Excerpts from the book





          Written and illustrated by

          Carl Alexander von Volborth , K.St.J., A.I.H.


          Copenhagen 1973


          Internet version edited by   Andrew Andersen, Ph.D.







Germany and Austria

(pp. 94-111, 202-206, 7, 9, 49, 148 and 172)



In the year 962 the German King Otto the Great was crowned emperor by the Pope, and this marked the beginning of the imperium which was later given the name of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation. It lasted until 1806, when Emperor Franz II abdicated. In 1804 however he had also assumed the title of Emperor of Austria, and during the years 1804-6 he was thus both German and Austrian emperor. The Austrian empire continued until 1918 but it was superseded by Prussia in political power, and in 1871 the King of Prussia was elected German emperor as William I.


These events were of great importance even beyond the frontiers of Germany and Austria, because the Holy Roman Empire and the Austrian empire comprised far more countries than these two. Wholly or in part, permanently or periodically, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Savoy, Northern Italy, large areas of the Balkans, Hungary, Bohemia and large parts of Poland belonged to one or the other of these German- speaking empires, and this has left its mark on the heraldry of these countries.




11. Eagle standard of the Roman legions.








12. Eagle in the arms of the Holy Roman Empire, fourteenth century.




All three empires mentioned took the eagle as their heraldic ensign. In ancient Rome the eagle symbolised Jupiter, and it was no doubt on the Roman pattern that the emperors took the eagle as their device (see Figs 11 and 12). An eagle with two heads was known from the Byzantine Empire, and from the beginning of the fifteenth century the custom was established that the ordinary eagle should be the device of the German king before he was crowned emperor, while the double- headed eagle would be the ensign of the crowned emperor (see below). But there were many exceptions to this rule.




Free cities, also called imperial cities, i.e. cities owing allegiance only to the emperor, emphasised this by having the imperial eagle charged with an inescutcheon of their own coat of arms, or by bearing the eagle by itself (Fig. 538). Other combinations also occur - see Fig. 606.





538. City arms of Aachen.


606. City arms of Lausanne (Switzerland), ensigned by the arms of the Holy Roman Empire, seventeenth century.




792. Arms of the Polish-Lithuanian family of Radziwill,

here as princes of the Holy Roman Empire. The shield in the centre isthe family original coat of arms, that of the Traby group.


884. The arms of the Italian Princes Odescalchi.

The keys and the ombrellino above the shield indicate that a member of the family had been Pope




In hundreds of Italian coats of arms there is an 'imperial chief', or capo dell’ impero, as a declaration of political allegiance (Fig. 718), and as a sign of favour certain princes of the Holy Roman Empire Were given the right by the emperor to superimpose their own arms on the imperial eagle (Figs 792 and 884).


When the Austrian empire was established in 1804, the double- headed eagle was continued (Fig. 567), but when the new German empire was founded in 1871, an eagle with only one head was chosen as its emblem, probably to emphasise the distinction. It appeared black on a yellow field. On its breast it bore a shield with the arms of Prussia, also an eagle, but black on a white field (Fig. 492; the red bordure of this coat is a difference for the crown prince).





490. Crown of the German Empress

(1889 model).









492. Arms of the German Crown Prince

of the House of Hohenzollern.

The shield is surrounded by the collar of the Order of the Black Eagle.



495. The German imperial crown. 1889






491. The Prussian royal crown.


493. Arms of East Germany.

The Deutsche Demokratische Republik. from 1955.


494. Arms of West Germany, The Bundesrepublik Deutschland, from 1950.




567. The 'small coat of arms' of Imperial Austria. 1915.

The double- headed eagle of the Empire with the original arms of Austria as inescutcheon, ensigned by the Imperial crown.




When the Weimar republic was set up in 1918, the old German eagle was retained as an emblem, although in a modernised form, and this was adopted by West Germany, the Bundesrepublik Deutschland, after the Second World War (Fig. 494). The colours black, red and yellow in the coat of arms are the same as those of the present German flag and they originate from the German wars of liberation against Napoleon at the beginning of the nineteenth century.


In 1919 the Republic of Austria took as its arms an eagle with only one head as the background for a red shield with a white fess (Fig. 570). This shield stems from the arms of the family of Babenberg which ruled in Austria up to 1246; after that time its coat of arms gradually developed into the arms of Austria. Instead of the sceptre, sword and orb (see Fig. 567) the republican eagle holds a sickle and a hammer and is ensigned with a mural crown, these three things symbolising the farmers, the industrial workers and the bourgeoisie. After the liberation from Nazi Germany in 1945 the broken fetters around the eagle's claws were added.



