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
Münzen 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
Kotromanic (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, whi ch 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 the same 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 a rm with a sword in the center"
(which he says represents Primorje, or the Coastland).


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