A Displaie of New Heraldrie

Notes edited by John Radcliffe and John McGivering, and illustrated by John Radcliffe,  with advice on issues of Heraldry and Armory from Melvyn Jeremiah, former Secretary of the Heraldry Society, and drawing on the notes by Reginald Harbord, Editor of the ORG, also a member of the Heraldry Society.

We have taken the liberty of illustrating Kipling’s text with representations of the blazons Mr Harbord has suggested.



David Richards notes this article as published in The Spectator on 3 November 1917. Kipling had sent it to the Editor the previous week, on 26th October. (see Thomas Pinney (Ed.), Letters of Rudyard Kipling, vol iv. )

It is to be found in a scrapbook in the Kipling Collection at Sussex University, “Stories, Poems and Articles 1910-1930 [and 1892]”; ref.28/7. It is collected in the Sussex Edition vol. xxx, and the Burwash Edition, vol. xxiii.

The article

C. W. Scott-Giles, Fitzalan Pursuivant Extraordinary, begins his account in KJ 181/17 for March 1972 as follows:

In 1917, in the thick of the First World War, Rudyard Kipling wrote for the Spectator an article entitled, “A Displaie of New Heraldrie”, purporting to be by John Guillim and in a convincing imitation of his style.

Kipling suggested that the part taken in the War by various countries of the British Empire should be commemorated by honourable augmentations to their arms. He devised a number of coats representing the various theatres of war, with the idea that each state within the Empire should add to its arms an escutcheon on which would be marshalled the coats appropriate to the fronts on which its troops had fought, within a bordure azure charged with gold lymphads.

The remainder of Scott-Giles’s article is well worth reading.

Although Kipling commented in his covering note to the Editor of The Spectator that: ‘it is high time we did something for our Imperial post-war Heraldry’, he evidently did not want to be personally associated with the piece at that time, since it was simply signed ‘Z’.

Guillim’s book

John Guillim (c. 1565-1621) was an antiquarian and Portsmouth Pursuivant Extraordinary at the College of Arms in London. He is, perhaps, best remembered for his A Display of Heraldrie, first published in London in 1610.

Kipling must have encountered, and been intrigued by, the book. In his note to the Editor of The Spectator on 26 October 1917, he commended Guillim as ‘a sound man’, and in a letter to C R Wylie at the Library of Congress on 29 December 1931, he wrote:

…Heraldry is History’s shorthand, though abominably neglected … almost everything there is can be translated or conventionalised into heraldic terms…

(see Letters of Rudyard Kipling, vol vi. )

The heading of his article is quite different from Guillim’s Preface, so this must be Kipling’s own Preface for his “sequel”. Whether he mis-spelt the author’s name accidentally or on purpose is open to question. To support his fiction that this is a work of Guillim, he uses mock 17th century spelling throughout. This is, however, usually comprehensible to the modern reader.

A tribute to Guillim in his day

The eulogistic entry on John Guillim in Thomas Fuller’s Worthies of England (posthumously published in 1662) reads as follows:

JOHN GUILLIM was of Welsh extraction, but born [1565] in [Herefordshire]; and became a pursuivant of arms…but most eminent for his methofdical Display of Heraldrie (confusion being formerly the greatest difficulty therein); shewing himself a good logician in his exact divisions, and no bad philosother, noting the natures of all creatures given in arms, joining fancy and reason therein.
Besides his travelling all over the earth in beasts, his industry diggeth into the ground in pursuit of the properties of precious stones, diveth into the water in quest of the qualities of fishes, flieth into the air after the nature of birds, yea mounteth to the very skies about stars…and planets, their use and influence. In a word, he hath unmysteried the mystery of heraldry, insomuch that one of his own faculty thus discanteth (in the rwilight of jest and earnest) on his performance:

But let me tell you, this will be the harm,
In arming others you yourself disarm;
Our art is now anatomized so,
As who knows not what we ourselves do know?
Our corn in others’ mill is ill apaid:
‘Sic vos non vobis* may to us be said.

(*thus you serve others, not yourselves)


This is not, of course, a view that Kipling, whose industry dug and dived and flew in all directions, and who much relished sharing his knowledge of mysteries with his readers, would have subscribed to. Nor—indeed—would it be congenial to the many industrious contributors to this Guide to his Works. It certainly suggests that Guillim was a most worthy model for him—and for us.
[We are indebted to George Engle, who possesses a treasured copy of John Guillim’s book, for drawing our attention to this tribute to him: Eds.]

