Civic Augmentations for the US

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Edward Hillenbrand
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Civic Augmentations for the US

Postby Edward Hillenbrand » 08 Aug 2015, 14:49

This is more in the form of a question than anything else. Under the English system Knights of the Garter and other orders have the Garter around the shield of their arms to show they are Knights of whichever order. In the States as all know we do not have Knightly orders to grant such recognitions, but we do have governments that may recognise a person for an outstanding act. These recognitions come in all forms from a "Letter of Commendation" to a plaque or actual medals such as FDNY's Medal Day. Years ago a patient of mine (the guilty shall remain anonymous since HE sent me down this path we call heraldry) suggested that in the States those who have received such laurels should have that acknowledged in their arms. His actual suggestion was one acorn per Life Saving Award. I am not sure why but I am thinking the laurel wreath can be made from oak leaves.

The first question is: what are people's thoughts on this?

The second, how would you depict such an augmentation, if that is the correct word?
Ed Hillenbrand

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Arthur Radburn
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Re: Civic Augmentations for the US

Postby Arthur Radburn » 08 Aug 2015, 16:03

Edward Hillenbrand wrote:The first question is: what are people's thoughts on this?
The second, how would you depict such an augmentation, if that is the correct word?
To take the two questions together : my thoughts are that this would not be an augmentation, but an external ornament.

In England, and many other countries, any official order, or decoration for gallantry or distinguished service (and in Canada, since last year, any campaign or commemorative medal too) that can be worn on a ribbon can be displayed with personal arms. Isn't this already the case in the USA?

His actual suggestion was one acorn per Life Saving Award.
In the absence of a US heraldry authority, who would authorise the addition of a device to the arms, and determine what it should be?
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Chris Green
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Re: Civic Augmentations for the US

Postby Chris Green » 08 Aug 2015, 16:33

Augmentations of Honour largely post-date Orders of Chivalry (Garter, Fleece, etc), but pre-date medals awarded for valour (VC, Pour le Mérite, etc). They were pretty rare and largely awarded for outstanding acts of bravery or valour (saving King Charles II's life, winning the Battle of Flodden resulting in the Scottish King's death, etc).

The US Medal of Honor might properly be equated to the Garter/Fleece and circle a CoA. Its design as well as its status makes that logical.The Congressional Gold Medal however does not lend itself to such treatment. It is not designed to be worn, does not have a ribbon and is not of a uniform design. It would therefore be ideal for the grant of an Augmentation of Honour. Logically, this might consist of a bezant, or perhaps an inescutcheon of the US colours superimposed with a bezant. (I suggest a bezant rather than a representation of the actual medal as there is no standard design and heraldic artists could not be expected to know what a particulat CGM looked like.)

Inevitably this is all rather academic, since the great majority of CGM grantees are not armigerous, and the non-US nationals (e.g. Tony Blair ¤) would have to obtain the approval of relevant heraldic authorities (which in the case of the UK would not be forthcoming).

Of course any discussion of this assumes that there is a Fount of Honour who could grant Augmentations of Honour. The President of the United States and the Congress of the United States are both Founts of Honour de facto. But since neither grants Coats of Arms, they can scarcely grant Augmentations of Honour. It would be quite inappropriate for any non-official body to award an Augmentation of Honour.

(¤ I don't think he is armigerous - yet.)
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Edward Hillenbrand
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Re: Civic Augmentations for the US

Postby Edward Hillenbrand » 09 Aug 2015, 00:22

Chris Green brings up some interesting issues: who are the "Founts of Honor"? for one. Acts of valor. Does the saving of a King's life merit any more recognition than the saving of Joe Six pack's life? What if there is little risk of harm to the life saver? As a paramedic I have curent 10 cardiac arrest reversals that I acknowledge. The old standards were that a patient lived 5 days, I only count those who walked out of the hospital. Since we adhere to the NYC FDNY recognition system does that make NYC the "Fount of Honor"? What about the "Letters of Commendation"? They were awarded by the local Sheriff and City Police Board. Do they count? In the later two cases there was some hazard to life or limb per the authorities. I thought the only hazard was the potential for tripping over a cop. These questions are in essence what Auter Radburn is asking.

