Quarterly coat of arms
quarterly, in the first and fourth sections gold background with black crowned eagle, banded in the second and third of blue and gold with the black eagle in the first golden bend
The bendy coat of arms placed in the second and third quarters is the original coat of arms of the family; the small eagle was later added to the first gold bend as an indication of its belonging to the Ghibelline faction which the Montefeltro family supported. The eagle with a gold background that appears in the first and fourth quarters, which also appears in an autonomous coat of arms, golden with the black eagle (see the incipit pages of Urb. lat. 304, 425, 717, 745, 1139), has a meaning that has been debated. According to some it is the ancient emblem of the city of Urbino, which, once ruled by the bishop count, chose the emblem of the Empire and of the Ghibelline faction as the symbolic expression of the community (see Lombardi, I simboli, pp. 135-136; Cappellini, Araldica Feretrana, p. 80; Caldari, Emblemi, imprese, onorificenze, p. 102; Fenucci, Notes, p. 81). According to others it can be identified as a second coat of arms of the family, formerly used by Oddantonio (1427-1444) in the seal of a letter from 1442, and even earlier by Antonio da Montefeltro (1348-1404) in the seal of a letter dated 1403 and in his tomb (see Conti, Il sigillo, p. 340; Id., L’araldica nei sigilli di Oddantonio, pp. 435-437).
According to the first interpretation, it was Federico who chose the quartering of the shield, who, as the biological son of Count Guidantonio, legitimized two years after his birth, rose to power following the violent death of his brother Oddantonio (d. 1444), a death in which he may not have been uninvolved. He thus wanted to symbolically represent the legitimacy of his succession, which derived from an ancient imperial investiture, but was also supported by the popular consent of the citizens of Urbino.
Urb. lat. 410, f. 1r - Urb. lat. 419, f. 1r
Like the bendy coat of arms, the quarterly coat of arms is often flanked by the letters FC (for Federicus Comes), such as for example in Urb. lat. 651, on f. 3r, or in Urb. lat. 350, on ff. 2v and 46v. Adriana Marucchi had already noticed the same coat of arms in Urb. lat. 642 with the letters OA on the two blue bends next to the center which corresponded to Oddantonio (1427-1444), count and then duke (1443) of Urbino (see Marucchi, Stemmi di possessori, p. 75 nr. 97 e tav. IV,2; pp. 76-77 nr. 101 e tav. XII,1). In recent times, Antonio Conti has found more evidence of the use of the quarterly coat of arms in some seals of two letters by Oddantonio dated or possibly dated to 1443 (see Conti, L’araldica nei sigilli di Oddantonio, pp. 439-452, in particular pp. 431-432 e ntt. 9-10 e pp. 434-435 e nt. 20). The quarterly arm would therefore not date back to the time that Federico came to power and to the events of the alliances secured with the city of Urbino in July of 1444, but it would have been used previously (see Conti, Osservazioni araldiche, p. 66 e nt. 11; Id., Il sigillo, p. 339). It is to be noted that this coat of arms continued to be used even after Federico was awarded the title of duke and appropriated the corresponding augmentation of the coat of arms with the pale of the Church: in the manuscripts it can also be found next to the other two coats of arms (see bendy coat of arms, ducal coat of arms), in a sort of self-celebration of his lineage, or on its own, in manuscripts certainly made for Federico the duke, such as Urb. lat. 713 and 732, in which the lord of Urbino is cited with his new title in the opening rubric (Urb. lat. 732, f. 1r: «Magnanimo ac excelso principi et armorum imperatori clarissimo d[omino] Federico Monfeltrio Urbini duci praestantissimo»).
In general, it has been claimed that there was a longstanding use of the eagle as a totemic animal of the family (Conti, L’araldica nei sigilli di Oddantonio, pp. 439-452; Id., L’araldica nei sigilli della famiglia, pp. 163-172). It has moreover often been noted that the eagle is both an allegorical symbol but also a physiognomic representation of Federico, figuratively recalling his distinctive traits. His aquiline profile became even more prominent after an accident with a sword in 1451 during a tourney. The accident deprived him of the right eye and provoked him to procure a cavity cut from his nose, so as to improve his vision (which makes it even more similar to the face of an eagle; see Federico's portraits). Of the many symbols adopted by Federico, the eagle, as an emblem of the acquisition of political and military power, thus becomes a sort of personal sign that reappears throughout the rooms of the Ducal Palace (Rotondi, Il palazzo ducale, I, pp. 168-175 e 395-399; II, figg. 57-83 e 452-457) as well as in the manuscripts, where it is in addition often depicted as supporting the Montefeltro coat of arms (for examples in Urb. lat. 52, f. 2r, Urb. lat. 324, f. 87r, Urb. lat. 419, f. 1r).It also sometimes appears as crowned (as in Urb. lat. 491, f. [II]v or Urb. lat. 264, f. 1r).
Urb. lat. 52, f. 2r - Urb. lat. 491, f. 1r
Lastly, it should be noted that in the manuscripts, it is sometimes possible to find variations or rather errors in the making of the emblem. For example, in Urb. lat. 350, on f. 2v, the eagle is not found in the first bend of gold of the second and third quarters, while it is present in the coat of arms on f. 46v. In Urb. lat. 52, on ff. 1v e 2r, the eagle is not crowned in the first and fourth quarters; likewise, on f. 1r of the Urb. lat. 9 the eagle is not present in the first bend of gold of the second and third quarters, and it is not crowned in the gold field of the first and fourth quarters. In Urb. lat. 420, in the three coats of arms presented on f. 1r, one bendy and two quarterly, the order of the bends is inverted with respect to the original emblem (gold-blue and not blue-gold); this produces a consequent variation of the position of the eagle, present in the first or second bend of gold, and even twice in the bendy coat of arms.
Urb. lat. 9, f. 1r - Urb. lat. 420, f. 1r