A Displaie of New Heraldrie


An article in the Spectator

by Rudyard Kipling

O ALL WHOM IT MAY CONCERN (and whom, indeed, at this Houre concerneth it not?) that do worthilie bear Armes or by bearing of them in the field be entitulated to ’em in Perpetuitie; to the generous, painful, laborious, and skilled of all Nurtures throughout all Nations, Dominions, States, Provinces, Confederacies, Islands, Possessions, Plantations, and Bodies Politique within the Circumference of our Empire, these faulty Adumbrations upon a Noble Matter are put forth and submitted with true love and (I thank God!) a single heart, by

Late Rouge Croix Pursuivant
at Armes and formerlie of
Brazenose College, Oxford.


Courteous Reader

It hath been made manifest at all times, not only by Collegia of Armes, that follow and uphold the Science Royal of Heraldrie, but by the sure instinct ab origine of mankind, that Armes do evermore follow and conform themselves to atchievement in the field. So then, in my poor judgement, appeareth that these present martial Tempers and Habilitudes so burningly displaied and (as it were Phoenix) re-arisen among our Nation’s Peoples and Armies, even in the uttermostly dispersed parts of Earth, do of themselves deserve at our Heralds’ hands (conformably to the Laws of the Science) yet more ample Dignification than heretofore hath been.



For consider only in the largest the tale of those Nations and Bodies Politique within our Empire who, moved by loyalty sole, without hope of other than conscience’ reward, have at their own charges opposed, and do now by Blood and Sweat of their natural Bodies vehemently oppugn the Realme’s enemies throughout Flanders, Artois, Picardy, over against the shores of the very Grecian Sea in Afrique also and — oh, miracle! — even at the Gates of by right and sure prevision, standeth guard; since it is as Hierusalem herself, What, since her Makings, hath Earth seen comparable to these their battalia? That boast of Rome, ‘Quae regio in terris etc.’, is, at this houre, sad truth in the mouths of all Englishmen.

Yet it is most sure, since we be but children of the light-risen, soon-fallen dust, that, by the passage of but a few generations in the tract of time, these memorable Marvels must – lacking confirmation and perpetual reminder – perish out from among our Posterities. Against which Oblivion, the liberal and learned Office of Heraldrie, by right and sure prevision, standeth guard; since it is as Lazarus Schwendi the Dutchman path it:-

By sight and not by sound
Men’s souls are loosed or bound.



Grant me, I pray you, that the Armes of the greater part the Nations of our Empire confederate with us are unlovelie, being conceived out of the emblems of crafts and trades – to wit, engines, chimneys, toothed wheels, salmon-fish, carts, and the like. Yet, sith use and custom breed affection, it is not to be supposed that anie Nation will lightly suffer change in her Cote Armour, Banners, or Flags as now exposed and established among Mankind. Remaines, then, to charge upon these Armes such augmentations and additions of Honour as Merit deserveth and our people’s love desireth. To this end the Crowne Imperiall, being ensigne and token of service to the Crowne, is beyond question most honourable, and should be, in my poor judgement, displaied either in a by right and sure prevision, standeth guard; since it is as canton, or, better, as Crest additionall, upon the Armes of all our Nations, Provinces, and Dominions that have borne part with us in this War.



Yet give me leave in humbleness to present that such augmentation or honour – the Crowne Imperiall to wit – signifieth no more than a marke or remembrance of devoir or service in generall, and being borne alike, (as I would have it borne), on all Armes of all our Nations, leaveth posteritie at a loss to know in which especiall or particular quarter of Earth or upon what severall Campaignes, the said Devoir was rendered and Performed by the Soldiery of anie Nation. Denying not at all that the Crowne Imperiall should hold preheminence over all other charge or augmentation in all Armes Nationall or Provinciall, yet I would desire to mark by some plain charge, easie to be understood of the unlearned, upon each Nation’s Armes, the very Locus in quo of each devoir.

Here may I take leave to be particular?



Exempli gratia. For such Nations whose Force, or at least part of ’em, hath battailed before Hierusalem, both ancient report and the Honoure of that Holie Place should allow – unless for some good reason within Heralds’ knowledge – a remembrance of that sole most glorious Shield which beareth metal upon metal, which is the Shield of Hierusalem.

