THE ARMS OF CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS
The advent of the later medieval period brought with it the exploration of the unknown world by European explorers financed by the monarchies of Europe. These expeditions were in search of new lands with resources to exploit. The European monarchs of this period vied with one another to be first to a new land. They were aided in their quest by professional sailors who were willing to put their lives and the lives of their crew at risk in return for a small percentage of the riches they might present to their sovereigns. All to frequently however these great voyagers received shabby compensation for their efforts. They could, however, receive heraldic recognition. The shield borne by the descendants of Christopher Columbus contains four separate quarters as augmentations, the original family Arms being relegated to a point in the base of the new shield. A crest of the royal orb, a rare distinction in Spanish heraldry, was also given together with the motto: A Castillion y Leon, Nuevo munda, dio Colon “ To Castile and Leon, the new world was given by Columbus”.
Other explorers to receive augmentations in recognition of their achievements include Vasco de Gama who received the ancient Coat of Arms of Portugal as an augmentation. The Coat of Arms in question is described as Argent five escutcheons in cross Azure each charged with five plates. He was also given the crest of a demi-man dressed “a l’indienne” holding a shield of the augmented Arms and a branch of cinnamon, all to evoke his epic voyage to India and the Spice Islands. The British explorer Sir Francis Drake had been using the Coat of Arms of a different family in Devonshire when the head of that family complained to Queen Elizabeth I, referring to Drake as an upstart. The Queen’s retort was that she would grant Sir Francis Drake a Coat of Arms that would far outshine those of his namesake. The Arms duly granted Sable a fess wavy between two estoiles ( stars) irradiated Argent very neatly summarize his voyages between the North and South Poles. The Crest above the Arms was never meant to be worn above a helmet and was so fanciful as to be drawn only. Various depictions of the Crest show a ship on top of a globe being guided by a hand emerging from the clouds, holding a golden cord; above the clouds a scroll bearing the motto: Auxilio divino (“By Divine aid”). The blazon, or description, of the Crest also includes a red dragon on the ship looking up at the hand emerging from the clouds. The motto below the Arms reads Sic parvis magna ("Greatness from small beginnings")