The League of the Upstalsboom

Counts and princes of Ostfriesland

Other Cirksena’s


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The League of the Upstalsboom



In the 13th century, the Frisians recognized the authority of a kind of central court, the Verbond van de Upstalsboom (The League of the Upstalsboom). This was primarily intended to settle the endlessly lingering family feuds. In the 14th century, the League profiled itself in a more modern constitutional sense. It then had rules and conducted its own international policy. The seal of the League [1] shows an image of the Holy Virgin with little Jesus on her lap. She is holding a lily scepter in her right hand. This figure may have been chosen because of the separate position that the Frisians demanded for themselves in the Empire. In addition, the worship of Mary was widespread in Friesland. [2] The Upstalsboom seated in Aurich for a long time.


The seal shows the seated Virgin Mary with a lily-septre in her right hand, between two standning warriors in coat of mail, and with shields, armed with resp. a sword and a spear. In base two kneeling monks and between a cross patée fitchée and a cross patée.



Seal of the League of the Upstalsboom, 1324

plaser cast, Museum Aurich


The Upstalsboom, Opstalsboom or Opstalboom, Old Frisian: Upstallesbâm is the name of an old 'court place' at Aurich in Ostfriesland. During the time of the Frisian Freedom, the Upstalsboom was the meeting place of representatives from all Frisian areas. They consulted there and formed the highest body of appeal in disputes.

Representatives of the Frisians met at the Upstalsboom in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries to judge, make decisions and, if necessary, to defend their autonomy (the so-called 'Frisian freedom'). The meetings took place once a year on Tuesday after Pentecost. The delegates were elected to their home country at Easter and were called ‘The Sworn’

The first known meeting took place in 1156 to break the disagreement between two East Frisian areas. Meetings at the Upstalsboom between 1216-1231 and 1323-1327 have been demonstrated on the basis of documents. [4]


Oldest known representation of the Upstalsboom

By C.B. Meyer, 1790 [5]


The successor of the League, the Ostfriesian Estates, were granted a coat of arms by Emperor Leopold I in 14.01. / 24.01.1678*.


Grant of arms to the Estates of Ostfriesland 1678


The East Frisian landscape bears the coat of arms granted by Emperor Leopold I. on 14.01./ 24.01.1678 to the Ostfriesisian estates. It shows in a red shield a green oak tree on a green hill,  representing the Upstalsboom, standing next to it a man in armoury, a lance in his right hand and a sword in his left hand, with a white helmet and two blue feathers on his head. And for crest an arm in armoury, ensigned with a blue ribbon, swinging a sword which is a badge of supreme command.


The fact that the Ostfriesische Landschaft, as a representation of the civic estates, was allowed to bear its own coat of arms next to the official count's or princely coat of arms, is not only a special feature, but also a unique feature in Germany. Nowhere else were people's representatives with a ruling house put on a par. Thus, the hitherto rather absolutist ruling dynasty of Cirksena in East Frisia had to actually deal with a parliament (if not freely chosen).


Arms of the Ostfriesische Landschaft

As in the Ständesaal of the Ostfriesische Landschaft


Counts and princes of Ostfriesland


East Frisia originally reached from the Ems to the Jade but the East Frisian counts only controlled the area without the Lordship of Jever belonging to Oldenburg.

East Frisian coins usually showed the arms of the principal chief. That of Ocko tom Brock was perhaps an eagle, as later depicted in Siebmacher: Red, a golden crowned eagle with two crowns on the wing tips. Crest: A crown and a golden eagle with red wings. [6]


Coin of Ocko tom Brock 1417-‘27





Ulrich I Cirksena

Chief Headman of Ostfriesland *1408-†1466

Recognized 1453

Count of Ostfriesland 1454-1466


In 1454, Ostfriesland became an Imperial County. It was ruled until 1744 by counts from the  Cirksena family.

