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Heraldry and the Crusades, part 5. The Seals of Richard I

Seal of Richard I
The two seals of Richard the Lionheart contain emblems that have a special connection to the Crusades. The first seal contains two crescent moons, each surmounted by a star-shaped object. The crescent moon referred to King Richard’s vocation as a crusader. It was the ancient symbol of Byzantium, connected with its presiding goddess, who had saved the city from a night assault by Philip of Macedonia by making the moon shine with unexpected brilliance. 

A popular theory holds that the badge on Richard’s seal represents the Star of Bethlehem in ascendancy over the half-moon of the infidel is false, as the crescent was not yet the symbol of the Turks. The medieval writer , Geoffrey de Vinsauf, commenting on King Richard’s appearance at Cyprus noted “He was clothed in a vest of rose-coloured stuff ornamented with rows of crescents of solid silver, like orbs of the sun shining in thick profusion.” On Richard’s second seal the sun accompanies the moon and this leads some commentators to surmise that the celestial body above the crescent moon on the first seal also represents the sun.

Turkey coat of armsIf the sun was a badge of Richard I , the “sunburst” badge of Edward III and the “sun in splendor” of Richard II may have been a revival of what they knew to have been a royal emblem. Kings John and Henry III also used the star and crescent moon badge; they used the cross for policy reasons but never fulfilled their crusader vows. It also appears on the seal of John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey, an ally of Henry III. It also forms the Coat of Arms of Portsmouth, which received its first charter from Richard I, and appears in the shield of Dartmouth as this was the port that the crusading ships set sail from. Seized from the Christians by the Turks in the 15th century the star and crescent badge has been the Muslim emblem ever since. When it appeared on the medal presented by the Sultan in 1801 to English officers who had taken part in the Egyptian campaign, the descendants of the crusaders received a Christian emblem at the hands of the Infidel. In 1927 Turkey devised a Coat of Arms to replace those of the Sultanate. The star and crescent were retained and set upon a red shield above the white wolf of the Turks standing on a lance. The wolf totem recalls dark ages when the Turks were wandering in a tribal state in Central Asia. Legend tells that a white wolf appeared to guide the people across precipitous mountains to the more fertile lands to the West. The Coat of Arms above are intended to point to Turkey’s westward conquest, and the resurrection of her old national spirit

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