Written By: Jennifer L Gordon
Coats of Arms and Heraldry have a rich history all over the world. Many people tend to relate it to ancient and / or royal families, mostly outside of the United States. Yet, with the explosion of ancestry studies and the emergence of sites all over the internet offering free and paid subscription information about family history, Heraldry and Coats of Arms have started coming back into light and being displayed by societies, universities, families, as well as individuals.
The 21st century continues with Coats of Arms being used by a variety of institutions, societies, and individuals. For example, European cities and universities continue to have rules and regulations on how their Coats of Arms may be used. The modern societies that exist also help in the design and registration of Coats of Arms. There are nations, such as England and Scotland, which still maintain the same heraldic authorities that have traditionally regulated, as well as granted, arms for centuries and still continue to do so.
Another example of how Heraldry / Coats of Arms still flourish in the modern world is in Ireland and the United Kingdom. Scotland’s Lord Lyon King of Arms, the English Kings of Arms, and the Chief Herald of Ireland all continue to work with the granting of arms. There are current heraldic authorities in Canada, Africa, Australia, the Americas, and Europe that grant or register Coats of Arms. Countries with heraldic authorities are governed by particular laws. They often grant rights and possession to bear arms as well as protection against mistreatment of the Arms by others. Yet, countries without heraldic authority to grant arms tend to treat Coats of Arms in much the same way as symbols or logos. And, many may not know that they may be protected under copyright laws if registered appropriately because of it.
Coats of Arms have evolved over time, and many people and institutions use them today. In particular, colleges and universities use coats of arms. They have very careful rules and regulations about how they may be used and who may use them. Coats of Arms belong to the tradition of heraldry, which refers to the design and display of the arms. A prime example of this Harvard University. Their Coat of Arms includes twenty-seven arms, which represents such academic units of the University as Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges, the graduate schools and the various College Houses. This can be seen on their site: http://asklib.law.harvard.edu/a.php?qid=37308.
It seems that people see Heraldry and Coats of Arms as a part of their national and personal heritages. Today, it is not so much a worldly expression of aristocracy, but more of a form of identification and ancestrial pride. Even though the practice of Heraldry / Coats of Arms is almost 900 years old, it is still very much alive in modern day throughout many cities and towns in Europe and around the world. Personal heraldry, whether protected legally and assumed lawfully, has continued to be displayed around the world. Heraldic societies and sites are still around today in order to promote education and understanding about Hearaldry and Coats of Arms. Anyone interested can start with the International Heraldry website and go from there.