Malcolm Lobley’s lecture tonight for the Yorkshire Heraldry Society concerned the country which has long been a source of cult fascination among armory enthusiasts.
He began with a short history of how the country came to be – which was, by his own admission, a way of padding the event’s length.
Henry Christophe founded the Kingdom of Haiti in 1811. In addition to proclaiming himself as monarch, he established a native nobility on the European model consisting of four princes, eight dukes, twenty-two counts, thirty-seven barons and forty chevaliers. He assumed arms of dominion for his realm, and also created a heraldic authority to assign arms to his appointees.
Lobley noted that as in Britain there was a convention on helmet usage according to rank – nobles used a barred helmet, the most senior affrontee and the rest facing dexter. Some of the titles of the peers, based on contemporary local place names, sounded comical to English speakers, such as the Duc de la Marmelade and the Duc de Limonade. Lobley was especially drawn to the Duc de l’Anse, which he translated to “jug handle”. Hyenas were a common choice as supporters. The contents of the shield tended to a medieval degree of simplicity though incorporating more modern imagery, such as Baron de Beliard with his rake and watering can.
The lecture was also used as an opportunity to advertise the Armorial Général du Royaume d’Hayti, which the College of Arms has been trying to flog for more than a decade.
Although the COVID pandemic is not exactly over, lockdown seems unlikely to recur and so it is now practical to visit again those places which had been inaccessible for much of the last two years, including public libraries.
As I have mentioned before, the ceremonial county of East Riding of Yorkshire is divided into two unitary authorities – one for Kingston-upon-Hull and one for everything else. This includes public library systems. I have therefore gone about acquiring a card for each. Applications online were a reasonably simple process of filling in a form on the councils’ websites, though actually visiting a library in person to collect the physical card was rather as neither institution’s opening hours were exactly convenient. Oddly, both sets of online login details suddenly stopped working once I’d taken possession of the cards and I had then to go back to ask for help.
Now that they are working I can search both libraries’ online catalogue before going to pick anything up. There is a delight in finding here the tomes (particularly on heraldry) that had long eluded me on Google Books or the Internet Archive, or even the library at the university. The downside is that these are not all kept at the same location (East Riding’s in particular are scattered across a large area.) and that the reference section of Hull Central Library has been closed for more than a year.
In case one cannot attend the physical libraries at all, both online accounts include the BorrowBox service allowing patrons to take out virtual resources, though the inventory on there is quite small.
Another session with the York Festival of Ideas.
Today’s virtual lecture was by the York Festival of Ideas, starring Eleanor Parker.
I asked her at what point in English history the Saxons and Normans were no longer considered different races/nations. She replied that the Normans quickly came to call themselves English, but that twelfth century sources still indicate a cultural and linguistic split, with non-Francophones held back in life.
The heraldic achievements of the Baronesses Hornsby-Smith (left) and Miller of Hendon (right)
This evening I returned to the Yorkshire Heraldry Society for a virtual lecture by Duncan Sutherland, detailing the arms which were sought and borne by Britain’s female parliamentarians since 1958. This is far from the first time that he has made this presentation – in 2019 he performed it in person at the Palace of Westminster. Today, however, was my first time to witness it, thanks to the virtual format.
The majority of these cases were baronesses for life, but there were some others, including the posthumous grant of arms that was made to the late Jo Cox for display in the chamber of the Commons.
In other news, yesterday Ruth Davidson finally took her seat in the Lords, with the title Baroness Davidson of Lundin Links, of Lundin Links in the County of Fife. Also yesterday I made a disappointing excursion to Hull Central Library: some months ago I found in their online catalogue a copy of Debrett’s Peerage 2015 – a much more recent edition than the ones in the university’s library – but of course as the libraries were still under semi-lockdown conditions I could not actually go there to access it. Once the restrictions were lifted I went there hoping to scoop up hundreds of new(er) blazons only to discover that, while the ground floor of the library was open again, the reference section on the first floor was closed for a refurbishment and the staff had no idea when it would open again. Blast!
UPDATE (September 2021)
The Heraldry Society has updated the publication section of its website. Sutherland’s presentation can be read as a PDF.