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The Achievement

The arms

The Order of the Ermine


Back to France



Prior to the expansion of the Roman Empire into the region, Gallic tribes had occupied the Armorican

peninsula, dividing it into five regions that then formed the basis for the Roman administration of the area, and which survived into the period of the Duchy..

In roman times the region was called Lugdunensis III,  created about 385 AD by  Clemens Maximus augustus and in the Middle ages came to be a part of the archdiocese of Tours, created in the 9th century.

Brittany fragmented into small, warring regna, kingdoms, each competing for resources. The Frankish Carolingian Empire conquered the region during the 8th century, starting around 748 and taking the whole of Brittany by 799.

In 831 Louis the Pious appointed Nominoe, the Count of Vannes, ruler of the Bretons, imperial missus, at Ingelheim in 831. The new kingdom however proved fragile and collapsed under Viking attackThe Duchy of Brittany was created in 936 by Alan Barbetorte, a former refugee. He claimed the titles of the Count of Cornwall and Nantes and, as Alan II, reigned as the new Brittonum dux. Alan paid homage to Louis IV of France for Brittany in 942. After him a long series of Dukes ruled Brittany, the Kings of France considering the Duchy of Brittany feudally a part of their Kingdom of France (i.e. it was within the traditional borders of the realm, and the King of France be the overlord of the Duchy). In practice, however, the Duchy of Brittany was a largely independent sovereign state.

Rulers of Brittany

House of Nantes

Alan I Wrybeard








Alan II


House of Rennes

Conan I the Crooked


Geoffrey I


Alan III


Conan II


House of Cornwall



Alan IV


Conan III the Fat


Eudo of Porhoët


Conan IV the Younger



To be continued in the next section


The independent sovereign nature of the Duchy began to come to an end upon the death of Francis II of Brittany. The Duchy was inherited by his daughter, Anne, but King Charles VIII of France, determined to bring the territory under royal control. Charles VIII had her marriage annulled and then forced her to marry him. As a result, the Kingdom of France and the Duchy of Brittany were placed in the personal union of their marriage, and the King of France also held the title of Duke of Brittany jure uxoris. During their marriage, the Charles VIII prohibited Anne of Brittany using the ducal title and imposed a Royal Governor from the House of Penthièvre on the Duchy.

Legally, however, the Duchy remained separate from France proper; the two titles were linked only by the marriage of the King and Queen, and in 1498 when Charles VIII died childless, the title Duke of Brittany remained with Anne, rather than passing to the heir of France, Louis XII. Anne of Brittany returned to Brittany and began to re-establish an independent sovereign rule. However, the new French king, Louis XII married Anne himself, and so the King of France was once more Duke of Brittany jure uxoris. Legally, Brittany still remained distinct, and its future remained dependent on the ducal bloodline, now held by the House of Montfort. When Anne died, Brittany passed to her daughter and heiress, Claude, rather than remaining with the King of France, her father.

Claude married the future King of France, Francis I. By this marriage, and through the succession to the French crown, the King of France became Duke of Brittany jure uxoris once more. Claude's death in 1524 separated the Duchy from the crown again, and for the last time. Because Claude, like her mother, was sovereign Duchess, the title of 'Duke' did not remain with her husband, but instead passed to her son, Francis III of Brittany, who was also Dauphin of France. Legally, the Crown and Duchy were again separate, but the Duke was a child, and the Duchy had been governed as an integral part of France for years; the King had little trouble in maintaining royal control over the Duchy. Breton independence was effectively ended when in 1532 the Estates of Brittany proclaimed the perpetual union of Brittany with the French crown and so the Duchy became legally a part of France.

Francis III remained Duke of Brittany, but died without attaining the French crown in 1536. He was succeeded by his brother Henry, who was the first royal to become both King of France and Duke of Brittany in his own right. Any trace of Breton independence ended with the ascension of Henry, as Henry II of France, to the French throne. The French Crown and Breton Duchy were now united by inheritance, and the merging of Brittany into France was thus completed. Henry II was not crowned separately as Duke of Brittany. However Henry attempted to create a separate legal status for Brittany vis-a-vis the Kingdom of France similar to the position of the Duchy of Cornwall to the Kingdom of Great Britain.

