Portal:Heraldry

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Welcome to the Heraldry and Vexillology Portal!

A herald wearing a tabard
Flags of the Nordic 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.

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.

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Selected biography

Johannes Baptista Rietstap in 1861

Johannes Baptista Rietstap (12 May 1828–24 December 1891) was a Dutch heraldist and genealogist, who is often considered to be the father of modern heraldry in the Netherlands. Rietstap was proficient in English, French, German, Spanish and Latin in addition to his mother tongue, and from the 1850s to the 1870s published a large number of translations of both fiction and non-fiction works. He also worked as a stenographer for the Staten-Generaal for 37 years, eventually rising to the position of First Stenographer. He is most well-known however for his publication of the Armorial Général. This monumental work contains the blazons of the coats of arms of more than 130,000 European families, and is still one of the most complete works of its kind. (more...)

Selected coat of arms

Royal Arms of England (1193-1340)

In heraldry, the Royal Arms of England is a coat of arms symbolising England and its monarchs. Its blazon (technical description) is Gules three lions passant guardant in pale Or armed and langued Azure, meaning three identical gold lions with blue tongues and claws, walking and facing the observer, arranged in a column on a red background. This coat, designed in the High Middle Ages, has been variously combined with those of France, Scotland, Ireland, Nassau and Hanover, according to dynastic and other political changes affecting England, but has not itself been altered since the reign of Richard I. (more...)

Selected flag

The flag of Japan

The national flag of Japan is a white flag with a large red disc (representing the rising sun) in the center. The flag's official name in Japanese is Nisshōki (日章旗, "sun flag") but the flag is more commonly known as Hinomaru (日の丸, "sun disc"). The Hinomaru was widely used on military banners in the Sengoku (Warring States) period of the 15th and 16th centuries. During the Meiji Restoration the flag was officially adopted for use as the civil ensign by Proclamation No. 57 on February 27, 1870 (January 27, Meiji 3 in the Japanese calendar). However, the flag was not adopted nationally until August 13, 1999, by the Law Regarding the National Flag and National Anthem.

Along with the national anthem Kimi ga Yo, the Hinomaru is considered a controversial symbol of the militaristic past of the country. Use of the Hinomaru was also severely restricted during the early years of the American occupation of the country after World War II, although restrictions were later relaxed. Japanese law did not designate any particular flag as the national flag from 1885 until 1999, although the Hinomaru was legally the national flag for the brief period from 1870 until 1885. Despite this, several military banners of Japan are based on the design of the Hinomaru, including the sun-rayed Naval Ensign. The Hinomaru was used as a template to design other Japanese flags for public and private use. (more...)

Selected picture

The 719 quarterings of the Grenville Diptych

The Grenville Diptych was produced between 1822 and 1839 for Richard Temple-Grenville, Marquess of Chandos the son of the first Duke of Buckingham and Chandos. It shows 719 quarterings of the family, including ten variations of the English Royal arms. The left panel of the diptych lists the quarterings.

Did you know...

Flag of Lesotho

  • ...that Lesotho adopted a new flag (pictured) to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its independence?
  • ...that in almost 100 years of existence, Ireland King of Arms granted only four known coats of arms, two of which were within the heraldic jurisdiction of other kings of arms and so annulled or regranted?

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