How and Why Gunnar Arnell Assumed a Coat of Arms

bild: Davor Zovko 2006 Blazon: Per fess azure and or, a demi-eagle displayed of the last armed gules issuing from a cauldron sable. Crest: A pair of elk antlers sable. Assumed by the retired Certified Clinical Engineer and Nebraska Admiral Gunnar Arnell, Eskilstuna, for himself, his half-brothers and descendants. Heraldic Artist Davor Zovko, KHS.

Short introduction to heraldry in Sweden

Owning of a Coat of Arms in Sweden does not imply nobility. From the 14th century Swedish commoners has adopted Coats of Arms. The distinction between noble and commoner in Sweden is given in the helmet. The open helmet is strictly reserved for the Swedish nobility, while the closed helmet is the only alternative for commoners. There is a government restriction concering this from 1762 still in effect.

No official registration is kept for commoners' Coats of Arms. You have a foundation called The Scandinavian Roll of Arms Foundation (Stiftelsen Skandinavisk Vapenrulla) which registers Arms for a fee to ensure the quality and that no conflicting likeness to other existing arms is present. For a more legally binding protection, you can register your Coat of Arms with the Swedish Patent and Registration Office (Patent- och registreringsverket, PRV). The State Herald only deals with state, provincial, municipal and other public Coats of Arms, but predecessors in the older form of National Herald saw the approbation of a few commoners arms in the 1930'ies.

The Swedish Heraldry Association has been the driving force in several initiaitives. The Association publishes new Coats of Arms in their magazine "Vapenbilden" and in the database The Heraldic Source (Heraldiska källan). The most recent initiative (January 2007) is the Swedish College of Arms (Svenska Vapenkollegiet), which is a joint venture with the Swedish National Committee for Geneology and Heraldry and with participation from the Swedish Heraldry Society.

In 1998 my son Anton was born. It was an experience that touched me deeply, which made me think about the value of family. The family on my father's side is scattered around Sweden - I did not even know the names of all of my cousins and half-cousins. I thought I owed it to my son to get a grip on the family and if possible bring it closer together. I wrote to my paternal uncles and asked them to tell me bit about the family's history and the names and addresses of their children. As I was christened after my grandfather, Jonas Arnell, I particularly wanted to learn more about him. I got a reply from my eldest uncle, who wrote that it actually was impossible that my grandfather was Jonas Arnell. Grandmother had broken with him a few years earlier than my father had known. He stated that my grandfather actually was grandmother's second husband Gunnar Persson.

After some consideration, there are a few indications that this might be true, apart from the timing. Jonas Arnell was not my eldest uncle's father. My eldest uncle's Christian name is the same as his actual father, but was given the surname Arnell to avoid embarassing questions in a small-town community. Likewise, it is probable that my father, as the last of sons, also was given the name Arnell to avoid embarrasement, but the same Christian name as his actual father. Grandmother was separated from but still married to Jonas Arnell when my father was born. My father carries the same Christian name as the new husband, in probable accordance with his eldest brother. In addition, my father finally could understand the meaning of a statement made by Gunnar Persson when my father was a small boy: "Remember, no matter what anyone else says, I am your father". In 2004, this got oral confirmation from the sister of Jonas Arnell, who at that point was still is alive. Jonas sister told my father and uncles that Jonas attempted to get custody over his sons, the second and third of the boys, but not over the first and fourth (my father), as they were not his sons.

(This was substantiated in June 2009 when my father received approporiate documentation from the relevant archive and was able to get a statement from the widow of his elder paternal half-brother. Apparantly, Jonas Arnell was destitute and of poor health. By pointing out him as the father grandmother was able to secure public financial support after the divorce. So the whole affair of who my grandfather is boils down to financial matters...)

My father found himself being the head of a new branch of related persons named Arnell. Taking part in my heraldic interest, he wished to assume a coat of arms for himself (and his descendants). The first part of "Arnell" could be the same word as "örn", meaning eagle. My father was born in Grytan ("The Cauldron") , a small village near Östersund in historical province Jämtland. These two symbols were combined to visualize the idea of a new branch of Arnells arising from Grytan.

bild: Jonas Arnell 2005 bild: Jonas Arnell 2005 bild: Jonas Arnell 2005
First version, 1999-2001 Alternate draft, 1999 Second version, 2001/2002

Two similar drafts were made, with different metals. One draft carried a caulderon sable and an eagle argent. On a shield azure, this would refer to the coats of arms of Jämtland, Östersund and Brunflo who have argent motives on azure shields. The other draft had an eagle or. The interpretation in this case could be directed towards the combination of the historical provinces Jämtland's and Sudermania's coats of arms, the latter a region where my father has lived for the greater part of his life. The azure and or could also be interpreted as a patriotic expression. My father chose or.

After some consideration about whether the crest should be eagle wings either in or - referring to the eagle on the shield - or in sable, referring to the griffin sable on the coat of arms of Sudermania. The choice fell on the latter: sable would balance the tinctures of crest and lanyard against the shield's tinctures. In 2001 they were substituted by elk antlers sable, connected to the life and heraldry of the historical province Jämtland and the city of Östersund which includes Grytan today. There is a family legend that my grandmothers brother was surprised by an elk on Crown land and by reflex unfortuantely shot and killed it on the spot. He managed to salvage the meat/the evidence secretly and just barely avoided discovery. The elk as King of the Swedish forests is a vital ingredient in Swedish folklore.

The reason for the appearant breach of heraldic practise in the early versions by putting azur and sable next to each other was due to a heraldic article in a Swedish magazine, which claimed that black could be placed against both colour and metal (Sinkadus #14, p. 8, 1988). In 2002, the heraldic artist Jesper Wasling suggested that the shield should be per fess in azure and or, and the coat of Arms was then published in the #54 issue of Vapenbilden of the Swedish Heraldry Association.

bild: Ronny Andersen 2002 bild: Anton Arnell 
2003 LEFT The Coat of Arms of the writer for the Member Roll of the Swedish Heraldry Association. Heraldic Artist Ronny Andersen, coloured by Alexander Ulltjärn.

RIGHT The son of the writer, Anton 4,5 years old, wishes for an eagle displayed without the caulderon (2003-05-13). The text means "Anton's + Jonas' + Gunnar's Coat of Arms (Antons + Jnas + Gönnas vapänsöld)

During 2004-2005 I started to make plans for a coat of arms for all the descendents of the originator of our extended Arnell family, the soldier (field ranger) Carl Erik Arnell born 1869 in Lunne, Brunflo, Jämtland. He was born with the surname Åsell and was probably given a new surname when he enlisted. The new arms was supposed to be based on the existing arms, making my fathers arms personal and at the same time fitting into a larger context of Arnell coats of arms. For different reasons, the project did not take off, and instead my father decided to extend the rights to his weapon to all descendents of Carl Erik Arnell (as well as a few name-bearing members of the family without blood relation). With a certain glint in the eye, my father added the motto Festina Lente (Hurry Slowly) in 2005. Then it was submitted for matriculation with the Scandinavian Roll of Arms where appears as number 684/2006.

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