On Trump’s Assumption of Another Man’s Arms

Recently, the arms used by the Trump Organization has come into the public light. The New York Times, on May 28th, 2017, published an article by Danny Hakim entitled The Coat of Arms Said ‘Integrity.’ Now It Says ‘Trump.’. The article outlines the history of the arms, which were granted to Joseph Edward Davies in 1939. Mr. Davies was the third husband of Marjorie Merriweather Post, who built Mar-a-Lago, the Florida resort now owned by the Trump Organization. What can be inferred from the article is that Mr. Trump, in his acquisition of Mar-a-Lago, also believes himself to have acquired rights to the arms in question.

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Image courtesy of the New York Times

I’ll do my best to avoid being political in my response to the notion of assuming another man’s arms. As a gentleman should, though, I try my best (and sometimes fail) to stay above the political quagmire. This particular issue, for me at least, is not of a political nature, but a question of honorable action.

I am not saying that Mr. Trump is dishonorable. I am saying that assuming someone’s arms that have been granted by a heraldic authority such as the College of Arms is a dishonorable action. I realize that the College of Arms has no jurisdiction in the United States, or anywhere outside its very limited realm of authority, but its still bad form. The arms displayed on Mar-a-Lago when Mr. Trump purchased it were not intellectual property or a trademark to be transferred with the purchase of that wonderful estate (if estate is a fitting term for a resort), but the personal property of a past owner, to be transmitted to his posterity, independent of where he might have displayed them in his lifetime. On this issue, I find myself at odds with Mr. Trump.

I realize that as the de facto leader of the free world, Mr. Trump faces intense criticism, much of which is of debatable validity. I am not here to heap burning coals. Heraldry, anachronistic as it may be, is nonetheless a passion of mine, and I do not wish to see it diminished by anyone, especially by someone such as Mr. Trump who seems to enjoy its use.

In fact, in December of 2016 after Mr. Trump was elected President of the United States I sent a letter to him, that in part, made this petition:

Now, to the main point of my letter: I am writing to ask your consideration in expanding the role of The Institute of Heraldry (www.tioh.hqda.pentagon.mil) to include civic, corporate, and personal grants of arms. I have observed that you are an admirer of armorial bearings, and I think the expansion of the Institute fits in with your pledge to make America great again. America’s greatness is displayed in our symbols, from Old Glory to the Great Seal to the bald eagle. The federal government and the military make excellent use of heraldic devices, I would love to see formal recognition of personal coats of arms.

To date, I have not received a response to this letter. Granted, I sent it care of the Trump Organization’s address at Trump Tower in New York, before he had been sworn in as President. Maybe I should resend it to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

I went on to make the case for a republic to have a heraldic authority:

Like you Mr. Trump, I have a coat of arms that I have assumed [N.B. I was not aware of the controversy surrounding his assumed arms at the time], which is all that is possible in America since there is no equivalent of the Court of the Lord Lyon or College of Arms for the granting of private arms. The best I can do to have my arms recognized by a heraldic body is to provide genealogical evidence of ancestry from a nation with an official heraldic body and petition for an honorary grant of arms. This is a very time consuming and costly effort. I could also petition another heraldic body that does not have descendancy limitations, such as the South African Bureau of Heraldry, which is less costly, but also carries less meaning since I have no hereditary affiliation to South Africa.

There are a few notable examples of republics that grant arms: South Africa, which I have already mentioned, and Ireland. Both of these republics have historical ties to Great Britain, as do we, and they do not find heraldry incompatible with their republicanism. Likewise several prominent Americans have been granted arms: President George Washington, through his decent from an armigerous ancestor; President Dwight D. Eisenhower, assigned/assumed in relation to his investiture in the Order of the Elephant; President John F. Kennedy, who was awarded a grant of arms from the Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland; and Secretary Colin Powell, who matriculated a coat of arms granted to his father, a Jamaican subject, from the Court of the Lord Lyon based on his mother’s Scottish heritage.

In amending the mission of The Institute of Heraldry, which would be well within your prerogative as Chief Executive, you would enable thousands of Americans to obtain formal recognition for their assumed arms.

I think expanding the role of the Institute of Heraldry could solve Mr. Trump’s woes in his improperly assumed arms, and provide American citizens the opportunity to have recognized grants of arms. I realize that adopting arms that differ from those that rightfully belong to the male heir of Joseph Edward Davies would be very costly for Mr. Trump, but it is the right thing to do. It is not a display of integrity to reuse a man’s arms without difference, except for changing the motto on the scroll from “Integritas” to “Trump”. I realize in the United States this may be “legal”, but it is most certainly not “gentlemanly”.