A parliament was created besides the existing States of Brittany in 1554. This existed until 1790 when  the duchy was dissolved and divided into five départnements which survive until the present day. In 1982 the former duchy of Brittany was restored as a political entitity as the Region de Bretagne, comprising the five départements of 1790






Early numismatic evidence shows that in pre-christian times the ruler was represented by his imago in the form of his bust or portrait. This was often combined with a representation of a horse being an important attribute of the ruler which was associated with him throughout the middle ages until far into modern times.

The image of the ruler was maintained in roman times but was combined with other symbols then. In the early middle ages some coins show us eagles, griffins and in a unique case a lion which belong to the common repertory of heraldic symbols and may have been the emblems of the rulers of Gaul, of a province or of lesser officials. It is, however not possible to attribute these emblems to certain officials.

A collection of coins from Brittany is in the Musée de Bretagne in Rennes.


Conan II



Conan II faced numerous threats posed by the pro-Norman faction in Brittany, including revolts sponsored by William, Duke of Normandy for whom Conan's father had served as Guardian. This rivalry led to war between Normandy and Brittany (1064–1065)

In this war the Battle of Dinan occurred in 1065. The combined armies of Harold of England and William of Normandy chased Conan from Dol-de-Bretagne to Rennes, and he finally surrendered at Château de Dinan, Brittany. The battle is recalled in the  Bayeux Tapestry on which the handing over of the keys of the city by Conan II is represented. This is done with a spear with a pennon of three lappets and a white rectangle on a blue (or green?) field.


Surrender of Dinan Castle on the Bayeux Tapestry



Also shields can be seen of the common norman shape decorated with a kind of crosses patée wavy of different colours which can also be seen on other parts of the tapestry.



House of Anjou




¥ 1 Geoffrey II

¥ 2 Ranulf de Blondeville

¥ 3 Guy of Thouars






I Geoffrey II



Seal of Geoffrey II




II Ranulf de Blundeville,

Duke of Brittanny, Earl of Rich­mond, Earl of Lincoln, custody of the honours of Richmond, Leicester and Huntingdon (†1232)

Seal of Ranulf de Blondeville


R. was (tit.) duke of Brittany after the murder of Arthur I (1203) being the second husband of Con- stance (1170-1201), the widow of Geoffrey (r. 1181-1186).


III Guy of Thouars



Guy of Thouars (†12 April 1213) was the third husband of Constance, Duchess of Brittany, whom he married in 1199 in Angiers.  He was an Occitan noble, a member of the House of Thouars.

Guy and Constance had two daughters, Alix of Thouars and Katherine, Dame of Vitre, in 1201. Constance died in childbirth.

Between 1198 and the time of her death delivering twin daughters, Constance acted as regent for her young son Arthur I, Duke of Brittany. Constance had abdicated her ducal throne in Arthur's favour in 1194. Once Duke Arthur I died in 1203, he was succeeded by his infant maternal sister, Alix of Thouars. Guy served as Regent of Brittany for his infant daughter Alix, Duchess of Brittany from 1203 to 1206.

In 1206 Philip II took the regency of Brittany himself, much to the consternation of the Breton nobles.

Guy of Thouars died in 1213 in Chemillé in the county of Maine, and was buried with Constance at Villeneuve Abbey in Les Sorinières outside of Nantes.


At the end of the 13th century the arms of Thouars were:

Arms:  Or, semée of fleurs de lis Azure, a canton Gules. [1]


Arthur I




1199 Arthur: Arms: Nil. L.: dvx brittannie et aquitanie comes andegravensis et cenomanensis. D.: 1199 & 1202. [2]



Guy of Thouars

Peter I of Dreux, Mauclerc


regent 1203-1206



King Philip August of France made Brittany a royal fief and appointed Peter I of Dreux its duke. The arms of the House of Dreux, a younger branch of the House of Capet, were chequy Or and Azure. As the youngest son of Robert II of Dreux Peter added a canton ermine as a mark of cadency on 29 January 1213. [3] These arms are on the seal of his wife Alix and also on his seal of 1220.



