National Arms, part 1

Ireland national arms
National Arms, or Arms of Sovereignty and Dominion as they are correctly known, differ from other armorial bearings in many respects, and their precise significance should be kept carefully in mind. National Coats of Arms stand, not for any particular area of land, but for the intangible sovereignty vested in the rulers of the land. They properly belong to kingdoms and states and are annexed, as it were, to these but are borne by their representative rulers or heads of state. They are ensigns of public authority and they are not hereditary. They pass by conquest. If a subject should ascend a throne, he would customarily lay aside those arms that had previously been his by personal right and thenceforth use only those of the dominion to which he had succeeded. He would be under no obligation to use the Arms and if he chose to could adopt entirely different and distinct Arms.

A dynastic change, which introduces new sovereign dominions, may introduce new elements into the Arms. A ruler ascending a throne by election may choose to show this by combining his family Arms in some way with those of the State; the usual method being through an escutcheon ( a smaller shield in the center of the Arms). In summary, National Arms are continuing, but not necessarily immutable. A change of regime may totally extinguish them. The one thing that is absolutely certain is that their display is not to be accorded to subjects. They are the symbolic representation of the sovereignty of the state and any use to which they may be put must be fully compatible with this.

National Arms are as varied as the states that bear them. They fall into two main categories; one is clearly heraldic, the other is not. The presence or absence of a shield is largely an accidental consequence of the history of the State. For example Europe has always been within the hera

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