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Bosniahercegovina

Bosnia-Hercegovina

The origin of the arms with the argent between 6 fleur-de-

lys, which is now on the flag of the republic of Bosnia-

Hercegovina, has long puzzled me, but they are in fact the arms

of the Kotromanic family, which ruled Bosnia in the 14th and 1

5th centuries. Other arms have also been attributed to Bosnia in

the 19th century.

I finally thought of a way to get at this question of the

origin of the current Bosnian flag: numismatics, of course. I

found a book by one Ivan Rengjeo, Corpus der mittel-alterlichen

Mnnzen von Kroatien, Slavonien, Dalmatien und Bosnien, Graz,

1959, which is as exhaustive as you can get on the topic (coins

from those regions, that is). I have also consulted an article by

Pavao Andelic on Medieval Seals of Bosnia-Hercegovina, in the

monograph series of the Academy of Sciences and Arts of Bosnia-

Hercegovina (Sarajevo, 1970),but it is in Serbo-Croat, so I can

only look at the (numerous) illustra tions. What follows is a

historical/heraldic account, pieced together from these sources,

and a few encyclopedias. Bosnia was dominated alternatively by

Serbia and, from the 12th c. onward, by Croatia (in personal

union with Hungary) until the early 14th c. Typically, the king

of Hungary and Croatia appointed bans, or local governors; and,

in typical medieval fashion, these bans took advantage of any

weakness of the central monarchy to carve out territories for

themselves.

In the early 14th c., the ban of Croatia was Pavao (Paul)

Subic of Brebir or Breberio (a town in Dalmatia which was given

to the family in 1222): his father and grandfather were counts or

Trau or Trogir, his cousins were counts of Spalato or Split. This

p owerful man titles himself ban of Croatia and dominus Bosniae,

and appoints his brother Mladen I Subic (1302-04) and later his

eldest son Mladen II (1312-14) as ban of Bosnia. His second son

Georg was count of Trau and Split, his third son Pavao was count

of Trau. By the third generation, however, the family had lost

its power. This first dynasty of bans issued byzantine-style

coins, with no heraldry. Their seals, however, show the Subic

arms: an eagle wing displayed, and 5 flowers with stems as crest

(mi sread by Siebmacher as ostrich-feathers). The style of the

arms is very German, with the shield tilted to the left, a German

helm, lambrequins, and a crest. There are no tinctures, but a

junior branch issued from Pavao count of Trau, the Subic de Zrin,

bo re Gules, two wings sable (an interesting violation of the so-

called tincture rule).

Pavao Subic was forced to cede control of Southern Bosnia to

Stjepan otromanic (died 1353); and, in 1314, Mladen II ceded the

banate of Bosnia to him. This established the Kotromanic dynasty

in Bosnia. Stjepan styles himself dei gratia Bosniae banus, which

asserts a fair measure of independence. Stjepan's brother married

Helena, daughter of Mladen II Subic, and his son Stjepan Tvrtko

1353-91) succeeded Stjepan. In 1377, Tvrtko assumed the title of

King of Racia and Bosnia. His seals show the following a rms: a

bend between six fleurs-de-lys, the helm is a hop-flower on a

long stem issuant from an open crown of fleurs-de-lys. The

Kotromanic were close to the Hungarian kings, and Stjepan's

daughter Elisabeth married Louis I of Hungary (reigned 1342-82).

Trvtko I was succeeded by Stjepan Dabisa (1391-98) and Stjepan

Ostoja (1398-1404, 1409-18). The latter's seal shoes different

arms, namely an open crown of fleurs-de-lys and the same helm and

crest as before. Tvrtko's son Tvrtko II (1404-09, 1421-43) used a

seal similar to his father's, with the arms of the Kotromanic

family itself, which are the bend between 6 fleur-de-lys, a

crowned helm with thesame crest.

New coins are issued starting in 1436, markedly Western in

style, which display a full-blown achievement: an escutcheon

bearing the letter T, crowned with an open crown of fleur-de-lys.

The helm is crowned and the crest is a hop-flower on a long stem.

The letter T seems to stand for the name of the king. Later,

around 1450, impressive new gold coins show the Kotromanic arms.

The last kings are Stjepan Tomas Kotromanic (1444-61) and Stjepan

Tomasevic Kotrmomanic (1461-63). The kingdom disappears in

1463 when he is killed by the Turks. In the southern region

called Hum or Chelm, a local ban called Stjepan Vukcic Kosaca

(died 14 66) had proclaimed himself duke or herceg in 1448, and

is recognized by the Holy Roman Empire as duke of Saint-Abbas or

Saint-Sava in some texts (whence the name Hercegovina for that

area). Siebmacher says that the family was descended from the

Byzantine Comneno. The Vukcic family arms appear on the seal of

Stjepan Vukcic, and his successors Vladislav Hercegovic (died

1489), Vlatko Hercegovic (died 1489) and Stjepan Hercegovic (died

1517). namely Gules, three bends argent, crest: a lion issuant

holding in its two paws a banner gules with a double cross argent

(the Hungarian state banne, according to Siebmacher). The same

arms appear on coins issued by a self-proclaimed duke of Split in

the early 15th c., namely on a bend between two crosses, three

fleur-de-lys ben dwise. The remaining question is: where did the

fleur-de-lys in the Kotromanic (and the Vukcic) arms come from?

One distinct possibility is Byzantium, whose style the first

Bosnian coins imitate closely. Byzantine emperors started using

the fleur-de-lys on their coinage soon after the creation of the

empire of Nicaea, after the fall of Constantinople in

1204.

But more realistically, the connection would be with the

Hungarian dynastic struggle which broke out in 1302 with the end

of the Arpad dynasty. The kings of Naples claimed the throne, and

it was during the struggle that, by pledging alliegance to one

side and to the other, the Bosnian bans managed to carve out

their independent fief. The Bosnian dynasty became quite close to

the Angevins, and the daughter of Stjepan, king of Bosnia,

married Louis I, king of Hungary. The kings of Naples were the

Anjou fami ly, a junior branch of the French royal family, and

bore France differenced with a label gules. I can well imagine

the Kotromanic adopting, or being granted, fleur-de-lys on their

coat of arms as reward for taking the Angevin side. For the

moment, Bosnian history books are hard to come by, so I can't

easily confirm my hunch. For some reason, these arms were

forgotten after the 16th century. A 18th c. French genealogy of

the Angevin kings of Hungary blazons the arms of Louis' wife as:

Or, issuing from the sinister flank an arm embowed proper, vested

Gules, holding a sabre Arge nt. These are also the arms

attributed by the Austrians to Bosnia-Hercegovina after it was

annexed from Turkey in 1908. However, a number of 19th century

encyclopedias give yet another coat of arms (for example, the

French Larousse), namely: Gules, a cres cent Argent beneath an

8-pointed star of the same. The crown over the shield is an

Eastern crown, i.e. with "spikes". These arms recall the old

symbol of Croatia on its early coinage. They are also the arms

attributed to the old kingdoms of Illyria and Bo snia in

Siebmacher. There is some evidence for a medieval use of the

shield with the arm holding a saber. William Miller, in Essays on

the Latin Orient (Cambridge, 1921, p.510) describes the arms

displayed in Rome on the tomb of Catherine (died 1478), da ughter

of Stjepan Vukcic duke of Saint-Abbas, and married in 1446 to

Stjepan Tomas Kotromanic, last king of Bosnia (d. 1461): his

description is unfortunately imprecise, but he mentions two

horsemen (which he says is the Kotromanic emblem) and a "mailed

arm with a sword in the center" (which he says represents

Primorje, or the Coastland).

Word Count: 1249



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