Seal  and counterseal of Alix

Seal: The duchess crowned with a mantle lined vair, a falcon on her left hand. L.: X S. AALIS DVCISSE BRITANIE COIT RICHEMONTIS

Counter Seal: Arms: Chequy 6´7 and a canton [Ermine]. L.: X SECRETVM MEVM


Pierre de Dreux, Mauclerc


Duke jure uxoris of Bretagne 1213-1221

Regent of Bretagne 1221-1237

Count of Braine 1237-1250


Equestrian Seal of Pierre Mauclerc:

Arms: Chequy 6´6, and a canton Ermine. L.: sig petri dvcis brittannie et comitis richemondis.

Counter seal: Arms: As before. L.: secretvm mevm 

Date: March 1220 [4]

After his son John I had done homage to the king of France on 16 November 1237 Peter Mauclerc chaged his name into ‘Pierre de Braine’. Braine was his property as a younger member of the House of Dreux. He participated to the crusade of 1239 and again to the crusade of Louis IX in 1248-’50. He died on his return and was enterred in the mausoleum of the House of Dreux in the Abbey church Saint-Yved in Braine.[

His tomb in Notre-Dame de Braine (formerly St Yved Abbey, Aisne, Picardie):

Tomb of Peter Mauclerc

by Pierre Hyacinthe Morice de Beaubois

The arms of Peter on this tomb are only natural when we interpret the narrow bordure to be merely the edge of the shield (as on the version of Beaubois).

The colours of the arms of the county of Braine are given by 13th century rolls of arms:

In Walford’s Roll (1273):

C. 25: Le countee de Abrenes, chequy d’or et ed’azure un border gulez

Cd. 26: Le counte de brenes eschekeré d’or e d’azur a une bordure dew goule.

Cl.43: Le conte de Brenes, eschalker d’or e azur a bourdure de gules [5]

House of  Dreux

John I, the Red


Peter I of Dreux, Mauclerc



Regent 1221-1237

John I inherited the arms of his father.

1st Equestrian Seal of John I

Arms: Chequy 6´7, a canton Ermine. L.: S : IOHANNIS : DVCIS : BRIT [...] OMITIS : R[...........]. [6]

Arms of John I

according to the “Turnier von Nantes”

The apparently oldest blasoning of  the arms of the counts, viz. dukes of Brittany can be found in the poem Turnier von Nantes, (Der Turnei von Nantheiz), written by Konrad von Würzburg (1230-’87) It describes a tournament held at Nantes (!) between German knights under King Richard of England and French knights under their own king. Much authentic detail is devoted to coats of arms, weapons, and procedure. The date of the poem is the subject of controversy. ‘King Richard’ is thought to be Richard of Cornwall, who was a German King (1257-’72). According to this view it is a political poem of this period and an early work of Konrad's.

The verses about the arms of Brittany read:

590 ein herre van Britanje.

der einer grâveschefte wielt,

mit lobe sîne stat behielt

und siner edelkeite reht

blanc ande rôt schâchzabeleht

595 wart sin glanzer schild gesehen

ein ort lie sich dar inne spehen

daz was mitalle wiz hermîn

dar ûz diu kleinen zegellin

des hermelînes lûhten,

600 diu swarz geverwet dûhten

A lord of Brittany

who reigns a county

laudably preserved his place

and honoured his nobility

white and red diamonds

were seen on his shining shield

a place let itself be observed on it

which was all of white ermine

in which the little tails

of the ermine shone

being painted black

.....which makes the arms: Chequy Gules and Argent, a canton ermine.

2nd Equestrian seal of John I the Red, 1263

Arms: Chequy, a canton Ermine. L.:

All later sources however give the arms: Chequy Azure and Or, a bordure Gules and a canton ermine.

John II



Count palatine of France 09.1297

As a son of John I John II added a bordure Gules to the arms of his father (and changed te colours). It can be found on a window in the south transept of Chartres Cathedral, probably made at the occasion of his wedding with Beatrice of England in 1260.

