Knights of Solamnia
Heraldry in Solamnia
Excerpts from "A Modest Treatise Concerning Solamnic Heraldry" humbly compiled by Æsteth Parceval UthVellers, 5th cadet son of Lord Algernon UthVellers, Lord of Roses and Duke of Dart.
Chapter 1: Introduction
Since the very beginning of Solamnic history, Heraldry has been an important part of culture and society. As my gentle Reader will soon know, there are several reasons. Let's start our disquisition from an historical point of view. I won't annoy my kind Reader with a detailed chronicle of the noble origins of the Knighthood, since He certainly knows them very well. I'll only dare to remind Him that, following the Rose Rebellion, Solamnia seceded from the once mighty Empire of Ergoth (Iconochronus, vol. LXIV-LXVII).
The civil War of the Ice Tears, whose conclusion planted the seeds of the ultimate decadence of debauched Ergoth and of the outstanding greatness and virtue of our Nation, was led by Vinas Solamnus, Commander of the Imperial Palace Guard and cadet son of a greater landlord of the Ergothian Empire. His officers were for the most part frontier noblemen, members of the powerful Ergothian Aristocracy.
So, our clever Reader won't be surprised by the fact that the early Solamnic society was quite close to the ancient Ergothian civilization. The similarities were indeed many, as it is only obvious, and the symbols of power had to be roughly the same, since the ruling class of early Solamnia was principally composed by minor Ergothian Aristocracy.
Our wise Reader should not frown at this thesis of ours: the ancient Ergoth was indeed a great civilization, even in his period of decadence, and its culture was predominant all over Ansalon. The Solamnians mutuated some aspects of that once glorious civilization, and all they borrowed was always mitigated by Honour, and applied following the noble precepts of the Measure.
One of the aspects the Solamnians mutuated from the Empire was, of course, Heraldry. Even if they are sometimes credited for it by unlearned people and so-called "experts," the Knights of Solamnia are not the inventors of Heraldry. It was a recent (and not widely accepted) feature of Ergothian Aristocracy, that the Knights found proper and useful, and so developed.
So, our acute Reader will probably ask why they found it useful: after all, it could be pointed out that they fought against Ergoth in order to create a new land of Virtue, Law, Honour and Justice: so, what use could they have of such stuff?
The reasons, once more, are many.
First of all, Heraldry provided a very effective way of identification, even at reasonable distance, and in battle this was very useful: in large-scale warfare, the field commander had to know, at first glance, the position of his officers on the battlefield, so that he could direct his strategy effectively. More important, the risk of injuring one's comrade was greatly lowered, as recognition, even amidst the chaos of battle, was rather easy.
In second instance, Heraldry is a clear display of the honour and political prominence of the owner of the blazon: Vinas Solamnus found it useful, both as a way to incite knights to valour, and to enforce upon nobles and common folk the newly established political and knightly hierarchy.
Chapter 2: General features and terminology
If my Noble Reader has not left me yet, I will proceed giving a general overlook of Solamnic Heraldry, promising that we will discuss it in detail further.
First of all I dare to annoy my competent Reader with the definitions of some terms commonly used in heraldry and often confused by those unfamiliar with the matter. In all my humble work, I will use the term "blazon," or "escutcheon," referring to the devices and symbols that are meant to identify one person or family, and are portrayed on the shield; the term "shield," conversely, identifies both the blazon and the shield on which it's represented. The shield can be surrounded, surmounted, flanked with other devices and decorations: examples are helms, crowns, mottos, and other. The "coat of arms" is a tunic or even a livery carried by noblemen or men-at-arms sworn under their service, and is often very similar to the blazon. A "crest" is a figure placed on the helm, that recalls the blazon, and is used only in large-scale battles, tournaments or official events.
