Dominion Day

A happy Dominion Day to my fellow Canadians. To celebrate, I post something I found as the result of an image search.

It’s a nine-quartered Canadian coat of arms from a Wedgewood plate manufactured c. 1910. Alberta and Saskatchewan had been admitted to Confederation in 1905, raising the number of provinces (and thus sections in the national coat of arms) to nine. But this plate does something rather strange: Saskatchewan’s coat of arms (featuring a lion and three wheat sheaves) appears in the sixth quarter, but Alberta is nowhere to be found! Instead, E.M. Chadwick’s proposal for the arms of Yukon Territory sits in the second quarter. 

I have never seen a Canadian coat of arms arranged like this. What they were thinking? (UPDATE: I discover that Auguste Vachon has also noticed this rendition – see Figure 11 at the link.) 

To rectify this oversight, I post a stained glass version of Alberta’s coat of arms, which features a scene of mountains and prairie, underneath a cross of St. George.

This window may be seen in the Canadian Memorial United Church in Vancouver, B.C. The stained glass was manufactured in 1927 by Robert McCausland in Toronto.

In the lobby of the Holiday Inn, St. John’s, Nfld. JG.

And in fairness, I should also post the arms of Newfoundland and Labrador, admitted to Confederation in 1949 (but never featured on an amalgamated coat of arms).

Once again: Happy Dominion Day!

Northern Ireland

Flags and Vexillology.

Today marks the centenary of the creation of Northern Ireland, when the Fourth Home Rule Bill went into effect. Someone posted to the Facebook group Flags and Vexillology a photograph of an early flag for Northern Ireland, a blue ensign with six six-pointed stars surrounding a shield of the traditional province of Ulster. This flag, however used, was superseded by the Ulster Banner, taken from the shield of the arms of Northern Ireland, which was granted in 1924.

Paul Halsall also draws our attention to an article at West Cork Historical Society Forum, about what happened to the once numerically strong (but still minority) Unionist/Loyalist population of Cork after 1920.

In 1919 the Unionist community in County Cork was prosperous, numerous and committed in varying degrees to the Unionist cause. They had their own newspaper, held parades and maintained a complex social system. Yet by 1923 their community lay decimated, torn asunder by a campaign of murder and intimidation and forced into a supposedly “Free State” which did little to protect them. What brought about such cataclysmic changes? How was the campaign of murder conducted and for what reasons? Did Cork Unionism maintain its identity during those violent years – and can this still be seen today?

The numerical decline between 1911 and 1926 of the Protestant (and mostly unionist) community in Cork, and indeed throughout Southern Ireland, is startling. The historian Hart puts the level of Protestant decline during this period at no less than 34% (the Roman Catholic population declined by merely 2%) and comments that “this catastrophic loss was unique to the Southern minority and unprecedented: it represents easily the single greatest measurable social change of the revolutionary era”

It is difficult to argue with Hart’s assessment that this population decline is unique in British history – representing “the only example of the mass displacement of a native ethnic group within the British Isles since the 17th century”

More at the link. Those who weren’t murdered fled to Northern Ireland or Britain. Reminds me of my own Loyalist ancestors following the American Revolution. 

The Double-Headed Eagle

Something interesting from

In Byzantine heraldry and vexillology, the double-headed eagle (or double-eagle) is a charge associated with the concept of Empire – the heads represent the dual sovereignty of the emperor both in secular and religious matters and/or dominance over both East and West. After the Holy Cross, perhaps no other symbol has been associated more closely with the history and fate of the Byzantine Empire than the double-headed eagle motif, to the point that it has been ‘chiseled’ in modern imagination as being the ‘official flag’ of the empire up to its dying days in 1453. However, how accurate is this association, and how informative our sources are about this?

The single- and double-headed eagles both appear [in the Byzantine Empire] from around the middle 12th century onward in the decoration of buildings built by members of the imperial family of the Komnenoi, such as the single-headed eagle from the Theotokos Kosmosoteira at Pherrai, western Thrace, commissioned by the sebastokrator Isaakios Komnenos in 1152. The double-headed eagle appears commonly throughout the Palaiologan period, as for example in a well-known plaque from the Metropolis of Mystras in the southeastern Peloponnese.