                Arms of the Duke of Brittany         

on a lancet window of the south transept of Chartres Cathedral

John II and Beatrice of England are dressed in such a coat of arms on other windows of the south transept of Chartres Cathedral

Beatrice of England in Chartres [7]

These arms are confirmed by some 13th century rolls of arms:

Walfords Roll, 1273.: Le contee de Bretaigne, chequy d'or et d'azure un canton d'ermin un border gulez. [8]

Wijnbergen fol. 26r  n° 921: Chequy 5Í6 Or and Azure a bordure Gules and a canton ermine.

Wijnbergen fol 27v° n° 1017: Chequy 6Í6 Azure and Or a bordure Gules and a canton ermine.[9]

Seal and counter seal of John II

Seal:  Knight on horseback with coat of arms and shield: Chequy [Or and Azure] a bordure [Gules] and a cantron ermine. L.: X S IOHANNIS [........] RICHEMONDIE

Counterseal: Arms: as before. L.: X CONTSIG [....]  DVCIS BRITANIE CONT RICHEM

Date: 1302 [10]

His recumbent statue shows him with the shield chequy with bordure and canton:

In 1821 his recumbent statue was united with the recumbent statue of his son John III

Arthur II


John III the Good


The arms Ermine plain appears in 1316 on a counterseal on a confession of a debt of £ 300 written by the duke for the Lord of Avaugour and again in 1318 (in the archives of Morbihan). [11]

After his death in Caen his corpse was interred in the Church of Carmelites of Ploërmel. His recumbent statue shows him with a shield ermine plain

Breton War of Succession 1341-1364

John III's half-brother, John of Montfort, claimed the title of Duke, but his claim was rejected by the King of France who favored the competing claims of Joan of Penthièvre, and her husband Charles of Blois, who also claimed the Ducal title. John III's brother Guy de Penthièvre had predeceased him and left his daughter, Joan as a claimant to the Ducal Crown. In 1337 Joan married Charles de Blois. The Breton War of Succession between the claimants ensued when John of Montfort refused to cede his own rights in their favor. The Breton War of Succession was fought from 1341 to 1364 between these two Breton houses, the House of Blois and the House of Montfort.

John of Montfort




John de Montfort claimed the title John IV, Duke of Brittany, but was largely unable to enforce his claim for more than a brief period. Because his claim to the title was disputed, he has been referred to as simply "John de Montfort" (Jean de Montfort).

The arms of John (IV) de Montfort are in Bellenville Armorial fol 1v° n°15:



mōfort: Quarterly Ermine plain and Gules a lion queue fourchée Argent.


Charles of Blois


Arms of the Duke of Bretagne

In the Bellenville Armorial fol 23v° [12]


These arms are thought to have been of Charles of Blois, because its crest is different from the crests of his predecessors and successors. [13]


1345 Charles de Blois. A.: D'ermines plein. L.: SIG KAROLI DVCIS BRITANIE. D.: 18 Sept. 1345. [14]


House of Montfort

John IV, the Conqueror



Knight of the Garter n° 54, 1375


Having achieved victory in the Breton War of Succession with English support (and having married into the English royal family), John was constrained to confirm several English barons in positions of power within Brittany, which gave the English military access to the peninsula and which took revenue from Brittany to the English crown. This English powerbase in Brittany was resented by the Breton aristocrats and the French monarchy, as was John's use of English advisors. However, John V declared himself a vassal to king Charles V of France, not to Edward III of England. This gesture did not placate his critics, who saw the presence of rogue English troops and lords as destabilizing. Faced with the defiance of the Breton nobility, John was unable to muster military support against Charles V, who took the opportunity to exert pressure over Brittany. Without local support, in 1373 John was forced into exile once more in England.

