Saturday, 16 November 2013

The Arms of Northern Rhodesia



'THE Arms of Northern Rhodesia arc technically described as " Sable six palets wavy Argent on a Chief Azure an Eagle regardant wings expanded Or holding in the talons a Fish of the second The whole device is emblazoned on a Shield which is without supporters or a scroll and motto.

The explanation of the heraldic description is that the general colour of the background on the Shield is black, sable being archaic French and the heraldic term for that colour. On this background are six wavy vertical bars or palets, somewhat similar to the palings of a fence. Their colour is silver or argent, again an old term for that metal. They are usually represented as white when the Shield of the Arms is illuminated in flat colours. These palets represent the Victoria Falls. The upper part of the Shield, or Chief as it is called, is blue, and on this representation of the sky is a fish eagle holding its prey, a fish. The eagle is gold and the fish is silver, its colour being given as " of the second," that is, the six palets wavy or the second part of the Shield.

The meaning of the Arms is thus a fish eagle flying with its prey over the Victoria Falls, and when it is remembered that Dr. Livingstone's discovery of the Victoria Falls put Central Africa on the map, and that he was the forerunner of our present European settlement and African development, the Arms will be recognised as the most apt design that could have been chosen.

The eagle is common throughout Africa, and is known elsewhere as the sea eagle or river eagle. It completes every river scene in Northern Rhodesia as it perches by the banks or flies high overhead, occasionally uttering its strange wailing note.

The history of the Arms is one of some interest. The question of a design for use on flags, and for possible incorporation in a Public Seal, was first brought up in March, 1925. The first suggestion was that the crested crane should be used, but this was not possible as Uganda was already using that. A symbolic representation of the constellation Orion was then suggested. It was not thought to be practicable, but the argument in its favour was that Orion " was a mighty hunter who drove all the beasts of the field before him," a prowess which distinguished most early Rhodesians!

In 1926 the Governor, Sir Herbert Stanley, appointed a special committee to consider and suggest designs. At that time the Governor was using his own private seal on documents, and in some instances the seal of the previous British South Africa Company administration was also being used. The continued use of either was decided to be undesirable, and a distinctive design for a public seal for the Government was to be found.
The committee eventually put forward three designs: (a) a river scene with an African in a canoe in silhouette in the foreground, (b) the head of a sable antelope, and (c) a lion looking through a pair of elephant's tusks forming an oval frame. None of these designs was favoured by the whole of the committee, and in 1927 Sir Richard Goode, then Acting Governor, reported the findings and difficulties of the committee. When doing so he put forward a suggestion of his own that the design should be a fish eagle grasping a fish over the Victoria Falls. He pointed out that the faults of the other designs were: (a) a river scene could not be represented properly in heraldry, (b) the sable antelope was used as a supporter in the Arms of Southern Rhodesia, and (c) as the Paramount Chief of Barotseland and Chief Imwiko Lewanika used the elephant and buffalo respectively, the use of any lesser animal by the Government would be noticeable in African eyes. It was also mentioned that the use of the heraldic lion would be an encroachment upon its use in the Royal Arms.

During its deliberations the committee came to the conclusion that the members did not know enough about heraldry or what was being used by other territories to be able to put forward a sound suggestion, and, odd as it may seem, the Navy was called in to help. A book, Flags of All Nations, was borrowed from H.M.S. Loicesloft at Simonstown.

The method of showing the Victoria Falls in the Arms was the result of a discussion of the point between Sir Richard Goode and the Deputy Master of the Royal Mint who was very fortunately visiting the Falls in 1927. The white parts represented the water, and the black the rocks over which it falls.

The Deputy Master of the Mint took a very close interest in the matter and on his return to England he asked an heraldic artist, Mr. G. Kruger Gray, to draw Sir Richard Goode's design. It was sent out in time to be included in his report on the findings of the committee mentioned above. This design was finally accepted by Northern Rhodesia in 1927 and received die approval of the King in 1930, but, in its use as a Shield other than on the Public Seal, it was classed a Badge.

In 1938 the Royal College of Heralds came to the conclusion that the Badge was in fact Arms since the device could not be described as other than heraldic. Accordingly the design was granted to Northern Rhodesia as Armorial Bearings by Royal Warrant dated 16th August, 1939, and formally adopted under section 11 of the Northern Rhodesia Order in Council, 1911.

End

Extracted and recompiled for use on Our Rhodesian Heritage Blog by Eddy Norris

Source- A Brief Guide to Northern Rhodesia Printed by the Government Printers, Lusaka

Issued by the Northern Rhodesia Information Department October 1960

Comments are always welcome, please mail them to Eddy Norris at orafs11@gmail.com
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