However, this motif was not used exclusively in Byzantium, and we can see the two-headed eagle appearing in mosques, fortresses, palaces, and Anatolian Seljuk caravanserais as a magical (animistic) and protective symbol of strength. Mainly we see it in profusion during the reigns of the Grand Seljuk Sultans of Rûm Alaeddin Keykubad I (1219-1237), and his son and successor Gıyaseddin Kay Khusraw II (1237-1246). This usage declined sharply after the Battle of Köse Dağ in 1243, as many Seljuq traditions of pre-Islamic origin were abandoned, including the depiction of animals.

The Palaiologan emperors used the double-headed eagle as a symbol of the senior members of the imperial family. The emperor is always distinguished by his richly jeweled regalia, like in the famous Athonite chrysobull of 1374 where Alexius III of Trebizond wears purple and jewels, while his consort’s garment is decorated with double-headed eagles.

Other Balkan states followed the ‘Byzantine model’: chiefly the Serbians, but also the Bulgarians and Albania under George Kastrioti (better known as Skanderbeg), while after 1472 the eagle was adopted by Muscovy and then Russia. The Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople and Mount Athos, and the Greek Orthodox Churches in the diaspora under the Patriarchate also use a black double-headed eagle in a yellow field as their flag or emblem.

Yet to attribute the double-headed eagle motif to Byzantium is erroneous; first, this motif had a multi-cultural history of several millennia before the Byzantines through Rome inherited it; and second, there is absolutely no iconographical or literary evidence that would associate the use of this motif as the official device-flag of the Byzantine Empire. 

St. George’s Banner

From Chris Berard, a short article on, which I take the liberty of reprinting in its entirety:

St. George the martyr and his banner

By Steve Muhlberger

St. George is one of the earliest martyrs of the Christian church. He is also well-known in the present day if only for his banner – a red cross on a white background. St. George’s Cross flies above every continent, and represents, among other things, traditional power and legitimacy. Many soldiers now wear the cross as a sign of their military service. George’s extraordinary service is evoked by his well-known conquest of a dragon, which makes him one of the most impressive of all of God’s saints.

If St. George is venerated in the present day, his reputation reaches back to the Middle Ages and Late Antiquity. The old roots of this military saint allow us to appreciate the somewhat paradoxical relationship between earthly and spiritual power.

St. George is sometimes regarded as a purely legendary figure. His story, however true it may be, is typical of those told about martyrs of the age of the Roman emperor Diocletian (who reigned from 284 to 305), the foremost pagan persecutor of the 3rd century. George was from a Greek Christian family and a military background. He had attained one of the highest ranks when he heard that the emperor was forcing Christians to worship the Roman gods George felt compelled to register his dissent.

After he defied the emperor to his face, George was subjected to a long list of torments, and eventually succumbed. But George became one of the most popular saints in the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire. Was George particularly regarded as a martyr because he used his earthly power – soldier’s strength in God’s cause? He certainly had plenty of strength and he had used it against a dragon, an evil monster with Satanic associations. Even today the most common depiction of George shows him on horseback battling the monster.

St. George’s reputation continued to grow in both east and west. His patronage remained especially important in the Greek provinces of the Byzantine empire, which were constantly endangered both by Muslims and even Christian neighbors. George became a figure of Christian unity when eastern and western churches became tangled in a debate over leadership in the Christian community. In the turbulent years around 1100, warriors and clergy competed for leadership of the churches, and Christians found themselves under attack by pagan raiders and invaders. Clerics – monks, bishops and abbots – needed protection from warriors but were skeptical of milites – soldiers, or later, knights – who devoted themselves to fighting and plundering, as they so often did. Too often these milites oppressed their Christian neighbors, when the warriors were needed to defend the Christians. Christian warriors, on the other hand, were proud of their military way of life. Prowess and honor and pride were the necessary ingredients for effective warriors.

Sometimes the ideal of Christian cooperation came true. The centuries after 1100 were an era of famous knights and holy war. The threat of Muslim expansion and intra-Christian conflicts required the clergy to muster princes to fight worthy wars. In 1066, for instance, William the Conqueror asked for a papal banner to bless his expedition to England, and the pope, at odds with the leading English bishops, sent him one. A generation later a far larger force including men who had helped William take England, marched and sailed to Jerusalem with papal authorization. The Crusaders, as we call them, were accompanied by Michael the Archangel, the champion who at the beginning of time had led God’s heavenly army against the rebel angels. In the second rank, though, was St. George, no mean champion and well known in the Christian East.

