as to which individuals or groups are eligible to apply for arms.  In practice any adult, male or female, may have a coat of arms granted to them by an officially recognised overseas heraldic authority (which would be authentic), or may self-assume arms (which would not be authentic).  (See also below).
Q.12How and where do I apply for a coat of Arms?
A.Australians who can prove they are of English descent may apply, by way of a petition, to the English College of Arms in London; those of Scottish ancestry to the Court of the Lord Lyon King of Arms in Edinburgh; and those of Irish ancestry to the Chief Herald of Ireland in Dublin.  Australians may also apply for registration of arms by the South African Bureau of Heraldry.
Q.13Can a person who is not of English, Scottish or Irish ancestry apply for Arms?
A.Yes, if they are an Australian citizen.  They can apply to the English College of Arms for a grant of Arms as that organisation asserts it has the right to grant Arms to any of Her Majesty's subjects where there is no indigenous heraldic body in the Commonwealth country in which they reside and where the Queen is still Head of State.
Q.14Can anyone who is descended from someone who had a coat of Arms use it?
A.No.  A coat of Arms belongs to, and is unique to, an individual at any one time.  For a person to have the right to a coat of Arms they must either have it granted to them or be descended in a legitimate line of descent from a person to whom Arms were granted or confirmed in the past.  As a general rule the Arms pass from the original grantee to his eldest son and continue on to the next eldest son in each succeeding generation.  In Scotland a person, depending on their familial relationship and surname, may apply for a “differenced” version of a particular coat of Arms.  (See Q.3 above).
Q.15I have located “my” coat of Arms on the Internet.  Can I use it?
A.No.  Unfortunately many websites which purport to show Arms belonging to a particular name are misleading and completely unauthentic.  Usually the Arms shown are those of prominent people or the Chief of a Clan.  To use these Arms as though they are yours is akin to fraud.  It is no different to stealing another person's passport or driver's licence and using or passing it off as your own.
Q.16I have bought “my” coat of Arms from a heraldic shop.  Is it authentic and can I display and use it?
A.No, in so far as using the Arms as though they are yours (See Q.15 above).  However, tt is important to note the distinction between the display of Arms and the use of Arms.  A person may purchase a copy of the Arms, for display purposes only, of his or her school, college, university, institution or organisation as a means of showing their association or allegiance.  The display of Arms as distinct from using them is perfectly legitimate as it can be regarded as a souvenir.
Q.17What is the relevance of heraldry in the 21st Century?
A.There are several possible reasons why this question is asked.  Many people are completely unaware that heraldry is all around them and continues to be a part of their everyday life.  The arms of the Nation, the State or Territory, the local municipal council, schools, universities, commercial concerns and other various organisations and associations are on buildings, on letterheads, legal documents and other artefacts, and help in their respective identification.  This public display and use of arms is a manifestation of the various interests and loyalties that interact with one another and make up our pluralist society.  The current use of logos by various organisations is an indication that a need for a visual symbol of identity is still important in the 21st Century.  Heraldry can meet this need in a more timeless way that transcends quickly outdated fashions like logos, which tend to have short “flavour of the month” lives.
Q.18In modern society isn't the display and use of arms pretentious and rather snobbish?
A.No.  It is most unfortunate that there is sometimes a suspicion that heraldry is somehow associated with snobbery.  This attitude could also be a reason why many armigers (people entitled to bear Arms) are reluctant to openly display their armorial bearings in the belief that to do so would be seen as pretentious.  Coats of Arms are visual symbols of identity; the use of Arms can only be considered pretentious if they were used without authority and deliberately used and displayed as if they were legitimate.  It is interesting to note that the association of heraldry with snobbery coincided with the rise of the industrialist, merchant and middle classes during the latter part of the 18th Century and in the 19th Century which, in the main, assumed arms in an attempt to raise their social standing.
Q.19I have a coat of Arms granted by an overseas heraldic authority.  Is this protected in Australia?
A.No.  At present the only way to obtain legal protection is to register an illustration of the Arms with IP Australia at the federal level and with the relevant state or territory organisation dealing with title deeds etc.  This can be an expensive exercise if you want Australia-wide coverage.  Creation of an Australian Heraldic Authority would rectify this situation.
Q.20Is there an official body that administers and regulates heraldry in Australia?
A.No.  At present there is no official heraldic organisation in Australia so there is a legal vacuum as to the usage and protection of Arms in Australia.  HAGSOC supports the creation of an Australian Heraldic Authority.
Q.21Why does Australia need its own heraldic authority when coats of Arms can be registered with IP Australia?
A.The staff of IP Australia probably will not have any expertise with the rules of heraldry because they are not responsible for the administration of heraldry in Australia.  Consequently when a coat of Arms is submitted to them for registration they will most likely not be concerned whether the Arms are authentic or not.  Nor will they check with overseas heraldic authorities as to whether the arms have already been granted to somebody else who is an Australian citizen.  Their main concern will be to check that the design of the Arms is not the same as any design (as a logo or a trademark) already entered in their Register.  Should the design of the arms prove to be original, in so far as they are concerned, it will most likely be registered as submitted.  IP Australia only registers a design for 10 years, after which time the protection must be renewed.  Only an Australian Heraldic Authority will be able to protect and maintain the integrity of arms granted to Australian citizens, in perpetuity.
Q.22Will members of the HAGSOC heraldry interest group design arms for me?
A.Some individuals within the group may be prepared to undertake this as a private commission.  The group is happy to comment on and make recommendations on the design of any arms.
Q.23Does the HAGSOC heraldry interest group undertake research?
A.The group undertakes heraldic research at the current HAGSOC scale of research fees.