Am I asserting that Mr. Trump is not a gentleman; by all means, NO. Mr. Trump was elected as President with the mandate to Make America Great Again. I support him wholeheartedly in doing so. I just happen to think that part of that making great also includes following tradition. I’ve prayed for Mr. Trump’s success as President in doing the will of God, just as I did for his predecessor Mr. Obama. I didn’t pray for their individual success, I prayed for God’s blessings on the Nation through their leadership.

Mr. Trump is not old money and he doesn’t come from an established line of American “aristocracy”. He is a self-made man. He doesn’t need the arms of another man to provide him standing in society. One of my favorite books is The Great Gatsby. Mr. Trump reminds me of Jay Gatsby. He’s got the money; he’s in the right places, yet the old money snobs will never accept him. Mr. Trump’s story, at the trajectory it is on, will end much better than that of Jay Gatsby. Most importantly, Mr. Trump has a family to carry on the great name he is making. They have the potential to be a leading family in the American nobility (I can hear the shrill liberal screams of “liberté, égalité, fraternité” as I type this).

I think that one thing that Mr. Trump could do to secure that legacy would be to adopt his own unique arms, or have conferred upon him by some foreign state with a heraldic authority unique arms. These arms would be differenced among his sons, and passed on to their sons’ sons. This legitimate armorial achievement might even be as enduring as those borne by General George Washington, which he had hereditary right to through an armigerous ancestor.

Even if wholly unique arms are a step too far, Mr. Trump should at least difference the arms currently in use enough that they then become unique. Add a bordure, a canton, or something. Put a bald eagle in chief. Just something. The brand recognition would be retained and heraldry geeks such as me wouldn’t be blowing a gasket.

 

 

The allure of fake orders of chivalry

Caveat Emptor: This is solely my opinion; take it with a grain of salt.

Supposedly, the world we live in is full of equal people; surely we can see this when we look around. When I look around, unfortunately, this is not what I see. I see a world that is more akin to what we read of in the Parable of the Talents. Some men are blessed with more than others. Some men are able to do more with what they are blessed with. Some men squander whatever they have, no matter how great or small. Christ even teaches us that in His kingdom, he who thinks he is first will be last, and he who is last will be first. Even in this Kingdom, everyone has different abilities and different roles to play.

While this has given rise to a notion of “Christian communism”, We know that even the Lord Jesus recognized there were men of authority to whom his followers owed earthy allegiance. I’m sure I can quote the Christ’s command to the Pharisees to “render to Caesar the thingsthat are Caesar’sand to God the things that are God’s.” (Mat 22;21, ESV) and anyone reading this will understand what the Lord is saying.

I’m sure we all recall the story of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, and their mother, asking of Jesus that they (James and John) be granted a position of authority at the Christ’s right and left hands in his Kingdom:

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sonsand kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to herWhat do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sitone at your right handand one at your leftin your kingdom.” Jesus answeredYou do not know what you are askingAre you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We areable.” He said to themYou will drink my cupbut to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grantbut it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” (Mat 20:20-23, ESV)

We all know the lesson that Jesus was trying to teach, and we understand that James and John were asking out of pride and ignorance. One thing I’d like to key in on is that the right to essentially ennoble James and John was not one that even Jesus could give, in regard to this heavenly kingdom to come, it belonged to the Father. The LORD God, the great YHW is the fons honorum of the kingdom of Heaven.

Following that example, and hearkening back to Jesus’s statement that we are to render unto Caesar the things that are his, we recognize that God sanctions earthly kingdoms, and we are to abide by the laws of the land in which we find ourselves. In quite a bit of the world, that means we live in republics without a hereditary head of state; without a king, queen, duke, or so forth. Such states do not often retain some of the institutions that exist in monarchical states, and for the purpose of this monologue, orders of chivalry. A good source for this information is found on the website for the International Commission for Orders of Chivalry. The commission states several principles in determining if an order of chivalry is valid;