Heraldry and war

Sir Christopher and Adrian Lynch-Robinson, in Intelligible Heraldry (MacDonald, 1948) offer a useful summary of the origins of Heraldry in the latter part of the twelfth century:

Heraldry – or, to be more exact in this sense, Armory – probably originated in the pretty fancy of the feudal warrior to decorate his shield. With the growth of that habit came the desire to apply it to the identification of individuals, who in those days were quite unrecognizable on the field of battle clad in armour which closed them in from head to foot. From there it was but a step to invent symbols which would have something in common for kinsmen and yet provide certain differences to distinguish individuals. Having got so far, the need arose to display feudal ties, and eventually a most ingenious system came into being whereby the knight’s coat-armour would tell the initiated at a glance almost the whole of his family history and connections ! To do this was, in short, the problem which heraldry was devised to solve…

Kipling was clearly greatly interested by the intricacies of heraldry as a way of conveying complex ideas and relationships, at a time when literacy was largely confined to clerks and clerics. He was also well aware of the significance of heraldry in war, as was his friend Conan Doyle, who in his Sir Nigel, about a 14th century squire, describes the scene in Calais Castle, where after a hard skirmish with the French, King Edward III was feasting with his knights:

Over the principal table drooped a line of banners, and beneath them rows of emblazoned shields upon the wall carried the arms of the high noblemen who sat beneath. The red light of cressets and of torches burned upon the badges of the great captains of England. The lions and lilies shone over the high dorseret chair in the centre, and the same august device marked with the cadency label indicated the seat of the prince, while glowing to right and to left were the long lines of noble insignia honoured in peace and terrible in war. There shone the gold and sable of Manny, the engrailed cross of Suffolk, the red chevron of Stafford, the scarlet and gold of Audley, the blue lion rampant of the Percies, the silver swallows of Arundel, the red roebuck of the Montacutes, the star of the de Veres, the silver scallops of Russell, the purple lion of de Lacy, and the black crosses of Clinton…

Kipling and the Great War

Kipling’s accounts of the 1914-18 War include:

His stories of the war include:

See also “Epitaphs of the War” and other verse in The Years Between (1919).

Some further reading

  • Basic Heraldry by Stephen Friar and John Ferguson (W. W. Norton & Company, 1993, ISBN 1-871569-53-2)
  • The Complete Book of Heraldry by Stephen Slater (Hermes House, 2003, ISBN 0-7548-1062-3)

Notes on the Text


[The ORG notes, on which we have been glad to draw, were almost certainly written by Reginald Harbord, a Founder-Member. President and holder of other offices in the Kipling Society, who died in 1977 aged 91; see (KJ 204/16). He financed and edited ORG, was a members of the Heraldry Society, and founded The Orders and Medals Research Society in 1942: Ed,]

Collegia of Armes The College of Arms, or Heralds’ College, is an office regulating heraldry and granting new armorial bearings for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It was founded in 1484 by King Richard III, and is a corporate body consisting of the professional heralds who are delegated heraldic authority by the British monarch. Based in London, the College is one of the few remaining government heraldic authorities in Europe. Scotland has its own heraldic authority in Lord Lyon King of Arms and the Court of the Lord Lyon. [Wikipedia].

as it were Phoenix The Phoenix is a legendary firebird that figures in various myths of the ancient world. After a long life it perishes in its own fire, but rises from the ashes reborn.

Flanders, Artois, Picardy… These were the principal areas where the British army fought against the Germans on the Western Front in the Great War. Flanders is the northern and western part of Belgium, and was where the Battle of Ypres took place in 1914. Artois is the part of north-eastern France bordering Belgium, where there were a number of fierce battles, including Loos, where John Kipling lost his life in 1915. Picardy is to the south of the Pas de Calais, and was the theatre in which the terrible Somme battles took place in 1916.

Schwendi probably Lazarus Schwendi, Freiherr von Hohenlandsberg (1522-1583) diplomat, statesman, and general in the service of Emperor Charles V and Maximilian II. We have not traced the quotation, and information from readers will be appreciated.

to charge upon these Armes
To place a device on a coat of arms is to ‘charge’ it. Such devices are called ‘charges’.

ensigne Flag, as in the White Ensign of the Royal Navy.

canton In armory (the creation of coats of arms) a geometrical charge, square but smaller than a quarter, usually depicted in dexter chief unless specifically blazoned as being in sinister chief. It is used either as an augmentation of honour or to differentiate the arms from others.

‘Dexter’ means the left hand side of a shield as seen from the front, ‘sinister’ the right hand side. The ‘chief’ is a horizontal division across the top of a shield.

devoir Duty (Norman French).