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Heraldic Authority

Australia has no indigenous heraldic authority. The Heraldry & Genealogy Society of Canberra believes that such an authority should be available for all Australians.

There is a need for an Australian heraldic authority that would provide an indigenous mechanism for granting new coats of arms to Australian communities, corporations, associations and individuals. It would also offer a unique way of honouring the symbols of Australia’s aboriginal peoples and ethnic groups. Such an authority would also record the hundreds of historically and artistically important heraldic symbols that form part of our Australian heritage.

There is a legal vacuum in Australia in the area of heraldry, as we have no legislation relating to coats of arms. The arms of armigerous Australian corporations and persons have no protection unless those arms are registered as trademarks. It could be argued that any Australian group or individual may assume arms of any design at will, provided that these arms differ from those legitimately borne by another. If that is the case, then the need for a registering authority is urgent.

The Heraldry & Genealogy Society of Canberra favours the approach adopted by Canada. In 1988 the Canadian Heraldic Authority was created within the Office of the Governor-General. The principal objective of the Canadian Heraldic Authority is to ensure that all Canadians wishing to use heraldry will have access to it. Since this date, Canadians who wish to acquire arms from a lawfully established authority under the Crown, are no longer obliged to obtain them from one of Her Majesty’s two offices in the United Kingdom, that is the College of Arms in London or the Court of the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh.

Besides the three Authorities mentioned above, many countries have their own heraldic authorities. These include Albania, Belgium, the Holy See, Ireland, Luxembourg, New Zealand, The Netherlands, the Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain and Zimbabwe.

The Heraldry & Genealogy Society of Canberra has made representation to the Australian Government over many years motivating the establishment of an Australian heraldic authority. The first HAGSOC submission to the Governor-General was made in 1990, with a copy sent to the Prime Minister in 1993.

Representation was again made to the Government in 1997 by Stephen Mutch, MP for Cook, on behalf of HAGSOC and the Heraldry & Genealogy Society of South Australia. The key recommendation by HAGSOC in a paper titled The Creation of an Australian Heraldic Authority urges the Governor-General in Council to seek The Queen’s agreement for Her Majesty’s Heraldic Prerogative as Queen of Australia to be exercised by the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia. The paper also recommends that a Working Party under the Chairmanship of the Official Secretary to the Governor-General be established to plan the administrative details for the establishment of the Australian Heraldic Authority.

Prior to this, in 1972, the Heraldry Council of Australia compiled a two-volume Report on Heraldry which was submitted to the Government and various other interested bodies. The report was compiled by three founding members of HAGSOC with the support of many other heraldry and genealogical societies around the country, including The Genealogical Society of Victoria, Inc, The Heraldry & Genealogy Society of Canberra, The Heraldry Society (Australia Branch), The Military Historical Society of Australia, and The Society of Australian Genealogists, Inc. This report recommended that urgent consideration be given to the establishment of an Australia-wide system for heraldic control. It also recommended that Government consider the establishment of a fully autonomous heraldic authority for Australia to grant heraldic insignia to petitioners in this country, as well as merely to record those insignia actually in use here.

The Australian Government’s main objection to establishing an indigenous arms-granting body is based on cost, according to correspondence in 1997 from David Jull, MP, Minister for Administrative Services responsible for Australia’s system of honours and awards and for its national symbols. Until that objection can be overcome, Australian communities, corporations, associations and individuals must continue to apply to the College of Arms or the Court of the Lord Lyon for arms. This approach may discriminate against large sections of our community, including those from European, Asian or Aboriginal backgrounds.

