The Genesis of Alta Studia Heraldica

At a meeting of the Board of Directors in 2006, it was decided to change the editorial policies of Heraldry in Canada, in order to make it a more serious journal comparable to The Coat of Arms in England and The Double Tressure in Scotland. Thenceforth, it was decided, the journal would only publish articles that dealt with important questions, and were set forth in a scholarly manner, with footnotes indicating sources and the like; other matters would be published exclusively in The Gonfanon.

It was also decided that in its new manifestation, Heraldry in Canada would incorporate the separate, peer-reviewed journal of advanced heraldic scholarship that I had proposed several years earlier in my capacity as Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Fellows and Chairman of its Committee on Academic Affairs. The immediate purposes of that proposed journal had been threefold: (1) first, to concentrate between a single set of covers all of the articles submitted to the Society that were of a very high academic standard; (2) second, to encourage the submission of more articles of that sort by the relatively small number of members of our Society in Canada and in the United States who are capable of working on that level; and (3) third, to encourage more Canadians (and North Americans more generally) to strive to attain the level of knowledge and skill necessary for writing such articles.

The ultimate purpose of that proposed journal, however, had been to fulfil one of the goals of the founders of our Society: to establish heraldry as a serious field of scholarship in Canada, worthy of a place at the annual meeting of scholarly societies in all fields commonly called 'The Learneds'. As a professional academic myself, I knew very well that the academic profession did not take seriously journals in which articles submitted were not reviewed for publication by fully-qualified scholars working in the field, and that in consequence publication in such a journal did not help young academics obtain good jobs or secure contract-renewal, tenure, or promotion; it also did little for the reputation and advancement in rank of more established scholars. Thus, only a peer-reviewed journal with a suitably impressive list of reviewers would serve the purposes of the founders in this area, and it was decided to launch such a journal with the (linguistically neutral) Latin name Alta Studia Heraldica ('High Heraldic Studies', hereafter ASH), with its own editorial board composed exclusively of professional scholars, most of them holding doctoral degrees.

Unfortunately (but not surprisingly), it proved impossible to fund such a journal as a separate entity in a physical form for the whole membership of the society. For this reason, the RHSC Board first decided to include the proposed peer-reviewed journal with the covers of the new-model Heraldry in Canada, placing it in a separate section at the end. The first issue of the journal duly appeared in this form in January 2008, and that issue (setting aside certain problems of printing that arose from an incompatibility of the printers' software with that submitted to him), was judged a qualified success. It also demonstrated the shortcomings of the arrangement adopted, not only in the matter of quality control (which was divided) but in the matters of space and frequency of publication. It was therefore decided at the meeting of the Board held in April 2008 to separate the two journals, allowing approximately 100 pages an issue for each, and also to publish both of them twice rather than once a year, as had been the recent practice. It was also decided, for financial reasons, to publish ASH online, at a place in the Society's website accessible only to members of the Society, and to provide printed copies on demand, at a cost per volume that would reflect the cost of printing and mailing.

This is therefore the second issue of ASH, but it is the first in its new, independent form, and the much greater space available to in the format has permitted the editor to begin with the first of several installments of an essay reflecting on the nature of the field it is designed both to serve and to promote, and explaining the rather distinctive approach to the field and the subject the editor hopes to promote. It also contains the current list of the members of our Editorial Board - a distinguished group of heraldic scholars from no fewer than five different countries and representing several different academic fields and several other learned professions, including that of Chief Herald of Ireland. I was particularly pleased to secure as our Honorary Editor the first Canadian (and one of the first professional historians) to achieve the office of Garter Principal King of Arms: Sir Conrad Swan, author of the first scholarly history of heraldic emblems in Canada.

Most of the remainder of this issue is dedicated to legal questions related to the position of the largely unwritten and non-statutory Law of Arms - historically a division of the Civil Law administered under the jurisdiction of Civil-Law courts like that of the Admiralty rather than under that of a Common-Law Courts like those of the King's or Queen's Bench and the Common Pleas - to the legal systems of three countries whose legal traditions are derived from those of England, but have more or less distinctive relationships to the English tradition. One of these countries is Canada, and the others are our sister kingdom of Australia, (whose path to legal independence began at the same time as our own in 1931, but was completed only in 1986); and our oldest historical sister-state, the United States of America, whose independence was granted by the same act of 1783 that defined most of the boundaries that still separate the two modern successor-states of the British Empire in North America. The situation of heraldic law in the United States differs from its situation in both Canada and Australia, however, both because of the republican and federal nature of its constitution, and of its almost total lack of a formal system of honours on either level. All three essays have been written by people with an unusual combination of heraldic and legal expertise, and raise interesting and important questions about the current and future situation of heraldic law and heraldic authorities in the lands of the former British Empire throughout the world.

The final article in this issue represents a revision of the first part of a paper I presented at the Annual Colloquium of the Society in Ottawa on 20 September 2006. It begins with an analysis of the current form of the achievement of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in right of Canada, as formally granted in 1921 and modified in minor ways in 1957 and 199x. The object of this analysis is to demonstrate that the current achievement includes a great deal indicative of sovereignty in the United Kingdom and very little that represents sovereignty in Canada. The article goes on to argue that this state of affairs has long been inappropriate, and to suggest ways in which it could be corrected without abandoning any of the existing elements that are truly Canadian in their symbolism. Like the more general articles that precede it, it is concerned with questions related to the legal status of armorial emblems in regions of the former British Empire that have become fully independent kingdoms, in this case concentrating on how that independence should itself be expressed in the royal achievement.

Sommaire français. Après plusieures années de discussion, le Conseil de la Société a décidé en 2006 de divider les articles soumis aux éditeurs de ses publications entre trois revues distinctes. Dans la première des trois, Le Gonfannon, seraient mis désormais tous les materiaux populaires et amusants; dans la deuxième, L'Heraldique au Canada, seraient mis les articles plus sérieux mais pas très savants, et lus par seul l'éditeur; and dans la troisième, Alta Studia Heraldica - nouvellement crée a ce but - seraient mis les articles plus longs et vraiement savants, (et toujours munis d'un apparatus criticus, qui seraient lus par au moins un autre lecteur, spécialiste dans le champ de l'article. Alta Studia Heraldica ou ASH, serait en effect une revue du type académique. Pour des raisons financiaires et techniques, après le premier numéro de janvier 2008 on a décidé de publier la nouvelle revue sur le net, au site de la SRHC, et d'imprimer quelques douzaines de copies pour les members institutionels et les autres qui préféraient les recevoir en ce format. Le thème principal de ce numéro, est l'origine, la nature, et l'état à présent de la Loi d'armes au Canada, aux États Unis, et en Australie: trois pays où le système légal a son origine en Angleterre. L'article final trait d'un thème similaire: comment doit-on indiquer dans les armoiries d'un royaume anciennement dépendant de l'Empire britannique, mais maintenant indépendant, la nouvelle condition d'indépendance.

The Editor
D'Arcy Jonathan Dacre Boulton

UE, SMStJ, BA Hons (Tor.) MA, PhD (Penn.), DPhil (Oxon.), FRHSC, FSA, AIH, Professor, Medieval Institute, U. of Notre Dame/ Prof., Institut d'études médiévales, U. de Notre Dame


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