America was not composed of colonies and the crown of Castile did not call
its kingdoms overseas colonies but Kingdoms of the Indies, comparable with
the European kingdoms of France and England. The territories obtained until
1518 were juridically considered to be the property of the Catholic kings
Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile and were administered as royal
estates. The first vice-king of a West Indian Kingdom was Christopher
Columbus who was dismissed in 1503.
the socalled West Indies were incorporated as an inalienable part of the
Kingdom of Castile.
government of the Indies was exercised by means of general and local
colleges, the general colleges being established in Spain, the local
institutions in the several territories of the Indies.
The arms of the Spanish kings in the
Indies were the arms of the Catholic Kings of Castile and Leon at first. Later
it were the arms of Charles I (V) and his successors of the House of Habsburg
Those of the Catholic Kings were
composed of a quarterly of the arms of Castile-Leon and of
Aragon-Sicilia-Trinacria. Those of the Habsburg emperor and later kings of
the arms of Spain and the Netherlands.
The arms of the Bourbons augmented
these arms with the arms of Bourbon and, later, with the arms of Medici and
Both the Habsburg and Bourbon Kings surrounded
their arms with the collar and fleece of the Order of the Fleece of which
they were the Sovereign Heads.
royal arms were used by all spanish royal colleges in the Americas.
preserved example of such use are the arms of the Real Audiencia of Santafé
Arms of the Real Audiencia de Santafé, 1580-1700
cloth. Museo Nacional de Colombia, inv. Nr. 97
At a lower
level, the Habsburg and Bourbon kings of Castile and Leon, of which the
Indies were a part, bore a quarterly of Castile and Leon, for the Bourbon
kings augmented with the arms of Bourbon and for both surrounded by the Order
of the Fleece and royally crowned.
were the royal arms which were most of the time displayed in the Indies until the end of the Spanish
Monarchy in America.
Arms of the King of Castile
On the frontispiece of the
works of Antonio de Herrera 1601 & 1730
Royal Seal on a stampd paper
In te beginning of the 16th century many of the former
Royal and seigneurial arms became the arms of the territories over which these
kings and princes had once ruled. In this way the arms of the King of Castile
became the arms of the Kingdom of Castile, the arms of the Duke of Brabant
those of the Duchy of Brabant and so on. In this context arms were also
designed for the newly acquired territories on the American continent. At
first, in the time of Columbus, these were the arms for the Islas &
Tierra Firma which consisted of a picture of a coast and some islands in a
Somewhat later, in 1517, three other coats of arms
appear for the then known Indian and Overseas possessions. These were the
arms of Gibraltar and the Canaries, for the Indian Island and the Western Sea
and for the Islands (of the Caribbean). For a short time also the arms of
Tlemcen and Bugia where reckoned to them and for these also coats of arms
The arms of the recently discovered territories by
Albrecht Dürer, 1517.
The first arms are later (in the 17th century) called
the arms of Islas y Tierra Firma and
they are then: Per fess, in chief a leopard Or and in base an elephant
When the american posessions had become an integral
part of Castile and Leon, a new emblem for the Indies occured besides the
arms of Castile and Leon. This consisted of the pillars of Hercules, and the
motto PLVS VLTRA (There is More) on ribbons around them.
Pillars and Burgundian Army Emblem, after
Such pillars probably came from a Burgundian or a much
older repertory of emblems, representing “The End of the (known) World”. 
They occur for example in the margin of a portrait of Charles the Bold
(†1477) with a Burgundian Cross and a flint (the emblem of the Burgundian
Army) in between. The motto IE LAY EMPRINS [bien en aviegne] (“I took it upon, may
come the best of it”, the motto of Charles the Bold) is on a ribbon around
The Pillars of Hercules and the motto PLUS OULTRE
were combined for the first time in 1518 on Jetons des finance of Charles of Habsburg as a Duke of Burgundy (alias
Lord of the Netherlands) and a King of Spain. On these jetons the Pillars of
Hercules, the motto, the flint of the Order of the Fleece and the Burgundian
cross are arranged in different ways, the pillars and the motto combined
being used in the spanish context.
Jetons des finance, 1518. 
Almost at the same time such pillars were painted at
the occasion of the 19th Chapter of the Order of the Fleece of 1519 in the
cathedral of Barcelona. This time the
pillars are surrounded by a sea and have a flint with the motto PLVS VLTRA
Pillars of Hercules with flint and motto
Soon this emblem became the emblem of the possessions
overseas and served as an augmentation of the heraldic emblems of the King and
Emperor Charles V, the arms representing his European posessions and the
pillars representing his American properties.
