Written By: Paul Shannon
Most people think of heraldry in the way that Hollywood presents it. Most people do not consider how the noble families of central and eastern Europe handled the blazoning of arms. Part of the reason that most have been forgotten or overlooked is because of the communist regimes that took over after World War II. Most of the colleges and societies of the nobilities had to move to other nations. The proud traditions went underground, which caused people to have less
access to their history.
The Central and Eastern European way of heraldry
The coat of arms for families in central and eastern European countries were done differently than most Americans would understand. The heraldry was set up for a territorial clan system. Blood did not mean that people would have the same markings. What mattered was whether people lived in the same village or were part of the same military groups.
The coats were not as involved as they were in western Europe. In many instances, people believed that the entire family was entitled to the crest. The coats, crests and other marks of nobility were given to an individual. Only the heirs of that person were granted the right of wearing
what was given. The villages and military groups that were given the marks of nobility were unusual.
What happened because of communism
One country that is still trying to recover their past is Hungary. The Hungarian College of the Hereditary Nobility, or Matricula Armorum, spent the Cold War with the Riddarhustorget 10, or Swedish House of Nobility. Though the Matricula Armorum went back to Hungary in 1990, it took another twenty years before they were able to have the full facility that was required. At least 15
percent of all coats of arms for the nation features a severed Turkish head. This is because of the wars that occurred, as Hungary blocked the Ottoman Empire’s access to Europe.
The majority of Russian heraldry was between 1797 and 1840. The book Obschii Gerbobnik Dvorianskikh Rodov Vserossiiskoi held all the symbols of nobility. Also, because of the
constant flux of politics, the lists were watched regularly. The entire nation has gone through thousands of purges since the days of Ivan the Terrible, so many families were just wiped out. Nobility was not as safe as it was in other European countries.
Polish heraldry was another exception to any known rules. They used different markings to blazon arms. The King was not allowed to give nobility to another family, which was something else that was unusual. All knights were noble and equal. The knights were the families in power. The king was elected from among them and was “first among equals.” All of this was brought about before the rules of the other nations were introduced into Poland.
Many other places have their own rules on how to tell who is a noble. Communism took away much of this tradition for central and eastern Europe. Now, these nations are trying to regain this history. There will continue to be a push to help families know their past. The main reason that the history was lost is now gone. People are remembering prouder times and don’t want to be held back from that.