07 October 2009

Argent two bars Gules in chief three mullets in fess of the second

by Cecily
Last summer Ben asked me why all the DC city type things (vehicles, buildings, license plates) had three red stars and two red strips on them. Like so:

I didn't know, and my powers of internet searching were weak.

Then this fall, instead of writing my dissertation, I found out! It is the Flag of the District of Columbia, and it is based on George Washington's family coat of arms.

And the name of the coat of arms is Argent Two Bars Gules in Chief Three Mullets in Fess of the Second.

So, I think we all learned something today. You're welcome.


  1. wow, that's a really long name. Your next task is to find out:
    Do coat of arms usually have really long names like this??

  2. See, that was surprisingly useful. And instructive. Maybe instead of a DC flag, people will start getting"Argent Two Bars Gules in Chief Three Mullets in Fess of the Second" tattooed on their arms. . . but only if they've got really long arms.

  3. One is loathe to raise such fussy points with a linguist, but that's more a description than a name. In the world of heraldry, argent is white/silver, gules is red, and mullets are stars. In chief refers to the top third (or so) of the shield, and fess is the middle third (or so). They don't repeat things, but say "of the second" to refer to the second thing (color in this case) mentioned. So, this is an awkward (but precise) way of saying "a white background, two red bars, three red stars in the middle of the top third".

  4. A nice workup, and cleverly arrived at. If you will permit a small further refinement:

    Because the stars must fit above the bars, the horizontal arrangement is reliably inferred, and the use of "in fess" is not strictly accurate because that would place them correctly in a horizontal line, but would imply that this was along the fess, or middle of the blazon, which would contradict the directive of in chief. Of the second is accurate but not required because there are only two colors mentioned and the stars cannot be argent otherwise they would not be visible. Thus "argent, two bars gules, in chief three mullets" should suffice without losing any descriptive power.