8 Reales coin struck in Mexico, 1535
The crowned arms of Castile on the obverse and the
Pilllars of Hercules on the reverse. Legend: KAROLVS ET IOHANNA
D / HISPANIE ET INDIARVM REGES
The Pillars of Hercules became also the charge of a
coat of arms for the Indies. It was displayed at the funeral of Charles I (V)
16th century Arms and Crest of the Indies 
The arms of the Indies were:
pale, Or, Azure and Sable, the pillars of Hercules Gules both surrounded by a
ribbon with the motto PLVS VLTRA, the dexter imperially crowned and the
sinister royally crowned, rising from a sea in base proper.
Crest: On a
wreath a bunch of Ostrich feathers of the colors.
The crest represents a Lordship in the same way
Charles and his successors were “Lords of the Netherlands”. The title “King
of the Indies” (Rex Indiarum) was
used for the first time by King Philip II in 1581. 
These arms, probably only designed for the occasion
of the funeral, disappeared in the reign of Philip II as he was always
represented by his royal arms. Instead, the pillars of Hercules became one of
the emblems of the Council of the Indies, founded 1517.
The Pillars of Hercules were displayed in the
offices of the Ayuntamiento in Seville, the city where the Casa de
Contratacion was established.
Illustration in the head of this essay
Pillars of Hercules in the Lonja of Sevilla
(= Archivo General de Las Indias)
They were also on coins struck in the Americas.
In other cases they served as important decorations
of the emblems of the king and the lower colleges in the Americas
Arms of the Indies, 1558. 
Piece of 8 Reales, struck in Potosi
(Peru) 1652 and later
Arms of Castile,
Pillars of Hercules
At the Bourbon Reform of Philip V (1700-46), the colonial matters
were concentrated in a single, special ministry; the ministry of the Navy and the Indies (1714). He created first a
Honduras Company (1714), a Caracas Company (1728) and — the only one destined
to thrive — a Havana Company (1740). The native bureaucracy of the Americas (criollos)
was replaced by (supposedly more qualified) Spanish officials appointed
directly by the Crown, and the territories were better divided for
administrative purposes. The extremely large Viceroyalty of Peru was split in
three, adding the Viceroyalty of New Granada and the Viceroyalty of the Río
de la Plata.
In this context a new emblem for the Indies was
introduced. This consisted of a picture of the Eastern and Western
Hemispheres between the Pillars of Hercules. This emblem was used on coins
struck in Mexico from 1732 until the end of the Spanish presence in America
8 Reales obverse
Arms of Castile
8 reales reverse
Emblem of the Indies
time of Bourbon rule the emblem of the Indies consisted of a picture of the
Eastern and Western Hemispheres between the Pillars of Hercules.
1772 the arms of Castile and the emblem of the Spanish Indies were united by
king Charles III (1759-‘88) into the
achievement of the Spanish Empire by replacing the two hemispheres by the
arms of Castile.
Arms of the Spanish Empire, the
two hemispheres on the Pillars of Hercules
In the stairwell of
the General Archives in Sevilla, after 1794.
This achievement (or augmented arms) was used until
In the Americas itself some vice-kingdoms and cities
had their own coat of arms which was granted by means of a Royal Decree.
achievement of the Government of the Indies consisted of the royal arms of
Castile and Leon, at first, in the time of Charles I, supported by a
two-headed eagle and later between or supported by the Pillars of Hercules.
Such an achievement was used in all parts of Castile and Leon.
Achievement of King and Emperor Charlers V. Toledo,
for the Indies. 17th entury
as on the Sumarios de la Recopilacion General de las Leyes, Ordenanças,
Provisiones, Cedulas, Instrucciones, y Cartas Acordades q por los Reyes
Catolicos de Castilla se han promulgado, expedido y despachado para las
Indias Occidentalis, Islas, y Tierra-Firme del Mar Oceano: desde el año dse
mil y quatrocientos y noventa y dos, que se descubrieron hasta el presente de
milseiscientos y veinte y ocho. En Mexico, 1677
Seal with the royal
achievement for the Indies, 1687.
By the Bourbon kings the arms of the achievement were
replaced by their own royal arms.
Royal achievement for the Indies.
As on the
frontispiece of the Observaciones
astronomicas y Phisicas hechas de Orden de S. Mag en Los Reynos de Peru.
By King Charles III the royal arms of the achievement
were replaced by his own royal arms adopted 1760.
for the Indies / Alegoria de la America
On the frontispiece of the Real Ordenanza para el Establecimiento e instrucción de Intendentes
de Exército y Provincia en el Reino de Nuevo España. Madrid, 1786
The Consejo de Indias (“Council of the Indies”), in full
the Real y Supremo Consejo de Indias (“Royal and Supreme
Council of the Indies”) was the most important administrative body of the
Spanish Empire, both in the Americas and in the Philippines, combining legislative,
executive and judicial functions. The Crown of Castile incorporated the new
territories into its domains when Queen Isabella withdrew the authority
granted Columbus and the first conquistadors and established direct royal
The Consejo Real y Supremo de Indias functioned formally from 1
August 1524. The king was informed weekly of decisions reached by the
Council, which came to exercise supreme authority over the Indies at the
local level and over the Casa de Contratación founded in 1503 at
Seville as a customs storehouse for the Indies. Civil suits of sufficient
importance could be appealed from an audiencia in the New World to the
Consejo, functioning as a court of last resort.