However, Charles V made the mistake of attempting to completely annex the duchy to France by force of arms in 1378. The barons revolted against the annexation and invited John V back from exile in 1379. He landed in Dinard and took control of the duchy once more with the support of local barons. An English army under Thomas of Woodstock, 1st Duke of Gloucester was landed at Calais and marched towards Nantes to take control of the city. However, John reconciled with the new French king Charles VI and paid off the English troops to avoid a confrontation. He ruled his duchy thereafter in peace with the French and English crowns for over a decade, maintaining contact with both, but minimising open links to England. He also managed to extricate Brest from English control in 1397 using diplomatic pressure and financial inducements (Wikipedia)


His arms are in Gelre Armorial:

1365 ca Arms: Ermine. Crest: A ducal hat with a lion statant between two trunks of the arms. (Gelre fol. 71 v° )

In chief the banners of Richmond and Montfort the two other possessions of John

L’Ordre de l’Hermine

The Order of the Ermine was founded at the occasion of the triumphant return of duke John IV in his duchy whre he had been chased away by his barons because of his anglophilia. Because of the intrigues of king Charles V of France to annex the duchy the Breton, rivalling parties united into a ‘sacred union’ and recalled him.

On 22 June 1381 John appeared in the States of Brittany to prepare his voyage to the French court to pay homage to Charles VI. Guillaume de Saint-André, secretary and biographer of John, writes about this assembly :

 « Il fist assembler les prelaz, abbez et clercs de touz estatz, barons, chevaliers, escuiers qui lors portoint nouveaulx coliers de moult bel port, de belle guise, et estoint nouvelle devise de doux roletz bruniz et beaux couplez ensemble de doux fermaulx et au dessouz estoit l’ermine en figure et en coleur fine ; en deux cedules avoit escript : A ma vie, comme j’ay dit ; l’un molt est blanc et l’autre noir, il est certain, tien le pour voir »

(He called together the prelates, abbots and clerics of all estates, lords, knights and squires who bore new collars of great beauty, and the new motto being on two brown beautiful little straps tied together with soft knots and below was the ermine of nice shape and color; on two scrolls was written : A ma vie, as I have said,  one being white and the other black, to be sure, as you can see.)

But no representations or samples of these collars have been preserved. [15]

The motto referred to the return ‘For Life ’ to Brittany of John IV, Brittany being symbolized by the ermine.

Soon after the creation of the order its motto and emblem were engraved on the signet of John IV. [16]

Signet of John IV, 1385

Emblem: An ermine with a mantlet ermine and a ribbon with the motto "A MA VIE" below.

Date: 1385. [17]

They are also on his equestrian seal of 1398 between the forelegs of his horse:

Equestrian Seal of John IV, 1398

Paris, A. N., coll. des sceaux,  S. 8150

After the death of John IV the ermine and mantlet became in fact an imprese or badge of the dukes of Brittany. No collar of the so-called order of the Ermine is known from their rule until the annexation of the duchy in 1532.

On the contrary a collar is known from the 

Ordre de l’Épis (Order of the Spike) founded by Francis I in 1447.  This collar is represented around the arms of the duke of Brittany in the armorial of Conrad Grüneberg (1480), the duke qualified as Der herzog von Britany gundestabel und der best fürst in perlament zu franngkreich’.

The collar consists of plaited stalks of grain and spikes, a running ermine hanging from a little chain in base. 

Such a collar Francis II (†1488) is wearing on his recumbent statue on his tomb in Nantes cathedral.










Å The arms of the duke of Brittany

in ‘Das Wappenbuch Conrads von Grünenberg, Ritters und Bürgers zu Constanz’. Ca, 1480

(Bayrische Staatsbibliothek Hss. 145 fol. 95)

Francis II wearing the collar of the Ordre de l’Épis

Nantes Cathedral

After him the character of a impresa or badge of the ermine-and-motto is the more manifest in the the way his daughter and granddaughter used the emblem.


Crowned Ermine

 Blois Castle


Ermine and scroll

Amboise Castle

In 1532 it is said, the order was abolished on the pretext that the kings of France had no need of an Order that would encourage Breton particularism. [18]

Nevertheless, the collar of the order of the spear was respresented in the time of french rule even when the order did not exist officially. In the 18th century finally a collar for the Order of the Ermine was created. It existed of two circular straps enclosing nine ermines-and-mottoes and was combined with the longer existing design of the collar of the Order of the Spike.


