LEARN ABOUT THE UNIQUE TRADITION OF HERALDRY
tIME TO CHANGE
Heraldry flourishes in the modern world; institutions, companies, and private persons continue using coats of arms as their pictorial identification. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the English Kings of Arms, Scotland’s Lord Lyon King of Arms, and the Chief Herald of Ireland continue making grants of arms. There are heraldic authorities in Canada, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden that grant or register coats of arms. In South Africa, the right to armorial bearings is also determined by Roman Dutch law, due to its origins as a 17th-century colony of the Netherlands.
Heraldic societies abound in Africa, Asia, Australasia, the Americas and Europe. Heraldry aficionados participate in the Society for Creative Anachronism, medieval revivals, micronations and other related projects. Modern armigers use heraldry to express ancestral and personal heritage as well as professional, academic, civic, and national pride. Little is left of class identification in modern heraldry, where the emphasis is more than ever on expression of identity.
Heraldry continues to build on its rich tradition in academia, government, guilds and professional associations, religious institutions, and the military. Nations and their subdivisions – provinces, states, counties, cities, etc. – continue to build on the traditions of civic heraldry. The Roman Catholic Church, Anglican churches, and other religious institutions maintain the traditions of ecclesiastical heraldry for clergy, religious orders, and schools.
Many of these institutions have begun to employ blazons representing modern objects. For example, some heraldic symbols issued by the United States Army Institute of Heraldry incorporate symbols such as guns, airplanes, or locomotives. Some scientific institutions incorporate symbols of modern science such as the atom or particular scientific instruments. The arms of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority uses traditional heraldic symbols to depict the harnessing of atomic power. Locations with strong associations to particular industries may incorporate associated symbols. The coat of arms of Stenungsund Municipality in Sweden incorporates a hydrocarbon molecule, alluding to the historical significance of the petrochemical industry in the region.
Heraldry in countries with heraldic authorities continues to be regulated generally by laws granting rights to arms and recognizing possession of arms as well as protecting against their misuse. Countries without heraldic authorities usually treat coats of arms as creative property in the manner of logos, offering protection under copyright laws. This is the case in Nigeria, where most of the components of its heraldic system are otherwise unregulated.
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