A separate secretariat, the Secretaria de Indias was established
by Charles III (1759-’88). (door Ferdinand IV op 26 augustus 1754).
achievement of the Supreme Council of the Indies consisted of the arms of the
King of Spain, crowned and surrounded by the collar of the Order of the
Fleece, between the Pillars of Hercules and with a sailing ship below. Because the
council is Royal, the royal arms are incorporated in the emblem.
versions of this emblem are known.
version shows the royal arms of Castile & Leon between the Pillars of
Hercules and a ship, probably a carrack, below
Achievement of the Council of the Indies
As on the frontispiece of
the Regimiento de Navegacion, 1601
Stamped Paper, 1st half 17th century
Showing the seal of the
Council for the Indies
A second and later version shows the royal arms of King Philip II after
his succession in Portugal (1580).
Achievement of the Council for the Indies
As on the frontispiece of the Autos Acuerdos i Decretos de Gobierno del
Real y Supremo Consejo de la Indias. Madrid, 1658
A third version from the second half of the 17th century shows the arms
of King Charles II, the arms of Portugal omitted and the arms of Jeruzalem
added in the second quarter.
Emblem of the Real y Supremo
Consejo de Indias.
As on the frontispiece of the
Recopilacion de leyes de los Reynos de Las Indias. Madrid, 1681
In the time of the rule of Philip V (1700-’46), the royal arms of the
achievement of the Council were replaced by his arms.
Achievement of the Royal Council for the Indies
As on the frontispiece of the Recopilacion de Leyes de los Reynos de las
Indias. Madrid, 1774
By his successors Charles III (1759-’88),
Charles IV (1788-1808) and Ferdinand VII (1808[…]1833) the royal arms were
replaced by the arms of Ferdinand VI as adopted in July 1760.
Achievement of the Supreme Council for the Indies on
a Royal Decree, 1786
As on the frontispiece of
the Real Cédula de su Magestad á
consulta de su Suprema Consejo de Indias &c.
The Real y Supremo Consejo de
Indias was not definitively abolished
With the Bourbon reforms enacted from 1714, a Minister of the Indies and a Secretaría de Guerra,
Marina e Indias was created which superseded the administrative functions
of the Consejo de Indias.
Larger achievement of the Navy
As on the Ordenanzas Generales de la Armada Naval,
As the emblem represents a spanish institution and
not a person, the arms are not surrounded by the Collar of the Order of the
loss of the South- and Central American properties the Spanish Empire only
consisted of Spain itself, Cuba,
the Philippines and
some African colonies (Spanish
Guinea and Western Sahara). Nevertheless for this Empire the Pillars of
Hercules remained a part of its heraldic emblem.
Achievement of the Provisional Government of 1868
The successor states of the Spanish Indies are:
Cuba (was directly depending of
depending of Nueva España)
And in the United States of America:
© Hubert de Vries 2013-04-04
 1. Descripcion
de las Indias Occidentales de Antonio de Herrera.
Madrid 1601. 2. Historia General de los hechos de los
castellanos en las Islas i Tierra Firme del Mar Oceano obita por Antonio de
Herrera. Madrid 1730
Cascante, Ignacio: Heraldica General y Fuentes de las Armas de España. Salvat.
Eds. S.A.. Barcelona, 1956. P. 534
 Statute Book of the Order of the Fleece.
Fol. 70 v°. Wien, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek. Handschriften u.
 Vicente Cascante, Ignacio: op. Cit.. Pp.
470-486: Las Columnas de Hercules.
 Picture from: Rosenthal, Earl E.: The Invention of the Columnar Device of Emperor Charles V at the Court of
Burgundy in Flanders in 1516. In: Journal of the
Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 1973. 36: pp.198-230.
 Mateu Y Llopis,
Felipe: El Titulo «Rex Indiarum» del «Hispaniarum Rex» en las monedas y enlas
medallas. El titulo «Rex
«Hispaniarum Rex ...
- Dialnet dialnet.unirioja.es/descarga/articulo/58132.pdf.
 From: Chifletius,
Johan: La magnifiqve et svmptvevse pompe fvnebre avs obseqves et
fvnerailles dv tresgrand, et tres victorievs emperevr charles cinqvie’me,
celebrées en la ville de brvxelles le xxiv.
iovr dv mois de decembre m.d.lviii.
par philippe roy catholique d’espaigne son fils. Chistophle Plantin m.d.l.ix. (http://culture.besancon.fr./ark:/48565/a0112900901274hUCxd/1/1)