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Famous Family Crests

Written By: Ria Sajit

For every powerful and influential family, there is usually a family crest or coat of arms to symbolise their triumphs and familial bonding. Here is a look at some of the family crests of history’s most powerful and influential families.

House of Plantagenet

The House of Plantagenet ruled England for over three centuries, a dynasty supposedly established in the early 10th century by Fulk I of Anjou. The family gave birth to fourteen of England’s kings; Henry II, Richard I, King John, Henry III, Edward I, Edward II, Edward III, Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI, Edward IV, Edward V, Richard III.

The House of Plantagenet family crest consists of three lions against a red background, symbolizing the Norman Dynasty. It specifically belonged to Geoffrey Plantagenet – Count of Ajou. Originally the coat of arms consisted of three lions at first during Henry II’s reign but was later changed to three lions for his successors.

House of Medici

The Italian House of Medici, unlike the Plantagenets, were originally powerful bankers in Italy. Their dynasty was political; attaining their wealth in the 13th century in Florence. Due to the family’s support of the arts, they helped lay the foundations of the Renaissance period in the 15th century.

The Medici family crest is made up of six balls; five red and one blue, on a gold shield. It is debated amongst historians exactly what significance the balls have. Some say it relates to Medici name itself; the balls are medicinal pills, as the Medici family dates back to being doctors and apothecaries in Tuscany. A creative theory about the crest illustrates that the balls are in fact dents in the shield inflicted by a vicious giant named Mugello that was defeated by Charlemagne’s knight, Averardo.

House of Rothschild

The famous House of Rothschild is known to be one of the most powerful families in the world, similarly to the Medici family, finding their riches in banking. Rothschilds attained international power through the hands of Mayer Rothschild who, with his financial knowledge and intuition, developed a financial house and stationed each of his five sons in Europe’s financial hotspots; thus creating the Rothschild dynasties. Their power and wealth was so extreme, they have elevated into Austrian and British nobility. To this day, the Rothschild family still goes hand-in-hand with wealth and power, however they are less known today than they were in the 19th century. They are in a variety of industries including mining, charities, winemaking, finance, energy and mixed farming.

The Rothschild family crest consists of a clenched fist clutching onto five arrows. These arrows symbolize the five dynasties established by Mayer Rothschild’s five sons. Their family motto that appears on the shield in Latin, “Concordia, Integritas, Industria” which translates to, “Unity, Integrity, Industry”. Furthermore, the arrows are also in reference to Psalm 127, “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.”

The study of family crests helps historians and genaeologists alike investigate symbolism in these insignias and, hopefully, aids in drawing parallels to events that occured hundreds of years ago.

British Heraldry’s Stewards

Written By: CL Robinson

British Heraldry Beginnings

British Heraldry begins with the Norman Conquest in 1066 and the Arms of the House of Normandy. The rise of the British Monarchy fully begins with the House of Plantagenet, their coat of arms, and their heralds. Over time the monarchy enacted laws dealing directly with Coat of Arms. Today there are three groups prominent in British Heraldry. They are the Heralds, The College of Arms, and The Heraldry Society of Britain.

The Organization of Heralds

The history of Heralds begins with service to the monarch as an announcer of news and an organizer of knight tournaments. In their position as recorder of tournament entrants they became experts in coat of arms, genealogy, and ancestry. Those tools were useful when the monarchy needed someone who could very quickly identify an enemy.

The heralds not only worked for the royal house, they also worked for nobles as well. They followed their leaders into battle to help identify enemies. Heraldry had become a specialized art that included taking an oath. The King of Arms actually takes seven oaths that can be found in the Black Book of the Admiralty.

Sometime early in the 16th century Henry VIII formalized the use of heralds and placed heraldry under their authority. Their first job was to create authentic lists of arms currently in existence. They travelled all over English territory in what became known as visitations. The visitations ended in with the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and heralds were given other work.

Heralds Today

Today The Earl Marshal, the Duke of Norfolk supervises the Heralds and the College of Arms. He also assists in arranging State Funerals and Ceremonies. The Heralds are responsible for the Granting of New Arms, genealogical research and assistance, and attendance at state ceremonies. They receive a small amount of pay for their work.

The College of Arms and The Heraldry Society

Heraldic authority in Britain, Wales, and several other countries belongs to The College of Arms. As early as the 1490′s the Royal heralds were offered “a charter of incorporation by Richard III and given a house in Coldharbour in Upper Thames Street, London to keep their records in.

In 1555 a new charter from Queen Mary and Philip of Spain included Darby Place, which became The College of Arms. The building stood as the College of Arms until 1666. It burned down during the Great Fire of London. A new building exists on the same grounds today.

The College of Arms stores and preserves a massive amount of official records pertaining to Granting of Arms, State Ceremonies and Funerals, and genealogical manuscripts. They also help groups and individuals establish their right to bear arms, handle Granting of New Arms, and deal with fraudulent usage of coat of arms.

The Heraldry Society of Britain helps The College of Arms promote the study of arms, genealogy, history, chivalry, and knowledge of heraldry. They sponsor events, hold lectures, publish a newsletter, and maintain an archive of research and articles on British Heraldry and all its additional aspects.

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