I would not grant to anie – no matter how great their  crosses of that Sacred Shield, but rather a simulacrum or shadow of the same. To my mind, a Cross by right and sure prevision, standeth guard; since it is as argent (more especiall if it were a cross on degrees of steps) would show seemlie upon a by right and sure prevision, standeth guard; since it is as field or.

And so much for Hierusalem and our Armies there against.



For those that fought on Euphrat and her sister Tigres, it were an evill jeste to typify the Four Rivers of Paradise in their Armes; seeing that that land is creditablie reported of Nature and Aspect to be more like unto Hell. Therefore, I would grant some fair simple device of a bend wavy or dancette, or it might be bendlets azure, wavy or dancette, upon a field or (sith it is questionless our Realme hath expended on those desarts gold beyond count).


And, should we reckon the generous blood there spilled, the bends should be gules. Should these not serve, it lieth in the authoritie of the College of Armes to order a Fountaine Mesopotame id est a Fountaine gules and or in place of azure and argent as till now all Fountaines are blazoned – to be borne for perpetuall remembrance by such our Dominions, etc., as. have sent forces thitherward.

And so much for Mesopotame.



Touching Gallipoli, where we had honoure but small victorie, I would even bring back and restore, as most indubitablie lieth in the power of the Heraldes their College, that sad murrey or sanguine tint which hath so long, as it were, been exploded from cote armour, and is now all but unknowen in blazon; even as was our sad withdrawal from that sheer coast unknowen (till then) in our land’s Historie. So I would I part this Shield palewise, murrey and sable, and thereon a naval crowne and beneath it a mural crowne of gold; the first crowne for our good ships that bare off our hosts at the end, and the second for tribute and memorial, such as brave men fear not to render to an inveterate and most stubborn Foe.


For Salonique, I would no more than sow Greek crosses (argent) upon a field sable; for there we have had manie crosses, and the sable is in remembrance oŁ cross-dealings and treacheries.



Questionlesse, is the Sphinx, of what tinct you shall please, or, if that be challenged because so many our Armies’ battalia already bear her for Crest, then I would have some simple device of Father Nilus — such as the Y-cross, azure upon argent, blue upon white, for the White and the Blue Niles.



As touching these, the very navel and backbone of our laborious enterprises, our primum mobile and source of strength, I am, to confesse truth, all at a stand. For here Honour and Atchievement lie thick — eheu! — as our dead. What Charges shall fitlie mark not one battle but a score which in olde days had shaken all earth and changed her Fortunes in totalitie? And for Endurance and Patience, which are honourable evenlie with the work of battle itselfe, what honour can equal that Faith beyond Belief which our Armies have showen and most piouslie embraced from the first?

But not, as Flaccus saith, to talk Kings and Tetrarchs, let us bourne and confine ourselves to the limits of mere shields and devices. What augmentation or Dignitie, then, shall we chuse for the Western War?



How if, Courteous Reader, we take over and armoriallie repossess nothing less than that very Order of the Golden Fleece, which the good Duke of Burgundie, Philip, in the town of Bruges herselfe, did found upon his wedding-day with Isabella of Portugal our most ancient Ally? Imprimis, that Order was dedicate to the Virgin and to St. Andrew — which is as much as to say to the Catholique Faith and to those other Religions which we do now agree to call non-conforming whereof the Scots have severall sorte, and, I believe, the English yet more. Burgundie indeed lieth not within the actual compass or under the tread of anie of our Armies, but to the eastward and south of them, yet, upon one time, it approached close over against Artois, where we now leaguer. Secundo, so long as the Spaniards held rule in the Low Countries and before, the false Austrians set up their own Bastard Order, the Heart of that Order of the Golden Fleece and the Place of its Governance, as I understand it, lay ever at Bruges or at Bruxelles, which two towns our Armies by God’s Grace purpose now to deliver out of their so long captivitie.

