Precedent Review: May Flags and Sails Be Divided or Charged?

During my recent review of precedents on “independent forms of armorial display” I collected a number of decisions that document how the Society’s College of Arms developed its current rules.

Some of those older precedents are no longer relevant, but I figured I’d post them here for those who are interested in the history of this subject.

Seems Improper

I question the propriety of arms containing a sail painted with what appears to be a complete coat. Why not just use the design on the sail and forget the ship?
[Province of Ceantyre, Return, Jun 1977 LoAR]

Requires Conflict Check

You may not charge a sail if the resulting sail conflicts with existing arms. It would imply a relationship to that family.
[Barony of Storvik, Return, Nov 1979 LoAR]

May Not Be Charged

Sails may not normally be charged in the SCA.
[Martha Armorel McDonnald de Alvorada, Returned, Aug 1983 LoAR]

A paschal lamb registered in the SCA must use a plain banner.
[Michael Gerard Curtememoire, Return, Aug 1983 LoAR]

There is a long­standing precedent in Society heraldry which considers charged sails as being equivalent to arms of pretense and therefore forbidden for Society usage: “You may not charge a sail if the resulting sail conflicts with existing arms.” As the sail here appear identical to at least one mundane items of armory, this device must be returned.
[Bjorn Tannasson, Dec 1986 LoAR]

Brigantia has appealed the long-standing ban on charged sails as giving the appearance of arms of pretense. Brigantia is correct that certain charges may themselves be charged so long as they do not give the appearance of pretense. Unfortunately, all of the examples of charged sails which we have been able to find depictions of period heraldry were displays of badges or arms claimed by the person or group who used the armory on which the sail appeared. Thus, such usage by definition creates an impression of pretense. When Master Wilhelm made the exception that groups might include a laurel wreath on a sail for group arms, he was reflecting this attitude, since the laurel wreath is an insignia to which all Society groups may lay claim.
[Yvonne of Gosport, Returned, Jan 1990]

This [Per chevron sable and gules, a lion-dragon rampant reguardant queue forchy maintaining a standard Or charged within a compass star gules]… would have to be returned for violating our rules on arms of pretense, because of the charged standard. In some period rolls of arms, arms are displayed on standards.
[Haldis Hakonsdottir au Hrafnafirdi, Apr 1997 LoAR]

By long-standing Laurel precedent (dating back to August, 1983), the sails of ships may not be charged with the sole exception of charging with a laurel wreath in the case of branch arms.
[Robert of Ferness, Returned, May 1999 LoAR]

May Be Charged, Requires Conflict Check

… charged banners are checked for conflict against already registered armory…
[Colin Tyndall de ffrayser, Return, May 1999 LoAR]

… a charged sail appears to be an independent display of armory… The submitter indicates that, due to the most recent change to RfS XI.4, a charged sail would no longer appear to be an inescutcheon of pretense and should thus be acceptable.

The submitter is correct that under the current version of RfS XI.4, a charged sail would not appear to be an inescutcheon of pretense. However, this does not negate the research in the previous precedents (and supported by the College of Arms when they commented on this submission) which showed that charged sails appear to be independent displays of armory.

Because a charged sail appears to be an independent display of armory, it should be treated analogously to other armorial elements which might appear to include an independent display of armory. The most obvious analogous case is that of a flag or banner used as an armorial element. Precedent states: “Charged banners [even if only maintained] are checked for conflict against already registered armory” (LoAR May 1999, p. 12). Therefore, it seems appropriate to rule that a charged sail must be checked for conflict against already registered armory.

[Eiríkr Mjǫksiglandi Sigurðarson, Returned, Jun 2003]

… the badge [A wolf passant argent, collared and sustaining a flagstaff sable flying a banner of Gules, three trilliums argent barbed and seeded vert] has the appearance of being a supporter. The College of Arms neither protects nor regulates the use of crests or supporters, and therefore will not register any submission that appears to be one. … Supporters aren’t defined by posture, but by function. If a figure is holding up a display of armory then that figure is a supporter. …

We note that the Paschal lamb, a lamb passant maintaining a banner argent charged with a cross gules, is a special case. The banner is almost invariably drawn much smaller than the lamb — and, indeed, the banner could be considered part of the definition of the charge. Its only contribution to our discussion is as evidence that there’s nothing inherently impossible about passant beasts holding up banners. Given this, we will register passant creatures maintaining or sustaining a banner that is not — and cannot — be protected armory. This means a banner of a single tincture other than Ermine (the protected arms of Brittany) or Vert (the protected flag of Libya).
[Kingdom of Ealdormere, Return, July 2005 LoAR]

Marianna Molin di Salerno. Device. Azure goutty d’Or, six lymphads sailing to sinister Or, each sail charged with a martlet volant to sinister gules, a base Or.

As noted on the LoI, a charged sail is not an inescutcheon of pretense under RfS XI.4; but as a display of armory, it must still be checked for conflict. In this case, Or, a martlet volant to sinister gules is clear of conflict. An anomaly of our rules is that, under these circumstances, conflict is not reciprocal. Thus the registration of Azure goutty d’Or, six lymphads sailing to sinister Or, each sail charged with a martlet volant to sinister gules, a base Or does not protect Or, a marlet volant to sinister gules. A charged sail must be clear of conflict at the time it is registered, but a different person could later register armory that conflicts with that sail.
— [Marianna Molin di Salerno, Accepted, Oct 2007 LoAR] [CL]

Sails that appear to be displays of armory must be conflict checked as such: [quotes from decision of Marianna Molin di Salerno] 
— [Shire of Danegeld Tor, Return, Apr 2011 LoAR]

Counterchanged May Be Allowed

This sail is not charged. However, precedent also requires that we look at the section of the rules governing arms of pretense for guidance. SENA A6C states that a form of armorial display may be used “only if it is uncharged and of a single tincture.” This sail is not of a single tincture, as it is effectively per pale argent and gules.

However, the precedents and rules are in place to guard against the appearance of an independent display of armory. In this case, as the entire drakkar is also counterchanged in the same manner as the sail, this greatly reduces the appearance of the sail as a form of armorial display. A sail is not considered a form of armorial display if it is uncharged and of a single tincture, or uncharged and of a multiple tincture shared by the rest of the ship.
[Evan Hardrada, Accepted, Dec 2012 LoAR][OSCAR]

Considering Conflicts for Plain Vert

We have long held that a sail is not a display of armory if it is uncharged and of a single tincture. This [Argent, a sail vert] then is not presumptuous of the flag of Libya, Vert.
[Morgan Grey Beard, Accepted, Jan 2014 LoAR]

This device is returned for presumption through display of the flag of Libya, Vert. In past precedents, Libya’s iconic single-tinctured flag has been given less protection than the other single-tinctured design we protect, the arms of Brittany, Ermine. Libya’s protections are dismissed when they appear as part of a potential quartering, where Brittany is protected. And uncharged sails of a single tincture have long been held not to be a display of armory in and of themselves, with Libya specifically cited in the January 2014 registration of Morgan Grey Beard’s device, Argent, a sail vert fastened to its mast and hanging from its yardarm sable.

However, banners and pennons are still considered means of heraldic display. And given that the banners hanging above the sails are rectangular and wider than they are tall, they appear to be modernly shaped flags. In other words, the galleon is literally flying the flag of Libya. If any protection for this design is to be afforded at all, it must surely be in the form in which it was actually used, as a modern national flag.
[Muirghen MacQuharrie, Return, Jul 2018 LoAR]

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