Flemish Heraldic Council
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|Vlaamse Heraldische Raad|
|Formation||11 April 1984|
|Purpose/focus||Granting and recording of heraldry in the Flemish Community of Belgium|
|Region served||Flemish Community of Belgium|
|Website||Vlaamse Heraldische Raad|
The Flemish Heraldic Council or Vlaamse Heraldische Raad advises the Flemish Government on all matters relating to heraldry. It currently operates as the fifth division of the Royal Commission of Monuments and Sites or Koninklijke Commissie voor Monumenten en Landschappen.
The Council was created on 11 April 1984, as the successor to the Subcommittee for Heraldry or Subcommissie Heraldiek, established in 1978. Its prime task was to supervise the granting of a coat of arms and a flag to all municipalities of the Flemish Region. Following the reorganization of the Belgian provinces, the council's field of action was extended to provincial arms and flags in 1994. Since 2000 the Council has likewise advised the Flemish Government on grants of arms to Flemish individuals and corporations. In the mean time more than 100 of such grants have received official sanction.
Heraldry of provinces and municipalities
Before 1977 the heraldry of Belgian municipalities was regulated by two Royal Decrees. The Royal Decree of 6 February 1837 provided for the recognition of arms used by local governments during the Ancien Régime. The Royal Decree of 14 February 1913 allowed municipalities that could not prove their entitlement to ancient arms to petition for a grant of new arms. In either case recognitions and grants of arms to municipalities were made by Royal Decree. The procedure depended on the initiative of local councils and was administered by the Ministry of the Interior in close consultation with the Council of the Nobility. By 1976 39% of the Belgian municipalities were armigerous. There were, however, significant regional differences. Whereas 61% of the municipalities in the Flemish Region had the right to bear arms, only 25% of those in the Walloon Region enjoyed the same. The majority of armigerous municipalities was even more pronounced in the provinces of East Flanders (73%) and Antwerp (75%). Broadly speaking these figures reflected the relative degree of urbanization and the long and strong tradition of local self-government in the erstwhile feudal entities of Flanders and Brabant.
Following a major overhaul of local government, the number of municipalities was reduced from 2359 to 596 on 1 January 1977. Six years later, one more merger brought the number down to 589. In the Flemish Region the number of municipalities fell from 906 to 308. Municipalities that were affected by a merger could no longer use their preexisting arms. As a result a mere 66 (21%) of Flemish municipalities could continue bearing a coat of arms. On the eve of the mergers the Cultural Council of the Dutch Speaking Cultural Community (the precursor of the Flemish Parliament) used its powers to legislate in cultural affairs to vote a decree aimed at safeguarding the heraldic heritage of local authorities. The measure received the royal assent on 28 January 1977. Under the terms of the decree every municipality is obliged to have its own arms and flag. The arms have to be displayed on the municipal seal that is used to authenticate official documents. The local council initiates the procedure by proposing a coat of arms and a flag. Proposals have to conform to the principles of heraldry and vexillology. The arms furthermore have to take the local historic and heraldic heritage into account. On 21 December 1978 a Royal Decree instituted the Subcommittee of Heraldry to report on the municipalities' proposals. Following the revision of the Belgian constitution of 1980, the Subcommittee was upgraded to become the Flemish Heraldic Council by the decree of the Flemish Government of 11 April 1984. The task of the Council is advisory. It considers the symbolism and design of the arms and flags, bearing in mind historical precedents. In many cases it makes suggestions for improvement. Upon recommendation by the Council, the municipal arms and flag are given official approval. Until 1980 the approval took the form of a Royal Decree. Since then it is issued as a Decree of the competent Flemish minister.
Heraldry of families and corporations
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Current members of the Flemish Heraldic Council
- André Vandewalle, president
- Jozef Dauwe
- Luc Duerloo
- Erik Houtman
- Véronique Lambert
- Monique Van Melkebeek
- Jean-Jacques van Ormelingen
- Patrick Van Waterschoot, secretary
- Viaene-Awouters, Lieve (1977). "Samenvoeging van gemeenten en gemeentewapens". Driemaandelijks tijdschrift van het Gemeentekrediet van België (Gemeentekrediet) 31: 289–301. ISSN 0773-9273.
- Scufflaire, Andrée (1979). "De gemeentewapens na de samenvoeging van gemeenten". Driemaandelijks tijdschrift van het Gemeentekrediet van België (Gemeentekrediet) 33: 171–179. ISSN 0773-9273.
- Viaene-Awouters, Lieve; Warlop, Ernest (2002). Gemeentewapens in België: Vlaanderen en Brussel. Gemeentekrediet. ISBN 90-5066-201-3.
- Viaene-Awouters and Warlop (2002) p.33.
- Viaene-Awouters and Warlop (2002) p. 40.
- Viaene-Awouters (1977) pp. 291-294.
- Scufflaire (1979) p. 177-179.
- The Flemish Heraldic Council official site, with online register of all arms granted to private persons and corporations (in Dutch).