Which brings up a great question per Mr. Radburn, since my one son is a combat vet does he get an ornament (?) for the Afghanistan campaign? And for my peace of mind, what do you mean when you say ornament?
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Chas Charles-Dunne
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Re: Civic Augmentations for the US

Postby Chas Charles-Dunne » 09 Aug 2015, 12:53

There are numerous points here that should be addressed.

Firstly, without a nationally recognised and respected heraldic authority, the whole discussion is academic. Leaving aside the topic of whether people should be allowed to assume arms willy nilly without any regulation, there is the topic of who decides what is allowed, what is not, and what is good taste.

Secondly, in a country such as the US the lowest level of awarding body should be the State Government and therefore the Governor would be the Fount. But having said that, it is no use giving an augmentation to someone who has no arms to start with.

Thirdly, in the UK, campaign medals are not part of the achievement. The US quite actively ignores its Spanish, French, Germanic and to some degree Russian heraldic heritage, but who is to say that such medals are not part of the various European histories.
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Re: Civic Augmentations for the US

Postby JMcMillan » 09 Aug 2015, 14:19

This subject is addressed in the American Heraldry Society's "Guidelines for Heraldic Practice in the United States." As stated in the first sentence of the guidelines, the AHS recognizes that it has no authority to mandate rules, but these suggestions were developed after a great deal of research and debate. I probably should repeat this over and over again throughout the text of this message, because every time I cite the guidelines someone is certain to reply, "Who put you guys in charge?" No one. That's why they are "guidelines" and not "rules" or "regulations."

2.2.3. Orders, Decorations, and Awards

2.2.3.1. Military and civil decorations awarded by the United States government or one of the states may be displayed as part of an armorial achievement as follows:
    *Decorations worn in the form of a shoulder sash and breast star are indicated by a depiction of the sash encircling the shield, with the badge that fastens the sash at the hip shown surmounting the crossed ends of the sash below the base of the shield and/or by placing the breast star behind the shield with the perimeter of the star sufficiently visible around the shield to identify the decoration represented.
    *Decorations worn on a neck ribbon are indicated by a depiction of the ribbon emerging from behind the shield with the pendant of the decoration depicted below the base of the shield.
    *Decorations worn on a breast ribbon are indicated by a depiction of the decoration suspended below the base of the shield by a length of the ribbon emerging from behind the shield.

2.2.3.2. The insignia of orders and decorations conferred by or under the auspices of a foreign head of state recognized by the United States may be displayed either in accordance with the guidelines for U.S. decorations or with the customs governing heraldic display in the country granting the honor. It is recommended that, if the recipient of such a foreign honor is also the bearer of a U.S. decoration, the foreign insignia be displayed only if the highest U.S. decoration held is also depicted.

2.2.3.3. In addition to those conferred by recognized heads of state, many orders of chivalry exist autonomously or are granted by former monarchs, former ruling families, and royal pretenders. Some of these are universally recognized as legitimate, while others are the subject of considerable controversy and still others are clearly fraudulent. It is not the business of the American Heraldry Society to adjudicate the claims of such bodies. Armigers are urged to consider carefully whether the display of their insignia is appropriate other than in connection with the affairs of the organization itself.

2.2.3.4. To avoid a cluttered appearance, it is recommended that no more than three decorations or orders be suspended below the shield, nor more than one breast star be displayed behind the shield, nor more than one sash or similar insignia be shown surrounding the shield.

2.2.3.5. Insignia are appropriately displayed in the following order of precedence:
1.U.S. federal decorations awarded by or in the name of the President
2.Orders and decorations awarded by or in the name of foreign heads of state
3.Other U.S. federal decorations
4.U.S. state decorations

2.2.3.6. Insignia depicted encircling the shield are shown with the most senior on the outside. Those depicted suspended from neck ribbons are placed with the senior decoration in the center, the second senior to dexter, and the third senior to sinister. Those depicted suspended from breast ribbons are placed in order of seniority from dexter to sinister (viewer's left to right).