570. Arms of the Republic of Austria. 1945.



In the Holy Roman Empire, as elsewhere, the oldest coats of arms were self-assumed, but from the close of the fourteenth century emperors began to grant arms, as time went on mostly through specially appointed officials called Hofpfalzgrafen or Pfalzgrafen, (literally translated 'palace counts') (in this connection the word has nothing to do with the principality of Pfalz (the Palatinate) on the Rhine). Certain very noble families, including the Tyrolean branch of the Archdukes of Austria, were hereditary 'palace counts’, but there were also many others. In time the king only granted arms personally to cities and the like. Family coats were dealt with through the 'palace counts', whether for commoners (the great majority) or for nobles. When raised to the nobility the recipient had the arms which he may have possessed already augmented by the addition of new charges or quarterings. The name for this was Wappenbesserung, but according to modern taste the result was nearly always a coat of arms that was heraldically less satisfactory.


In 1702 Prussia established a government office on French lines which also had to deal with the heraldry of the country, especially civic arms, and in 1855 this office became the Koniglich Preussisches Her olds amt, which also dealt with ennoblement etc. After the First World War this office was done away with and its archives transferred to the Prussian Ministry of Justice; this is now in Merseburg in East Germany.


Bavaria in 1818 created the office of Reichsherold. In 1902 Saxony instituted the Kommissariat fur Adelsangelegenheiten, and from 1912 until 1918 patents of arms were also granted to the middle classes. Such documents of this commissariat that have survived the Second World War are to be found among the State archives in Dresden. In Wuerttemberg the Ministry for Foreign Affairs assumed responsibility for questions concerning nobility and heraldry.


In Austria this was done by the Ministry of the Interior. Its documents, the so-called Gratialregistratur, are kept today among the Austrian State archives in Vienna.


After the First World War the aristocracy in both Germany and Austria was abolished. Nevertheless it is permissible in Germany to use noble titles and styles such as von, as these were generally made part of the family name by the Republic of Weimar, though in Austria it is a punishable offence to use any form of noble title.


Nowadays it is characteristic of both Germany and Austria that simple coats of arms are preferred to more complicated ones. Many families of ancient lineage have gone back to using their original plain arms, often designed in mediaeval style (Figs 525-7), instead of the composite arms with their many quarterings and helmets, supporters etc. which their ancestral arms had gradually accumulated. But whether it is a good thing to have a coat of arms made up in a style previous to that of the patent of nobility is quite another question, particularly if it contains a charge, such as a cannon, which belongs to a subsequent period.



525. Arms of the Counts von Buxhoeveden



526. Arms of the Counts von Rechtaren Limpurg


527. Arms of the Princes zu Waldburg


Coronets, supporters, mottoes and robes of estate were not used in mediaeval heraldry, and families of ancient lineage such as the three above often forego such accessories, although they may have the right to use them




The standard form of a German coat of arms proper to the nobility is nowadays as is shown on p. 102: shield and barred helmet with or without coronet, possibly with a medallion around the neck, and with a crest and mantling.


521. Arms of the family of Zeppelin, of which the pioneer of airships. Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin (1838-1917), was a member.




530. Arms of the countly family of von Spee, of which Admiral Maximilian von Spee (1961 -1914) was a member.

It was during the late Gothic period that the custom began of marshalling several escutcheons on one shield and using more than one helmet.





531. Arms of the baronial family of von Richthofen. of which the famous flying ace of the first World War. Manfred von Richthofen (1892-1918). was a member. Some titled noble families in Germany have supporters, others do not and there exist no definite regulations regarding this.




580. Arms of Baron Rothschild. 1822.

The inescutcheon (9 a pun on his name. 'Rothschild' meaning 'red shield'. (The red shield was originally the sign of the house where the family lived.) The Austrian eagle appears in the first quarter. The hand holding the arrows in the second and third quarters is no doubt meant to symbolise strength through solidarity and unity. Motto: 'Unity. Integrity, Industry’.



Many of the aristocratic arms depicted in this book have a coronet set above the shield with a helmet or helmets above it (Figs 521, 530, 531 and 580). This was how coats were designed in earlier times, e.g. in letters patent for armorial bearings, but nowadays there is an in-clination to get away from such combinations and either a coronet on its own or a helmet with its appurtenances only is preferred. Supporters and mottoes are borne mostly by the higher nobility, but not all of them use them. The custom of having two or more helmets goes back to the fifteenth century. Noble families, with their armorial bearings composed of many quarterings, wanted to have, if possible, an equivalent number of helmets (see Figs 55 and 575).