After these few introductory words, my clever Reader will probably ask: who is entitled to own an heraldic escutcheon? The Measure, Book III, Chapter IV, Article XI, is very explicit, and the generous Reader will forgive me if I merely quote is as it is, since no comment is required: "Any man, born in Solamnia or outside its boundaries from a regular marriage between Solamnians of noble birth, is entitled a Blazon, since even if he's not member of the Knighthood, and he doesn't hold any feudal power, he is none the less member of the gentry, and should be honoured consequently. Furthermore, any man of Solamnia, not of noble birth, who is by his prowess found worth of admission in the ranks of the Knighthood, should receive the title of 'Sir' and devise his own Blazon when he completes his formal training (as a Squire and a Defender of the Crown) and ascends to the rank of Knight and to the status of Created Nobility."
It is customary that the first-born son (and, consequently, the heir) of a nobleman will inherit his original family blazon, too. While his father is still alive and involved (i.e. he has not retired or abdicated his rights) the heir will bear over the family blazon a particular sign, called "lambellum," consisting in a horizontal bar with, usually, three equally spaced "drops," placed in the superior part of the shield (see miniature II). Other sons can include instead one or more diagonal bars on the shield, from top left to right tip, (miniature III) of any colour except black (which would be interpreted as a sign of dishonour and felony). Bastard or illegitimate sons have also a diagonal band, but it starts from the right top and ends in the left tip.
Even female members of a noble family are sometimes entitled to own a blazon, a use very common in the Age of Might and now often fallen in disuse, even if some Palanthian families are sponsoring the fashion. Female shields are always oval; they are plain , only portraying the family blazon, if the lady is not yet married. They can be parted, one half the lady's, the other her husband's, if she is married; If the lady is widow and regent of some feudal domain, she can bear the devices associated with her feudal power (crowns and other).
Anyone bestowed with honorifical membership in the Knights of Solamnia is automatically entitled to have a blazon. He is also entitled to all distinctions (helms, crowns, and so on...) that are proper of his honorary rank, since the measure does not make any distinction between lawful rank and honorary rank. Honorary Knights are just a few, though: Lord Kharas Hylar, Princess Laurana Kanann of Qualinesti, and Tanis HalfElven. As a note, it's a faculty of the Grand Master to bestow honorary Knighthood, and it's always a motu proprio deliberation.
As a general rule, the blazon has simple, symbolic figures that bear some sort of relevance in the history of the family or of the Knight who chose it as his own emblem. In the blazon, the symbols of the Knighthood are rarely displayed, except by the most ancient families. For example, the DiCaela's blazon (see Miniature IV) has a yellow rose blowing on a cloud: this immediately qualifies the family as one of the most ancient in Solamnia, for only the oldest royal families were entitled, in ages past, to be part of the Order of the Rose, and can consequently display the rose in the blazon. The cloud is a symbol of mysticism and religion, from which flourishes virtue and justice, represented by the yellow rose. Should the rose be red, as in the blazon of the UthVellers, it would indicate determination, courage, and valour. In this last case, the rose is represented in the talons of an eagle, because centuries ago the family claimed royal blood in order to ascend to the Order of the Rose, and even if the recordings of the genealogies were lost, such an eagle dropped a rose at the feet of Lord UthVellers immediately before the Knightly Council that was to decide the matter. Such a sign of divine favour was naturally considered a proof, and the blazon was changed in memory of the glorious episode. Another recent exception is the blazon of the Majere, (Miniature V) that portrays a red rose blooming from an ale mug: the symbol was granted by Grand Master Uth Wistan, as a personal favour to the Heroes of the Lance, Caramon Majere and his wife Tika Waylan.
Members of any of the three Orders of Knighthood who reach the title of 'Lord' can surmount the shield of their blazon with a closed great helm of silver, not frontal, as a sign of distinction. The three High Knights and the Admiral of the Fleet have frontal opened helms, and the Grand Master has an open, frontal helm of gold. Only the Three High Knights and the Grand Master can have a crest representing a kingfisher with spread wings. Furthermore, the Kingfisher's head is turned left for the GrandMaster and the whole Knighthood, and right for the three High Knights. Other Knights have often a crest that recalls their blazon. Every Knight who is entitled to the helm over his shield, will bear he himself a similarly shaped elm, possibly crowned if he holds feudal lands.