HAGSOC will continue to urge our Government to follow the necessary steps leading to the establishment of an Australian Heraldic Authority.

As an independent sovereign nation Australia should have its own armorial Authority.

Why an Australian Heraldic Authority

Read John Thompson's case for an Australian Heraldic Authority

Read the late Michael D'Arcy's proposal for the creation of Australian Heraldic Authority


A coat of arms for the Australian Capital Territory

HAGSOC supports the initiative to include a coat of arms for the ACT, in addition to that for the city of Canberra. We made asubmission to the Assembly enquiry on the issue. Read our submission here.

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Members Arms

Michael D'Arcy - a founder member of the Society, now deceased

Michael's arms were granted by the College of Arms, London, and signed by J P Brook-Little (Richmond Herald of Arms).

Quarterly: I and VIII, azure semee of crosses crosslet, three cinquefoils argent: II, argent three cinquefoils gules (for D’Arcy ancient); III, gules semee of crosses crosslet an orle Or (for Bertram): IV, quarterly gules and argent (for Tuite): V, sable a chevron ermine between three escallops argent (for Judge): VI, argent a fir tree growing from the middle base vert surmounted by a sword in bend and in chief two ancient crowns proper (for Grierson): VII, argent on a bend purpure three mullets Or (for Cary).
CrestOn a chapeau gules turned up ermine, a bull sable armed Or.
ConfirmedUlster King of Arms, 11 September 1933; additional quartering accepted by College of Arms (Richmond Herald), September 1971, Surrey 24.
BadgeIn 1982 Michael petitioned the College of Arms for a Badge, the full grant of which appears below. The badge, which appears in the left margin of the grant, is blazoned as 'A cross crosslet per pale Argent and Gules surmounted of a Cinquefoil counterchanged'.

Dr W Niel Gunson

Niel's arms were granted by the Kings of Arms on 19 December 1969 (Earl Marshal's Warrant 24 July 1969).
Azure, on three Bars each engrailed on the upper edge Or nine Gunstones, in chief a Cannon dismounted fesswise between two Rams' heads caboshed Or.
CrestOn a Wreath of the Colours, out of a Plume of Emu Feathers a dexter Hand proper holding a Horse shoe inverted Sable, thereon a Fleur-de-lys Or.

Dr J Michael Crawford - a founder member of the Society, now deceased

Michael's arms were signed by the Lord Lyon King of Arms on 7 April 1969 and the grant is dated 7 April 1969 (LII, 25). A bookplate based on his arms is illustrated below.

Per fess Gules and Sable, on a Fess Ermine a Martlet Azure, between a Mullet Argent accompanied by two Escallops Or in chief, and a Boar's head erased Or, armed Argent and langued Gules, in base. A label in chief for difference. Upon the escutcheon is placed a helmet befitting his degree, with a Mantling Gules doubled Argent.
CrestOn a Wreath of his Liveries, a Martlet Azure accompanied by two Stag antlers Or.

A Ian Mackay - a founder member of the Society, now deceased

Ian's arms were granted by the Lord Lyon King of Arms on 27 July 1966 (L.R. XLVIII 45).

Azure, on a Chevron Argent between two Bear's heads couped of the second in chief, each muzzled Gules, and an Escallop of the second in base, a Mullet of the first between two Dirks, points towards the Mullet Sable, a Chief enarched paly-bendy of the second and fourth.
CrestOn a Wreath of the Liveries, within a Fetterlock Gules, a Castle of two towers Sable, masoned Argent, turret-caps Sable, windows and port Vert, and behind the Fetterlock three Peacocks' feathers proper.

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Heraldry Books


A Complete Guide to Heraldry by Fox Davies A. C. (1985). Revised by J. P. Brooke-Little.

A Grammar of English Heraldry by Hope W. H. St J. (1953). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 100pp.

A Guide to Heraldry by Neubecker O. (1981). Cassell, London, 264pp.

An Heraldic Alphabet by Brooke-Little J. P. (1975). Macdonald and Co.

An Outline of Heraldry in England and Scotland by Innes-Smith R. (1980). Pilgrim Press Ltd, Derby, 24pp.

Boutell's Heraldry by Brooke-Little J. P. (1983). Frederick Warne and Co. Ltd., London, 316pp.

Heraldry by Paston-Bedingfeld H. and Gwynn-Jones P. (1993). PRC Publishing Ltd., London, 160pp.

Heraldry. Its Origins and Meaning by Pastoureau M. (1997). Thames and Hudson Ltd., London, 144pp.

