The story behind Maryborough’s coat of arms
Did you know that Maryborough, Queensland, has its own coat of arms? If you’re visiting the Heritage City, you can see its coat of arms on a wall facing the Town Hall Green. Titled ‘The Crest’, it is one of 40+ murals that make up the Maryborough Mural Trail. To learn more about this piece of local history, read on! Our contributor, Peter Woodland, shares some insights into the fascinating world of heraldry.
The surprising number of Australian cities with coats of arms
According to the Heraldry of the World wiki 108 Australian cities have coats of arms.
There are, in fact, at least 394 Australian cities with a population of more than 10,000 people and there are another 88 towns with a population of more than 5000.
Perhaps, in your travels, keep your eye out for municipal coats of arms. It could be just one more enjoyable pastime, as you while away the kilometres.
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Who can have a coat of arms?
In Australia, anyone can adopt a coat of arms of their own design. However, there are some limitations to that process.
The said coat of arms is not theirs exclusively. It can be used and copied by anyone unless some copyright applies.
If the coat of arms they adopt is the same as one borne by an armiger whose coat of arms was granted by the College of Arms in London or by some other official body in other parts of the world, then its use is illegal.
It may come as a surprise to many that family coats of arms are very rare in the British domain.
Just because your name is Fortesque-Smythe, for example, it does not follow that you can use the coat of arms of someone else called Fortesque-Smythe.
You have to be able to trace a direct line through the eldest child, usually male, in each generation, back to the original “owner” of the arms.
In the British world, arms are granted to an individual, an enterprise or an institution, not to families.
That is just one of many “rules’ one has to get used to in the world of heraldry.
What is heraldry?
Heraldry began as the use of a distinctive shield or, perhaps, coat to identify a combatant on a battlefield.
They were simple and brightly or unusually coloured so that your side knew who you were.
The best coats of arms to this day follow that custom of simplicity.
Perhaps the aspect of heraldry most difficult to understand is the blazon.
This is words written in a particular style to describe the coat of arms.
It includes old and foreign words and follows an order of precedent.
This is one such blazon:
Quarterly, 1 and 4 Gules three Pallets Argent and 2 and 3 Azure, three Bars wavy Argent a Cross embattled counter embattled throughout Or and overall a Maltese Cross Azure
That is the blazon for the shield from the coat of arms of the City of Maryborough, in Queensland, Australia. It means:
A shield divided into quarters. The first and fourth quarters are red and silver (white) alternating vertical stripes. The second and third quarters are blue and silver (white) alternating horizontal wavy stripes. The quarters are divided by a gold cross that is embattled. That is, its edges are “jagged” as in the top of a traditional castle wall. Over the top of all this is a blue Maltese cross.
This is Maryborough’s coat of arms:
As you can see there are several other elements to Maryborough’s coat of arms. These elements are part of the original grant.
Some of them such as the two supporters on either side and the “ground” or compartment, they are standing on are rare in an individual’s coats of arms. They have to be granted by the sovereign.
Another element is a helmet and there are rules about what sort of helmet individuals can use. On the other hand, it does not have to be a medieval “knights” helmet. It could be a miner’s hard-hat, for instance, if appropriate.
Above the helmet is a torse or twisted piece of cloth or some other cloth buffer. On the torse sits the crest.
I bet you wondered when I was going to use that word because many of us talk about the crest as being the whole thing.
The crest can be almost anything, if appropriate and is often used as a badge by the armiger (owner of the arms).
It might serve as a monogram on clothing, a signet ring, a logo on personal stationery, or anything you desire.
In the case of Maryborough, it is the schooner “Blue Jacket”, at sea, on a circle of spiky (embattled) gold circles, with two sticks of sugar cane.
Lastly, there is the motto, beneath the shield. The motto can say almost anything and can be in any language, Klingon, if you wish.
Mottos can be tricky though because it is supposedly a statement of deeply held views and character.
Don’t give yourself a motto about bravery, if, in reality, you ascribe to the view that “He who runs away lives to fight another day.”
Maryborough’s motto is Latin and it means: Faith, Strength and Courage
Maryborough received a badge when these arms were granted and this is it:
The badge repeats the colours and symbols of the arms.
Granted, I hear you ask. Yes, granted!
In Australia “official” coats of arms are granted by a British College of Arms.
The gentlemen responsible for the design and grant of the arms to Maryborough were:
Sir Alexander Colin Cole, Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order, upon whom has been conferred the Territorial Decoration, Garter Principal King of Arms, Sir Anthony Richard Wagner, Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order, Clarenceux King of Arms and John Philip Brooke Brooke-Little, Esquire, Commander of the Royal Victorian Order, Norroy and Ulster, King of Arms.
Make your own coat of arms
Municipal coats of arms can be fun to look for, and they can also be a great way to learn more about the places you visit.
If you’re feeling creative, there’s no reason why you can’t come up with your own arms for yourself or your town or city.
Just make sure you follow all the “rules”. After all, you wouldn’t want to get in trouble with the arms authorities!
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