Locus in quo ‘The place in which’ something is done (Latin). In this case the battlefields where the allied forces are doing their duty.

Hierusalem Jerusalem, a Holy City for Christians, Jews and Muslims and the scene of some fighting in the 1914-18 War when the British confronted the forces of the Ottoman Empire, often called “the Turks”.

Jerusalem was established as a Crusader Kingdom in 1098 after it fell to the Crusader armies, Christian invaders seeking to recover the Holy Land from the Muslims. The first ruler was Godfrey of Boulogne (Duke of Lower-Lorraine in eastern France).

The arms which became associated with the Kingdom are blazoned argent (silver) a cross potent between four crosses or (gold), thus becoming one of the best-known exceptions to the heraldic tincture rule that metal cannot be placed on metal or colour on colour.

Quae regio in terris etc. From Virgil’s Aeneid (l. 460) Quae regio in terris nostri non plena laboris?: ‘What land on earth is not full of our suffering?’.

Exempli gratia for example (Latin)

argent the colour silver or white in heraldry.

field or a ‘field’ is the surface of a shield or one of its divisions, here coloured ‘or’, the colour gold in heraldry.

their against over there.

EUPHRAT AND TIGRES the twin rivers of Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), Euphrates and Tigris.

Mesopotame Mesopotamia, scene of much fighting with the Turks in the 1914-18 War, now the state of Iraq.

Four Rivers of Paradise The location of the Garden of Eden is the subject of much speculation. The Book of Genesis in the Old Testament refers to the rivers ‘Pishon, Gihon, Tigris and Euphrates’.

Fountaine Mespotame In armory, a fountain is a particular charge blazoned as a roundel barry wavy of six Argent and Azure, representing a spring of clear water. To blazon the bars as Gules (red) rather than Azure (blue) indicates a fountain of blood.

Kipling may be referring to the Fountain of Life which is guarded by Al-Khidr. (See Myths from Mesopotamia, translated by Stephanie Dalley, Oxford 1989, p. 48.)

id est a Fountaine gules that is (Latin) a red fountain. ‘gules’ is red in heraldry.

a bend wavy or dancette A ‘bend’ in armory is a diagonal strip running across a shield from top left to bottom right. If it runs from top right it is blazoned as a ‘bend sinister’. A ‘bend wavy’ is curved up and down like a wave.

The correct term in armory is ‘dancetty’ (or ‘dancetté’ in heraldic French), an adjective applied to a line of partition on a shield. It means a zigzag deep and wide between the points, usually providing only three points across the width of a shield. A shallower zigzag would be described as ‘indented’ and would show at least five or seven points across the width of a shield.

bendlets azure . A ‘bendlet’ is a diminutive of a bend, i.e. it is narrower, perhaps half the width.

Azure is blue, not to be confused with ‘bleu-celeste’ which is sky blue, used extensively in modern heraldry. Otherwise, the exact shade of a colour used by an heraldic artist in depicting a coat of arms is entirely discretionary.

GALLIPOLI The scene of an amphibious assault on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) in 1915. They suffered terrible losses and eventually withdrew. The operation, if successful, might perhaps have shortened the war by as much as a year. (See Colonel Michael Hickey, Gallipoli, John Murray 1995).

HELLES The landing at Cape Helles was part of the operation by Britain and her allies against the Turks, on the Gallipoli peninsula.

murrey A purplish-red colour, the colour of the ribbon of the Order of the Bath.

sanguine Supposed to be a blood-red colour, no-one has ever been able to define it exactly. It is more brownish than murrey.

cote armour … blazon ‘Coat armour’ was armour worn by a nobleman or gentleman which carried the heraldic signs of his identity and lineage (family forbears). ‘blazon’ more specifically refers to the arrangement of heraldic devices on his shield or banner, which was governed by strict rules. ‘murrey’ and ‘sanguine’ had fallen out of use in heraldry, as had – in Kipling’s estimation – any tendency of British armed forces to retreat.

sable the colour black in heraldry.

palewise a pale is a vertical stripe down the middle of a shield. ‘Palewise’ describes the attitude of a charge on the shield. This is one of the eight ways of dividing the ‘field’ of a shield.

a mural crowne One of the many types of crown used in heraldry. A ‘mural crown’ looks like a wall, with battlements.

Salonique Thessaloniki in northern Greece. In 1915 an Allied expeditionary force landed at Thessaloniki as the base for operations against pro-German Bulgaria, In 1916, a group of Greek army officers, with the support of the Allies, launched the Movement of National Defence, which resulted in the establishment of a pro-Allied temporary government that controlled northern Greece and the Aegean, against the official government of the King in Athens.