The crest is often removed, but in some official occasions (parades, tournaments, large-scale battles) it can be displayed, for it provides immediate identification of the knight from great distance, even if the shield or coat are not clearly visible.
The brooch displaying the rank in the knighthood is always carried on the knight and openly displayed, but rarely does it appear in his personal shield; the symbols of the highest rank attained are often combined with the shield in funerary monuments.
The Mantle in the back of the Shield is always a symbol of great power among the Knighthood: only the three High Knights can set behind their shield a mantle of red and ermine; the Grand Master sets a mantle of gold and ermine, and two sceptres.
Chapter 3: Feudal and political heraldry:
I'm very ashamed to annoy my educated Reader with such an obvious matter as the distinctive signs of feudal lords of Solamnia: these regalia are so widely displayed that it's very likely that you all distinct Readers will ignore these few pages and wish that the poor Copyist had not wasted his time and his eyes on them. Still, for sake of exhaustivity and completeness, I'm bound to insert a few notes about feudal signs of distinction in heraldic shields. I'll try to fix the whole matter in a few words.
As a matter of fact, all distinctive signs of feudal nobility are the reproduction of the original crowns the various landlords wear; different crowns correspond to different feudal grades of nobility, that are here shown in increasing order of importance.
As a matter of fact, all distinctive signs of feudal nobility are the reproduction of the original crowns the various landlords sometimes wear, if they so choose; different crowns correspond to different feudal grades of nobility, that are here shown in increasing order of importance.
I will only remark two important facts: first of all, the crowns are always set on the superior part of the shield bearing the blazon, and are part of the familiar heritage; if any helm surmounts the shield, the crown is set instead on top of the helm. Secondly, the crowns outside the shield are always a symbol of feudal nobility, and never a device connected with the Order of the Crown.
Chapter 4: Distinctive heraldry of the Three Orders of the Knighthood
Chapter 5: A Brief Overlook of Foreign Heraldry.
As my educated Reader will certainly know, not only in Solamnia heraldry devices are used. In fact, many other Nations employ heraldry, even if not so widely. For sake of exhaustivity, I will provide some general lines concerning the heraldry of our allied nations, not even bothering to spend ink for minotaurs, ogres and this sort of savages.
In the Empire of Ergoth heraldic rules are by no way different from those already explicated for Solamnia, even if less developed. The Emperor has always the same blazon, regardless of his dynasty: the Imperial Blazon is shown in Miniature IX.
In the Kingdom of Silvanesti and of Qualinesti, the noble families tend to have some kind of device, very often the leaf of a particular tree or plant, that is distinctive of the family, and can be carried by all the members. The Royal Houses of Khanan and of Silvanos, the families (up to the third generation) of the Speakers of the Sun and of the Stars, respectively, have different blazons, that are shown in Miniature X - XI.
The Kagonesti Elves have no aristocracy, but each clan or tribe tends to identify with a totemic animal, which will be the symbol of the clan. No device is shown on the person or property, though: the totem is a spiritual matter, only.
The Dwarves make no extensive use of heraldry: every dwarven Clan (Neidar, Aghar, and so on) has a particular symbol, closely related to the common habitat of the clan, but only the Head of the Clan can wear it. The Kings of Thorbardin have a Royal Blazon (see Miniature XII), as well as the Kings of every other Dwarven Kingdom certainly had. The Prince of Garnet, conversely, has a device that follows the rules of Solamnic Heraldry.
The Kender have no use of heraldry at all, as they do not understand it, utterly. Such simple people do not even understand the concept of property, either, so... may Gilean keep them out of our Library!
Text copyright ©2001 Matteo Banchio. Dragonlance, Knights of Solamnia, and most of the names quoted are trademarks or copyright owned by TSR, Inc. and Wizards of the Coast. All Rights Reserved.