Attributed arms: suggestions for best places to research?

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Douglas Solberg-Bell
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Attributed arms: suggestions for best places to research?

Post by Douglas Solberg-Bell » Sun Mar 01, 2015 12:53 am

Good day, all.

I have become interested recently in the practice of attributing arms to individuals for whom no record of armorial achievement exists--specifically for individuals living before the advent of modern heraldry. It is one thing to consult a conventional roll of arms to learn the blazon of, say, Saer de Quincy, but quite another to learn what a medieval herald would have chosen for Charlemagne, if anyone had consulted him on the subject. This pastime of attributing arms sometimes went rather far afield, inventing arms not only for pre-heraldic kings and nobles, but also for Christian saints, Jesus of Nazareth, and Lucifer, though they apparently stopped short of arming the Almighty.

Part of me is a little uncomfortable with attributing arms to parties who cannot consent to them, but another part argues that some of these individuals may well have insisted upon the honor of being accorded arms, as being consistent with the dignity of their social standing and the power that they wielded.

I have begun a project to craft a few dozen miniature shields depicting the arms of my ancestors, and have been faced with the problem of determining the best means of doing that for those individuals who lived before the age of modern heraldry properly began. Does anyone reading this have suggestions for the best places to research attributed arms? I have only a few more to get to grips with, and it would be great to be able to at least take a best-guess when it comes to individuals such as Robert I de Beaumont. People like him present me with a quandary--use the arms of Meulan? Of Leicester? A version of the more modern Beaumont? Or are there attributed arms for him recorded somewhere?

Thank you in advance for your suggestions.

Douglas

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Martin Goldstraw
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Re: Attributed arms: suggestions for best places to research

Post by Martin Goldstraw » Mon Mar 02, 2015 4:59 pm

Douglas Solberg-Bell wrote:
Part of me is a little uncomfortable with attributing arms to parties who cannot consent to them
Why feel uncomfortable, the Lord Lyon in Scotland grants arms to the ancestors of today's applicants whether or not they themselves would have qualified for arms at the time they were alive; if the Lord Lyon can invent a legal fiction then why can't we invent plain fictions?
Douglas Solberg-Bell wrote: //snip // when it comes to individuals such as Robert I de Beaumont. People like him present me with a quandary--use the arms of Meulan? Of Leicester? A version of the more modern Beaumont? Or are there attributed arms for him recorded somewhere?
I've never given this much thought but if I were to embark on such a project for real historic individuals (that is to say those from whom we can actually trace living descendants) I would first of all see if there were any actual armorial bearings of male descendants whereby, if we work backwards, we might make the fiction that the arms might have been granted/assumed by the ancient person and been inherited according to whatever rules appertained in the country of that person. So, as an example, if we take the present day earl of Shrewsbury and trace his ancestor back to the earliest known bearer of his arms we can then keep going back in time (using the English system of transmitting arms but in reverse) to the earliest known, pre-heraldic direct male ancestor and pretend that he bore those arms. I would only attribute arms in use today to someone in the past if the rules of armorial succession worked in reverse so to speak; if they didn't then I wouldn't attribute any other existing arms to that person (for example arms which came in by marriage).

If the real person's male line became extinct prior to the general use of armorial bearings then you have a blank canvas and who is to say that the arms you have fictitiously devised for that person are any better or worse than those anyone else had devised; it's all make believe anyway.
Martin Goldstraw

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The Armorial Register
http://www.armorial-register.com

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Douglas Solberg-Bell
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Re: Attributed arms: suggestions for best places to research?

Post by Douglas Solberg-Bell » Fri Mar 06, 2015 12:45 am

Thank you, Martin. Your suggestion to work the problem backwards from a known armiger, so to speak, feels right for some of these people. In other cases, I suppose I shall have to simply make the best effort I can, especially where descent goes through one or more feminine generations (many of the lines in question do so, just one of many reasons I am an untitled gentleman). As you note, the situation with attributed arms is largely one of make-believe anyway, and the end result only need satisfy my household.

Douglas

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Michael F. McCartney
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Re: Attributed arms: suggestions for best places to research?

Post by Michael F. McCartney » Sun Apr 05, 2015 7:20 pm

If you're going to create new arms to attribute to an ancestor, you might consider tracing and contacting at least a few living folks who would share those arms if they had been borne by that ancestor. Besides the intrinsic value of finding & meeting/contacting more cousins, the new arms will mean more if you have wider buy-in. And who knows - you might find a cousin who has already concocted arms for that lineage.
Mike~~
Fremont, California

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