Excerpt from the book
HERALDRY OF THE WORLD
Written and illustrated by
Carl Alexander von Volborth , K.St.J., A.I.H.
Internet version edited by Andrew Andersen, Ph.D.
(pp. 114-117, 208-209)
In the ninth century tribes of horsemen came from southern Russia and conquered the area which is today called Hungary. Their leader was named Arpad and he founded a dynasty which ruled until 1301.
King Stephen (sovereign prince from 997 and king from 1000 to 1038) broke the power of the ancient tribal chieftains and developed a social organisation of the state which by and large corresponded to that of Western Europe. Stephen later became the national saint of Hungary.
Even before these first Hungarians invaded the country they are supposed to have had various tribal totems or insignia of chiefdom, traces of which are discovered in the eleventh century, and these may be the origin of some of the charges which are most common in the arms of the old Hungarian aristocracy: griffin and bear, as well as sun, moon and stars (Figs 618 and 621).
The first coat of arms in the traditionally Western European form dates from 1190, the first armorial bearings with helmet and crest from about 1300. The first letters patent seem to date from 1326, and the first letters patent in connection with ennoblement from 1430.
A charge which is found very often in Hungarian heraldry is the head of a decapitated Turk, sometimes with turban, sometimes without, but always with a big black moustache and as a rule with blood dripping from the neck (Figs 615 and 617). On occasions the head is held by a warrior, a lion or a griffin, or set on the point of a lance or a sabre. There are heads of Turks in more than fifteen per cent of all Hungarian coats of arms, and the background to this is of course the struggle between Hungary and the invading Turks, which was almost a permanent feature in Hungary's history from the fifteenth century to the eighteenth. Other typical charges are horsemen, rearing horses and an arm with sword in hand (see Figs 618 and 621), also a green dragon which usually has a red cross on its body and which also appears encircling the shield (Fig. 619). This originates from the badge of the Order of the Dragon established by King Sigismund (1387-1437).
The arms of the nobility include both tournament helmet (Fig. 619) and barred helmet, surmounted as a rule by a coronet (Figs 618 and 621). The mantling often has more than two tinctures, and in that case a frequent combination is blue and yellow dexter, red and white sinister (Figs 615 and 618).
The oldest civic arms, assumed by the towns themselves or granted them before the Turkish wars, are influenced by German heraldry and show the usual castles, towers or city walls (Figs 614, 616 and 624). Later civic arms are of a more national character containing charges similar to those in the heraldry of the Hungarian nobility, such as a warrior with sabre or banner, an arm with sword in hand or a beast holding a sword or other items. Shields without charges 'but merely divided into two or more fields are very rare. One example is Hungary's own original coat of arms, which is horizontally striped in red and white (see Fig. 609).