On President 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.

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.



In deference to true heraldic artists

I recently stumbled upon A Message from Andrew Stewart Jamieson in which he contrasts true “heraldic artists” with “fraudsters, amateurs, and con artists who, calling themselves heraldic artists, offer substandard, commercial services to unsuspecting clients and patrons”. On the same site was a post titled Heraldic Art and Copyright Infringement, both of which are written on the premise of the existence of amateur hacks attempting to exploit the desire for heraldic designs.

Mr. Jamieson is the Scribe and Illuminator of HM Queen Elizabeth II, and has a well-documented career in heraldic arts. Given his reputation, I give much credence to what he has said in the aforementioned article. In it he stated he “began to notice a pattern emerging and to me it was a danger signal which warned of the very demise of the art form I love.” This was related to individuals on web forums offering services as heraldic artists, but without a background and portfolio of works commensurate with the services they were looking to charge others for. In Mr. Jamieson’s words:

Many of these amateurs have little or no idea of the craft of heraldic art or of its long tradition and development from the techniques of medieval manuscript illumination. They have no sense of design and, most importantly, they cannot draw. 

This statement, to me, sums up much of modern art, but I suppose in that realm I am just not cultured enough to appreciate it. Many an artist has splashed paint against a canvas and sold for profit what would earn my children a severe scolding, were I to find it on my own wall. Alas, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Mr. Jamieson’s heraldic works, though, truly are objets d’art.

In the past, an artist would master his craft by mimicking the works of those whom he admired, and spend many years working toward his own style, but as was stated in the articles referenced, modern technology has short circuited the process. One now only has to obtain a digital copy of an image to begin manipulating it to his own designs. With a little practice, one could become proficient in taking a cookie cutter approach to emblazonment, and output decent quality (digital) work. It is my uneducated opinion that a vast majority of heraldic consumers would never know the difference. With the anonymity afforded by the Internet, one could easily build a pseudo-reputation as an heraldic artist. And as stated by Mr. Jamieson:

These fraudsters are often retired or are employed and have careers and receive a regular wage; to them heraldry is just a sideline. I have seen young professionals for whom heraldry is their only career, fall by the wayside no longer able to support their families. This is morally wrong and it is delivering a death blow to this field.

The problem here seems to be whether a patron is willing to pay for true art put down on canvas by a steady hand in quality inks, or is the patron satisfied with a digital work? As an anachronist, I do not even consider the two to be on the same level. The physical artist makes an heirloom to be passed down for generations, the digital artist creates a work that lasts so long as it is electronically available[1]. One cannot be duplicated without retaining the hand of the master, the other can be duplicated en masse with the click of a button. Anyone can own a “Renoir“, but only one can possess the original[2].

So what of the aspiring heraldic artist, the rank amateur, or (in my case) the novice? Those of us who want to dabble in heraldic design and entertain ourselves with our handiwork? Mr. Jamieson has words for us as well:

There is, of course, no problem with amateurs and hobbyists doing heraldic scribbles for their own amusement. I positively welcome this

As illustrated by my assumed arms as emblazoned, I am amongst the ranks of heraldic scribblers. I think in putting my illustrations together I violated nearly everything spoken against in the two articles. First, I pulled down SVGs of heraldic examples from Wikipedia. I cut and pasted elements to suit my needs. I traced over jpegs of lower quality so that I could make scalable vector images. I did my best not to use copyrighted images, so as not to violate anyone’s copyright. I bought several books on heraldry and heraldic art so that I would have examples to follow, but I have not developed my own style, nor likely will I. I simply reached a point with my “work” that I was not ashamed to post it to my own website. I sat back, satisfied (but not content) with the “quality” of what I had created. Would I do the same for someone else? Sure. Would I charge them for it? Absolutely not. One should not pay someone else for amateur quality work. Would I ever endeavor to become a professional heraldic artist. Never. This is not my forte, and as quoted above from Mr. Jamieson, it cuts into the livelihood of true artists.

