Helms -- no modern ones this time! : )

Is it legal? Does it matter? Discuss it here.
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Edward Hillenbrand
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Helms -- no modern ones this time! : )

Postby Edward Hillenbrand » 02 Jun 2013, 02:27

Looking through the images of armigers blazon I noticed a few things (alright -- a LOT, but ... ) that I wanted to gather the group's thoughts on.

Helmets. The American College of Heraldry is extremely strict on helms: great helms or crusader helms only. Visor closed. All helms facing dexter unless you have title or Knighthood. Yet herein I see Or bared helms, facing forward, a few helms that would imply nobility. I understand that as an international group armigers are going to follow the traditions of their country.

My question: does the openness or closedness of the visor really matter if not specified in the blazon? Same for the bars? And lastly the same question for where the helm faces?

Next big question: crowns & cornets. The ACH follows the English rules and limits the use of cornets & crowns to those who can claim them in their own right. Should we follow that same rule? I see that many of my fellow armigers to my frosty north (as I sit in the 92 degree heat) use a crown with maple leaves on it. Why? I may or may not be a linear descendant of a man who bought a HRE title. If I am not using the title but merely claiming decent why shouldn't I amend my blazon to have a Knight or Barron's cornet included in the crest? And maybe open up that visor?

Your thoughts please.
Ed Hillenbrand

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Jeremy Kudlick
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Re: Helms -- no modern ones this time! : )

Postby Jeremy Kudlick » 02 Jun 2013, 03:52

If we follow English rules, the use of coronets of rank [that is, coronets assigned to Dukes, Marquesses, Earls, Viscounts, and Barons] is restricted solely to those who are Peers. Other crowns and coronets may have specific uses, e.g. mural crowns may be limited to towns and cities, and may also be very strictly regulated in that regard.

The ACH may frown upon the use of any crown or coronet in the Untied States, but as long as it is not a coronet of rank, I see no problem with it. Were I so inclined, I could have included a naval crown in my arms to show my family's naval heritage and replaced the fouled anchor with another charge. Others in the Air Force could use an astral crown, and mural crowns are not unheard of for those who served in the Army.

Canada allows for the use of coronets and crowns in arms as long as they are not coronets of rank or one of the Loyalist coronets. Loyalists are those people from the 13 American Colonies who either fought for England or who fled the United States and settled in Canada between 1776 and 1789, and all their children and descendants. All such persons are entitled, once descent from a Loyalist is proven, to use the post-nominals U.E. and to the use in their arms of a Loyalist coronet, either military [a coronet composed of a rim set alternately with maple leaves and swords crossed in saltire] or civil [a coronet composed of a rim set alternately with maple and oak leaves] in their arms. In the arms I've designed for my wife, I included a coronet érablé (a coronet composed of a rim set with maple leaves, the word érablé roughly translating from French to "maple leafy") in the crest since she is Canadian. It is not uncommon for Canadian armigers to use coronets érablé just to have a maple leaf somewhere in their arms.

Moving away from crowns and coronets to the helms, I believe the rule in England is that gentlemen and esquires may use a steel great helm or a steel tilting helm with a closed visor facing to dexter, knights and Baronets may use a tilting helm affronty with an open visor, Peers of the Realm use a silver barred helm [possibly with gold accents] facing dexter with the appropriate coronet of rank displayed upon the helm with the crest emerging therefrom, and the Sovereign alone may use a gold barred helm affronty. [I may be wrong on some details, but the overall appearance is there.] To avoid having to rewrite the blazon should an armiger receive a knighthood or Peerage, the crest's blazon is typically written as "upon a helm befitting his degree..."

The arms of New Jersey uses a gold barred helm affronty. There has been prior debate as to whether this is proper, and I think the unwritten agreement is that those involved in said discussion can agree to disagree. ;)

My opinion on the use of a helm is that the direction the helm faces should be based upon the crest. For example, my crest includes an eagle displayed, so it not only looks better but is more realistic to protray a helm affronty. My wife's crest includes a loon rising, so it is more aesthetically pleasing to have her helm facing dexter. I can understand wishing to limit the use within the United States of helms normally associated with nobility, but the fact remains that without any heraldic authority in this country to regulate arms there is nothing to stop me from using a gold barred helm affronty or a duke's coronet other than my own conscience. [For example, I'm working on a crest for my son's arms and I began to include a coronet composed of a rim set with maple and oak leaves. After two months, I realized that it was a civil Loyalist coronet that he has no confirmed right to use, so I redesigned the coronet.]
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Ryan Shuflin
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Re: Helms -- no modern ones this time! : )

Postby Ryan Shuflin » 02 Jun 2013, 09:49

I would like to point out, that where there is no law, there is still custom and general practice. In the USA it is perfectly legal for me to call my self Sir Ryan, or even Henri Plantagent, Count of Maine as long as I am not doing so for reason of fraud. It is a faux pas to imply one has greater honors in one's achievement, than one is actually entitled too. Some people may say that everyone is equal, so everyone should have a right to crest coronets/coronets/helms. I would say that such symbols of rank are not in the spirit of egalitarianism.

