* A Welcome and an Explanation
* Our Purpose
* Classical Heraldry Today
* Diana's Heraldry
* The Constitution
* Scams: Bucketshops Online
* Descendants of "Braveheart"
* Growth in Genealogical Activity
* JAG-1: Feudal Titles
* Heraldic Badges
* Looking Around: The Burlington Arcade
* Pegasus Armorie
* Heraldry for Home Pages
* Our Sponsors and Advertisers
If you have received this new issue of The Feudal Herald it is either because you specifically asked to have sent to you the newsletter of The Baronage Press or the Fabergé information newsletter, or because you sent a query on heraldry, history, genealogy or heirloom antiques to The Baronage Press (or, on one of the CompuServe forums such as Authors, Writers, Screenwriters or Roots, to Septimus or Ebenezer or Sebastian or William or Frederick).
We bid you all welcome and hope you will find the content of our newsletters interesting and useful. (If you do not, or if you find the newsletter's arrival intrusive, we apologise. You may unsubscribe quickly with the procedure described at the end of the text.)
As electronic newsletters cannot incorporate illustrations, and as heraldry is a colourful art, you will find the text hyperlinked, where appropriate, to the relevant page or graphic in the current issue of The Baronage Press magazine.
Regular readers of The Baronage Press magazine will have noted our recent inactivity. This has been owed to a prolonged period of ill-health whose consequences are now being ameliorated. During this difficult time some of our readers did not receive answers to their letters (we continued to receive very many), and we apologise for this. We are now working hard to eliminate the very large backlog, but it will take us some time. Readers who posted unanswered questions to which they need prompt replies, should now repost them to compensate for the possibility that their questions might be buried deep in some electronic in-tray. And to those many readers who wrote their good wishes for a speedy recovery, much thanks for your kind thoughts. They were greatly appreciated.
We have discovered also that some of the later browsers do not send text entered into the response space provided on the web pages. From these browsers we receive only the header. Browsers that do not provide a letter form when the "submit" button is clicked usually do send the text exactly as it has been entered. If, however, your browser pops up its own letter form you should copy and paste your text into the space provided on the browser's own form. A subject heading is not essential, so if you are pressed for one you may just click again on "send" and the browser will insert a "No Subject" heading.
The coordination of this newsletter with the magazine is intended to allow a process of regular up-dates to replace the publication, in the style of conventionally printed journals, of a totally new issue of the magazine at bi-monthly intervals. The newsletter will provide regular links to new material in the magazine, and although a new contents page will appear for the magazine every two months, new articles will appear on the website whenever they are ready and will not wait for an artificial "printing" date.
All students of heraldry are aware of those periods in its history when its art sank very low in both quality and taste, and most will be especially sad now, when new technology has provided western civilisation with splendid tools capable of producing beautiful art, to recognise the depths to which the bucketshops have sunk. Famous international news magazines have printed pictures of "coats of arms" produced for the presidents of South Africa and of the United States of America, pictures of dreadful quality, and although these journals have rightly poured scorn on the bucketshops that produced them, criticism of their appalling taste has been muted.
We intend to plead the case for a return to the basic principles of classical heraldic art, and to republish illustrations that will inspire modern artists to emulate the best of the ancients.
CLASSICAL HERALDRY TODAY
A quick review of the progress of heraldic art from the 13th century to the present, restricted in the first instance to artists working with paint on paper, would include the early armorials prepared as heralds' notebooks, the later illuminated pedigrees, the subsequent armorials, the grotesque art of the 18th and 19th centuries, the return to classical principles in this century, and the recent atrocities from the bucket shops.
The first of a series of articles on this subject will appear soon.
The controversy surrounding the death and funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, had been foreshadowed during the previous months by harsh arguments about her future titles and styles and precedence. The nonsense printed first on the front pages of some British newspapers and subsequently reprinted in North America and continental Europe seemed unending. Even the BBC, once believed by other nationalities to represent the authentic voice of Britain, was not immune, its Radio Four service (before Diana's death) going so far as to have a phone-in discussion about whether Diana and Sarah, Duchess of York, ought to have their "titles" taken away from them. (Diana and Sarah, after their respective divorces, lost their English titles. "Princess of Wales" and "Duchess of York" then became their surnames, a standard procedure for the divorced wives of peers - as the BBC knew but cared insufficiently to acknowledge. HRH, it may be noted, is not a title, as certain newspapers claimed - it may be described as a "style", but formally it is a "prefix".)
The consequences of Diana's tragic car chase and of her emotional funeral then opened every possible opportunity for newspapers and television to popularise the misunderstandings of their contributors. BBC editors and correspondents could not standardise their references to Diana, referring to her as "the Princess of Wales" (wrongly), as "Princess Diana" (which she had never been), as "Diana, Princess of Wales" (correctly but, in the week of the funeral, only rarely), and as "Diana" (acceptable, probably most convenient for informal use, and arguably most appropriate for formal use).
Few editors seemed to understand the use of the Royal Standard (or indeed to recognise at first the nature of the banner, arguably for the English "a square standard", draped over her coffin). There was as logical a case for everyone to drive their cars with their windows wound half down, or with socks and stockings half up, as there was for the Royal Standard to be flown at halfmast from Buckingham Palace (as certain editors demanded).