During the 12th and 13th centuries, St. George and other saints were invoked through the use of heraldic symbolism and banners. The saintly intercessors were regarded as knights, earthly knights being now a higher class of warriors than before. In the middle of the 14th century, St. George’s iconography became closely associated with worthy military men. King Edward III of England, for instance, appealed to chivalric sentiment to justify his flashy, ambitious projects. Foremost among them was St. George Chapel at Windsor, which was not only an impressive church but the seat of a chivalric order – The Order of the Garter. It was a shrine that among other things celebrated the foremost warriors of Edward’s realm and put the Order under the patronage of St. George.

Although Edward believed that he had a special link to St. George, he had no actual monopoly on  George’s claim to claim George’s patronage. The wars of the 14th century spawned mercenary companies of many nationalities, and various independent cities. It was quite natural for any of these Christian warriors to look to the great St. George as their special patron. How often, I wonder, did one bannered force face another? We know that it did happen in the Italian and French wars during the 14th centuries.

At the end of the Middle Ages St. George became more strongly associated with the important dynasties and states of Christian Europe. The red cross on white now flew over England, of course; the Iberian kingdoms of Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia and Portugal; the Kingdom of Georgia; Serbia and Montenegro; Ethiopia; Russia; the wealthy and belligerent Italian cities of Genoa, Milan, Bologna and quite a few others; and many historic Greek cities.

In the early modern era, heraldry became increasingly systematic and the St. George flag became a permanent element in the symbolism of monarchical power. It was a practical custom too. The traditional flags came to be regarded as national and imperial flags, and as claims to ownership. In the era of oceanic exploration the famous captains flew flags symbolizing their allegiance to both the monarch and the patron saint. When an explorer planted a flag or flags over a newfound land, it was not merely a historic decoration; the banner had a legal and diplomatic meaning. An example of this can be seen in the flags of British North America (Canada). Today, more than half of the Canadian provinces celebrate the ancient ties to Britain by including the modern version of the provincial arms, which themselves include St. George’s Flag (and others include the English royal lion). A significant minority of the province of Quebec are less enthusiastic about the symbols of the Conquest by the British. Quebec once had a St. George’s Cross on its flag and its arms, but in more recent times has eliminated British symbols and replaced them with blue and white banners reminiscent of France, from where the settlers of New France came.

This one example of how imperial expansion wrote itself on the land and shows how the stories of warriors and martyrs helped make such figures as St. George the foundation of modern communities.  George, the ancient martyr and medieval knight, is still with us and is likely to display his power and his patronage for some time to come.

I’d like to state that my attitude towards St. George is not all that proprietary. If other people want to write about that fascinating figure, then go right ahead! I would love to hear their perspectives. However, I dare say that this article could be improved. It’s not just all the vagueness and passive verbs, it’s also such errors as:

• “The Crusaders, as we call them, were accompanied by Michael the Archangel.” No primary source that I’ve ever read records an appearance of St. Michael to the soldiers of the First Crusade. George, Demetrius, and Theodore were the three main ones. 

• “Quebec once had a St. George’s Cross on its flag and its arms, but in more recent times has eliminated British symbols and replaced them with blue and white banners reminiscent of France, from where the settlers of New France came.” Quebec’s blue and white fleurdelisé flag dates from 1948, and is based on the Carillon-Sacre-Coeur flag of 1902. I don’t believe that Quebec ever had a flag with St. George’s cross on it, unless the author is referring to a time when the Union Jack flew over Quebec, or to the Quebec Blue Ensign, which never really flew. Certainly, Quebec never had a cross of St. George on its arms, which were granted in 1868 and modified in 1939.

