The text of the letters patent:
To All and Singular to whom these presents shall come Peter Llewellyn Gwynn-Jones Esquire Commander of the Royal Victorian Order Garter Principal King of Arms David Hubert Boothby Cheshyre Esquire Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order Clarenceux King of Arms and Thomas Woodcock Esquire Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order Norroy and Ulster King of Arms send Greeting Whereas BRIAN ABEL RAGEN of Southern Illinois University in the City of Edwardsville in the State of Illinois in the United States of America Gentleman Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy of the University of Princeton Associate Officer Brother of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem hath represented unto The Most Noble Miles Francis Stapleton Duke of Norfolk Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order Companion of the Most Honorable Order of the Bath Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire upon whom has been conferred the decoration of the Military Cross Earl Marshal and Hereditary Marshal of England that he is desirous of having Honorary Armorial Ensigns established under lawful authority and recorded in Her Majesty’s College of Arms and hath requested the favour of His Grace’s Warrant for granting such Honorary Arms and Crest and in the same patent such Honorary Device or Badge as we deem suitable to be borne and used by him and his descendants according to the Laws of Arms And forasmuch as the said Earl Marshal did by warrant under his hand and Seal baring the date of September 1997 authorize and and direct us to grant and assign such Honorary Arms and Crest and in the same patent such Honorary Device or Badge accordingly Know Ye therefore that we the said Garter Clarenceux and Norroy and Ulster in pursuance of His Grace’s Warrant and by virtue of the Letters Patent of our several offices granted by The Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty to each of us respectively do by these Presents grant and assign unto the said BRIAN ABEL RAGEN the Honorary Arms following that is to say: Argent on a Bend Azure between two Cat's Faces Sable three Harps or stringed Argent and for the Honorary Crest Upon a Helm with a Wreath Argent and Azure A Bear sejant erect and affronty Sable armed Or the sinister paw raised the dexter paw enveloping a Book proper bound Or garnished and clasped Azure Mantled Gules doubled Argent as in the margin hereof more plainly depicted And by the Authority aforesaid We do further grant and assign the following Honorary Device or Badge that is to say: Within a Annulet flory on the outer edge of twelve Or the Fe de lys in chief Sable a Bear sejant erect and affronty Sable armed Or the sinister paw raised the dexter paw enveloping a Book proper bound Or garnished and clasped Azure as herein depicted the whole to be borne & used forever hereafter by the said Brian Abel Ragen and by his descendants with their due and proper differences and in accordance with the Laws of Arms In Witness whereof We the said Garter Clarenceux and Norroy and Ulster have to these Presents subscribed our names and affixed the Seals of our several Offices this Twelfth day of July in the Forty-seventh year of the Reign of Our Sovereign Lady Elizabeth the Second by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of her other Realms and Territories Queen Head of the Commonwealth Defender of the Faith and in the year of Our Lord One thousand nine hundred and ninety-eight.
The significance of the emblems in the illuminated border
I. Arms representing the authority by which the grant is made. At the top are three coats of arms, those of H.M. the Queen flanked by those of the Earl Marshall, the Duke of Norfolk, on the left and the College of Arms on the right. In the right border are the arms of the three kings of arms, showing their arms of office impaled with their personal arms and ensigned with the crowns of kings of arms.
II. Purely decorative elements symbolic of Professor Ragen's life and connections. Eagles, which are symbolic of the United States and of the Eagle Scout rank Ragen achieved as a Boy Scout. Cougars, for the mascot of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Peacocks, which are symbols of the resurrection and also an emblem of Flannery O'Connor, who both raised and wrote about them. (O’Connor is the subject of Ragen's first book.) California Brown Bears, symbolic of California, Ragen’s native state, over which the Bear Flag of the California Republic flies. Owls, symbols of wisdom and scholarship, as well as the mascot of Bryn Mawr College, at which Ragen taught early in his career. Sagehens, for the mascot of Pomona College. Dogs, symbols of loyalty—and of the Ragen’s love for dogs. (The dogs were to be Old English Sheepdogs—like Ragen’s own companion Charlotte—but became heraldic dogs, Talbots.) Goldfinches, symbols of music and especially of Ragen’s own musical interests as a recorder player. (During the Eighteenth Century recorder players often taught Goldfinches baroque tunes and flourishes; music was especially written for the purpose.) The goldfinches were also to recall the finches that visit Ragen's home, but the artists, quite naturally, depicted European rather than American goldfinches. Tigers, for the mascot of Princeton University.
The private symbolism of the Arms and Crest
The harps in the arms are for Professor Ragen’s Irish heritage and the black cats for his love for animals. The bear in the crest alludes to the Bear Flag of California. That he is clutching a book, raising a paw in menace, and growling represents Ragen's daily life as Professor of English Language & Literature at a state university.
Source of the motto:
“One Faithful Harp Shall Praise Thee” is taken from Tom Moore's song, “The Minstrel Boy.”
The College of Arms cannot grant arms to citizens of countries where H.M. The Queen is not sovereign—nor, for that matter, in Canada or Scotland, which have their own heraldic authorities to exercise that portion of her powers. The College may, however, grant honorary arms to Americans who can prove descent from a British subject or who have been honored by the Queen. Membership in the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem constitutes such an honor. Honorary arms confer exactly the same rights and privileges as do the arms granted to British subjects.
The text of the letters patent: