Heraldry (in the broader sense) of the Royal Family of Karađorđević (Karadjordjevic, Karageorgevitch) is one alive and active historical and personal quest. It is a continuous symbolic link between the House of Karadjordje and Serbia and all the countries ruled by the House – at least in those periods of modern history when Serbdom was sustainable self-aware entity. As such, heraldry is a cultural asset of the utmost value for the society that identifies and describes itself as Serbian (now polycentric), which also freely bequeaths a certain part of its life’s quest to the Royal House to represent it symbolically for their interest urbi et orbi.
Dynastic coat of arms of Prince Alexander Karadjordjevic (by Dragomir Acovic)
Heraldry is an auxiliary science on the subject of coats of arms and similar insignia and it has been in existence with many a regional variant and rules for the last nine centuries. Heraldic repertoire and its component parts stem from an infinitely older foundation of symbols of civilization(s), but the entire system can be deciphered only by heraldry rules, which sometimes seem cacophonic. Safeguarding heraldry in accordance with the ancient rules is (or used to be) a mark of belonging to the European circle of states: it is therefore not surprising that the empires and other smaller states (of the past) have (/ had) been investing so profusely in public heraldic apparel or that the levelling forces of Thanatos have been trying to negate its existence! In this simple introductory text it is important to mention but one of these rules. A Sovereign of a country – and in our case the term was bound “by the grace of God and by the will of the People” – must take into personal possession the heraldic symbols of his country and proclaim them his own. Otherwise, the sovereign debases the status of the country and helps give it away to an aspirant to the throne who will not be so shy about it, and those always abound. Succinctly – no armorial bearings of a country, no sovereign. In the case of Karađorđe (Karadjordje, Karageorge), his supernatural, mythical greatness lies in the fact that he did not only took the coat of arms of the country as his own, he first invented the country, then invented the coats of arms of countries to which he aspired as the sovereign incumbent of the will of the people and, to top it all, he promulgated the unifying “high“ armorial bearings for all the countries brought together. All this was achieved through using a vivid oral and therefore out of technical necessity half-mythologised remembrance of the royal medieval past – a true collective memory national phoenix – against the will of the great powers who sought to keep us in bondage under the Tourkokratia for the sake of their perceived equilibrium.
The large coat of arms of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, 1922
Heraldry also requires that a status once required be represented heraldically in perpetuity, even after it may have been lost historically (as the said Thanatos levellers keep levelling). Non-reigning families retain as part of their heraldic representation the coat of arms of the country or countries they once ruled; they can relinquish aspirations over them and remove the fields of pretention from their arms but it happens once in a blue moon, and even if it does transpire, it is more likely not going to affect the subsequent generation (the case of HIM Romanoffs ). Hence the saying “the king is dead, long live the king.” However, as a sign of a decency and fair play, some tiny changes or brisures, usually upon the shield itself and / or heraldic paraphernalia, should demonstrate the non-reigning status of the family by distinguishing the arms from the state arms in the tiniest detail. The House of Karadjordjevic acted wisely in that regard in the nineteenth century when it lost the reigning status for the first time and this wise heraldic practice continues today.
Dynastic coat of arms of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia
In Serbian modern society a question of precise relation of the influence of the classic heraldry and Byzantine emblematic seldom gets posed. Even when it is asked, it is asked with some malevolent purpose of negating civilisation by equating all to an unnecessary status. The emblematic system of the Eastern Roman Empire served the needs of its administrative hierarchy beautifully but it wasn’t as developed a system as heraldry was and is. It is ultimately from the Eastern Empire and its superior culture in the Middle Ages that the reborn Serbia with great reverence took all the charges of the shield (components of the arms) but it was a typically Serbian mindset to have transported the charges into a strict heraldic system to a manner best suited to the task. The charges itself were but safeguarded by the Empire (by way of the famous Byzantine synthesis) as they are coming from times immemorial, they are so ancient that they precede the very heraldry, Byzantines, Romans, Greeks and emanate from the very dawn of civilisation! Double-headed eagle as a symbol can be found with the mysterious Hittites and Assyrians and it most probably existed with the Sumerians as well (with lion heads assuredly so), the cross is from times immemorial, fleur-de-lys is a basic design and graphic idea of united Europe when one comes to think of it, and the firesteels are an ancient mystery we do not have the time to delve into now. This all has our trans-sense superego, if you’d permit this oxymoron, forged in this our melting pot of being east to the west and west to the east and made it the most Serbian image, the oldest set, yet the youngest picture, older than any building here!
It is a moral obligation of the House “to live their heraldry” because such conduct respects the free will of the society the House serves and represents, as it is said and founded and maintained “by the grace of God and the will of the People.” Restoration Serbian kingdom had no subjects, it had free citizens who had paid their freedom dearly.
Having in mind that the destruction of Yugoslavia had brought about dramatic changes to the lives and the future of former constituent peoples of the Kingdom, there came to be a necessity to readjust the symbols of the House, heraldic and vexillological, to the new state of affairs. That is to say that for the permanent representation of the institution of monarchy in Serbia and Serbdom there was to be established a set of heraldically valid and historically attested insignia corresponding to the present times and circumstances which were, on the other hand, not going to be a negation or revocation of the existing historical, moral and divine rights to the inheritance of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, i.e. Kingdom of Yugoslavia. This, in turn, is to say that all existing heraldic and vexillological marks are kept as they are but that priority is placed upon the heritage of the Kingdom of Serbia and Serbian people by the means of specifying additional heraldic norms, which are codified and regulated by the Herald of the Royal House by way of his decrees, with the accordance and permission of the Head of the Royal House.
