Excerpts from the book





          Written and illustrated by

          Carl Alexander von Volborth , K.St.J., A.I.H.


          Copenhagen 1973


          Internet version edited by   Andrew Andersen, Ph.D.










Heraldic Charges

(pp. 185-188 and 27 - 33)



Practically anything that can be depicted can be used as a heraldic charge. The possibilities are so extensive that pp. 27-33 can only show a few characteristic examples: human and anthropomorphic figures, fabulous beasts, animals of all kinds, buildings, weapons and implements, flowers and trees, and so on, as well as parts of all these such as heads, wings, leaves, wheels and soon. And these relatively few examples themselves would be far too numerous to describe in detail within the limits of this book, so descriptions of a few of the most important must suffice.


In heraldry as elsewhere the lion is the king of beasts (pp. 27 and 28). At the dawn of heraldry large numbers of princes took a lion, or more than one, as their emblem - such as the King of Leon (Fig. 657), the Kings of England and Scotland (Fig. 309), the King of Denmark (Fig. 727), the King of Sweden, the King of Norway (Fig. 747) and the King of Bohemia (Fig. 667) — and later their example was followed by other princes or states (see the Netherlands (Fig. 387), Belgium (Fig. 415) and Finland (Fig. 782), as well as by knights, burghers and towns throughout the whole of Europe. The lion is also very common as a supporter.


The lion is as a rule shown rampant (see Figs 87 and 96), but frequently also passant (Fig. 84). When a lion passant is shown with its head facing the observer, or en face, it is sometimes called a leopard. This term has however led to many misconceptions and therefore most modern heraldists avoid it. The other positions illustrated on pp. 27-8 are all fairly rare.


The lion with two tails, or with its tail divided in two, occurs quite frequently. It is usual, but not necessary, to colour the tongue and claws differently from the rest of the body. Many lions are crowned or wear a collar, at times with a chain, or hold something in their front paws such as a sword, an axe or a wheel. In England the lion may even have a crown around its neck. All this goes for other animals as well.

The antlers of the hart or stag are referred to as 'attires' (or in Scottish heraldry as 'tynes'): the stag is 'attired' when bearing antlers (Fig. 137).


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In the same way as the lion is predominant among animals, the eagle is so among birds (see pp. 27 and 28). The eagle is usually shown stylised, seen from the front with outstretched wings, but with the head in profile, as in Fig. 83. A more recent representation is to be found in Napoleon's coat of arms as emperor (Fig. 467). An eagle with two heads is called a double-headed eagle (Fig. 92); in this form it was the favourite heraldic beast of emperors. A double-headed eagle formed the basis of the arms of Imperial Russia (see Fig. 808) and was also the device of the old German emperors from 1410 (p. 7). After the fall of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, the Habsburg emperors of Austria assumed the double-headed eagle until 1918 (Fig. 567). The German Empire from 1870 had an ordinary eagle with only one head in its arms (Fig. 492), and Western Germany (Fig. 494) and the Republic of Austria (Fig. 570) have one now.



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The best known heraldic flower is the lily, known as the fleur-de-lys, a stylised lily or iris (see Fig. 133). It was the emblem of the French kings (pp. 82 and 85) but is not specifically French and is known all over Europe. A single heraldic lily may be borne, or the field may be 'semy de lys' when lilies are strewn over the shield as the French king originally bore them (see Figs 447 and 429); or the lily may be combined with other charges (Figs 73, 76, and 363). In England the lily is also used as a mark of cadency for the sixth son (see Fig. 370). A garden lily is sometimes used in heraldry, though only rarely. In the arms of Eton, the famous public school, the heraldic lily and the natural lily both occur (see Fig. 308).


In England especially the rose is used quite frequently. In the Middle Ages a red and a white rose were the badges of the two lines of the English royal house called Lancaster and York, and after the Wars of the Roses these two emblems were united to form what is called the Tudor rose (see Fig. 261). In England a rose is also a mark of cadency for the seventh son (Fig. 370). Another famous rose emblem is the Luther rose (see Fig. 903).


The heraldic sun (Fig. 148) has rays which are usually depicted alternately straight and wavy. It is occasionally shown with a human face. The same is true of the crescent or half-moon (Figs 149, 150, 152 and 153). In England a crescent is the mark of a second son (see Fig. 370). Stars have either five, six, seven or eight points (Fig. 154). A star with wavy points (Fig. 161) occurs frequently in English heraldry and is known as an 'estoile'. Also common is a plain star or 'mullet' which is used as the cadency mark of a third son. When pierced with a hole it may be described as a 'spur rowel'.


The scallop shell (Fig. 105) is very common. In the Middle Ages this type of shell was used as a kind of certificate for pilgrims who had visited the tomb of St James of Compostela in Northern Spain, and thus became the attribute of this saint and also a general symbol of pilgrimŽage. In Denmark the name James became lb (for Iacobus) and in Danish heraldry the scallop shell is often called an ibskal (Ib shell').


Another common charge is the castle (Fig. 126), usually shown as two fortified towers joined by a wall. There may be a gate in the wall, open or closed, with a portcullis. A tower by itself is also frequently used. It is at times surmounted by three smaller towers (see example Fig. 271), and in this case it is difficult to decide whether it is a tower or a castle. There are however many other varieties of castle-like buildings, especially in civic heraldry - cf. the arms of the City of Edinburgh (Fig. 348), Antwerp (Fig. 421), Budapest (Fig. 614), Copenhagen (Fig. 725) and Mexico (Fig. 857).


There are many versions of ships and boats, from Viking ships and other forms of sailing ship to the steam and motor ships of the present day. Examples can be seen in Figs 366, 429 and 633.


Trees, growing or uprooted and showing roots (see Figs 130 and 132), as well as their leaves, are very common. The oak seems to be the most popular, but we also come across the lime, the spruce and the pine and sometimes the palm too. In the former arms of South Africa the third quarter contains an orange tree, an allusive charge for the Orange Free State (see Fig. 864).


Saints and apostles occur, especially in civic heraldry, e.g. in the arms of Brussels, which show probably the archangel Michael (Fig. 417); Trier, the apostle Peter (Fig. 534); and Kiev, the archangel Michael again, (Fig. 824). The arms of Moscow show St George killing the dragon (Figs 808 and 823), an allusion to the defeat of the Tartars by Dmitri Donskoi (A.D. 350-89), Grand Duke of Moscow and Vladimir.


All these and other figures can be placed and combined in an un- quartered shield and in all the various sections and heraldic quarterings into which a shield may be partitioned. See for example the arms of the family of von Borsig (Fig. 212); of Karl Maria von Weber and Sven Hedin (Figs 229 and 230); of Benjamin Disraeli (Fig. 305); and of the cities of Kaiserslautern and Koblenz (Figs 532 and 533).


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                             FABULOUS CREATURES



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