2.2.3.7. Awards and insignia of membership conferred by private organizations, including lineage societies, professional associations of a military character, and Scouting or similar groups, are not customarily depicted as part of armorial achievements in the United States, unless the rules of the organization concerned expressly provide for such display. In that case, they are normally used only in the context of the organization's activities.

2.2.3.8. Honors and awards that do not include wearable insignia are not shown as an integral part of an armorial achievement, nor are service medals (as distinct from decorations), military unit citations (except as may be authorized by military authorities for display with the arms of the unit itself), qualification badges, and other military, police, or similar insignia. However, such badges and insignia, as well as other honors and awards, may be represented within a composition of which an armorial achievement constitutes a part, such as a decorative border surrounding the arms on a bookplate.

2.2.3.9. Orders and decorations belong only to the person to whom they are awarded. They do not become an inheritable part of the arms. The insignia of an order or decoration should not be displayed with a shield on which the arms of two spouses are marshaled, because the honor is specific to the person to whom it was granted, not to his or her spouse. An exception may be made if both spouses hold the same order or decoration.


In researching the guidelines, I looked for examples of usage from as many countries as possible that both (a) contributed significant portions of the U.S. immigration flow and (b) have heraldic traditions, and while almost all of them follow the custom of displaying orders with coats of arms, and most also follow the custom of displaying decorations, I do not recall any that display campaign/service medals.

The entire Guidelines can be found at http://www.americanheraldry.org/pages/i ... lines#toc4
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Re: Civic Augmentations for the US

Postby JMcMillan » 09 Aug 2015, 14:28

As for "augmentations" properly so-called, I agree with the view that these can exist only in a place where the state takes official notice of personal heraldry. Augmenting one's own arms unilaterally seems to me the same as awarding oneself an order or decoration.

If one just can't resist commemorating some accomplishment by adding something or other to the shield itself, making it a hereditary part of the arms, then one is really just changing one's arms, not "augmenting" them, no different heraldically from deciding that one prefers the imaginary beastie to be purpure rather than vert.
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Edward Hillenbrand
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Re: Civic Augmentations for the US

Postby Edward Hillenbrand » 09 Aug 2015, 15:06

Excellent post Joseph McMillan! That really answers my question nicely.

As for Chas' statement: "Firstly, without a nationally recognised and respected heraldic authority, the whole discussion is academic." I would amend it to include a colossal headache! I was asked at the last minute to "have a table on heraldry" at a local Renn Fair/fundraiser. So I have been sorting through all my sources to provide some sound advise for Americans who were not brought up in a heraldic tradition but will swear on a stack of bibles that they are entitled to use the full arms of the Campbells or other such family.

Worse for me, I live in an area with a border close to Canada with heavy German, Scotch and English influence with no true heraldic authority. All this to get info out to people with the attention span of a gnat!
Ed Hillenbrand

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Arthur Radburn
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Re: Civic Augmentations for the US

Postby Arthur Radburn » 09 Aug 2015, 15:16

Edward Hillenbrand wrote:Which brings up a great question per Mr. Radburn, since my one son is a combat vet does he get an ornament (?) for the Afghanistan campaign? And for my peace of mind, what do you mean when you say ornament?
What I mean by "ornament" is something placed outside the arms themselves, such as an order or a decoration, or a symbol of office such as a bishop's cross or crosier, or a herald's batons. They're not integral to the arms, and are optional.

In your son's case, in the light of the AHS guidelines, it would be appropriate for him to display below his shield of arms any decorations for bravery or meritorious service that he might hold, but not the Afghanistan Campaign Medal or the National Defense Service Medal, which are "service medals".
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Edward Hillenbrand
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Re: Civic Augmentations for the US

Postby Edward Hillenbrand » 10 Aug 2015, 04:20

Mr. Radburn is quite correct with regards to the AHR, which I had forgotten as a resource! Shame on me! They have some most excellent guidelines for an American to follow and answer many of the questions I had.
Ed Hillenbrand

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