Sadly, the errors of those who profess to know better continue still. Diana is yet remembered as "Princess Diana" (Sarah's books assert their copyright is owned by "The Duchess of York", who does not exist either), and a well-known French magazine pretending to expertise in royalty and the lives of the famous continues to feature with its photographs of Diana the arms of the Prince of Wales conjoined with hers, signifying their divorce was invalid.
Pictures of Diana's heraldry ,together with further explanation of the use of her titles and flags, are included in the current issue of the magazine, and notes on Diana's family, the Spencers, may be found in Mists of Antiquity.
Following our comments on Lady Jay's suggestion that life peers might lose their titles, we have decided to monitor the Government's proposals for changes to the British Constitution and their potential impact on Parliament and on the integrity of the United Kingdom. As part of this examination we have answered a letter from America which advances the superiority of an American President over the British Queen. Lady Jay's latest explanation of the Government's proposals for the abolition of the rights of the hereditary peers is included also.
SCAMS: BUCKETSHOPS ONLINE
The growth in the number of websites offering instant nobility and instant coats of arms to unwary surfers is alarming. That heraldic bucketshops operating so successfully in the shopping malls, hotels and airports around the western world would exploit the potential of the Internet was certainly to be expected. "Your own coat of arms" immediately available in exchange for your creditcard details easily traps tired surfers late at night. It is sometimes excused as "just a bit of fun", but those unfortunates who are caught not only waste their money - they earn ridicule as well.
The most recent development is the sale of instant nobility to those punters who believe nobility is a quality that can be bought for a fistful of dollars. It has always been interesting to speculate on the reasons a man might seek to buy a fraudulent title that allegedly made him a noble - but now we can learn the reasons directly from the keyboard of one of the vendors.
Representatives or imitators or franchised licensees of The Hall of Names are now online offering "The History of Your Distinguished Surname" and similar nonsense. Readers may have seen this operation in booths in hotels and shopping malls and airports. On a scale of one to ten the quality of the product scores nil. We have discussed this in the magazine before (and expect we shall do so again).
DESCENDANTS OF "BRAVEHEART"
Since we first wrote about Sir William Wallace and the travesty of the financially successful film that purported to tell his story, many readers have enquired about claims of descent from his daughter. We have now summarised our answers in respect of the Baillie connection.
GROWTH IN GENEALOGICAL ACTIVITY YEAR BY YEAR
(MARITZ Marketing Research for American Demographics in 1996) -
"More than four in ten adults, or 118 million, are at least somewhat interested in genealogy .... Seven percent, or 19 million, say they are involved a great deal in tracing their lineage .... About 11 percent of adults who are involved in genealogy have used software designed for research."
(NEWSWEEK, 24 February 1997) -
"... genealogy has gone from spectator sport to major league passion."
"... 42 million Americans have started to trace their heritage."
(CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 12 October 1998) -
Genealogy now accounts for 20% of the recreational content of the Internet.
(reported in the "Tech Buz" column of the journal's Business Technology section).
JAG-1: FEUDAL TITLES
One of our Hollywood correspondents kindly sent us a copy of a book that claims to be a writer's guide to "Everyday Life in the Middle Ages". Some of the definitions it contains are correct, and the lists of books recommended "for further reading" are quite useful. However, no writer should rely on it as an authority. "Baronet" is defined as "Fourteenth century title used for nobles who didn't hold land, but were members of the House of Lords." - and those who may remember King John in the 13th century as the unpopular brother of King Richard I will be surprised to learn that in the 17th century the thrones of Scotland and England "were united by John I of England (John VI of Scotland)". It is, albeit unintentionally, the funniest history book since the Sellars & Yeatman immortal classic "1066 and All That". (Well, funny at the start - we lost our sense of humour when we reached the chapter alleged to be about heraldry.)
That there were no baronets in the 14th century, that holding land was then almost a working definition of nobility, that no one has ever sat in the House of Lords on the basis of a baronetcy - are all aspects of feudal rank that most readers of this newsletter will know well. (Even little schoolchildren should know who united the crowns of England and Scotland.) But that a book of this quality can find a publisher does support its author's belief in the need for a writer's guide. Accordingly, The Baronage Press has commissioned such a book, and this will be published under the title JAG - Heraldry and Titles (Journalists' and Authors' Guide to Heraldry and Titles) with a few pages added each month.
All students of history and heraldry learn quickly to tolerate the nonsense of Hollywood, for nothing can be done about it. Few there appear to have any interest in authentic history. (Braveheart is but merely the latest example of a long series of atrocities.) And so now we not only excuse ignorant writers and directors - we become intolerant of our own critical instincts, restraining our wrath lest we appear unreasonable. However, in this case we are judging a book that claims to be, not just a book about the Middle Ages, but far more - "The Writer's Guide" in fact. "If your tales are filled with English crusaders or Viking raiders, knights from Flanders or Scottish Highlanders, then you need this book to ensure you portray their lives and times accurately." - claims its cover (and one of its title pages, dedicated to friends and family, features a shield of arms carelessly inverted).