Æ See also illustrations below



John V


30th Knight of the Fleece St. Omaars 1440

1407: Emblem: A lion with a mantlet ermine. D.: 24.07.1407. (Douët d'Arcq n° 555)

Mannequin of “le duc de bretaigne

From the “Grand Armorial Equestre de la Toison dOr.”

Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, MS. 4790


The crest is a-typical and has to be a lion statant instead of a swan issuant.

In Bergshammer Armorial (1440 ca) the arms are emblasoned  on fol. 167 r°,   2557:

Armoiries: de herm plein, C.: un chapeau de gu. rebrassé d’herm. sommé d’un lion arrêté d’or entre 2 cornes d’herm., cap de gu. [19]

Arms of John V , Knight of the Fleece

Coll. British Library

Arms: Ermine plain (7th Chap. Gent. 1445: Messire Jean Duc de Bretagne Comte de Montfort. Trepassé).

Francis I



Equestrian seal of Francis I, 1442

Peter II


Arms of Brittany

in the Armorial LeBlanc, 1456

Arthur II of Richmond


Francis II


The Duke of Brittany in tournament

From: Le Livre des tournois ("tournament book"; Traicte de la Forme de Devis d'un Tournoi) by René d'Anjou of ca. 1460. Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (MS Fr 2695) fol.45v.


Arms of the Duke of Brittany

 From: Livro do Armeiro Mor (1509)



¥ 1 Charles VIII of France

¥ 2 Louis XII of France






Anne of Brittany's first marriage to Maximillian was declared illegal with the argument that the French King had not approved it under the terms of the Treaty of Verger. Anne was married to Charles VIII of France in a ceremony that was validated by Pope Innocent III. Once they were married, Charles would not allow Anne to use the title Duchess of Brittany. However, upon his death of 7 April 1498, Anne returned to Brittany and took steps to return the Duchy to independent rule under herself as Duchess. The children of Charles and Anne did not reach adulthood and this presented a new Breton succession problem as well as one for France. Both succession issues were solved upon Anne's marriage to Louis XII of France (†1515) but at the cost of restoring and furthering the independence of Brittany.

The crowned arms of Louis XII and Anne of Brittany in alliance

Supported by an angel and between their cyphers

Chateau de Blois

Arms of Louis XII and Anne and of Francis I and Claude of Brittany

On the left base is the porcupine-emblem of Louis XII and on the right the salamander-emblem of Francis I.


The motto of Duchess Anne was POTIUS MORI QUAM FŒDARI (Rather Die than be Dishonoured (soiled)). It was adopted, according to a legend, by Anne when, at a hunt, an ermine in winter coat faced its pursuers rather than to take flight through a muddy pool.

The motto can be found in Langeais Castle where the wedding of Anne and Charles VIII took place in 1491.  


¥ Francis I of France



In 1499, the birth Claude of France, Anne of Brittany's sole heir with Louis XII of France, introduced a new succession issue in Brittany and France. In Brittany, with the provisions of the Treaty of Guerande set aside by the Estates of Brittany, Claude could claim to be Duchess of Brittany in her own right, as several Duchesses by right of inheritance had done over the centuries. France, however operated under strict Salic law, requiring a male heir. The French requirement was solved upon Claude's marriage to Francis I of France.


Seal of Claude of Brittany

Arms: PP.: 1. France; 2. ¼ France and Brittany.

Crown: Of five large and four small fleurs de lys

The arms are surrounded by two Wake and Ormond knots

Cypher of Francis I and Claude of Brittany

The birth of Claude's sons Francis (who became Francis III, Duke of Brittany, as well as the Dauphin of France) and Henry II of France represented a resolution to these contrasting succession issues but accelerated the loss of independence of Brittany and the eventual disappearance of the Ducal title as an independent sovereign Ducal crown.

François, Dauphin





Union with France 4 August 1532

Henry  II


Duke of Bretagne 1536-1547

King of France 1547-1559

After Henry II, the title Duke of Brittany was not used for over 200 years. The title Duke of Brittany reappeared when a great-grandson of Louis XIV was named Louis, Duke of Brittany; He was the last holder of the title prior to the French Revolution and in any event did not live to inherit the French throne. At his death the title effectively became defunct.