Based on such position, HE the Herald of the Royal House codified in his decree in July 2015 the current blazon and emblazon of the armorial achievement of the Royal House of Serbia at the level of so called Large and Lesser Arms. In the same decree the Herald regulated the blazon and emblazon of the lesser personal arms of the Crown Prince Alexander of Serbia as well as the same level of armorial achievement for the current incumbent of the title Hereditary Prince, HRH Prince Peter (as well as any subsequent hereditary prince of the House)
Here comes the text of the decree, translated into English from the Serbian original:
On the occasion of the 70th birthday of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Alexander of Serbia and of the long necessity for the codification of the official insignia of Our Royal House, this decree sets forth and promulgates the official emblazon of the following heraldic insignia:
1) Lesser personal arms of His Royal Highness the Crown Prince Alexander of Serbia with the descriptive blazon “Shield: upon the Red shield there is a white double-headed eagle displayed with both heads crowned with the heraldic crown of Serbia, beak, tongue and legs of the golden colour and upon the breast of the eagle a red shield with the cross to the shield’s edges between which there are four firesteels with their operating surfaces turned towards the vertical beam of the cross all of white colour and in the base of the shield two golden fleur-de-lys. The shield is crowned with the crown of HM King Peter I with the blue fleur-de-lys in the centre and around the shield is the Order of St Prince Lazar.” The official blazon in heraldic parlance and terms is to be codified through a special decree in Serbian, with variants in the English, French and Russian languages.
It is founded that this be the lesser personal arms of each Head of the House from this day forth. The graphics of the official version are given here:
2) Lesser personal arms of His Royal Highness the Hereditary Prince Peter, the same as the lesser personal arms of His Royal Highness the Crown Prince Alexander with the differentiation of golden firesteels instead of white ones. It is founded that this be the lesser personal arms of each Hereditary Prince from this day forth. The graphics of the official version are given here:
3) Great Pavilion Arms of the Royal Family of Karadjordjevic of Serbia with the descriptive blazon “Shield: upon the Red shield there is a white double-headed eagle displayed with both heads crowned with the heraldic crown of Serbia, beak, tongue and legs of the golden colour and upon the breast of the eagle a red shield with the cross to the shield’s edges between which there are four firesteels with their operating surfaces turned towards the vertical beam of the cross all of white colour and in the base of the shield two golden fleur-de-lys. The shield is crowned with the crown of HM King Peter I with the blue fleur-de-lys in the centre and around the shield is the Order of St Prince Lazar and the tenants of the shield are two vojvodas (of the First Serbian Uprising, this is an addition to the translation) in their ceremonial attire of XIX century, armed and all in their natural colours, who hold the banners with Serbian tricolour flag, ie. red, blue, white, fringed and tasselled in golden colour, and from a green compartment of floral motives of our Middle Ages descending freely a scroll of the celestial blue colour upon which the motto of the Royal Family Spes mihi prima Deus. All of the abovementioned mantled with the royal mantle which is the crowning robe of HM King Peter I tied by golden tassels and on top of such a pavilion there is the crown of HM King Peter I with the blue fleur-de-lys in the centre”. The graphics of the official version are given here:
This decree comes into force with the signature of the Head of the Royal House and the Herald.
All heraldic questions pertaining to the Royal House of Karadjordjevic are under jurisdiction of the Herald of the House. With his decrees, which he sets forth with the approval and consent of the Head of the Royal House, the Herald officially sanctions, declares and regulates all matters heraldic and vexillological within the Royal House in its entirety and among and for all the members of the Royal Family.
Shaded version of the Lesser personal arms of HRH Crown Prince Alexander (Lj. Grujic) )
Shaded version of the Great Pavilion Arms of the Royal Family of Karadjordjevic of Serbia павиљонског грба Краљевске породице Карађорђевић од Србије (Lj. Grujic)
Estimable readership may per chance notice that the historic development lead to the situation where the arms of Serbia and those of the Royal Family exist happily on only two levels, those of so called lesser and large arms. This puts them into a humbler position than any personal or municipal arms with the three levels! The void of the lack of the middle arms, in the case of the Royal Family, was spontaneously being filled over the years (which is a fascinating journey that deserves a separate text) and its present emanation has a rather unstable name , due to the organic historical development.
The court arms, Dynastic Arms, Arms of the Head of the Royal House of Serbia in his own right, etc. This is the level of arms, from attested usage in the past, that should be given and utilised by the royal purveyors for the House.
Wife of the Head of the Royal House of Karadjordjevic draws the right to her armorial achievement from the fountain of honours that is her husband. Therefore, lesser arms of Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Katarina of Serbia is of the same heraldic content as her husband’s but transported onto the lozenge shield. Through the principle of heraldic courtesy without heritance such a shield is crowned with the royal crown of HM King Peter I without any differentiation, a sign of great honour and appreciation.
The blessing of having numerous offspring in the House of Karadjordje in our day and age requires further codification for the members of the House so that a clear system of identification among the generations is enabled. The decree is not signed yet although it was verbally confirmed by the Head of the House so it is possible to give the graphical illustration of the proposed system.
Comparison between lesser arms of the secon son of the head of the House, his son and the arms of Serbia.