• Most important, we need to draw a distinction between a plain red cross on a white field (in heraldic lingo: “Argent a cross Gules”) and the veneration of St. George. The two things had little to do with each other originally, and even now you can find examples of the arms referencing things other than St. George, such as those of the city of Milan (patron: St. Ambrose), the diocese of Trier (patrons: St. Mary and St. Michael), and the Arthurian figure of Sir Galahad. The most obvious origin for these and other heraldic crosses is the idea of Christian warfare, i.e. crusading, but such crosses were not originally associated with particular saints. It stands to reason that the preeminent crusading saint should come to bear the preeminent crusading symbol, but I have a theory how exactly this happened: the city of Genoa (patron: St. George) bore a red-cross shield as its civic emblem, and Jacobus de Voragine, in the 1260s, inserted this detail into his account of St. George appearing to the Crusaders in the Golden Legend as a point of local pride. The huge popularity of the Golden Legend thenceforth ensured that a Genoese custom spread far beyond Genoa.* Edward I (1272-1307) went on crusade and in so doing acquired an affinity for St. George; he then deployed the saint in his wars against the Welsh and Scots, largely through the use of Argent a cross Gules in various media. The less said about his successor Edward II (1307-27) the better, and when Edward III (1327-77) assumed personal rule around 1330, he consciously sought to revive the glories of his grandfather’s reign, including his use of St. George. The chief evidence of this project is Edward’s foundation of the Order of the Garter (1348) with St. George as its patron, but plenty of other evidence exists for both the private veneration and public deployment of St. George throughout Edward’s long reign, including with the red cross banner. Unlike St. Edward the Confessor, St. George made the leap to becoming a patron saint of the English nation as well as the English royal house,** and thus did Argent a cross Gules come to refer to “England” as well as “St. George” – especially after the Reformation deprecated the veneration of all saints. From there the emblem spread throughout the British Empire, sometimes on its own, sometimes in combination with St. Andrew’s saltire for Scotland (i.e. as the Union Jack), but always referring back to the metropole. Thus does decolonization sometimes inspire people to drop it. 

* See “Argent a Cross Gules: The Origins and English Use of the Arms of St. George,” The Coat of Arms 213 (Spring, 2007): 9-18.

** I have a theory about this too; see “Richard II and the Cults of Saints George and Edward the Confessor,” in Translatio, or the Transmission of Culture in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, ed. Laura Hollengreen (Brepols, 2008).

The Duke of Edinburgh, 1921-2021

First Floor Tarpley acknowledges the death today of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and consort of H.M. the Queen, at the age of 99 at Windsor Castle. May he rest in peace.

His arms, depicted on the funeral hatchment above, were a quartering of 1. Denmark 2. Greece 3. Battenberg/Mountbatten and 4. Edinburgh. From The Gazette, here is an image of Philip’s Garter stall plate, which also includes his crest and motto:

Advance Australia

Courtesy Stephen Basdeo, some “Victorian tat” produced in celebration of the golden jubilee in 1887:

Courtesy Stephen Basdeo.

I love the economic statistics and time zone chart. I was curious about the arms of “Australasia.”

Obviously there was no colony or dominion of “Australasia,” and I had never seen these arms before. They appear to consist of a ship, a sheep, a crossed shovel and pickaxe, and a wheat sheaf – presumably symbols representing major Australian industries – all between the arms of a cross charged with the five stars of the Southern Cross constellation. What exactly do they represent?

A little googling reveals that they are the “Advance Australia” arms, so called from the motto beneath the shield. They were never official, and thus exist in a number of variations. (As you can see, this one has the sheep in first quarter and the ship in the second, and an anchor in place of the pickaxe.) Apparently they were used by certain Australians in the late nineteenth century to express a desire for Australian union – recall that in 1887 Australia consisted of six separate colonies: Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania.

Some others:

Australian federation did take place in 1901. Presumably the “Advance Australia” arms remained the de facto arms of the new Commonwealth, before an official grant was made in 1908. 


As you can see, the new grant recycled the motto, but the shield was different: it

had a white background, with a red cross of Saint George, blue lines outside the cross, and a blue border containing six inescutcheons featuring a red chevron on white, representing the six states.


The Scottish Patriotic Association was vocally opposed to the shield’s design, noting that it should display the Union Jack to represent British and Irish settlers. 

This activism was successful, and in 1912 Australia got a new grant which it continues to use to this day.


Australia’s six states are more explicitly represented here. Clockwise from the top left, they are: New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, Western Australia, and South Australia. 


Although here is the full coat of arms of New South Wales, granted in 1906 and apparently inspired by the “Advance Australia” arms.

Speaking of Flags…

We were watching Season 2, Episode 10 of the 2015 television series Poldark, which is set in the fourth quarter of 1793. Dr. Dwight Enys, heartsick for a woman who has rejected him, has decided to enlist in the Royal Navy as a surgeon and fight against Revolutionary France. Here he is at the recruiting station.

The only problem is that the White Ensign and the Union Jack on display here are anachronistic: they are the versions employed after 1801, following Irish parliamentary union (itself partly a response to the revolutionary wars). (This is to say nothing about whether floor stand flags would be on display like this in Britain in the late eighteenth century.)

