The College of Hereditary Nobility of Hungary

Hungarian Heraldry

The Hungarian Heraldry fall into several groups within three main categories. The first category consists of Coat of Arms granted by the ethnic Hungarian monarchs prior to Angevian accost of Hungary. The second category consists of Coat of Arms issued by the Angevian and other foreign monarchs during their reign in Hungary. And the third category comprises of the Coat of Arms issued to Hungarians during the Habsburg domination.

It is true that even the early Hungarian Coat of Arms were somewhat different from other western European Arms. However, the fact of the matter is that the difference between early European Coat of Arms, and the early Hungarian Coat of Arms was not that great.

As already pointed out the changes in Hungarian Heraldry started during and after Angevian period. However, the most notable differences, especially those that are most of the time subject of lively discussion when debating the rules of Hungarian Heraldry, occurred during the Habsburg period. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, today when people speak of the Hungarian Heraldry they mostly refer to the period that expresses only these specific differences.

The Hungarian heraldry from the Hapsburg era is unlike any other style of heraldry anywhere. It flagrantly breaks virtually every heraldic convention. Early Hungarian heraldry (ca. 1400 and before) differs from German heraldry only in the fact that it tends to use more demi-beasts, crowns, and mounts or bases that German heraldry from the same period. Some Hungarian heraldry from this period is very simple. As it should be. For example: Per bend sinister embattled Argent(??) and gules, two roses counterchanged.

  • The Hapsburg - Hungarian heraldry ignores the rule of tincture more often than it obeys it. For example:

    • Or, a stork (statant?) argent. Tetenyi (Kapy) 1405

    • Azure, a stork rousant contourny sable beaked and jambed gules crowned and engorged or and maintaining in its beak a snake Or. Somkereki Erdelyi 1415

    • Azure, a castle of three towers gules and issuant from dexter and sinister chief a dexter and sinister arm vested gules issuant from clouds argent maintaining in honor point a crown Or. A Vadkerti, a Pataki Nagy es a Szentgyorgyi Vincze 1415

    These examples are not deliberately selected. They represent the majority of Hungarian and Transylvanian Arms in "Die Wappen des Adels in Ungarn - J. Siebmacher's grosses Wapeppenbuch" or any other Hungarian Heraldry records. In most cases, the Hapsburg - Hungarian heraldry ignores the rule of color on color. Sable or dark-colored proper fields are very common, as are gules charges on dark fields. Then of course there is the infamous green mount, which occurs less often than one might expect.

  • Many charges in this type of Hungarian heraldry issue from crowns, lines of division or bases. There is a remarkable number of creatures. In many cases, this is because the charges on the shield duplicate the crest which is often a demi-creature issuant from a crown. In other cases, the creature emerges from the fess line of a per fess field division or a base.

  • Most fields in Habsburg - Hungarian heraldry are azure or gules with a sprinkling of Or, argent and sable. Vert or purpure fields are never encountered. No field treatments other than barry or bendy are used. There seems to be no use of vair or ermine variant field treatments at all.

  • Ordinaries are almost never used. When they occur they tend to be fesses or bends. Chevrons, palls, and palls do not appear. Field divisions tend to be per fess (quite common) or per bend (rarely). Bases are very common.

  • Charges tend to be a single central charge. When multiple charges occur, they are generally arranged around a large central charge. The arrangements "an X between two Ys" or "an A between in chief two mullets and in base a B" or "an A between in chief a mullet and an increscent and in base a B" are not uncommon. Any other arrangement is unusual.

  • "Stylized" heraldic charges (maunches, water bourgets, millrinds, etc.) are almost never seen.

  • Demi-beasts, arms couped at the shoulder (and possibly issuant from clouds), creatures arranged so as to "support" or "maintain" a central charge, and human figures occur much more frequently in Hungarian heraldry than in any other national styles.

  • Hapsburg - Hungarian heraldry occasionally will use quite complex "picture heraldry," especially in the 16th and 17th centuries. For example:

    • Gules, on a base vert a representation of a Hungarian man passant vested azure armed proper statant upon the body of a turk fesswise vested gules turbaned argent proper and upon the base to sinister a column argent enfiled of a vine vert crowned Or. Szentmartoni, 1549. p. 149

  • Animate charges maintaining objects are not uncommon. Animals are also likely.

  • Hungarian heraldry is much more "bloody" than other heraldry. In addition to the various representations of Hungarians killing Turks from 1540 onwards, you also have severed Turks heads, animals pierced by arrows, disembodied arms, human figures brandishing weapons, or occasionally animals attacking other animals.

  • Occasionally, this type of Hungarian heraldry arranged charges in peculiar ways. For example, there is a device where a dragon is in annulo and another where a ram is eating the plant which forms the primary charge.

  • The Hungarian heraldry from the Hapsburg era is difficult to blazon. Even at the first look it is very different from the Anglo-Norman and Austrian heraldry, that most people  are familiar with. Many people probably think of it as being "ugly" because of this. However, because of these differences, it is worth studying it on its own terms. It presents fascinating challenges to the students of heraldry and an eye-opening inside into the Hungarian history.

Examples of Hungarian Heraldry

Early ethnic Hungarian Coat of Arms

Early Hungarian Coat of Arms with some German influence

Hungarian Coat of Arms issued under Hapsburg rule

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