No writer should use this book. Any reader who already owns a copy of it should immediately tear out and burn the chapter on heraldry, lest it fall into the hands of an innocent child.
Our earlier comments on "Braveheart" are still accessible.
Our book reviews now include links allowing online orders to be made to Amazon in North America and in the United Kingdom. (Books praised in the current issue include Diana Gabaldon's "Drums of Autumn" and Sara Donati's "Into the Wilderness" - both notable for the quality of their authors' research into the history of the period of which they write.).
Of the large number of queries e-mailed to us on heraldic badges, by far the larger proportion concerns the badges of Scottish clans. The first article on these will be uploaded soon.
LOOKING AROUND: The Burlington Arcade
The magazine features occasional articles on shopping areas of genuine historical interest to ancestor-hunting tourists in the British Isles. One such is the famous Burlington Arcade, of which we have featured a description for several months. This will soon be updated with details of the new attractions there.
The artists employed by The Baronage Press work as the Pegasus Armorie team and undertake individual projects for clients both on and offline. The examples shown on the Web are, of course, at low definition (72 ppi). Their printed work is produced at high definition.
In addition to their extensive work for the website of The Baronage Press, the Pegasus team designed also the boardgame REGENCY.
The first edition of this exciting and historically accurate boardgame is sold out and a new edition is under development now for sale online through this website. Readers will have the opportunity to make provisional orders for delivery next year (in good time for Christmas 1999). Payment will be by the usual creditcards and should be made with the order confirmation. Further details on this special edition will appear in the next newsletter.
HERALDRY FOR HOME PAGES
Much of the great heraldic art of the past has been supported by very intricate designs incorporating flora and fauna and ancient symbols painted in soft colours blending gently into each other. The Pegasus artists continue this tradition with commissions intended for orthodox print, but work prepared for presentation on computers' monitor screens demands a different approach. A wide range of colours and the generous use of subtle blends produces very heavy files, the bane of the Web.
The Pegasus Armorie artists are now to combine their heraldic skills with the web skills of Alvis Designs to produce heraldic home pages for family historians who wish to create websites for the publication of their research. The authenticity of the arms and badges featured on these home pages will be guaranteed by The Baronage Press. Enquirers will be able to receive immediate confirmation of this by checking the Baronage online register, viewing the portrayal of the heraldry of the home page in the register, and then, if they wish, linking to the homepage on its owner's site. (Thus no home page will be able to claim a Pegasus origin and a Baronage confirmation if it is fraudulent.)
Although illustrations designed specifically for use on the Web will not have the complexity of printed art, family genealogists willing to accept heavy files may ask for the more complex artwork. Additionally, clients may, at the time of submitting their home page request, ask for an orthodox print of complex artwork to be prepared in a style suitable for framing. If this is done, then it will be possible also for the design to be reproduced additionally in the form of an enamel plate.
The arms used on a home page must be authentic, but they need not be the arms of the website owner or manager. They could be the arms of a relation or of an ancestor. The essential factor is that the home page will record the name of the lawful bearer of the arms and will not advance an unlawful claim to their personal use.
The display of arms is the subject of many questions sent to us at The Baronage Press. Briefly, the situation is as follows -
It is historic practice and permissible in law to display the arms of living and dead persons for purposes of decoration. It is permissible for Jean Gordon, for example, to display the arms of the Queen (her sovereign), the Marquis of Huntly (the chief of her clan), Charles Gordon of Buthlaw (who died in 1797, and to whom she believes she is distantly related), James Gordon (a colleague to whom she is not related at all), and John Smith (an old friend). All this is lawful - so long as Jean does not use any of these arms for any purpose other than decoration, and does not make any claim as to the arms being hers or those of someone else other than the lawful possessor, and so long as the arms are or were lawful according to the relevant armorial authority in the appropriate national jurisdiction.
OUR SPONSORS AND ADVERTISERS
The Baronage Press magazine and this newsletter rely on the support of our Sponsors and Advertisers to fund research and editorial operations. We rely also on our readers in their turn to support our Sponsors and Advertisers on all occasions it is possible to do so.
In brief, support for our Sponsors and Advertisers supports the services we supply to our readers free of charge.
And if you enjoy your visits to the Baronage website, do please tell your friends and colleagues, or forward this newsletter to them.
If you did not receive this free newsletter directly as e-mail, then you may subscribe to future issues by sending an e-mail message to:
The message title is of no importance.
The first line of the message text must be: "subscribe feudalherald" (without the quotation marks) followed with your first and last names. For example, if your name is John Smith, your message would read:
subscribe feudalherald John Smith
(Note the use of lower case.) Nothing else should be included in the message text.
To cancel a subscription, send an e-mail to:
The message title is of no importance.
The text of the message must be exactly:
"signoff feudalherald" (without the quotation marks) followed with your first and last names.
Messages to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org are read only by a computer. Any text other than that given here will be ignored.
Please copy this subscription information and pass it to any friend or colleague you believe might wish to have a free subscription to The Feudal Herald.