All this hearkens back to the notion that technology undercuts talent. We can call this luddism if we like, but the fact remains that skills are lost when the means of creation are taken out of human hands. This is especially true in the arts. Where once a musician was required to perform great melodies, nowadays, anyone with Garage Band and a sufficient supply of instrumental samples can put together a song. That song can then be replayed in its digital “perfection” as many times as the listener desires. Likewise, the Renoir referenced above can be reprinted to exact tolerances as many times as it can be sold, always “perfect”. And this perfection can be obtained in anything reproduced digitally, but the element lacking is “soul”: that imperfect and one-offness that can only be imparted at the moment of creation by a human hand. The fingers strumming a string or grasping a brush. The pressure applied by human hand to create that which is truly unique.

So back to the premise of supply and demand. Are we who desire objects willing to pay for the quality of masters, or are we satisfied with a third-rate knock-off? I fear I know the answer. Will we see the demise that Mr. Jamieson fears? Let those of us interested in heraldic arts hope not.


[1] I am purposely ignoring arguments for the loss or destruction of the physical work and I realize a digital copy may be archived, replicated, recreated, &etc.

[2] What if the artist created two originals? They are still going to be two unique works, and not identical.

[UPDATE: 22 July 2013]
Here is another example of a truly talented heraldic artist:

Principality of Hutt River

I have a bit of a penchant for monarchic states so a recent article on the Principality of Hutt River on Reason.com caught my attention. From the article:

Hutt River’s secession and heraldry are neither a political statement nor a publicity stunt. They resulted from one man’s determination to save his wheat farm from ruinous government mandates. In 1970, after fighting a losing battle to repeal a stifling wheat quota, Leonard Casley and several of his neighbors declared independence from Australia. “We seceded to protect our lands,” says Casley, “to stop our lands from being taken from us.”

For more than four decades the self-made monarch has matched wits with irritated bureaucrats and politicians. So far, he’s come out ahead.

The article is an interesting read on what led Prince Leonard to reach the point of seceding from Australia. Reason focused on the libertine issues that led to the formation of the Principality: the wheat tariffs, the actions of the Australian government, the legal maneuvering by the Prince to secure his lands within international and common law. I find all that impressive. The declaration of war and cessation of hostilities to establish his sovereignty was ingenious. A couple other articles detail the events (here and here) and it is worth noting that, while it may be viewed as only existing “on paper”, the Principality of Hutt River nonetheless still exists. I offer my best wishes to Prince Leonard and the success of his Principality.

Hatching emblazoned arms

An excellent article on using hatching in emblazoned arms:

Coelius Servilius:
ARA everyone likes. It is a saying that warns of the subjectivity of tastes and preferences of each. We live in the XXI century and since the end of the last century we have the possibility of many colors represent a variety of ways, easily and at a relatively low cost. We even have multiple systems management thereof.

Pantone color palette.

The system to represent the colors on a computer monitor is RGB system. RGB is a combination of red, green and blue. It is a reliable way to represent a color. For print professionals is better to tell the colors with the CMYK gamut. Also a combination CMYK RGB type, therefore is also reliable. Another color management system is the Pantone palette. Pantone colors is numbered so that giving your reference can compose a pot of paint desired shade. Pantone is a trading system, so it is not advisable to reference your color palette, because as the owner of the code, can change anytime.

RGB, CMYK and Pantone, like others, are modern color spaces. In the twelfth century devised a “color space” for heraldry.

Palette heraldry.

Unlike now had to define the exact methods to use chromaticism. The gules is red, period. What is red? it is the color of blood, poppies color or some roses. , Come on, you know what the red and if you do not have a problem.

Illuminated manuscript.

Formerly the books were luxury items. The acquisition of a book was in the hands of a few and there were few who could afford the cost of doing a book manuscript. Still, with these books had the opportunity to represent the blue, red, gold, green … of glazes. With the advancement of technology and the invention of printing was achieved very efficiently in the production of a book referring to what came before.

Europeans associate the invention of the Gutenberg printing press, but Asians had already printed books centuries before we did it. More than a figment of a person was the evolution of culture. Thanks to this method could be stamping letters on paper and then bind. It took quite in assembling the letters to make a sheet, but once assembled it was very easy to make duplicates. He gained in effectiveness, but was lost in elasticity. Now was printed in one ink and could not represent colors.

A priest heraldista Silvestro da Pietrasanta Italian named Petra Sancta or Sylvester or Silvester Petra Sancta Petrasancta or Pietrasanta or Sylvester or Sylvester resembling in some language and “Holy Stone” in another, also known by his pseudonym Coelius Servilius invented in 1638 a system of traces to represent the enamel without the need to do with color.