Sphinx The Great Sphinx is on the Giza plateau, near the Great Pyramid, about six miles west of Cairo. It is part of the necropolis of Memphis, the seat of power of the Pharaohs of Egypt, and dates back to 2,500 B.C,

British regiments having the sphinx as a badge at the time of this article include:

  • Royal Lincolnshire Regiment (10th Foot) (right)
  • South Wales Borderers (24th Foot)
  • Gloucestershire Regiment (28th and 61st Foot)
  • East Lancashire Regiment (30th and 59th Foot)

Father Nilus the River Nile

White and Blue Niles The Nile has two major tributaries, the White Nile and Blue Nile, the latter being the source of most of the Nile’s water and fertile soil, but the former being the longer of the two. The White Nile rises in the Great Lakes region of central Africa, with the most distant source in southern Rwanda

France and Flanders scenes of most of the fighting on the Western Front in the 1914-18 War.

eheu alas ! (Latin)

But not, as Flaccus saith, to talk Kings and Tetrarchs, let us bourse… This is Quintus Horatius Flaccus, (65-8 BC), the great Roman lyric poet, known as Horace. Kipling was a great admirer of his work.
George Engle writes:

‘I think Kipling is referring to line 12 of Satire lll in Book I of Horace’s Satires, which includes the words ‘reges atque tetrarchas’ (kings and rulers of provinces).The passage in which the words occur describes various kinds of unbalanced behaviour exhibited by the Sardinian singer Tigellius. After talking in lordly tones about kings and princes, ‘All I ask is a three-legged table,’ he’d say , ‘clean salt in a shell, and a coat, however coarse, to keep out the cold.’ (Niall Rudd’s Penguin Translation, 1987).

This reference is a bit rough and ready, but it obviously refers to changing the subject; and this is confirmed by the words ‘let us bourse’, since the noun ‘bourse’ (never used as a verb) meant in Guillim’s day an exchange or place of meeting for merchants and in modern French means a stock-exchange.

Kipling quotes Horace a number of times in the ‘Stalky’ stories. and contributed six “Horatian” Odes (in English) to a spoof 5th Book of Horace’s Odes in which they appeared in the guise of English versions of the Latin text, which in reality had been translated from Kipling’s originals.[G.E.]

(See ORG Vol. 3, p.1633, KJ 224/31, and Kipling’s Horace, edited by Charles Carrington, Methuen, 1978.

Golden Fleece In classical mythology Jason and his Argonauts made an eventful journey in search of the “Golden Fleece”. Melvyn Jeremiah writes:

The “Order of the Golden Fleece” was founded in Bruges in 1430 by Duke Philip III of Burgundy “the Good” (1396-1467) to celebrate his marriage to the Infanta Isabella (or “Isabel”) of Portugal.

The Order is believed to have been modelled on the English Order of the Garter founded by Edward III in 1344. The Order of the Golden Fleece, however, has split in two since its foundation, one being in the gift of the Kings of Spain and the other in the gift of the Imperial House of Habsburg-Lorraine (previously Emperors of Austria). Both lay reasonable claim to be the legitimate successors of the Burgundian Founder (the genealogy is highly complicated) but the Austrian contenders have all the Treasure of the Order.

It is rather strange that Kipling should have fastened upon this Order as the symbol of ‘the Western War’ and even more quaint that he should appear to back the claim to the Order by the Belgians, which is generally regarded as wholly unfounded and not entertained by anyone else! Another example, perhaps, of Kipling’s aversion to anything German. Both the Spanish King and the Head of the House of Habsburg continue to make appointments to the Order. [M.J.]

Bruges capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium, invaded by Germany in 1914. Much of the Western Front fighting of World War I involving the British took place within western Belgium and north-eastern France.

See the notes on
“Swept and Garnished” (A Diversity of Creatures).

Isabella Princess Isabella of Portugal (1397-1471) the third wife of Duke Philip.

Imprimis in the first place

the Virgin the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus

St. Andrew Apostle and martyr, the patron saint of Scotland. His feast-day is November 30th.

Burgundie Burgundy – an ancient kingdom and former duchy in south-eastern France, which produces magnificent wine.

