Sunday 18 November 2012

Queer Achievement - Elton John

Achievement : the name given in heraldry to the full pictorial representation of a coat of arms.
For the first in my Queer Achievements series which features gay armigers (that’s people who have a coat of arms) I bring you the coat of arms of Sir Elton John. Following the example of John Bercow’s pioneering use of the pink triangle and rainbow on the motto scroll I’ve added them to my original painting of Elton’s arms.

Sir Elton John was granted a coat of arms in 1987. In England the way this happens is by contacting the College of Arms in London. If you’re lucky you inherit arms from a male ancestor (which you have to prove – a certificate you got from an ad in a magazine isn’t legal). Elton didn’t inherit any arms so he helped the Heralds to design a new “fun” coat of arms for him.

That’s one of the key elements in heraldry – fun, visual puns, personal jokes, and often sarcastic wit, even way back in the Middle Ages.

So where are the puns that give us clues to reveal to us that the coat of arms at the top belongs to Sir Elton John?

Most obvious is the verbal pun in the motto. Mottos can be in an any language. Elton’s is in Spanish so that it actually begins with his first name. In translation the motto also gives a pun in reference to his musical profession – “The tone is good”.

The reference to music is clearly shown by the piano keyboard design. It uses black bars that have been used in heraldry for centuries, 300 years before the piano keyboard was even invented. It’s only the way they are grouped that hints at what it is represents.

Then there’s the crest – the thing that goes on top of the helmet. Elton’s crest is Pan playing his pipes. Obvious musical reference there. But if you look closely, the pipes are blue. Elton’s first band was formed when he was a teenager and was called Bluesology.

A little more obvious are the 4 discs, called pierced roundels in heraldry, again used since medieval times. Calling them discs makes it more obvious what they represent – 2 vinyl records and 2 cds.

The rest of the shield is more obscure, but if you look at the crest again you’ll see Pan’s hoof is on a gold football. Followers of English football will know that Elton was Chairman of Watford Football Club at the time he was granted this coat of arms. Red and yellow have been the main colours of the Watford strip for many years (pictured left). The mantling – the flowing cloth fastened to the helmet – also takes the main colours of the shield, the traditional manner of colouring the mantling.

Other parts of Elton’s achievement include his honours. The helmet has its visor open, indicating Elton is a knight of the realm, as does the central badge suspended below the shield – the badge of a Knight Bachelor. Its placed in front of the others, in the centre, as it is the highest ranking honour being shown. The badge on the left is of a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) which was awarded to Elton in 1996. Connected to this is the circlet of the Order tucked away behind the shield (you can see the word “God” clearly from the motto of the Order “For God and the Empire).

The third badge, the green one, is of an Officer of the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, which was awarded to Elton in 1993. Technically, this French decoration shouldn’t appear in the achievement of an English coat of arms, but some artistic license can be allowed. I’ve included it because it gives the whole achievement a more balanced look with its overall pointed oval shape.

I hope you enjoyed this look at Sir Elton John’s full coat of arms.

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