To avoid being anglo-centric I will point out that in many places, what would be a crest coronet, is a coronet of rank. I am not saying that those having a crest coronet should not use them. As far as I know all coronets assigned a special status are metal, mostly gold. (I know the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha uses an Crown vert, but that is a crown) Although the coronet erable is often gules and is so often and as far as I know exclusively used to indicate Canadianness, that it could be argued to be reserved in practice for those with ties to Canada.

In the specific case of the coronet and external ornaments of a Count of the HRE, these are often granted to people who don't have the right to use the title. If you have the right to use arms or external ornaments granted by a sovereign, then go ahead and use them. The only caveats being, make sure you have the right, and the sovereign is generally recognized as legitimate (for example: Prince of Sealand, not a real prince)

Now to helms. I don't think the direction matters, but the rank of the helm should always match the rank of the armiger. Although, I am unsure if the baronial helm is a generally accepted concept.

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Martin Goldstraw
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Re: Helms -- no modern ones this time! : )

Postby Martin Goldstraw » 02 Jun 2013, 11:16

Jeremy Kudlick wrote:Moving away from crowns and coronets to the helms, I believe the rule in England is that gentlemen and esquires may use a steel great helm or a steel tilting helm with a closed visor facing to dexter,


If this ever was a rule it is not now the case. I know of many examples of grants to those of no greater rank than gentleman where the helm faces to the front if that is a more suitable angle to display the crest appropriately.

One example which immediately springs to mind from the College is that granted to the father of our own Fellow Stephen Plowman:

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From Scotland those of Dwyer Quentin Wedvick :

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Re: Helms -- no modern ones this time! : )

Postby Jeremy Kudlick » 02 Jun 2013, 23:25

Thank you for the clarifications, Martin. But the closed visor for gentlemen and esquires is still enforced, correct?
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Re: Helms -- no modern ones this time! : )

Postby Martin Goldstraw » 03 Jun 2013, 11:43

Jeremy Kudlick wrote:But the closed visor for gentlemen and esquires is still enforced, correct?


As far as I'm aware this is the case, yes.

I have however seen one or two examples of the use of an open (knights) helm by knights of St. John but the examples I have seen are privately commissioned (I haven't seen any in actual grants or matriculation ... or none that I can recall) so whether this is self adopted or approved by the heraldic authorities I can't really say. That said, one of the examples which springs to mind is that of Charles Burnett, Ross Herald, (now Ross Herald Extraordinary). He is a knight of St. John and has used the open visored helm whilst in office so I presume that there must have been some acceptance by the Lord Lyon (but who knows!).
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Re: Helms -- no modern ones this time! : )

Postby Ryan Shuflin » 03 Jun 2013, 16:02

Martin Goldstraw wrote:
Jeremy Kudlick wrote:But the closed visor for gentlemen and esquires is still enforced, correct?


As far as I'm aware this is the case, yes.

I have however seen one or two examples of the use of an open (knights) helm by knights of St. John but the examples I have seen are privately commissioned (I haven't seen any in actual grants or matriculation ... or none that I can recall) so whether this is self adopted or approved by the heraldic authorities I can't really say. That said, one of the examples which springs to mind is that of Charles Burnett, Ross Herald, (now Ross Herald Extraordinary). He is a knight of St. John and has used the open visored helm whilst in office so I presume that there must have been some acceptance by the Lord Lyon (but who knows!).


I guess one question raises another. What is considered a knight? To keep the topic on track, I will ask, what is the practice with helms of rank outside of British tradition?

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Re: Helms -- no modern ones this time! : )

Postby Martin Goldstraw » 03 Jun 2013, 16:56

Ryan Shuflin wrote: To keep the topic on track, I will ask, what is the practice with helms of rank outside of British tradition?


Is there such a thing as a helmet of rank outside the British tradition?
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Edward Hillenbrand
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Re: Helms -- no modern ones this time! : )

Postby Edward Hillenbrand » 04 Jun 2013, 02:34

Jeremy, Thank you for the description of the Loyalist crown. That explains a lot. There have been some excellent points brought up so far & I am curious what some of our more Eastern European (and I think there is one blazon that has an Oriental flare to) armigers have to say.
Ed Hillenbrand

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Re: Helms -- no modern ones this time! : )

Postby JMcMillan » 04 Jun 2013, 05:21

Martin Goldstraw wrote:
Ryan Shuflin wrote: To keep the topic on track, I will ask, what is the practice with helms of rank outside of British tradition?


Is there such a thing as a helmet of rank outside the British tradition?


Yes. A very extensive and even more complex system in Spain, a similar if slightly less complicated one in Italy. The Italian system is described in the technical regulation of the former Consulta Araldica of the Kingdom of Italy, which can be seen at http://www.cnicg.net/rtca.asp.

In Germany and Sweden, the barred helm was traditionally limited to the nobility. The more conservative German heraldic societies (Der Herold and Zum Kleeblatt in particular) still limit the barred helm to the nobility and to non-nobles who can show an ancestral use of the barred helm before 1815. In France, commoners (roturiers) were denied the use of a helm altogether.
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