From about the annexation of Brittany until the French revolution the royal arms for Brittany were a quarterly of France and Brittany which were the arms of Henry II as a duke of Brittany. It is on the attendance fees of the States of Brittany.

Attendance fee of the States of Brittany, 1651

On the reverse the badge of Brittany on a field ermine

Motto: POTIUS MORI QUAM FOEDARI (Rather Die than be Dishonoured)

The Achievement

Counter seal of John VI, 1369

(Arch. Depts. de la Loire Atlantique H 46)

Arms: Ermine plain

Supporters: Two birds respecting

L.: s iohis ducis [....] itanie comitis [....] ortis [20]

Signet of John V

Arms: Ermine plain.

Crest: A lion statant between two trunks of the arms

Supporters: Two lions with mantlets of the arms


Date: 1371 [21] & 1402 [22]

Seal of Richard de Bretagne (*1395-†1438), count of Etampes

Arms.: Ermine.

Crest: A ducal hat with a lion between two trunks.

Supporters: Two ermines. D.: 1427.09.08. [23]

Richard was a son of John IV.

Fragment of counter seal:  Ermine with remains of two lions as supporters. Date: 1461. [24]

Seal of Francis I

Arms: Ermine plain.

Crest:  A lion statant Or between two trunks of the arms.

Supporters: Two lions.

Date: 05.11.1475. [25].

Achievement of the Duke of Bretagne

From : Alain Bouchard: Grandes Chroniques de Bretagne

These chronicles were composed over a couple of years and were encouraged by duchess Anne who gave the author accession to the ducal archives. She, however, died about ten months before the publication  of the work.

Achievement of the dukes of Brittany

Side entry, Castle of the dukes of Brittany, Nantes 1489 ca

Arms:  Ermine plain

Crown: 5 & 4 (ducal crown).

Supporters: Two lions reguardant

Motto: a ma vie (malo au riche duc).

On the counter seal of Anne is about the same achievement:

Arms: Ermine plain

Crown: a ducal crown

Supporters: Two lions

Date: 19.05.1489 [26]

Achievement of the duchess of Brittany

Tour  de la Boulangerie, Castle of the dukes of Brittany, Nantes.

The arms supported by ermines with mantlets of the arms


Achievement of the duchess of Bretagne


On the seal of Claude is also an achievement:

Arms: PP. 1. France; 2. ¼ France and Brittany.

Crown: Of five large and four small fleurs de lys

Supporters: Two ermines proper

Achievement for the Duchy of Brittany

By the french heraldist Robert Louis (1902-’65), 20th cent.

The Arms

Arms of Brittany with the knots of Duchess Anne

From the Tour Tanguy, Brest.

(Coll. Musée Départemental Breton, Quimper)

Arms of Brittany

In a German Armorial, 1580


Photo J.C. Even

Arms of Brittany on a vault in Nantes Cathedral 16th cent (?)

Arms of Brittany surrounded by the collar of the Order of the Spike

On a map of Brittany, 1588

Arms of Brittany, surrounded by the collars of the Orders of the Ermine and the Spike

On the frontispiece of Morice, Pierre Hyacinthe: Histoire Ecclesiastique et Civile de Bretagne, Paris, 1750

Shortly before the French Revolution the leaders of the Parliament of Brittany issued Remonstrances to Louis XVI, in part to remind the King of his duties as Duke and to preserve the privileges of the Breton people under the Treaty of Union. The Remontrances were delivered to the King by Members of the Breton Parliament led by the Comte de Saisy de Kerampuil, and others. The King's response was to close the Breton Parliament.

On  26 February 1790  the province of Bretagne was abolished and its territory was divided into four new départements: Côtes-d'Armor, Finistère, Ille-et-Vilaine and Morbihan.

As no territory of Brittany existed any more, the arms of the former province became obsolete. Nevertheless the famous arms ermine plain were very often used inofficially.