And with this system may represent a single ink around a heraldic shield:

Party: 1 gold, an eagle of saber gold 2nd, a tree vert gules fruity with a steep boar sable, defended and armed gules, surmounted of three growing ranversados ​​azure.
Vert: a Gordian knot of gold, pierced by a sword low silver gold trimmed end of which is held by the skillful peak of a contoured silver dove with outstretched wings, and the fire in the snout of a fox silver, both in attitude undo; campaign ondada tucked in waves of silver and sable, a golden sun brochante loaded with the symbol of the Virgin Mary of azure.

To see more types of scratches to enamels called secondary raw, etc. should not be used, look at the entry written at the time. I leave the link at the end:

Related Posts

  1. Metals
  1. Colors
  1. Veros
  1. Stoats.
  1. Enamels side


Casting aside Arthur in search of fact

  1. Stop looking for ‘King Arthur’. 
  2. Forget the characters, artefacts, and places of legend. 
  3. Abandon the written sources.
  4. It’s not just about the South — get some context!
  5. ‘Arthur’ was not the defender of the Romans.
  6. ‘Arthur’ did not fight against the Saxon invasion.
  7. Britain wasn’t united — fifth-century factions.
  8. Stop looking for Saxons or Britons.
  9. There were no ‘knights’.
  10. Start thinking in terms of a mess.
Well, this list sure takes the fun out of the matter. I suppose number one is a bit of contradictory advice for a gentleman trying to sell a book on the topic. We live in a stale, matter-of-fact world where if there is not room for conjecture or speculation. If a particular subject does not stand up to the scrutiny of whatever scientific or archaeologic application of a given period, it is discarded as false. Until it isn’t, as was the case with Troy. There wasn’t a Troy until the right person came along and dug in the right place. A fair amount of Homer’s account of the Trojan was was vindicated, allowing for embellishment through oral tradition over generations. I’ll stick with my probably-embellished-possibly-false accounts and enjoy the story.
So to be fair in my rant, I need to actually read the book and then comment back intelligently.

Beautiful example of heraldry

Restoration of Queen’s Park Suspension Bridge, Chester 2012.:

In 2012 David Kynaston was commissioned by Chester West and Chester Council to restore the armorial bearings of the seven Norman Earls of Chester along with the ancient and modern versions of the Chester Arms which grace the Queen’s Park Suspension Bridge in Chester. The arms, which are cast out of lead, were fully repaired with all their broken and missing parts replaced. They were then fully repainted and finished in 23 1/2 carat gold leaf. The silver wolves’ heads were finished in palladium leaf.
I reproduce below some of the photographs from the web site of the restorer and encourage my reader to pay it a visit. A worthy project undertaken on behalf of a proud local authority by a true craftsman.


My connection to Clan Douglas

Some time back I became interested in my Scottish roots and discovered that my maternal ancestors, the Blackwoods, were historically associated with Clan Douglas. I understand that normally, Scottish clan association is paternal, but given that my paternal ancestry is Welsh, I was curious if I could actually claim clanship through my mother’s line, so I contacted the Court of the Lord Lyon to enquire.

Armed with this affirmation, I continue down the rabbit hole that is genealogy. 
I have to admit though, that the Blackwood line appears to be a little easier to trace than the Blevins line has proven to be. I have a fairly unbroken line from me to the Blackwoods who settled in North Carolina. The first Blackwood that I have found reference to in American was a William Blackwood who came over with a group of Presbyterians, first to Pennsylvania, and then on to North Carolina.  Here is my line to this gentleman:
Me > Donna Kay Puckett (Blackwood) > Wes Chester (1931-1997) > James Wesley(1884-1939) > James Monroe (1853-1924) > Joseph (1833-1863) > Isaac (1775-1855) > James (1732-1810) > William (1706-1774)
This William Blackwood was the son of Charles Blackwood (b.1680) and Agnes Hunter and was born in Glencarin, Dunfries, Scotland, and christened on 11 August 1706. He married Elizabeth “Betsy” Craige after he had moved to Londonderry, Northern Ireland. They are purported to have immigrated to  Philadelphia 1740 aboard a ship named “Mary William”, but I’ve found no ship of such name, though there were ships named Mary, Mary Ann, and William destined from Northern Ireland to Philadelphia about that time.
To be continued…