And this is a British show! I would expect this sort of mistake with Murdoch Mysteries, but not from the BBC. 

Here is the same error made closer to home – specifically, on a poster up at Reinhardt last year. Even the Betsy Ross flag dates from 1777 at the earliest. 

UPDATE: In Season 3, Episode 3 of Poldark, we see that the producers haven’t procured the correct version of the Royal Arms either. This appears on the wall behind George Warleggan as he acts as the local Justice of the Peace.

Yes, the image is rather blurry, but it clearly shows 1. England, 2. Scotland, and 3. Ireland, with the fourth quarter somewhat obscure. The arms of George III in 1794, however, looked like this.


That is, in the first quarter we have England impaling Scotland (for the parliamentary union of 1707), while in the second we have France, illustrating the king’s ancient claim to be the rightful ruler of that kingdom, which he only relinquished in 1801. The fourth quarter shows the Hanoverian territories on the continent. It would appear that the royal arms shown in Poldark are those of Queen Victoria.

Once again, I acknowledge my pedantry and wet-blanketness. But I still say that with a little extra effort, you can minimize such mistakes, and thus not alienate those audience members who might notice them. There are plenty of underemployed historians out there who would be happy to help out! I would add that while absolute accuracy might not matter all that much with eighteenth-century heraldry, it might be more important when depicting other times and places. Imagine a movie that showed, say, a Sioux encampment of teepees, each one with its own totem pole and/or inuksuk in front of it, to give an authentic “native” cast to the scene. Anyone with half a brain would be able to see that this represents an amalgamation of three quite distinct Native American cultures, and would be a major insult to the people in question. So if you get into the habit of thinking accurately anyway, it will help you avoid charges of insensitivity when the topic is politically significant.

The Royal Standard

I was watching the Queen’s Christmas message, which included a shot of the Royal Standard flying above Windsor Castle. The Royal Standard is a banner of the Royal Arms and signifies the Queen’s presence.

I was surprised to notice that the Irish quarter (bottom left) features a “lady harp” – that is, a harp whose pillar and arch take the form of a topless, winged female. I had heard that H.M. the Queen does not like this rendition, preferring instead the non-anthropomorphized Gaelic harp. Most current depictions of the Royal Arms feature such a harp.


Full Royal Arms (English version) from a document issued by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office.

The Irish quarter is simply Azure, a harp Or stringed Argent, so both the Gaelic harp and the lady harp follow the blazon – it’s merely an artistic preference which one is shown. Obviously, when it comes to her own heraldry, the Queen’s desires reign supreme – so it’s surprising that Royal Standard does not follow the Royal Arms. A little image-Googling indicates that the standard shown in the Christmas message is far from a one-off. 


Apparently the tabards of the heralds at the College of Arms also feature a lady harp – at least they did in 2006, when the photo above (of York Herald Henry Paston-Bedingfeld and Windsor Herald William Hunt) was taken at the annual Garter procession. 

Why do these lady-harp holdouts exist? It’s a mystery!

Loyalist Heraldry in Canada

A short article of mine has just appeared in The Loyalist Gazette. I reprint it here.

It stands to reason that Canadians of Loyalist descent would be well disposed towards heraldry, a symbol-system that both identifies and serves as a mark of honour from the Crown. Prior to 1988, Canadian persons or corporations wishing to receive a legitimate grant of arms would apply to the College of Arms in London (or, if especially Scottish, to the Court of the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh). The United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada certainly did: in 1972, it received a grant of arms through the College of Arms which is doubtlessly familiar to all UELAC members.1

It’s a beautiful composition, and its meaning is straightforward. On the shield, thirteen swords and one tomahawk, all extending outwards, surround a crown, neatly symbolizing Loyalists from the thirteen colonies, and their Indian allies, who defended the monarch against the American revolutionaries. The symbolism is repeated on the crest: a colonist’s arm and a native’s arm both hold up the eighteenth-century British flag under which the Loyalists fought.

Photo by the author.

