Thursday, October 21, 2010

Our Coat of Arms

30th Anniversary of Norfolk Island Coat of Arms

Last Wednesday 20th October marked the 30th Anniversary of the granting and assigning of the Armorial Ensigns to Norfolk Island by Queen Elizabeth II. By request from the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Mrs Robyn Adams, a small exhibition on the history of our Coat of Arms has been set up in the Legislative Assembly ante-chamber to the Legislative Assembly Chamber. Included in the display are some of the original design ideas submitted by members of the community and documents showing progress towards the issuing of the Coat of Arms. Of importance, the Official copy of the Warrant signed by Queen Elizabeth II is also on display.

The idea for our Coat of Arms began in 1973 when the H.M.S. Bounty Society International (Western U.S.A. Chapter) wrote to the then Norfolk Island Council submitting a Motion that the Council immediately approve the inauguration of procedural steps to acquire an Official Coat of Arms for Norfolk Island. In 1969 the Society had supported Pitcairn Island to gain their Coat of Arms. The Motion was unanimously accepted.

 Approval was obtained by the Commonwealth of Australia and the Norfolk Island Council then initiated the acquisition of a Coat of Arms by announcing a public call for designs. A gratuity of $25.00 was paid for ideas that the Council selected to be put forward for the design. These were sent to Sir Anthony Wagner, Garter King of Arms at the College of Arms in London, who prepared the design. It was originally hoped that the Coat of Arms would be ready for the 1974 Bi-Centennial celebrations, and then when that date was passed, for the formation of the Norfolk Island Government in 1979. Finally, on 20th October 1980 on board H. M. Yacht Britannia, Her Majesty the Queen signed the Royal Warrant assigning a Coat of Arms to Norfolk Island.

A coat of arms was traditionally a heraldic design on a cloak used to cover and protect armour. Historically, armorial bearings were first used by feudal lords and knights in the mid-12th century on battlefields as a way to identify allies from enemy soldiers.  The design is a symbol unique to a person, corporation, or state. They are also known as armorial bearings or devices, heraldic devices, or arms. The design of an official Coat of Arms is strictly regulated by the College of Arms in London.

Bruce Baskerville is our local expert on this subject and is the Vice President of the Australian Heraldry Society Inc. He wrote the chapter Coat of Arms for the book “Symbols of Australia” UNSW Press 2010, which is thoroughly interesting and fascinating reading. He has provided the following information on the College of Arms and Garter King of Arms: 

The senior officer in the College is the Garter King of Arms.  Garter is the senior King of Arms of the College and takes his title from the Order of the Garter which Henry V instituted in 1415. Since medieval times, officers of arms have been divided into three ranks: kings of arms, heralds and pursuivants.  In England, the public official with overall responsibility for heraldic and ceremonial matters, such as coronations and the opening of parliament, is the Earl Marshall.  The Earl Marshall is a hereditary office in the Royal Household, established in 1373 under the 1st Duke of Norfolk.  The 18th Duke is the current Earl Marshall.  The Earl Marshall issues the Royal Warrant, on behalf of the Sovereign, which formally assigns or grants the coat of arms that were designed under the direction of Garter. The equivalent of the Earl Marshall is the Lord Lyon in Scotland, the Chief Herald in Ireland and in Canada, and the National Herald in South Africa.  Australia and Norfolk Island still retain the services of the College of Arms in London.

The symbols used in our Coat of Arms are as follows:
1.         The lion is used as a supporter and crest, reflects the Island’s historic links with Britain, New South Wales and Tasmania.
2.         The Kangaroo refers to the Island’s connection to Australia.
3.         The anchors and naval crown allude to the naval background of the settlers on Pitcairn Island and Norfolk Island and the importance of the sea in the history of Pitcairn and Norfolk Islands.
4.         The covered cup is taken from the Arms of the Fletcher Christian family
5.         The book stands for the Bible taken from H.M.A.V Bounty
6.         The two Mullets (stars) on the Shield refer to those used in the Crest of Australia, the Arms of New South Wales, but they are depicted in the conventional heraldic manner with five points. Stars appear in the posthumous arms of Captain James Cook, the discoverer of Norfolk Island.
7.         Norfolk Island Pine Tree on the rocky mount is taken from the landing scene depicted in the 1856 Great Seal, and the hulls in the Naval Crown can also be taken as a reference to the boat in that scene.
8.         The laurel wreath around the neck of the lion is taken from the posthumous Arms of Captain James Cook.
The Motto “Inasmuch” is taken from the words of the Pitcairn Anthem, from the Gospel according to St. Matthew (25.40):  “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”.

The exhibition is open until Friday 19 November. If you would like to view it please contact the Clerk to the Legislative Assembly, Gaye Evans, at the Assembly on 22003.

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