Arms of Bretagne

By Alfred de Courcy: Le Breton, 1842, p. 72

Arms of Brittany in St. Malo, end 19th cent..

Motto: Potius Mori Quam Foedari

Arms of Brittany on a stamp, 1943


Arms for the departments were proposed by the french heraldist Robert Louis. His proposal for Morbihan is used. Finistère uses a coat of arms adopted in 1975.

Côte d’Armor



Ille et Vilaine



In 1982 the Region of Brittany was created. In 1986 the first elections were held. The region consists of the départements Côtes-d'Armor, Finistère, Ille-et-Vilaine and Morbihan, its capital is Rennes.

Logo of the Region of Brittany 1988-2005

A new logo was adopted in 2005.

Æ See illustration in the head of this essay



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© Hubert de Vries 2014-09-08

[1] Chiflet Prinet Roll: Li viconte de Touart porte les armes d’or au fleur de lis d’asur semees et a un cartier de gheules (Gui II vicomte de..) Bellenville: towair touwars: O semé fleurs de lis B, f.q. G. ch. épée haute A. Gelre: Graeve v. Tuwaert: d’or semée de fleurs de lys d’az au quartier de Gu. C. un vol banneret d’arg et de sa., couronne de gu

[2] Douët d'Arcq: Collection des sceaux. T. I, II & III. N°s 532-533. Picture: Centre Historique des Archives Nationales, Paris, France / Giraudon. Photographic Rights The Bridgeman Art Library

[3] Pinoteau, Hervé: Vingt-cinq ans d'études dynastiques. Eds. Christian. Paris, 1982. Pp. 82-84

[4] Douët d'Arcq: n° 534. Such arms also on a seal from 1230: Fox-Davies, Arthur Charles: The Art of Heraldry. An Encyclopaedia of Armory. 1904. Fig. 181: Peter of Dreux, Earl of Richmond                                                    

[5] Brault, Gerard J.: Eight Thirteenth-Century Rolls of Arms in French and Anglo-Norman Blazon. The Pennsylvania State University Press. University Park and London

[6] Douët d’Arcq n° 536

[7] See also:  http://gallica.bnf.fr/RequestDigitalElement?O=IFN-6934201&E=JPEG&Deb=1&Fin=1&Param=D

[8] Brault, Gerard J.: op.cit, N°s C23, Cl24 Cd41.

[9] Adam-Even, Paul & Léon Jéquier: Un Armorial français du XIIIe siècle, l'armorial Wijnbergen. In: Archives Heraldiques Suisses. 1951-’53.

[10] Douët d'Arcq  n° 539

[11] Pinoteau, Hervé: Les Armes de Bretagne. In: Archivum Heraldicum, 1959. P. 56. Pastoureau, M.: L' héraldique Bretonne, des origines a la guerre de succession de Bretagne. Annexe le rôle d'armes de l'ost de Ploërmel, 1294. In: Bulletin de la Societé Archeologique du Finistère. C 1 1073, pp. 121-147.

[12] http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b8470169b/f54.image

[13] Jequier, L.: L'Armorial Bellenville. Paris, 1983. P. 78.

[14] Douët d'Arcq n° 542

[15] Reconstruction in: Boulton D.: The knights of the Crown, the Monarchical Orders of Knighthood in Later Medieval Europe 1325-1520, Woodbridge, 1987. P. 276

[16]Hermine". Devise - CESCM - Les familles | Maison de Bretagne | Jean IV de Bretagne. URL : http://base-devise.edel.univ-poitiers.fr/index.php?id=2073

[17] Douët d'Arcq n° 550

[18] Boulton D. op. cit. pp. 274-278.

[19] Raneke, Jan: Bergshammar Vapenboken - En Medeltidsheraldisk Studie. Lund, 1975.

[20] Douët d’Arcq n° 547

[21] Douët d'Arcq n° 548

[22] Not in Douët d’Arcq

[23] Arch.Nat. Paris., D 706

[24] Douët d'Arcq n° 558

[25] Douët d'Arcq n° 559

[26] Douët d'Arcq n° 560

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