The UELAC was also granted a badge, a secondary mark useful for when a full coat of arms might be a little too elaborate. The UELAC badge consists of a cypher of King George III (1760-1820), surrounded by a wreath of maple leaves and oak leaves. I was pleased to see the badge in use on a sign for a UEL cemetery in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, last summer. As John Ruch once noted in the Loyalist Gazette: “the Royal Crown, the old Union Banner, and the Royal Cypher of George III can be granted only with Her Majesty’s permission. To receive any one of these is regarded as an especial honour, but to be given three is very rare indeed.”2

Persistent lobbying by the Heraldry Society of Canada paid off in 1988 when Prime Minister Brian Mulroney arranged for the foundation of the Canadian Heraldic Authority as a Canadian alternative to the College of Arms or the Court of the Lord Lyon.3 Since the CHA is headquartered in Ottawa, and not in London, and since the fees it charges are much lower than those required by the College of Arms, heraldry has become a lot more accessible to Canadians, whether individuals or corporations. By any metric the CHA has been a great success, having granted or registered over three thousand different arms, flags, and badges to worthy citizens over the course of its 32-year history. A new and enthusiastic Chief Herald of Canada, Samy Khalid, took office in June 2020 and is set to continue this legacy.

Canadians of Loyalist descent are understandably interested in recognizing their heritage, and the three symbols established by the grant of arms to UELAC in 1972 have all made appearances in grants of arms from the CHA. The most obvious is Great Britain’s eighteenth-century flag, a combination of the Cross of St. George and St. Andrew’s Saltire, the product of the parliamentary union of England and Scotland that went into effect in 1707. Since this flag was modified in 1801 by the addition of St. Patrick’s saltire for Ireland, in recognition of the Irish parliamentary union which took place that year, the previous version is now historic, and used quite a lot by UELAC to honour those who fought under it, as a perusal of this magazine demonstrates. Settlements with Loyalist connections have also availed themselves heraldically of the flag. The Town of Gananoque, Ontario (arms granted 2000) displays it on the top left of its shield.

One of the lion supporters in the arms of the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake (granted 2013) also holds it:

Loyalist-founded towns can also have it included it as a canton on their flags, as do the Town of Picton (1989) and Village of Bath (1997), both in Ontario. This design makes for a handsome flag, in the mode of Ontario’s flag or the old Canadian Red Ensign.

Our second symbol, the royal cypher of King George III, is also definitely historic, as it represents the actual king whom the Loyalists fought for. The Anglican Church in St. Andrews, N.B., founded by Loyalists, received a cypher of “GR” (for “Georgius Rex”) on its coat of arms, granted in 2006.

Photo by the author.

But as far as I am aware this is the only CHA grant to include this mark. It would be nice to see more use made of it. One might say that it is a little too detailed, and purists claim that letters do not belong on coats of arms, but the cypher does help to rescue George III from the calumny heaped upon him by the U.S. Declaration of Independence. (It would have been great if George III had a royal personal badge parallel to Richard II’s White Hart, Edward IV’s rose-en-soleil, or Richard III’s boar. However, this essentially medieval custom was abandoned by the eighteenth century in favor of royal cyphers.)

Yet the Loyalists were not just fighting for a particular king, but kingship in general. Our third symbol, the royal crown, unambiguously represents the monarchy as a concept, and not just a particular monarch. Insofar as Canada is still a monarchy, however, that also presents us with a slight problem. The crown is not just historic, it is current, and used by many official agencies to represent the power they exercise on behalf of the ultimate guarantor of it. It is likely that significant overlap exists between descendants of Loyalists and supporters of Canada’s monarchy, but these are two separate things, and it is good to maintain a symbolic distinction between them. Furthermore, the royal crown, as an emblem, is not available to just anyone. Generally, the only people allowed to put it on their own coats of arms are Governors General. What’s a good Canadian Loyalist to do, if he wants to represent his heritage?


The answer: use one of the two Loyalist coronets devised in the early days of the Canadian Heraldic Authority. The great thing about a coronet is that it references a crown without actually being one. The coronets consist of alternating maple leaves and oak leaves, as suggested by the wreath surrounding the royal cypher in the UELAC badge. This is a great combination: since they’re both leaves, they’re graphically parallel to each other; furthermore, the oak leaf is royal, representing a political principle; it’s not ethnically “English” necessarily. It is true that the Loyalists themselves might not have recognized a maple leaf as symbolic of their new homeland, but the maple leaf was certainly in use by 1867 to represent Canada and has remained a preeminent national symbol ever since. Finally, the Queen’s permission is not required to use a Loyalist coronet – only proof of descent of the sort required by UELAC.

