Sunday, 21 September 2014

Peaceful Queer Achievement

[Achievement – the name given in heraldry to the full pictorial representation of a coat of arms.]

Today is the International Day of Peace. Two years ago I wrote about an lgbt Nobel Peace prize winner, Jane Addams. Today I write about another – Dag Hammarskjöld (1905-1961), the Secretary General of the United Nations, and the only person to receive the prize posthumously.

In the coat of arms I’ve produced today I’m using more artistic licence than before. All of the established rules of heraldry are adhered to but I’ve added elements which are not generally used but are not necessarily banned. I’ll explain what I’ve done and why during the course of the article. I wanted to create an international design which would belong uniquely to Dag Hammarskjöld. First of all may I apologise for the picture quality. My scanner seems to be nearing the end of its usefulness and the clarity is not as good as previously.
Because Dag was Swedish I’ve used Swedish heraldic practice as my starting point. Let’s begin with the shield. This design is a good example of what is called canting arms – the objects on the shield are a direct indication of the name of the family name. Thus we have hammers in the arms of Hammarskjöld. I’m not sure how long the family has used this design but they certainly used it when they were created nobles of Sweden in 1610.

Once ennobled the family were entitled to place a specific coronet on top of the shield. The coronet is used by Swedish nobility who didn’t have titles, like the Hammarskjölds. The type of helmet is also indicative of the family’s ennobled rank. This produces an anomaly in international heraldry, as in England this particular type of helmet is reserved exclusively for the monarch.

Over the helmet is the crest of two arms in armour holding another hammer, another reference to the family name.

One of the big artistic licences I’ve used is to add the flag of the United Nations to the top part of the shield, an area called the chief. Way back in January 2013 I described the use of civil coats of arms by council leaders (the Lord Mayor of Nottingham, in that case), and how two coats of arms can be placed side by side on the same shield in the manner of a married couple (the council leader “married” to his/her council).

In the case I gave for Nottingham, the specific Lord Mayor I featured has no personal coat of arms but was entitled to use the city arms on its own during his term of office. In today’s case the United Nations has no coat of arms, so Dag Hammaskjöld, as Secretary General, could not place his next to them. Rather than leave the whole heraldic achievement with no indication of Dag’s international role I’ve adapted a rule used by some international orders of knighthood and in some English coats of arms.

The Sovereign Military Order of Malta (not to be confused with the island nation of Malta) has special observer status at the United Nations. The Order’s “head of state”, the Grand Master, divides his shield into quarters, with the Order’s arms in the 1st and 4th quarters and his family arms in the 2nd and 3rd. I didn’t think it was distinctive enough so followed another of the Order’s practices used for all its senior knights by placing the arms of the Sovereign Military Order in the chief of thier shield and placed the UN flag in the chief of Dag's shield. The chief has also often been used in English heraldry to place special designs recognising some great honour and achievement. As head of the UN I thought this method was most appropriate for Dag. It would be great if this idea could be used officially, or unofficially, by the UN today.

The biggest artistic licence I’ve used is the inclusion of the medallion below the shield. This is a depiction of the Nobel Peace Prize, for which Dag was nominated in 1961 but was killed before it could be awarded. In practice only medals bestowing a title or high national honour are placed below the shield – orders of knighthood, etc. The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the highest international honours anyone can receive but it has no heraldic status. I feel it is an appropriate medallion to display in this case. The medallion has no ribbon so I’ve placed a representation of a ribbon in United Nations blue behind it, even though the Nobel Prizes are not actually awarded by the UN. When I can think of a more appropriate colour for the ribbon I’ll change it.

Finally, I’ve placed the rainbow Pride colours in the wreath on top of the helmet. While my previous coats of arms have had the colours placed on the back of the motto scroll, which is allowable in English heraldry, I couldn’t find any motto for the Hammarskjöld family. Neither is there an official motto of the UN so I chose not to have a motto and place the rainbow colours on the helmet wreath instead. As a rule the wreath should be in the principal colours of the shield, like the flowing mantling around it.

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