  1. Every independent State has the right to create its own Orders or Decorations of Merit and lay down, at will, their particular rules. But it must be made clear that only the higher degrees of these modern State Orders can be deemed of knightly rank,provided they are conferred by the Crown or by the “pro tempore” ruler of some traditional State.
  2. The Dynastic (or Family or House) Orders which belong jure sanguinis to a Sovereign House (that is to those ruling or ex-ruling Houses whose sovereign rank was internationally recognised at the time of the Congress of Vienna in 1814 or later) retain their full historical chivalric, nobiliary and social validity, notwithstanding all political changes. It is therefore considered ultra vires of any republican State to interfere, by legislation or administrative practice, with the Princely Dynastic Family or House Orders. That they may not be officially recognised by the new government does not affect their traditional validity or their accepted status in international heraldic, chivalric and nobiliary circles.
  3. It is generally admitted by jurists that such ex-sovereigns who have not abdicated have positions different from those of pretenders and that in their lifetime they retain their full rights as “fons honorum” in respect even of those Orders of which they remain Grand Masters which would be classed, otherwise, as State and Merit Orders.
  4. Although, at one time – many centuries ago – private people of high standing could and did create some independent Orders of Knighthood, some among which came, in due course, to gain considerable prestige and obtained formal validity from the Church and the Crown, such rights of creation of Orders have long since fallen into desuetude and, nowadays, Orders of Chivalry as we understand the term must always stem from or be – by longstanding uninterrupted tradition – under the protection of Chiefs or of Houses of recognised sovereign rank.
  5. The recognition of Orders by States or supranational organisations which themselves do not have chivalric orders of their own, and in whose Constitutions no provisions are made for the recognition of knightly and nobiliary institutions, cannot be accepted as constituting validation by sovereignties, since these particular sovereignties have renounced the exercise of heraldic jurisdiction. The international “status” of an Order of Knighthood rests, in fact, on the rights of fons honorum, which, according to tradition, must belong to the Authority by which this particular Order is granted, protected or recognised.
  6. The only recognised Order with the style of “Sovereign” existing nowadays is that of St John of Jerusalem, called of Rhodes, called of Malta, whose international headquarters were transferred to Rome in 1834, and whose international diplomatic “status” as an independent non-territorial power is recognised officially by the Holy See and by many other Governments. http://www.icocregister.org/principles.htm

With these principles in mind, it becomes clear that there are several orders of chivalry floating around that are illegitimate, yet many people are drawn to them. Why so?

First, it is worth noting that very few people in the world will have heard of even legitimate orders of chivalry, much less give a hoot about them. Those who do are either royalists in a monarchical society, or sympathetic to monarchical causes.

Veering slightly off topic for a moment, as a Christian, I find myself claiming to be subject to the kingdom of Heaven; as a pilgrim and sojourner here on earth, and a citizen of the United States in this physical realm. The Constitution is my Caesar, not the President. When I joined the military at an early age, my Oath was to support and defend the Constitution, but to obey the orders of the President. Before taking office, the President of the United States takes this oath:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” (United States Constitution, Article II, Section 1)

Even the President is subject to the Constitution, but the Constitution has no provision making it the fons honorum of the United States. A document can’t be a fount of honor; it cannot bestow privilege upon an individual. How much easier it would have been had that power been reserved for the President, but it was antithetical to the minds of the Founding Fathers who had just years before fought a war to secede from the kingdom that they were born in. I’ll not get into that debate here, now, but suffice it to say the Founding Fathers did not make a full break from the notions of aristocracy, as can be observed in their actions. I am especially thinking of their proud use of heraldry, which I in no way condemn. So I resign myself to the reality that I’ll never be ennobled. I’m common, if such a notion can be expressed as an American. I recognize there are people better than me in higher stations in life. They come from families that have held those positions for generations. But they don’s exist in America. Families here may be richer, even generationally so, but the sons of those houses are common just like me. But I digress…

So of the fake orders of chivalry, with the advent of the Internet they are Legion. Many people may be innocently doing so because they do not know the old rules. They don’t understand the concept of fons honorum, that not anyone can stand up an order and it be legitimate. Not just anyone can revive and extinct order, either. This practice seems to have begun not long after the Enlightenment, when the humanists and deists were destroying the institutions of monarchy. These newly self-made men had no need of a monarch to make them a knight, they could do so themselves. And they still longed for it. We don’t want to recognize anyone else as our “Betters”, but we have no qualms with wanting to be better than others around us. I think this is ingrained in human nature, as evinced in the earlier example of James and John.

But I find myself reticent to be too harsh on those in their ignorance are drawn to fake orders because they are likely my allies in upholding tradition, they just don’t fully understand. Who in their childhood hasn’t wished to become a knight? The problem then lies with those who know better, and flagrantly defy the notion of a fons honorum and set themselves up as grand masters of some order. They wear medallions and capes and pretend their organizations are legitimate. The draw in others who buy their way to worthless knighthoods that are of no more reality than the kingdoms in the Society for Creative Anachronism, which in its own context provides a great outlet for those who yearn for medieval days. And the SCA holds public events where its knights melee and battle for their notoriety and fame.