As a graphical mark it has several advantages. It can be shown in any color or combination of colors. It can be shown on the shield in two dimensions, or on the crest or supporters in three dimensions – and since it is circular, it can surround some other object. A separate “military” coronet (with pairs of crossed swords) is reserved for the descendants of those who actually fought for the king in the Revolution; otherwise, the “civilian” coronet can be used by individuals or corporations alike. Several Loyalist coronets may be seen in the grants of arms above. Others appear in the shield of the City of Quinte West, Ontario (1998):

On the supporters of the arms of Albert College in Belleville, Ontario (2017):

And on all three of the shield, supporters, and crest of the Black Loyalist Heritage Society of Shelburne, N.S. (2006):

Four examples of Loyalist coronets in personal arms may be seen on the shields of Robert Bengry (2011), Kenneth Calder (2000), David Dorward (2004), and Kawartha Branch member David Rumball (2002). This is only a small sample of the many Loyalist coronets that the CHA has granted to Canadians of Loyalist descent.

One more heraldic symbol may be mentioned. As you can see on the arms of Gananoque above, Loyalist-founded settlements can sometimes depict actual Loyalists as their supporters. Gananoque’s is designated “a Loyalist woman tempore 1784.” The Village of Bath and Loyalist Township (formed from the amalgamation of Bath, Amherst Island, and Ernestown in 1999) both show a “woman habited as a Loyalist settler” and a “man habited in the uniform of the Jessup’s Loyal Rangers tempore 1784.” (Loyalist coronets and the 1707 Union Flag may also be seen in these grants.)

The problem with human supporters, however, is that they come with a very high opportunity cost. Any person depicted automatically excludes everyone else! Thus does the CHA tend to discourage them, although there can be no doubt, in these cases, whom they are supposed to represent.

Anyone interested in the possibility of a grant of arms (with or without any Loyalist symbolism) should contact the Chief Herald of Canada at Rideau Hall, 1 Sussex Dr., Ottawa, ON K1A 0A1, or by email at

Except where noted, all illustrations are from the Online Register of Arms, Flags, and Badges of Canada. Used by permission.


1. See Conrad Swan, “The Armorial Bearings of The United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada,” The Loyalist Gazette 10.2 (Autumn 1972).

2. John E. Ruch, “The Canadian Heraldic Authority and the Loyalists,” The Loyalist Gazette 28.2 (Autumn 1990).

3. See John E. Ruch, “An Heraldic Authority for Canada,” The Loyalist Gazette 26.2 (Autumn 1988).

The Hearts of Reformers


A well-known symbol of Lutheranism is the so-called Luther Rose, which features a black cross on a red heart at the center. It was devised for Luther in 1530 and features multivalent symbolism. Luther claimed that:

my seal is a symbol of my theology. The first should be a black cross in a heart, so that I myself would be reminded that faith in the Crucified saves us. Although it is indeed a black cross, which mortifies and which should also cause pain, it leaves the heart in its natural color. Such a heart should stand in the middle of a white rose, to show that faith gives joy, comfort, and peace. Such a rose should stand in a sky-blue field, symbolizing that such joy in spirit and faith is a beginning of the heavenly future joy, which begins already, but is grasped in hope, not yet revealed. And around this field is a golden ring, symbolizing that such blessedness in Heaven lasts forever and has no end. 

“I wonder what symbol Calvin used?” I mused to my wife at dinner last night. “Probably a tulip,” she replied with eminent good sense. TULIP, of course, is an acronym for the five points of Calvinist theology, viz:

Total depravity
Unconditional election
Limited atonement
Irresistible grace
Perseverance of the saints

The problem is that this acronym doesn’t work in French or Latin, the two languages that Calvin operated in. Plus, the tulip may not have been introduced into Europe before Calvin’s death in 1564. 

Instead, as it turns out, Calvin did not use a flower, but a heart, held in a hand, illustrating the motto “Cor meum tibi offero, Domine, prompte et sincere,” that is, “My heart I offer to you, O Lord, promptly and sincerely.” 

The Josh Link

I’m not sure who drew this but I found it at The Josh Link

Calvin University.

This seventeenth-century medal was struck in memory of Calvin, and the image can be found at the Calvin University (Grand Rapids) website

Calvin University.

Calvin University itself uses a version of the emblem and motto. 

The more you know! Personal emblems, especially if properly heraldic, ought to make a comeback.