Artois a former province of Northern France: the principal cities are Arras, Saint-Omer, Lens and Béthune. – the scene of terrible carnage in the 1914 War

Secundo second, (from the Latin secundus)

Bruxelles Brussels, capital city of Belgium

Belgium The Kingdom of Belgium is bordered by France, the Netherlands, Germany and
Luxembourg. It was invaded by Germany at the outset of the 1914-18 War, in breach of its neutrality, in an attempt by the Germans to circumvent the French defences and drive swiftly through to Paris. They did not succeed. See Headnote to “Swept and Garnished” (A Diversity of Creatures.

Cloth Hall ….Ypres The Cloth Hall in Ypres was one of the largest commercial buildings of the Middle Ages, which served as the main market and warehouse for the Flemish city’s prosperous cloth industry.

Built mainly in the 13th century and completed in 1304, it was in ruins after artillery fire devastated Ypres in World War I. The building was restored to its pre-war condition between 1933 and 1967.

fusils light flint-lock muskets. In armory a “fusil” is an elongated lozenge. It is generally held that it cannot appear alone, but a number of them have to be conjoined in bend, in fess, etc. In his piece Kipling equates them with “fire-stones”, about which see below.

fire-stones “Firestone” is the name sometimes given to the flint used in a flint-lock pistol or musket. It is not itself a term used in armory, but is conveniently shown as the device used in the chain of the Order of the Golden Fleece.

This is a central oval in blue (sometimes morphed to an oblong) with a representation of flames emerging horizontally each side. A “firestone” should not be confused with a “fire-steel” which is the metal object that strikes the stone to produce the spark. A representation of these also appears in the collar of the Order, and is rather like a letter B.

Boche French slang for ‘rascal’ first applied to German soldiers during World War I and absorbed into the English. language. See Songs and Slang of the British Soldier: 1914-1918, edited by John Brophy and Eric Partridge, (Scholartis Press, 1930) It is occasionally used by Kipling in his writings about the 1914-18 War

THE GERMAN FOWLE the German bird.

German eagle
The eagle is one of the most noble charges in armory, widely used to denote imperial majesty in Central and Eastern Europe. A gold eagle featured as a symbol of the Byzantine Empire from the 13th century, at first either single or double-headed but settling as double-headed in the 15th century. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453 the Russian Emperors considered themselves the cultural successors of the Byzantines and adopted the gold double-headed eagle as a symbol in the 15trh century. Its colour changed to black in 1721. From 1929 the arms of Albania have featured a double headed eagle on a red background (thus violating the heraldic tincture rule, see Hierusalem above).

The arms of the Holy Roman Empire (the Empire of Charlemagne, 742-814, which at its height included much of Western and Central Europe) featured a black single-headed eagle until 1368 when it switched to being double-headed. This form was used by the German Confederation (1815-1867).

The German Empire (1871-1918) adopted a black single headed eagle. This was adopted by the Weimar Republic (1919-1933) and re-introduced in 1950 by the post-war German Government.

During the Nazi period the single-headed eagle was used but with the head turned the opposite way.

debruize or confine him behind a fret or lattice of Silver A device over which one of the charges (elements) called ‘ordinaries’ – such as a bar or cross – is superimposed, is said to be ‘debruized’ by that charge.

Nota Note.

ab externo From outside.

Australie Australian waters were first reached by European sailors in the seventeenth century.

Lymphads A “lymphad” is a particular charge in armory used extensively in arms associated with the West coast of Scotland. It takes the form of a boat with both a forecastle and sterncastle, often each bearing a flag pole, and a central mast with sail furled or unfurled. If the sail is furled, oars may be shown in which case the lymphad is blazoned as in action.

Escocheon, or shield of Pretence The correct term is “escutcheon” which means a shield bearing arms.

An “inescutcheon” is an escutcheon placed in the centre of another shield, denoting the armiger’s claim to other arms, for example those of his wife if she is an heraldic heiress or those of an estate to which he lays claim. In those cases the inescutcheon is said to be “in pretence”.

This illustration shows the double inescutcheon proposed by Kipling for addition to the arms of nations of the Empire contributing to the War effort. Such an agglomeration (combination) is bad heraldry. The illustration at the top of these notes of the Australia arms of 1912 with the double inescutcheon in place shows why this is so!

Lucubration Any literary effort, especially of a pretentious or solemn nature

Contemporation Synchronisation, causing events to occur at the same time. The Oxford English Dictionary dates the word to 1638.

Concorporation to unite in one body, unit, or mass.

desiderated Armes Required, or missing, arms.

For needs must Armes be or memorie perisheth We have not traced this quotation, which may be Kipling’s own. Information from readers will be appreciated.


[J. H. McG./ J.R.]

©John McGivering and John Radcliffe 2009 All rights reserved