Heraldic Hierarchies

Identity, Status and State Intervention in Early Modern Heraldry

Edited by Steven Thiry and Luc Duerloo

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The social use and changing character of armorial display in the early modern period
Early modern heraldry was far from a nostalgic remnant from a feudal past. From the Reformation to the French Revolution, aspiring men seized on these signs to position themselves in a changing society, imbuing heraldic tradition with fresh meaning. Whereas post-medieval developments are all too often described in terms of decadence and stifling formality, recent studies rightly stress the dynamic capacity of bearing arms.

Heraldic Hierarchies aims to correct former misconceptions. Contributing authors rethink the influence of shifting notions of nobility on armorial display and expand this topic to heraldry’s share in shaping and contesting status. Moreover, addressing a common thread, the volume explores how emerging states turned the heraldic experience into an instrument of power and policy. Contributing to debates on social and noble identity, Heraldic Hierarchies uncovers a vital and surprising aspect of the pre-modern hierarchical world.

Contributors: Richard Cust (University of Birmingham), Dominique Delgrange (Lille), Luc Duerloo (University of Antwerp), Joseph McMillan (Alexandria VA), Camille Pollet (Université de Nantes), Antoine Robin (École Pratique des Hautes Études), Simon Rousselot (École Pratique des Hautes Études), Clément Savary (École Pratique des Hautes Études), Hamish Scott (Jesus College, Oxford), Steven Thiry (University of Antwerp), José Manuel Valle Porras (Universidad de Córdoba), Nicolas Vernot (Université de Cergy-Pontoise)

This publication is GPRC-labeled (Guaranteed Peer-Reviewed Content).

Introduction: Identity, Status and State Intervention in Early Modern Heraldry

Steven Thiry and Luc Duerloo



‘Degrees of Nobles’:

The Aristocratisation of Europe’s Second Estate, c.1300-1700

Hamish Scott


The ‘Pennon’:

Heraldic Witness to Aristocratic Identities in Early Modern France

Clément Savary


Heraldry as a Nobiliary Sign:

What Treatises of Nobility Bring to a Historiographical Debate

Camille Pollet


Political Disruptions and Mamluk Emblematic Evolutions in the Fifteenth Century

Simon Rousselot



To Stand Out by Blazon:

Heraldry, Hierarchy and Social Competition during the Early Modern Period

Nicolas Vernot


‘Que en esa forma me lo haga vuestra merced’:

The Clients of the King of Arms Diego de Urbina and the Heraldic Forgeries in his Certifications of Arms (1584-1623)

José Manuel Valle Porras

L’autorité des hérauts d’armes en question à Lille au début du XVIIe siècle : La Remonstrance burlesque au Roy d’armes pour la noblesse lilloise et son contexte

Dominique Delgrange



The Forge of Honour:

Interpreting Early Modern Policies on Heraldry

Steven Thiry


Emblematic Iconoclasm:

The Case of Charles of Bourbon in 1527

Antoine Robin


Lord Burghley and Displays of Collective Heraldry in Elizabethan England

Richard Cust


American Independence and the Privatisation of Heraldry, 1775-1800

Joseph McMillan




Notes on Contributors


Format: Edited volume - paperback

Size: 234 × 156 × 15 mm

274 pages

B&W illustrations and colour illustrations

ISBN: 9789462702431

Publication: June 01, 2021

Languages: English

Stock item number: 142197

Luc Duerloo is professor at the Department of History of the University of Antwerp, where he teaches early modern political and institutional history.
Steven Thiry, PhD, is a voluntary member of ‘Power in History: Centre for Political History’ of the University of Antwerp.
Refreshingly, the present collection is focused on all that was new in what pertained to the nobility and the Crown in their relations with heraldry in the Early Modern period, and it does not even disdain genealogy. Its various contributors engage readily (and capably) with the key issues: the identification of certain families with the princely state, the increasing division of the nobility into fresh and more sharply delineated hierarchies, the expression of these rankings through heraldry, and the roles purportedly played by heralds – now almost all become servants of the Prince – in regulating heraldry.
Nigel Ramsay, Virtus 28 | 2021 | https://doi.org/10.21827/virtus.28.148-151

'Heraldic Hierarchies' occupies an important place in the large interdisciplinary literature on state formation in Europe. More precisely, it adds to existing work on the contingent nature of this state formation; it illustrates the complex interaction of state and society in the Early Modern period; and it demonstrates that governments were then seriously concerned about the social distribution of status and its symbolic imagery, including heraldry, the latter of which is today often dismissed, even by some historians, as a pretentious aristocratic pastime. The book also enhances our recognition of the evolution of status as consisting of processes that encompass more than one country. Hopefully this valuable volume will persuade scholars to broaden their research to include the role of heraldry in the social and political processes they are studying.
Samuel Clark, European Review of History: Revue européenne d'histoire, 2022, DOI: 10.1080/13507486.2021.2010899