55. The order of precedence with five helmets


575. Arms of an Austrian prince, the statesman Klemens von Metternich (1773-1859).



The earliest arms of non-aristocratic families are known in Germany from the thirteenth century. Throughout the centuries new families have assumed coats of arms, and still do, without interference from any authority. Added to these are the thousands of armorial bearings of commoners which since about 1400 have been granted by the Pfalz-grafen. Many of these escutcheons contain ciphers (see p. 104), but these are rarely included in noble arms. Mottoes are not customary. The standard form of a German coat of arms for a commoner is nowadays shield and tournament helmet, with or without wreath, with crest and mantling (see Figs 550, 552, 557 and 562); the barred helmet with crest coronet is also found.



546. Pattern for non-aristocratic arms with helmet affronty.


547. Pattern for non-aristocratic arms, with shield accouchy and helmet in profile.


During the Renaissance the chanceries of the various countries mostly used the barred helmet (see p. 18) for the arms of the nobility, in contrast to the tournament helmet for the non-aristocratic (as above). But many of the latter for that very reason bore the barred helmet. And many noblemen developed a preference for the tournament helmet because of the fact that it was an earlier type.








548. Arms of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860). The cartouche surround it a decorative feature and not a permanent component of the arms.

550. Arms of the poet Eduard Morike








549. Arms of the composer Richard Wagner (1813- 83).






551. It gradually became the custom to set the cipher on a shield. Only a few of these 'arms' were coloured.




552. Cipher escutcheon for a family called Scheller. Each person had a different crest.










553. Combination of cipher and ordinary heraldic charges.





People in Germany are more concerned about 'family arms', Familienwappen, than are people in Western and Southern Europe and the British Isles, and the principle of individual members of a family varying their arms is usually foreign to German heraldic ideas. But differencing does occur in a form unlike that in Great Britain and France. Branches of the same family of high rank can difference their arms by various combinations of quarterings, and among the families of commoners we find differences made by a change in crests or tinctures (Fig. 552). The German Grown Prince differenced his arms from those of the Emperor with a red bordure.




500. Royal crown.


501. Crown of Grand Duke

or royal crown prince.


502. Crown of duke or younger royal prince.


503. Ducal crown of different form. See also Fig. 502.


504. Crown of Elector.


505. Cap of Elector.


506. Dukes in Bavaria

and of Wurttemberg etc


507. Crowns of heirs to the throne of ducal ruling houses.


508. Crown for a prince.


509. Another form of crown for princes. See also Fig. 508. The royal and princely crowns usually rested directly on the shield (as shown here) or were above the robe of estate, as in Figs 492 and 496.



510. Coronet for counts who were formerly sovereign rulers.







511. Coronet of baron, older form



512 and 513. Coronets for untitled nobility for use withput helmet. (That in Fig. 512 can also be used on a helmet as a crest-coronet without indicating nobility.)





514. Coronet for count, older form.


515. Coronet for baron, more recent form. See Fig. 531

516. Mural crown as used in civic heraldry.


517. Coronet for count more recent form. See Fig. 521.





518. 'Small coat of arms' for the federal state of Bavaria, 1950.


519. Arms for the federal state of Rhenish Palatinate. 1948.

When Republican Germany uses a crown on a state coat of arms, it is called a 'people's crown' (Volkskrone).








520. Royal crown of the Middle Ages


522. Neukdlln.

623. Tempelhof.

624. Wilmersdorf


Arms of three West Berlin boroughs. The charge on the mural crown is the civic coat of Berlin.




There is at the present day a great interest in civic heraldry. New civic arms are constantly being designed and in this connection various forms of mural crown have come into use (Figs 516, and 522). In earlier times an attempt was made to establish a social scale of mural crowns, including a special one for the seat of a reigning monarch, but this did not catch on. Since the mural crown is a comparatively new phenomenon in heraldry, it should not be used in conjunction with arms which have been designed in an earlier style. Civic heraldry also makes use of more traditional coronets (see Figs 270,518,519 and 560).




270. Arms of the Hanseatic town of Bremen.








559. City arms of Koenigsberg in East Prussia (present-day Kaliningrad).

560. Arms of Berlin as a 'Land’.




561. City arms of Dresden





In West Germany it is usual today for the authority responsible for internal affairs in each federal state to grant and confirm civic arms. Family arms are a completely private matter, although they enjoy a certain amount of legal protection under Paragraph 12 of the Federal Law.