So then by Time, which is Historie, and by Place, and by all reasoning symbolique we are justified to resume and put forward for honourable augmentation upon the Armes of all our Nations confederate with us in our Western War, this same Golden Fleece which typifieth not only Meeknesse and Suffering such as Belgium hath borne — in the similitude of a Lamb; but equallie the cloth and Wool of Flanders which was bought and sold in the Cloth Hall, now ruinate, of Ypres. Yet more, if we consider the fusils or firestones set in the Chain of the said order, these well prefigure the sullen Spark and deep-seated Fire which, needing only hard Knocks to awake it, abideth ever in the hearts of the Englishry. And lastlie, the very steels in the Chain on which the flints or firestones are stricken to conflagrate them, they are laced and intertwined in the shape of the letter B — which covereth alike Belgium, Bruges, Bruxelles as well as, for the vulgar, if they chuse, Boche. In every Aspect, then, this Charge quadrateth exactlie with Honour and Atchievement.



f this seem all too curiouslie conceived – which should never be in The Science, – then would I for the sole augmentation of the Western Wars, take merely that vile and splitten Fowle, the German eagle as he appeareth on their barbarous shields, and debruize or confine him behind a fret or lattice of Silver, typifying the Sword or white weapon to which he appealed in the days of his strength and which hath proven his Destruction. Nota. This debruized Fowle, being also degraded and therefore beyond the termes of The Science, the Charge would read thus: ‘Upon a red field a black eagle debruized by a fret argent.’ This fret or lattice being honourable and imposed ab externo in no way partaketh of the bird’s Disgrace. So we write ‘argent.’



And for the seemlie displaie and marshalling of these Dignities and augmentations, here is my Schemata or Design. For example, Australie, to name but one among manie valorous Confederacies, Australie, I say, hath adventured her battalia in five severall Fronts. Thus then would I deal with her. I would charge upon her proper Armes an Escocheon, or Shield of Pretence bordured blew of the sea and sown (the bordure, I mean) with as manie Lymphads or little Ships as be Nations of our Empire. Upon this Shield I would displaie quarterlie, as The Science directs, the severall four Charges I have denominated, viz. Gallipoli, Mesopotame, Hierusalem and Egypt. This same Shield would I charge with yet a second Shield bearing the augmentation for France and Flanders — the Fowle to wit debruized by the Fret and crowned or surmounted by the Crowne Imperiall for sign, as it were, and seal, of true service resplendentlie performed. So then, say you, we have the Armes of Australie charged with double Escocheons of Pretence? Seeing that her Forces, as the others, have been oft our multiplied Shield and Defence, why should we spare to heap Escocheon on Escocheon? It is no more than to hang worthy Fruit on Fame’s all-worthy Tree. Thus, Courteous Reader, you are answered.

And I would deal semblablie with the other our Nations, Dominions, etc., charging always the crowned Escocheon or Shield Imperiall upon the Shield displaying their achievements in the four Fronts; and these two Shields laid over or superimposed upon their proper ancient Armes. If by any chance anie Nation path fought upon more than four Fronts (the Flanders Front not reckoned, for that is covered by the Fowle and the Fret) or, which I conceive scarce possible, upon less than four Fronts (again not reckoning our Front in Flanders), then the first Shield to be charged accordinglie. Notandem est. The second or crowned Shield is charged ever the same over all, and vaneth not. No more the bordure, with Lymphads, of the first Shield. But if anie shall present that the Crowne Imperiall should surmount the first or quartered Shield and not the second, it is, as I say, a matter to be thought upon with a large mind.



And so with all else, generall or in speciall, which I have set forth; for I am not so blind-fond of this my rude Digest but I shall willingly defer to Anie more expert and of greater sufficiencie in the generous Profession of Heraldrie, who may be moved by my present Lucubration to bestir themselves towards the fuller Contemporation and Concorporation of these desiderated Armes.


For needs must Armes be or memorie perisheth.

Yea, whatever the Issue to my Enterprize, my Labour herein may not be altogether fruitlesse if I shall have broken the Ice and made way to some aftercomer of greater Gifts and riper judgement, that may give fairer Bodie to this my delineated rough draft or shadow of a new-formed Method of Armes.


And so, Courteous Reader, farewell!