This also brings up another concern: the diminished value of legitimate orders due to the change of focus in who is honored. Orders of chivalry were originally made up of men of reputable military service. Honorable men. Nowadays, many actors and entertainers make up the ranks of knighthood; men and women who have never served their nations in a military capacity and who may even publicly oppose the monarchic institution. Such appointments betray the honor of the original institutions. I’ll not be too harsh on the fons honorum who grants such appointments, however, understanding the great political influence that forces him or her to do so. Such is the problem with constitutional monarchies.

So in summary, one might find himself drawn to a fake order for a myriad of reasons. To even know they exist means the individual is likely of some royalist bent. The gentleman or lady (I’ll afford them that honor) realizes he or she will likely never be recognized in a legitimate order, thus concedes to seek recognition in a fake order. They then satisfy their desire to put on the mantle of nobility and be recognized in their group of pretend knights. In general I do not see where this creates any true harm, other than perpetrating fraud with little opportunity for damage, although in countries with legitimate orders, the person may be engaging in crime. Is that crime worth prosecution, given the greater violence occurring in the world today? Probably not.

Would I join a fake order to satisfy these cravings for nobility of my own? Absolutely not. Even though I live in a republic where I am free to associate with whomever I please and call myself whatever I please (although it wouldn’t be recognized by the state), I can’t in good conscience support such institutions. I cannot endorse a fraud even if no harm would come from it.

 

Sovereign Magistral Order of the Temple of Solomon

Sometime back I wrote about the curious case of the king of Mann, and it has been brought to my attention that “prince David, king of Mann, is involved with another quasi-monarchic entity. Apparently now there also exists the Sovereign Magistral Order of the Temple of Solomon, which claims to be the true, for real, honest to goodness, continuation of the Knights Templar. This is not be be confused with the Masonic Grand Encampment of the Knights Templar, nor the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem, nor the Knights Templar GCKT International, nor any other number of “Templar” organizations either claiming to be the true continuation of the Knights Templar or just ascribing to the goals of the original. None of these organizations, to my knowledge are backed by a true monarchic fount of honor, whether current or of the deposed ruling family of a current republic.

So what of the Sovereign Magistral Order of the Temple of Solomon? Their website claims:

  • Judiciary recognition as a nation-state subject of international law
  • Full ecclesiastical authority in its own right
  • Recognized and in full communion with the original Holy See of Antioch
  • Recognized through official United Nations (UN) non-governmental organization (NGO) registrations

I’ll attempt to dissect these claims as best I can.

Judiciary recognition as a nation-state subject of international law

I am no scholar in International Law, so let’s take a look and see who recognizes the Sovereign Magistral Order of the Temple of Solomon as a nation-state:

What I can conclude is that those who make up the Sovereign Magistral Order of the Temple of Solomon are subjects of nation-states, in whatever nation-state their particular citizenship lies (Americans aren’t subjects of any earthly ruler… I know, I know), and thus subject to International Law, and the Judiciary of whatever country they are citizens of surely recognizes this.

Full ecclesiastical authority in its own right

And what self-created religious entity doesn’t, especially one based in a free nation???

Recognized and in full communion with the original Holy See of Antioch

This one takes a little more effort. If you read down on the Order’s website, it claims:

(5) From 1131 AD, the Holy See of Antioch as a Protectorate was vested in the dynastic royal line of King Fulk of Jerusalem (one of the 9 founding Knights Templar), which was directly conveyed by King Fulk to the Grand Mastery in 1131 AD, and reverted back to the King Fulk line with the persecution of the Knights Templar in 1307 AD;

(6) In 2014 AD, the Holy See of Antioch was reconnected with its original Royal Protection under the Kingdom of Mann, and reconstituted by a historic Protocol of Restoration, written and facilitated by the Templar Grand Master.

King Fulk died in 1143 AD, buried in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, evidencing his central historic importance to the Knights Templar. He was succeeded by his son from Melesinde (daughter of Baldwin II), King Baldwin III of Jerusalem (1130-1163), leading to a line of Kings of Jerusalem which ended with King Henry II of Cyprus, who was only the “titular” King of Jerusalem, with that merely honourary title being extinguished upon his death in 1291 AD.

The full dynastic Fons Honourum authority of the Kings of Jerusalem (higher than the mere “titular” honor that was extinguished) had therefore reverted to the other royal line from King Fulk’s first wife (Ermengarde of Maine, who died 1126). Fulk was succeeded by Count Geoffrey V of Anjou (1113-1151), the father of King Henry II of England (1133-1189), then King Richard the Lionheart (1157-1199), then Kings Henry III (1207-1272), Edward I (1239-1307), Edward II (1284-1327), Edward III (1312-1377), and seven generations later Prince George Stanley (1460-1503).

