The Oettle family of Baden-Württemberg
has for centuries borne the same coat of arms as the Oettel family
of Franconia: Chapé ployé azure and gules, 1 & 2: three mullets
of six points or, 3: a unicorn argent. Crest: A demi-unicorn issuant
argent. Torse: Or, azure, argent and gules. Mantling: dexter or and
azure, sinister argent and gules. Oettles from various parts of
Württemberg display these arms, in places as far apart as Stuttgart
The arms are also borne by the Oettle
family in South Africa, descended from the brothers Georg Johann and
Christian Frederich Oettle, immigrants from the small town of Urbach,
east of Stuttgart, where their father owned the local Schloss Urbach,
which he had purchased, lying between the villages of Oberurbach
As a small boy, the armiger was
fascinated by a wooden carving of the shield which hung in the
family home and had been made, years earlier, by his grandfather
Emil Frederich (Erich) Oettle when he himself was schoolboy in Port
Elizabeth; this fascination was to lead to a lifelong interest in
In Urbach there is a second Oettle
family that bears arms that are also chapé ployé with the upper
segments blue and charged with three gold stars on each side, but
the lower segment is silver and charged with mining tools in black.
In German, the mullets are blazoned as Sternen, but when the
armiger first encountered a blazon for the arms, it was quoted in
French from Rietstap, who called the stars étoiles. In his
ignorance he assumed that this was equivalent to the British charge
called an estoile, which is a star with wavy arms.
When the armiger inquired about
registering the arms with the Bureau of Heraldry in Pretoria, he was
told that since the arms belonged to a family in a different region
of Germany, it could not register them without some mark of
difference. He then decided to enlarge the unicorn and place it
across the entire shield, not just the red portion, and to reduce
the number of stars to three, placing them in the three corners.
Having become attached to the estoile, he chose to use it instead of
the straight-armed mullet.
A typical German method of differencing
is to change the crest, so he decided to dispense with the demi-unicorn
and replace it with a South African animal. Initially, he favoured
the kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros), but it is a popular
charge, appearing in various coats of arms and military badges, so
he chose to alter its colour to blue.
The torse and mantling are distinctly in
German style; in Britain only three colours would normally be
allowed, and the mantling would be uniform but he chose to retain
the German style.
The motto was chosen because the
armiger’s Swiss great-grandmother Marie Oettle, wife of Georg
Johann, made a number of wooden shields in poker writing, bearing
the legend “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,” a quotation
from Proverbs 14:27. This happens to be the third reference in
Proverbs to the fear of the Lord, the third to a fountain of life,
and the first combining the two. The armiger had toyed with the idea
of using the motto in German, considering the origin of the family,
but since Marie was French-speaking and chose to do her poker work
in English (since she lived in the colonial English town of Port
Elizabeth) he decided to stick to English.
The official blazon as registered
with the Bureau of Heraldry in 2012 is:
ployé Azure, overall a unicorn clymant Argent, armed, crined and
unguled Or, langued Gules, between three estoiles Or. Torse: Or,
Azure, Argent and Gules. Mantling: Dexter Or and Azure, sinister
Argent and Gules. Crest: A demi-kudu issuant Azure, attired and
unguled Or, langued Gules, striped Argent.
The decision to use the verb clymant
signifies two things: firstly, the unicorn is supposedly derived
from the goat, and clymant is used in Scottish heraldry to indicate
a goat in a rampant pose. Since the armiger’s ancestry is also
partly Scottish (through my mother’s maternal grandfather) the
usage is also a nod to his Scottish connection.