There are various heraldic societies in West Germany, the most important being as follows:


Der Herold,

1 Berlin 33 (Dahlem), Archivstrasse 12-14, West Berlin; Zum Kleeblatt, Hannover-Kirchrode, Forbacherstrasse 8




Wappen-Herold, 1 Berlin 31, Tharandter Strasse 2, West Berlin.


In Austria there is the Adler Society, Haarhof 4 a, Vienna 1.









496. Arms of the statesman Otto von Bismarck (1815-98) as Prussian prince.




497. Arms of the Landkreis Ansbach (1955)

498. Arms of the Landkreis Boeblingen (1948)


499. Arms of the Landkreis Villingen (1958)






528. City arms of Heidelberg (1436)



529. City arms of Bonn (from 1732)


532. City arms of Kaiserslautern, from the sixteenth century.


533. City arms of Coblenz. from the fourteenth century.


534. City arms of Trier, from the fifteenth century.


535. Arms of the ancient noble family of von Kleist. of which the poet Hemrich von Kleist (1777-1811) was a member.







536. City arms of Ulm, from the fourteenth century.


537. Arms of the author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832). raised to the Reichsade! of the Holy Roman Empire in 1782.





540. City arms of Wtirzburg.


539. Arms of the poet Ernst von Wildenbruch (1845-1909).





541. City arms of Stuttgart, from the fifteenth century.





542. Arms of the Barons von Lutzow, one of whom was Ludwtg, Baron von Lutzow (1782-1834), who raised the Freikorps Lutzow to fight against Napoleon.




543. Arms of the Barons von Elchendorff. among whom was the poet Josef, Baron von Eichendorff (1788- 1857).



544. Arms of the painter and sculptor, Franz von Stuck (1863-1928). raised to the Bavarian nobility in 1906.


545. Arms of the noble family of von Steuben, used by the American general Friedrich von Steuben (1730-94), who took part in the American War of Independence.










554. City arms of Munich.




556. Arms of the family and province of Hohenzollern.




557. Example of non-aristocratic arms,

those of an uncle of the composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).







555. City arms of Bautzen.



558. Arms of the Duchy of Saxony, later those of the Prussian province.
























563. City arms of Frankfurt am Main.











562. Another example of a non-aristocratic coat of arms, that of the painter and engraver Albrecht Duerer (1471-1528)




565. City arms of Nuremberg as designed in about 1520. It is very rare, but not unheard of for a city to have two coats of arms.





















564. City arms of Wiesbaden.










566. The ‘genealogical arms' of the house of Austria, with the original Habsburg lion device. Austria's white fess on a red field and the bend of the House of Lorraine. The archducal crown and the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece ensign and surround the shield.



569. The archducal cap of Styria.




567. The 'small coat of arms' of Imperial Austria. 1915.

The double- headed eagle of the Empire with the original arms of Austria as inescutcheon, ensigned by the Imperial crown.









568. Arms of the former duchy, now the province, of Lower Austria, ensigned by the archducal cap. The eagles should be arranged 2-2-1.


571. Arms of the province of Tyrol.




572. Arms of the province of Salzburg


573. Arms of the province of Vorariberg.



574. City arms of Salzburg.


576. City arms of Innsbruck.



577. Arms of the Duchy of Carinthia, fourteenth century.






578. Archducal cap.


579. Arms of the Duchy of Styria. fourteenth century.


581. City arms of St Poelten, 1538. (The wolf should be shown brown.)

582. City arms of Wets.


583. City arms of Krems. 1463.






584. Arms of a hereditary knight Ritter von Liszt of Hungarian descent, the family of the composer Franz Liszt (1811-86).


From the time of the reign of Charles VI (1711-40) to the collapse of the Empire in 1918 hundreds of hereditary knights were created, nearly all of whom bore two helmets above the coat of arms.




585. City arms of Klagenfurt, fourteenth century.


586. City arms of Linz.



588. Arms of the Kingdom of Galicia under the old Austro-Hungarian monarchy.



587. Vienna's coat of arms as granted to the city by Emperor Frederick III in 1461 (the inescutcheon being added in 1464). Today the inescutcheon is generally used alone.


589. Arms of the Margravate of Istria under the old Austro-Hungarian monarchy.




590. Arms of the Austrian Oberstfeldarzt (Surgeon General) Matthaeus von Mederer und Wuthwehr,

raised to the nobility by Emperor Joseph II in 1789.