The coat of arms of this family was originally a harpy or siren as seen on an Ulrich Cirksena coin (1441-'64) [7], but under his reign four six-pointed stars were added. [8]


Undated (1441-1464), 1/2 Krummsteert,


Ulrich Cirksena Chief of the Norderlandes, Kappelhof 10, Tergast 85, edge split,

Obv.: Harpy between four 5 pointed stars. Rev.: Cross between four six-pointed stars pierced.


A helmet-and-crest introduced:

Ulrich Cirksena, 1441-1464 Olde Vleemsche. Undated, 2.36 g. Kappelhoff 77.


Arms: Harpy between stars

Crest: Fleur de lys


The siren should be read as an eagle with the head of the king in this case.


Theda Ukena

Regent 1466-1480


Enno I Cirksena




Photo H.d.V. 1998

Memorial shield of Enno I Cirksena


The memorial shield of Enno I Cirksena (1483-’91) preserved in Emden originates from Mariental Monastery in Norden. It shows a coat of arms of a golden harpy between four six-pointed stars, crested  of a fleur de lys..The legend reads: In the year of the Lord 1491 on 19 februari the noble lord Enno, knight and second count of Ostfriesland died.


Edzard I




The same coat of arms was borne by Edzard I (1491-1528), Enno II (1528-1540) and Edzard II (1561-1566

Edzard I. 1491-1528 Doppelstüber, 1504. 2.30 g. Kappelhoff 101.


Obv.: Alliance: eagle and lion. Supporter: Harpy between stars

Rev.: Arms: ¼:1&4: Eagle (Ten Brook); 2&3: Lion (Ukena). In nombrill point: Harpy (Cirksena).


Enno II




From the Cirksena Mausoleum


Enno II. 1528-1540 Schaf o. J. (1530). 3.21 g. Kappelhoff 164. 


Enno II. 1528-1540 Halbwitte o. J. (1530). 0.58 g. Kappelhoff 174..


Anna of Oldenburg 

regent 1540-1561


Edzard II





Edzard II., Christoph und Johann, 1540-1566 Taler 1564. Emden 27.74 g. Kappelhoff 204 var.


Obv.: Harpy between stars

Rev.: Bust of emperor Ferdinand I


John II





Edzard II




Enno III




Rudolf Christian

1602- †17 1628



The most common coat of arms of East Frisia today is the coat of arms of the East Frisian countal family Cirksena. In its present form, it was established in 1625 by Rudolf Christian and unites the arms of the most important East Frisian chieftains, to which the Cirksena family was related and whose possessions they took ove


Ulrich II



Arms of Eastern Frisia,

Pulpit of the St Aegidienkriche in Stedesdorf, 1635


Arms: 1/6: 1. Cirksena; 2. Ten Brook; 3. Argent, a fess Gules charged wit six diamonds Argent and Or between three crescents Sable 2 and 1. (Manslagt); 4.Azure, a lion Argent halstered of a crown reversed Or (Ukena); 5. Esens; 6. Wittmund.

Crest: D.: Ten Brook; I. Cirksena; S.: Wittmund


Juliana of Hesse-Darmstadt

*1606; †1659

regent 1648-1651



Memorial medal of the sons of Juliana of Hessen-Darmstadt, 1659

Landesmuseum Württemberg, Stuttgart / Adolar Wiedemann


On the obverse the arms of Juliana of Hesse-Darmstadt:

Arms: ¼: Katzenelnbogen, Ziegenhain, Nidda, Dietz (Hessen-Darmstadt). And in nombril point 1|2 of Cirksena and Ukena. 

Crown: Of five leaves.




Enno Ludwig


Count 1651 - Prince 1654-†1660


Siebmacher writes about the arms of Ostfriesland (Großes and algemeines Wappenbuch, Bd. I.i.2. 1909, Taf. 122):

Über das Fürstliche Wappen enthalten die Fúrstendiplome von 1654 und 1669 keinerlei bestim-mungen. In jener Zeit blieb den Reichsfürsten die festellung ihrer Wappen nach eigenem Ermessen überlassn. Wir können daher met einer Beschreibung des Wappens welches die Fürsten bis zu ihren Aussterben geführt haben, diese Erörterung schliessen...


