The International College of Arms of the Noblesse was founded in 1925 at the International Convention of the Noblesse de Race in the United States of America, by virtue of powers confirmed to the noblesse by Francis II, King of France. King Francis II recognized the right of the noblesse to govern themselves in all matters heraldic, which was then confirmed and extended by Ordinances of the Kings of France dated 1725 and 1744 respectively, as recognized and maintained by Articles XXXVII and XLV of the Capitulation of Montreal 1760, and guaranteed by the Quebéc-Canada Act 1774 and by Articles II and XXVI of the Treaty of Paris 1763.
At the International Convention in 1925 the College was placed under the control of Count H. Victor Cherep-Spiridovich, formerly aide-de-camp to Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. From him, it passed to the British Orthodox Archbishop Mar Frederic Harrington, and on Archbishop Harrington’s death in 1942 he was succeeded as Supreme Herald-Marshall by Mar Jacobus II, British Patriarch. In 1945, Mar Jacobus II appointed as his successor Mar Georgius, Catholicos of the West.
The College was incorporated under Act XXI of 1860 in India on 20 February 1950 (registration 5/1950) as a constituent corporation of the Catholicate of the West. In 1953, Mar Georgius separated his work from the Catholicate, abandoning the Indian incorporation, and founded a new organization. However, the Catholicate continued in existence independently from Mar Georgius and on 6 August 1977 was formally united with the headship of the Apostolic Episcopal Church in an act registered with the Secretary of State of California, USA. In February 2015, the present Prince-Abbot of San Luigi also became Presiding Bishop of the Apostolic Episcopal Church and Catholicos of the West, whereby the College became part of a common administration with the Abbey-Principality of San Luigi under the Prince-Abbot as Supreme Herald-Marshall.
The College is empowered to grant, recognize and matriculate Arms, to confirm and register nobiliary and chivalric titles, to collate titles deriving from diverse fontes honorum, and to prove the transmission of inherited honours. In general, it conducts research on heraldic and nobiliary matters. It is an international body, subject to no geographical constraint, save that its activities are restricted to those areas where there is no extant competent governmental heraldic body to undertake the work in question.
The reader should note that the International College of Arms of the Noblesse has not authorized any third parties to provide commercial services under its name or to represent the same on websites. Any such offer, particularly if made in the context of unrecognized “peerages” and esoteric titles, should be regarded as fraudulent.
At the present time, there is no formal heraldic college within the Belarusian government. Nevertheless, heraldry is quite widely used.
Probably the most familiar Belarusian heraldic symbol is the Pahonia, which was banned under the Soviet Union and became the leading emblem of Belarus in exile. The Pahonia is Lithuanian in origin, first appearing in 1329 as the seal of Duke Alexander Michailovich of Pskov. It was originally held to depict the ruler of Belarus, but subsequently was interpreted as a knight driving an intruder out of the country (pahonia = pursuer). During the 1980s, the public display of the Pahonia in Belarus became a criminal offence. In 1995, a purported referendum (which according to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe violated international standards), voted to abandon the Pahonia in favour of the modern flag and symbols of Belarus. Thus the Pahonia today is in use principally to express opposition to the current Belarusian regime. It also appears as part of the arms of the Belarus Monarchist Association.
The role of the International College of Arms of the Noblesse
When a governmental heraldic authority registers arms, it has the power to grant them legal protection. A private heraldic authority cannot do this. It can only aspire to maintain a well-ordered register of arms that, in the event of monarchical restoration, could attain official status.
The International College of Arms of the Noblesse, in addition to its other international activities, will register personal, organizational and civic arms with a connexion to Belarus, including those granted to families within Belarus by foreign authorities. It can provide advice on designing new arms in accordance with the traditional rules of heraldry, and confirm the entitlement of individuals to existing arms on the basis of genealogical proofs being supplied. It aspires to provide an online register of arms in due course. It further registers the entitlement of those of Belarusian ancestry or descent to titles of nobility, again on receipt of appropriate proofs. In some cases, it can carry out heraldic and genealogical research – though this cannot be done in Belarus itself at the present time for political reasons.
Rules for the design of arms
The International College of Arms of the Noblesse has adopted the ten rules for good design of arms promoted by the Heraldic Society of Finland in 1990. These are:
- Only heraldic tinctures are used. These are the metals, gold (Or) and silver (Argent); and the colors, red (Gules), blue (Azure), black (Sable) and green (Vert). In heraldic drawings yellow can be used in place of gold and white in place of silver. Heraldic colors are bright and clean; tones of the colors are picked from center of the scale.
- The use of only two tinctures, of which one is a metal, is preferred. The use of a third tincture requires good reasons, but a fourth is definitely bad heraldry.
- According to the tincture rule, one must not place color on or next to color or metal on or next to metal, unless the line of contact is very short.
- Letters, numbers or texts do not belong on a heraldic emblem.
- Figures (charges) must be as big as possible and fill the space intended for them as completely as possible.
- In figures natural presentation is not important, but characteristic is (e.g. the ferocity of the lion, majesty of the eagle, gracefulness of the deer).
- In principle the charges should be two dimensional. At a minimum they must be recognizable even when presented as colored flat surfaces, without shading or extra borderlines.
- A heraldic emblem must be easy to remember. It should not be crowded with too many symbols, only the essential. The ideal is only one charge.
- It is forbidden to be repetitive in heraldry: one idea should not be symbolized with two or more charges. On the other hand, if one charge suffices to symbolize two or more ideas, it only strengthens the symbolism of the charge, and therefore the whole emblem.
- The charges and the whole emblem must be such that they can be redrawn according to a written description (blazon) of the coat of arms or flag without a model. This means that the charge must be a general presentation of its kind. For example, a castle cannot be a specific castle, but only a stylized heraldic castle (although it can be explained as referring to, say, Korela Fortress). In other words, the description of the charge should not require the use of a proper noun.
Am I entitled to arms?
Many websites offer a service which promises to allocate arms based on your surname. This is a misleading practice, because arms are personal to the holder and are usually borne by the holder’s descendants in the male line. As a result, in order to assert your right to existing arms, you must prove your descent from the person to whom they were granted or a person who can be proved to have used them validly in the past. If you are not entitled to an existing coat of arms, and your country does not have a governmental heraldic authority that can issue a new coat of arms, provided you are a person of good character and professional standing you can have new arms designed and granted by the International College of Arms of the Noblesse that you and your descendants will then be entitled to use. Priority is obviously given to those of Belarusian descent in these matters, but there is also scope for the matriculation of foreign arms for those who wish to have them recorded.
The International College of Arms of the Noblesse can introduce interested persons holding arms registered with the College to heraldic artists who can produce a rendering of arms suitable for display on a document suitable for framing or a shield suitable for wall mounting.
The International College of Arms of the Noblesse charges fees for its design and registration services, and other services by arrangement. To apply, first write describing your needs as fully as possible, and you will then receive a personal response indicating how the College may be able to assist you.