That surviving line then continued to the modern Royal Protector of the Templar Order, King David of Mann (in 2007), who worked with the Knights Templar to restore the Principality of Antioch as a Protectorate of the Order (in 2013), and the Holy See as a Protectorate of the Kingdom (in 2014).

In September 2014, the Order of the Temple of Solomon facilitated and implemented the “Protocol of Restoration of the Holy See of Antioch”, which was drafted and negotiated by the Templar Grand Master Prince Matthew of Thebes, with Cardinal Doctor Khern S. Oliver.

In this historic move accomplished by the Protocol of Restoration, the Independent Rite of Catholic Churches, representing the Old Catholic Church movement, was merged into the Holy See of Antioch as a historical institution. That merger fully reconstituted the Patriarchate of Antioch, re-vesting in it an accumulated 66 classical lines of Apostolic Succession by Canonical “laying on of hands”.

Thus, the Holy See of Antioch of the Apostolic Old Catholic Church was officially and legally restored as a sovereign historical institution under Canon law.

So… This has nothing to do with any existing churches actually in Antioch, such as:

Thus, this recognition appears to be of itself by itself.

Recognized through official United Nations (UN) non-governmental organization (NGO) registrations

My best guess is this claim comes from the organization’s “head of state” prince Matthew of Thebes being “an authoritative academic, leading historian and archaeologist for United Nations NGO organizations“, but I can’t find any references to which NGO registrations accomplishes such recognition.

So is it a Nation-State?

Not according to UNESCO. To be a nation-state, you really have to occupy a physical space, not just have a web presence. You can’t just be an online community that may perchance actually have its membership meet somewhere from time to time. In my opinion, Sovereign Magistral Order of the Temple of Solomon is no more a legitimate entity than one of the kingdoms that constitute the Society for Creative Anachronism.

What of its Knighthood and Titles of Nobility?

Yes, what of it? I have a strong suspicion no one outside of this or some other pretend nation would acknowledge it. One would as likely recognize The Count from Sesame Street or Count Chockula as nobility as one bearing a title from Sovereign Magistral Order of the Temple of Solomon. One might as well become a Scottish Laird. At least that country is real.

Parting Thoughts

Were it not for the seriousness of the matter, I would just shrug off the Sovereign Magistral Order of the Temple of Solomon as another online roleplaying exercise that spills over into real life. One of the things that concerns me is the name dropping the Sovereign Magistral Order of the Temple of Solomon engages in, without specific reference to whom they are referring. That to me smacks of a lack of credibility.

However, there is money involved and some people, through lack of knowledge or scruples, might be taken in by the notion of becoming a noble. I think that’s part of the draw of Downton Abbey. We all have this yearning to be one of the “Betters”, of the Upper Class. With the advent of the Internet, this is made readily available for anyone with a some spare change to drop on a meaningless certificate. I’m afraid to takes more than a certificate stating nobility to make it so.

Likewise, it takes more than a website to make a nation-state. On the bright side, I believe Bir Tawil is still looking for some inhabitants. I’m sure Egypt and the Sudan would welcome a pretend online crusader state in-between them.

My comments on Armed Forces Week

There’s nothing to stoke the ego quite like being interviewed for television. At an American Legion district meeting yesterday afternoon, I was asked to provide some comments for a reporter with one of the local television statements. I didn’t get to see the segment that was broadcast, but I was quoted online as saying:

Veteran Jeremy Blevins says, “I think its wonderful to see the City of Huntsville and the Tennessee Valley in general do for the veterans community and its active duty service members.”

 

Blevins does say while many attractions use this week to provide retired and active duty military free admission, that’s now what they look forward to when they choose to risk their lives for their country.

 

“Veterans are never asking for a handout, we always, we’d like to be recognized for our service to our country, but we didn’t serve our country to be recognized.” (Source: WAAY TV)

There’s nothing like stumbling through an interview that you haven’t prepared for. With my role in the Legion over the past couple years, I’ve had a couple opportunities to be in front of the camera, and the introvert inside me cringes every time it happens. I hope for the benefit of everyone who has to sit through watching me that I get better.

Imagine my surprise when another ABC affiliate in Florida posted the article to its website. Given that my commentary has now escaped the Tennessee Valley, I wish I hadn’t stumbled over the wording.

 

You’ve made it when Wikipedia links to you

I was browsing the stats for this site recently and I noticed a link coming from Wikipedia. To my surprise, an early American pioneer, William Blevins, was mentioned on the Long hunter entry. And in an even greater surprise, my comments on this William Blevins are listed as further reading on the topic. And on top of that, the link to my site was inserted over a year ago.

I did notice there is no actual page on Wikipedia for this William Blevins, so I’ll endeavor to create one in the near future.