.....follows the description of the six-fielded arms nowadays ascribed to Rudolf Christian, 1625. On the plate are thE arms of Cirksen-Rietberg and Rudolf Chistian, and of Ten Brook and Ukena.


Georg Christian




Christine Charlotte of Württemberg


regent 1664-1690


1/3 taler of Christine Charlotte


Obv.: Crowned Arms of Württemberg: ¼: Württemberg, Teck, Ensign of the Empire; Bar. In nombril point: Cirksena. With closed crown.

Rev. Crowned princely arms of Ostfriesland also with closed crown.


On the reverse the six-fielded arms of Ostfriesland


Christian Everhard

1665; †1708



Crowned arms of Ostfriesland

date unknown



Christian Eberhard, 1690-1708 1/3 Taler o. J. (1701). 11.27 g. Knyphausen 6539.


On both coins the crowned princely arms of Ostfriesland.


Prince Christian Eberhard had concluded on 20 March 1691 a hereditary fraternity treaty with the Guelphs, which provided in case of the extinction of Cirksena the transfer of ownership of  Ostfriesland to Hanover, and in case of the extinction of the House of Hanover the transfer of the counties of Hoya and Diepholz to East Frisia. The emperor did not confirm this contract, but gave the Elector Frederick III. of Brandenburg on 10 December 1694 the entitlement to Ostfriesland, already requested by his father


Georg Albrecht





Georg Albrecht, silver medal, 1708 by I. Selter, for his homage. Bust in armoury, with mantle

Warship at sea with harpy on the rear and on the flag the cypher GA crowned with a princely crown

(57,08 mm; 71,88 g. Knyph. 6592.)


Photo H.d.V.

Princely arms of Ostfriesland with panoply. On the Marstall in Aurich

from the time of Georg Albrecht (1731-’32)


There were uprisings of the revolting estates against the Prince of East Frisia Georg Albrecht, who were fought down in the Appell-war. In 1732, the emperor amnestied the rebels with the proviso that the old state treaties should continue to form the basis of the East Frisian constitution. This year, King Frederick II added the title „Fürst zu Ostfriesland“ to his title after a patent issued by him in 1732 to document his claim.


Karl Edzard





This coat of arms originates from the main gate of Aurich castle and is now on a wall of the Ostfriesische Landschaft in Aurich.

The elephant is of the Danish Elefantenorden which was granted to Christian Eberhard (1682) Georg Albrecht (1722) and Karl Edzard (1734). Their shields are to be seen in Frederiksborg Castle (Denmark).





In 1734, the last Prince of East Frisia, Carl Edzard, took up his reign. He married Sophia Wilhelmina of Brandenburg-Bayreuth. Carl Edzard's disputes with the Estates led to negotiations between Emden and Prussia, which ended with the Emden Convention, according to which Emden recognized the Prussian right of succession against assurances of his former special rights. When Carl Edzard died on 25 May 1744, King Frederick II of Prussia immediately asserted his right of succession and occupied East Frisia.


Ostfriesland was from 1744 to 1806 a Prussian province with Aurich as the seat of government. 

In that time the six-fielded arms of Ostfriesland was on a little crowned shield in the base of the greater royal achievement of Prussia-Brandenburg.


Greater Royal Arms of Prussia-Brandenburg, 1747


The shield has 36 quarters and is charged with four crowned escutcheons of the arms of the Arch Chamberlain, Prussia, Orange and Ostfriesland.





In 1807 Prussia had to cede its province of Ostfriesland to the Kingdom of Holland as a result of the Fourth Coalition War (1806-1807).



At the incorporation of Ostfriesland into the Kingdom of Holland  in 1807 the old coat of arms  of the  Ostfrisian princes was continued. It is on the collar of the Order of the Unie (1808).