Simple Heraldry Cheerfully Illustrated by Moncreiffe I. and Pottinger D. (1953). Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, London, 64pp.

Sources, Symbols and Meaning by Neubecker O. (1976) Heraldry.. McGraw-Hill Book Co., London, 288pp.

The Art of Heraldry by von Volborth, C. A., (1987). Tiger Books International, London, 224pp.

The Observer's Book of Heraldry by MacKinnon C. (1966). Frederick Warne and Co. Ltd., London, 150pp.

The Oxford Guide to Heraldry by Woodcock T. and Robinson J. M. (1990). Oxford University Press, Oxford, 233pp.

The Romance of Heraldry by Scott-Giles C. W. (1967). J M Dent & Sons Ltd., London.


Canting and Allusive Arms of England and Wales by Hall W.

General Armory of England, Scotland and Wales by Burke.

Heralds of Today by Chesshyre H. and Ailes A. (1981). Van Duren Publishers Ltd., 71pp.

Scots Heraldry by Sir Thomas Innes of Learney (1978).

Australian and foreign arms

A Roll of Australian Arms by Low C. (1971). Rigby Ltd, Adelaide, 184pp.

Armorial General by Rietstap J B.

Commonwealth Coat of Arms by Commonwealth of Australia (1985). Department of Administrative Services, Canberra, 11pp.

Heraldry of the World by von Volborth C. A. (1973). Blandford Press, London, 251pp.

Heraldry, Customs, Rules and Styles by von Volborth C. A. (1983).

Royal heraldry

Lines of Succession. Heraldry of the Royal Families of Europe by Louda J. and Maclagan M. (1981). Macdonald Illustrated, London, 308pp.

Royal Heraldry of England by Pinches JH and RV (1974). Heraldry Today, London, 334pp.

Royal Heraldry. Beasts and Badges of Britain by Brooke-Little J. P. (1978). Pilgrim Press Ltd, Derby, 24pp.

Church heraldry

An Armorial of the Hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Australia by McCarthy M. F. (1998). Thylacine Press, 194pp.

Armorial by Heim B. B. (1981). Van Duren, Gerards Cross, England, 224pp.

Cardinals & Heraldry by Elvins M. T. (1988). Buckland Publications Ltd, London, 163pp.

Church & Heraldry by Storry J. G. (1983). The Nettlebed Press, Oxon, 20pp.

Heraldica Collegii Cardinalium. A Roll of Arms of the College of Cardinals 1800-2000 by McCarthy M. F. (2000). Thylacine Press, 587pp.

Heraldry in the Catholic Church. Its Origins, Customs and Laws by Heim B. B. (1978). Van Duren, Gerrards Cross, England, 176pp.

Papal Heraldry by Galbreath D. L. 2nd Ed revised by Briggs G. (1972). Heraldry Today, London, 135pp.

The Church Visible: the ceremonial life and protocol of the Roman Catholic church by Noonan J-C. (1996). Viking Penguin Group, New York, 554pp.

Crests and mottoes

A Handbook of Mottoes in the United Kingdom by Elvin C. N. (1963).

Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland by Fairbairn.

In page links – AboutFACHeraldric AuthorityAustralian Heraldric AuthorityMembers ArmsHeraldry BooksHeraldry Links

Heraldic authorities

The Canadian Heraldic Authority

The Chief Herald of Ireland

The College of Arms

The Court of the Lord Lyon, King of Arms

The New Zealand Herald of Arms Extraordinary

The South African Bureau of Heraldry

The Flemish Heraldic Council

Heraldry societies

The American College of Heraldry

The Augustan Society

The Australian Heraldry Society

The Heraldry Society

The Heraldry Society of Scotland

The International Association of Amateur Heralds (IAAH)

The Monarchist League of Canada

The New England Historical and Genealogical Society

The Royal Heraldry Society of Canada (RHSC)

The Society of Heraldic Arts (SHA)

The Society of Scottish Armigers

The Westphalian Heraldry Society

The White Lion Society


English heraldic dictionary

European Heraldry

Glossary of European Noble, Princely, Royal, and Imperial Titles


Heraldry Today - books

Heraldry on the Internet

Heraldry software

Hungarian Heraldry

International Civic Arms

International Heraldry & Heralds

Macedonian Municipal Heraldry

Norwegian Heraldry

Polish Nobility and Heraldry

Portuguese Military Heraldry

South African Heraldry - Armoria

The American College of Heraldry

The Russian College of Heraldry

The Society for Creative Anachronism

The Society of Heraldic Arts