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A feminist coat-of-arms in America!
Posted by: Mrs. Myers-Christopher (ID *****0272) Date: December 16, 2006 at 19:35:06
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I have my own position about coats-of-arms and who is entitled to them. I believe that the "right to bear arms" partly meant the use of heraldry to our Founding Fathers and Mothers because back in the 1700s in both French and American revolutions they were very aware of how the old aristocratic order had put the common people down. Therefore I do not think you should ignore the implication that everyone has the right to "bear arms". That was my mother's opinion too and she had strong ideas about women being able to do what they like with a coat-of-arms!
She was born a Rivers just before 1900 and claimed to be fourteenth generation from the last Earl of Rivers in England even though they officially died out in 1492. She called herself a "princess" even though they were only Earls because they quartered royal arms and she taught me to regard the women in our family as princesses and place their husbands' arms on the right in the "wife's" position.
Mother took me to England in 1935 where I saw banners up in Westminster Abbey and back again in 1947 after the Blitz had destroyed the giant statues and done a lot of damage to the Abbey but we saw banners a lot of other places I hadn't been on the first trip over.
Before my mother had been married around World War One she had started embroidering the coat-of-arms of Queen Elizabeth Woodville, sister of the last Earl of Rivers, which was quarterly of six: 1 Lusignan 2 Balzo 3 Luxemburg 4 Orsini 5 St Pol and 6 Rivers. When my father, a Myers, did not have one she added a centershield or inescutcheon on the left between the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th quarters of a white shield with a black galley or "lymphad" and I used that for myself until I married a Christopher during World War Two. Mother and I added another centershield between the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th quarterings of a famous one and it is a white shield with a black chevron and a red roundel in chief. Neither man was entitled to the arms in terms of pure heraldry but millions with their names have bought wall-plaques of those arms and my mother and I were doing embroidered decorations and sewing banners for our homes, so we had no less justification just were being more creative with their use. We also discussed how we were treating our husbands to the subordinate position of "wife" in heraldic terms.
I had three daughters who married men not entitled to arms and though Mother had passed on I did what she and I had planned and moved the Christopher chevron over to the left to share the Myers centershield as my father's "wife", impaling Christopher (my husband) behind Myers (my father), thus leaving the right centershield vacant for my each of my sons-in-law.
My first daughter married a Bond and I used a simplified version of of just the white shield with black chevron so like my husband's chevron only with three gold bezants on the chevron, leaving off the red crescent. And when her daughter, my Bond granddaughter, married a Parker I used another commercial version of a white shield with a black curved something with a white stag's head couped on it impaled behind Bond on the right centershield as the "wife" of my granddaughter.
My second daughter married a Talbert and I did the same thing for her: moved the Christopher to be the "wife" of Myers on the left centershield and gave the right centershield to her new husband http://www.houseofnames_details.asp?sId=&s=talbert a Talbert but simplified the red lion on white by removing the scalloped edge from the border and when her daughter, a Talbert, married a Monts we sewed her husband on as the "wife" on the right centershield: a red eagle on white and it looks very good.
I took even further liberties when my 3rd daughter married a McNeely because I did not like his explanation that the name meant a "poor man" nor the coat-of-arms with such tiny charges they would not have been seen so I borrowed a page from Moncrieffe of that Ilk's book called "The Highland Clans" where he said he believed McNeely to be one of the branches of MacNeil of Barra and I took just one of the quarterings from and now my daughter uses the Myers/Christopher center-shield on the left and a gold center-shield on the right with a black lymphad or galley for Macneil (just one of their quarters) on the right because it looks good as a balance to the Myers galley in the same way that the Bond chevron looks good as a balance to the Christopher chevron for her sister.
None of this is heraldically "correct" as I have reassured myself by reading many books on the subject over the years(I am past eighty). But nevertheless I have done it as my mother before me taught me and we are American women who have actually been using heraldry and coats of arms exactly as it has pleased us to do so for a total of more than a hundred years. By 1906, one hundred years ago, my mother had elected to use the lady's coat-of-arms who was the wife of King Edward IV and after World War One she had added an inescutcheon or center shield (albeit offcenter) for her husband who was not entitled to it. By World War Two she and I were adding a second inescutcheon (which did better balance it visually) for my husband who was not entitled to it. But we have nevertheless used these arms in our homes as decoration, even more creatively than millions of people who are contented with a wall plaque. We have illegally marshalled them but we are not peasants in old Europe to be flogged by angry aristocrats. We have placed our husbands' arms in the subordinate position of "wife" but it was we "princesses" who were sewing the banners and embroidering the pillows and using heraldry for decoration so we have done it as it has pleased us to do.
Personally I think this is the modern use of heraldry: decoration. We do not ride around now with shields on horseback and it has become, in our culture in modern times, a matter of decorating walls and pretty much fabric. That is our medium and we do it artistically and creatively. Anyone wanting to come into my home and take my coats of arms off my wall because I am not "entitled" to them or they are not properly "marshalled" may find himself in a real-life battle after all and with an old lady! I am over eighty now and wanted to pass this bit of Americana on to other women who may be considering assuming and using coats-of-arms and why not?

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