From 1810 until 1813 Ostfriesland was a part of the Empire Français.


In the time of the french occupation Ostfriesland was called Département Ems-Oriental  (Oostereems, also Ooster-Eems, Osterems). It was created on  1 January 1811 Capital: Aurich.





Tablet of the arms of Ostfriesland, 1815

Burgstraße 11 Aurich


The arms of Ostfriesland supported by the Prussian eagle.





After the province had belonged to Prussia from 1813-1815 it came, according to the arrangements of the Congress of Vienna, to the Kingdom of Hannover.


For the administration of the new territory a Provincial Government seated in Aurich was created on 17 June 1817. In 1823 this was changed into the Hannoverian administration of the Landdrostei Aurich according  to the Landdrostei-Ordnung of 18 April 1823 of the Kingdom of Hannover.





After the Kingdom of Hanover had become the Prussian province of Hanover in 1867, the Hanoverian Landdrosteien initially were maintained. Since 1 April 1873 the Prussian Jade area or the city of Wilhelmshaven also belonged to the Landdrostei Aurich and formed an excklave separated by Oldenburg. In 1885, the administrative district of Aurich was formed from the Landdrostei Aurich according to the Prussian administrative structure. At the same time, the Hanoverian offices were replaced by counties (Kreise).

The Prussian administrative district Aurich with its seat in the city of Aurich represented a medium authority of the administration of the province Hanover. It was largely congruent with the former principality Ostfriesland; only the area of the city Wilhelmshaven had belonged until 1853 to the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg and formed until 1937 a Semiexklave of the government district Aurich. The administrative district Aurich existed until 1 February 1978 and then went together with the district of Osnabrück and the administrative district of Oldenburg in the new district of Weser-Ems.


With the adoption of the Greater Prussian royal arms on 16 August 1873, the arms of Cirksena with the harpy were placed in its 31st quarter


The arms of Cirksena

Drawing by Maximilian Gritzner [9]


Wilhelm I von Preußen.......... Fürst zu Ostfriesland (1861-1888)


Gau Weser-Ems


In 1933 Ostfriesland was incorporated in the district Weser-Ems of the  the Greater German Empire.



1945- present


After WWII it came to Lowersaxony


Landkreis Aurich (I)

I. Arms: Gules, an oak-tree (upstalsboom) on a hill Or.

Adopted 1950-05-27


Nowadays it consists of the Landkreise Aurich (1885 [10] and Wittmund (1885-1977 and since 1980):


Landkreis Aurich (II)


II. Arms: 1|2 Azure and Gules, a crowned harpie, between two sixpointed stars pierced of the field and two acorns in base Or.

Adopted 1978-09-13



Arms: Blauw, een gouden kogge met gehesen zeilen, op het fokkezeil de uitkomende beer van Esens, op het grootzeil de karwatsen van Wittmund en op de bezaan de dubbele Rijksadelaar. (Linder)


Other Cirksena’s




Count of Ostfriesland and Durbuy *1506-†1572

                        Knight of the Fleece.  n° 228, 1556


Arms: 1|2: 1. Cirksena; 2. Ukena: ½: 1. Or, an eagle issuant Sable; 2. Parted per bend in chief sinister Azure, a lion rampant Or; in dexter base Azure a lion rampant Or.

Crest: :on a helmet lambrequined Or and Sable, a lion sejant Or between two trunks bendy Or and Sable  .

(Armorial KB Ms. 76 E 10 fol. 61 v° - 3 with the legend Messe Jehan conte de oistfrize).


Arms: 1|2: 1. Cirksena; 2. Ukena: ½: 1. Or, an eagle issuant Sable; 2. Parted per bend in chief sinister Azure, a lion rampant Or; in dexter base Azure a lion rampant Or.

Crest: :on a helmet lambrequined Or and Sable, a lion sejant Or between two trunks bendy Or and Sable .




