I arrive early for today’s ball because I’m not sure what’s happening. Also, I need inspiration. I find Lady B at her desk with paper, a paintbrush, and paints. Albert, naturally, sits at her shoulder. He is looking at her work in some distress.
Good day, Lady B. What are you doing?
Lady B: Hush, Miranda. I’m emblazoning.
That sounds noisy, and quite possibly painful. Lady B rolls her eyes and ignores me, as she so often does.
Lady B: Lord B’s birthday is coming up and I’ve decided to paint the Beaufetheringstone coat-of-arms for him.
I look over her shoulder and gulp. Er… I daresay it has been some time since you practiced the art of painting in watercolors.
Lady B: If I had ever learned, I should have been a great proficient. But it turns out not to be as easy as it looks.
Perhaps I can help. I have some rudimentary skill in Photoshopping, which is what we call watercolor painting these days.
Lady B. Thank you, Miranda. Let us start with an escutcheon. I need hardly add that the Beaufetheringstone escutcheon has never been blotted.
Fortunately, I also have some rudimentary knowledge of heraldry, so I know she means a shield.
Lady B. Next we need the coronet, to indicate the family rank in the peerage. Lord B, of course, is a mere baron.
Here you are. I think it looks very nice. The bobbles are cute.
Lady B: My father, the duke, has strawberry leaves on his. So much prettier.
I know the family crest sits on top of the coronet, often an heraldic animal. Which is Lord B’s?
Lady B. I’m surprised you have to ask. A proper popinjay, of course.
I thought a popinjay was a shallow, vain, or conceited person.
Albert flaps his wings and erupts into a flurry of squawks.
Lady B. Miss Neville, your impertinence is exceeded only by your ignorance. The popinjay is the heraldic representation of a parrot.
That’s wonderful, Lady B. [madly searches heraldic clip art]. Here we are. What color?
Lady B. In heraldry the word “proper” denotes the correct color. In the case of a popinjay that is vert, beaked gules, just like darling Albert.
I remember now that heraldry has special words for the colors. Vert is green, straight from the French. Got that. But gules?
Lady B. sighs. Everyone knows gules is red.
All right, then. Green parrot, red beak.
<squawk> ugly popinjay <squawk>
Albert doesn’t like my clip art. Albert, why don’t you hop on top of the coronet instead? What do you think, Lady B?
Lady B. Albert looks very handsome up there, but he is crushing Lord B’s coronet. Also, I doubt he will stay. I fear the ugly popinjay that you “photoshopped” will have to suffice.
Albert leaves the room in a huff.
A coat-of-arms generally includes a motto, very often in Latin or French. What is Lord B’s, I wonder.
Lady B. Although the family has since dwelt in well-deserved obscurity (until Lord B had the sense to marry me, that is), Sir Roland de Beaufetheringtone fought at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356. The dynasty nearly came to a premature end when Sir Roland was knocked off his horse and lay at the mercy of a French knight. Luckily, he had charged into battle with his loyal parrot perched on the end of his lance. The valiant bird pecked out the Frenchman’s eye and thus Sir Roland was saved. The Black Prince himself commended the courage of the parrot. Henceforth he was known as Albertus Magnus and Sir Roland adopted the motto “Semper Psittacus.” [gropes for her handkerchief]. Excuse me, Miss Neville. This tale never fails to draw a tear.
Wow. That’s … incredible. Thank you for the touching story, Lady B. I’m glad to know more about the family. I don’t even know who Lord B’s heir is? Is there a second or third cousin, perhaps?
Lady B: That is not your affair.
[aside] I thought it was a matter of public record, but I appear to have struck a nerve here. I’d better get on with the coat-of-arms.
If I remember rightly, a blazon is the verbal description of the shield. Lady B! Tell me the Beaufetheringstone blazon so that I can emblazon it.
Lady B: Gules, a winged man rampant sable.
Gules means the background is red. Winged man sounds like an angel. Like this?
Lady B. I said Rampant! Erect!
Oh my God. Surely she doesn’t mean that?
Lady B: Standing up! And, the man needs to be more manly. Also sable, which means black.
Aha! I have the very thing. And just for fun I’ll throw in a peacock blue – sorry, azure – background. How about this?
Lady B: Very good, Miranda. He has excellent legs. Lord B. will be delighted.
There’s one thing missing from the Beaufetheringstone arms. Well two, actually: supporters. In the royal arms, that’s the lion and the unicorn on either side of the shield. What – or whom – would you recommend as supporters for Lord and Lady B’s coat-of-arms? We definitely do not need to stick to heraldic rules!