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Welcome to the Heraldry and Vexillogy Portal!

A herald wearing a tabard
Flags of the Nordic countries

Heraldry encompasses all of the duties of a herald, including the science and art of designing, displaying, describing and recording coats of arms and badges, as well as the formal ceremonies and laws that regulate the use and inheritance of arms. The origins of heraldry lie in the medieval need to distinguish participants in battles or jousts, whose faces were hidden by steel helmets.

Vexillology (from the Latin vexillum, a flag or banner) is the scholarly study of flags, including the creation and development of a body of knowledge about flags of all types, their forms and functions, and of scientific theories and principles based on that knowledge. Flags were originally used to assist military coordination on the battlefield, and have evolved into a general tool for signalling and identification, particularly identification of countries.

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Selected biography

Elias Ashmole by Cornelius Neve

Elias Ashmole was an antiquarian, collector, politician and officer of arms. He supported the royalist side during the English Civil War, and at the restoration of Charles II he was rewarded with several lucrative offices, including Windsor Herald of Arms in Ordinary. Throughout his life he was an avid collector of curiosities and other artifacts. Many of these he acquired from the traveller, botanist, and collector John Tradescant the elder and his son of the same name, and most he donated to Oxford University to create the Ashmolean Museum. He also donated his library and priceless manuscript collection to Oxford. Apart from his collecting activities, Ashmole illustrates the passing of the pre-scientific world view in the seventeenth century: while he immersed himself in alchemical, magical and astrological studies and was consulted on astrological questions by Charles II and his court, these studies were essentially backward-looking. Although he was one of the founding members of the Royal Society, a key institution in the development of experimental science, he never participated actively. (more...)

Selected coat of arms

National emblem of Belarus (1995 - current)

The National Emblem of Belarus (Belarusian: Дзяржаўны герб Рэспублікі Беларусь, Russian: Государственный герб Республики Беларусь), which replaced the historic Pahonia arms in a 1995 referendum, features a ribbon in the colors of the national flag, the map of Belarus, wheat ears and a red star. It is sometimes referred to as the coat of arms of Belarus, which is incorrect due to lack of several heraldic elements. The emblem is an allusion to the one used by the Byelorussian SSR, designed by I.I. Dubasov in 1950. Emblems reminiscent of the times of the Soviet Union are also used by the nations of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and the region of Transnistria. (more...)

Selected flag

Heirlooms of Clan MacLeod of Dunvegan Castle, including Fairy Flag

The Fairy Flag (Scottish Gaelic: Am Bratach Sìth) is an heirloom of the chiefs of Clan MacLeod. It is held in Dunvegan Castle along with other notable heirlooms, such as the Dunvegan Cup and Sir Rory Mor's Horn. The flag is made of silk, is yellow or brown in colour, and measures about 18 inches (46 cm) square. Now ripped and tattered, it is extremely fragile. The flag is covered in small red "elf dots". In the early part of the 19th century, the flag was also marked with small crosses, but these have since disappeared. The flag may have been an important relic, perhaps from the Crusades, or it may have even been a raven banner.

There are numerous stories associated with the flag, most of which deal with its magical properties and mysterious origins. Clan tradition, preserved in the early 19th century, tells how the Fairy Flag was entrusted to a family of hereditary standard bearers. Tradition states that the flag was unfurled at several clan battles in the 15th and 16th centuries; the flag's magical powers are said to have won at least one of them. In the mid 20th century, the Fairy Flag was said to have said to have extinguished a fire at Dunvegan Castle, and to have given luck to servicemen flying bombing missions in the Second World War. (more...)

Selected picture

A medieval ship flag

A medieval ship flag captured by forces from Lübeck in the 1420s showed the arms of Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Pomerania. It remained in this city for 500 years, until destroyed in a World War II bombardment that damaged St. Mary's Church where the flag was kept. A 19th century copy remains in Frederiksborg Palace, Denmark. The saint accompanying the Virgin Mary and infant Christ is Saint James the Greater, identified by his scallop shell emblem. The flag was made of coarse linen; all figures and heraldic insignia were created using oil-based paint.

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Gadsen flag

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