Count of Ostfriesland and Durbuy *1542-†1600

                        Knight of the Fleece  267, 1586


W.: Als Jan. (Wapenboek KB Ms. 76 E 10 fol. 70 v° - 1 met het opschrift: Messire Maximili cote doostfrize).



Arms: 1|2: 1. Cirksena; 2. Ukena: ½: 1. Or, an eagle issuant Sable; 2. Parted per bend in chief sinister Azure, a lion rampant Or; in dexter base Azure a lion rampant Or.

Crest: :on a helmet lambrequined Or and Sable, a lion sejant Or between two trunks bendy Or and Sable  .


John III

Count of Ostfriesland and Lord  of Rietberg *1569-†1625

Knight of the Fleece n° 342, 1618



Arms: 1/3 : 1. Gules an eagle Or (Ten Brook); 2. Cirksena; 3. ¼: 1&4: Or, a bear rampant Sable (Esens); 2&3: Azure two riding crops in saltire Or  (Wittmund).

Crests.: D.: ten Brook; I. Cirksena; S.: Wittmund.



Photo H.d.V. 2008

’s Heerenberg Castle (Gelderland, NL)


Arms: 1/3 : 1. Gules an eagle Or  (Ten Brook); 2. Cirksena; 3. ¼: 1&4: Or, a bear rampant Sable (Esens); d); 2&3: Azure two riding crops in saltire Or (Wittmund).

Crown: Of a count.





Memoral tablet of Leopold, 1635


An original memorial tablet of the House of Ostfriesland and Rietberg from the properties of the St. Catharina Abbey-church  (Rietberg, NRW).



Count of Ostfriesland and Lord of Embden *1569-†1636

Knight of the Fleece n° 343, 1619



Arms: Cirksena


Johann IV


Count of Ostfriesland and Lord of Rietberg 1610-1660 




The arms of Ostfriesland and Rietberg in alliance, supported by two lions is above the entry of St. Jacobus Mastholte church (NRW). Below is the inscription in latin (in translation):


John (IV) Count and lord of Ostfriesland and Rietberg, Lord in Esens, Stedesdorf, Wittmund and Melrich, Chamberlain of His Holy Imperial Majesty, aide de camp of the spanish majesty’s court marshal and commander -  Anna Katharina, countess and lady of Ostfriesland and Rietberg, Lady in Esens, Stedesdorf, Wittmund and Mellrich, born Countess of Salm and Reifferscheid, lady in Betburg, Dyck, Alfter and Hakenbroch. ANNO 1653.


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 © Hubert de Vries  Updated 2019-07-08




[1] Paris, Archives Nationales.

[2] On the seals and arms of Drenthe there is a seated Virgin Mary with Jesus

[3] Probably these monsk represent the Cistercienzer abbot of Klaarkamp Monastery (Monasterium beate Maria de Claro Campo', near Dokkum (1163-1580)  and  the Benedictine abbot of Feldwerd (near Appingedam 1183) of the diocese of Utrecht and consecated to The Holy Virgin, St. Peter and Paul. The cross patée fitchée  is of the later Delmenhorst.

[4] Wikipedia

[5] Wikipedia

[6] Numismatic collection of the Ostfriesisches Landesmuseum, Neutorstraße Emden, n° 76a

[7] Emden OLM n°s 97 & 98a.

[8] Emden, OLM n°104

[9] Gritzner, Maximilian: Landes- und Wappenkunde der Brandenburgisch-Preußischen Monarchie. Geschichte ihrer einzelnen Landestheile, deren Herrscher und Wappen. Carl Heymanns Verlag. Berlin, 1894.

[10] In 1977 the Landkreis Norden was added to Aurich. Norden: Argent a mill Azure decorated with a shield: 1|2: 1. Azure a dimidiated eagle Argent and three stars Or pierced of the field; 2. Or, a gate and three fesses wavy in base Azure. (Stadler)