The Armorial of Haiti

22 January 2010

Symbols of Nobility in the Reign of Henry Christophe

Edited with an essay, commentary and appendix by Clive Cheesman, Richmond Herald.


A historical introduction by Marie-Lucie Vendryes

And a preface by Her Excellency Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada.

ISBN 978-09506980-2-1 (hard cover). viii + 216 pp., colour illustrations throughout. Price in the UK £45. Published 2 May 2007.

Important Announcement

By decision of the College of Arms all proceeds arising from the sale of this book will be donated to the international effort for the relief of Haiti following the calamitous earthquake of 12 January 2010.

Henry Christophe (1767-1820), Haiti's only king, was one of the most unusual figures in nineteenth-century Caribbean history. Of obscure origins, he served under the famous Toussaint Louverture in the war of independence that turned the French colony of Saint-Domingue into the free nation of Haiti. Three years later, in 1807, Christophe assumed control of the northern part of the country as president and generalissimo, and in 1811 he made himself king.

One of King Henry's first acts was to create a court and a nobility, elevating his leading supporters to the rank of chevalier, baron, count, duke or prince, and to grant coats of arms to every title-holder. The Armorial Général du Royaume d'Hayti, published in its entirety here, is a contemporary manuscript from Haiti (now preserved in the collections of the College of Arms with the shelfmark JP.177) recording in colour the arms of the king himself, the queen, the prince royal, the capital city (Cap-Henry, now Cap-Haïtien) and 87 men who held titles of nobility between 1812 and 1814.

The heraldry of the short-lived kingdom of Haiti is intriguingly both like and unlike its European equivalents. Like them, it is replete with curious beasts and monsters, and the accoutrements of war ancient and modern. The charmingly painted domestic animals and fowl, however, and the occasional, disarming appearance of more mundane items such as a watering-can, a bookcase or a rake, show that the European basis of heraldry has been taken and developed with considerable inventiveness and fantasy.

This book will fascinate anyone interested in heraldic art and design, in monarchical and national symbolism, or in the history of the Caribbean and the aftermath of slavery.

The Armorial of Haiti can be purchased from the College of Arms, either by visiting the College in person, by sending a cheque to the College at the address below, or by placing an on-line order and paying with PayPal by clicking the button below. Remember to add the necessary packing and postage cost for the address you wish the book to be sent to.

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