Searching for the meaning of Blazons

The Language of Heraldry
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Searching for the meaning of Blazons

Post by ThomasAtkinson53 » Fri Dec 19, 2008 6:05 pm

I'm wondering if there is a way to determine what a particular Coat of Arms means? For instance, my ancestors Coat of Arms is as follows:

"Azure a Cross argent voided between four lions rampant or"

Accompained by the Crest of "An eagle wings expanded or"

Now, this was duly registered in 1623 and originally granted to Henry Atkinson of the City of Oxford.

When my family came to New England in the mid 1600's, they displayed this Coat of Arms. However, by as early as 1750 a motto was added "Nil facimus non Sponte Dei."

I know what the motto means. I have a letter from the College of Arms attesting to the origin the Blazons, although no motto is mentioned. What I'm trying to determine is when might the motto have been added and what did the original Blazons mean?

I have noticed that a number of clergy, from various families had Blazon of voided crosses with the four lions. The colors were different, and the crest were different.

Anyone have any thoughts on this? I welcome any input. Thanks,

Tom Atkinson
Union City, TN USA

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David E. Cohen
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Post by David E. Cohen » Sat Dec 20, 2008 3:16 am

I am sure that others with far more knowedge than I will respond, but I can tell you that there may actually be no meaning whatsoever, and if there was, it may never have been recorded. Oftentimes, arms had no meaning when adopted. It could have been that your ancestor wanted to show his affinity to both England and Christianity, and also happened to like Azure and Argent. Or he may just have settled on the concept because it looked nice and was distinctive.

It is interesting about the similar shields, though. That may well trump everthing I previously said. :lol: I await with interest the responses of the wise and the learned. :)

david b appleton
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Re: Searching for the meaning of Blazons

Post by david b appleton » Thu Jun 20, 2013 5:59 pm

You might take a look at the MFAQ of the rec.heraldry newsgroup, which answers two commonly-asked questions: "My name is Smith, what are my arms?" and "My coat of arms contains a widget azure. What is the significance of a widget in heraldry?"

The rec.heraldry MFAQ can be found on Francois Velde's website Heraldica at:


David B. Appleton
Appleton Studios
Heraldry: Musings on an esoteric topic

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Steven Harris
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Re: Searching for the meaning of Blazons

Post by Steven Harris » Wed Jul 03, 2013 2:19 pm

ThomasAtkinson53 wrote:I'm wondering if there is a way to determine what a particular Coat of Arms means?
This was very much a concern of mine when I designed and assumed my arms. I had put a respectable amount of thought into the symbolism behind my arms, and I didn't much care for the thought of that being lost.

I noticed that the Canadian Heraldic Authority includes a "symbolism" section with their grants. I suppose that they, like me, wanted to preserve not only the arms, but also the "why" of how they were devised.

Perhaps inspired by this, I crafted a rather detailed "design rationale" when I recorded my arms with the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

This doesn't help Tom with his 390-year old quest; but 390-years in the future, my nth-great-grandson will at least have someplace to start looking.
Steven A. Harris
Massachusetts, United States

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