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History of Heraldry

Heraldry has been defined to be the science that teaches how to blazon and explain in proper terms whatever relates to armorial bearings, and how to arrange or dispose regularly diverse arms upon a coat or shield.



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Heraldry has been defined to be the science that teaches how to blazon and explain in proper terms whatever relates to armorial bearings, and how to arrange or dispose regularly diverse arms upon a coat or shield.

This definition, however, is inaccurate, as the regulation of armorial bearings is but a portion of the office of the Herald and the science of Heraldry, strictly speaking, includes the knowledge of every duty devolving on such officer-the marshalling of cavalcades, processions, the ordering of coronations and funerals, installations of knights, creation of peers, proclamation of war or peace and so forth. That portion of Heraldry of which the present work treats would be more properly designated ARMORY, which was the term used by our early English writers.

Armorial bearings are marks of honour made up of fixed and determined colours and figures either hereditary or bestowed by Sovereign Princes as a reward for military or other service, and which serve to denote the descent and alliances of the bearer, or to distinguish states, cities, and societies, whether civil, ecclesiastical, or military.

Writing in 1793, Dallaway says, "Heraldry in its present state has just pretensions to be ranked in the circle of sciences, so general in its usage, so infinitely various in its discriminations, and so classical in its specific differences, that if system be the groundwork of science, this claim may be fairly advanced. Yet this has been the effect of successive ages in the progress from its invention for military regulation, when the rudest symbols were sufficient for the chief purpose, that of distinction of one man, or band of men from another, to its connection with the graphic art, when the most shapeless delineations, which were from the first cause only attractive, became splendid by painting and enamel."

The Science has been traced to remote antiquity-to the Egyptians, the Greeks, Romans, and so forth, and ridiculous claims have been made by its votaries alleging the usage of their hieroglyphics, devices or marks, whether on shield, banner, or medal, to be the indubitable prototypes of modern coats of arms.

Armorial bearings have been by these visionaries assigned even to Adam in the Garden of Eden, and to Noah, Joshua, David, and others. The twelve tribes of Israel no doubt had certain emblems or devices peculiar to each, and there are even some traces of specific devices being successively used by father and son and so downwards soon after the intrusion of the Roman Empire by the Goths and Vandals, but there is obviously a broad distinction between national and tribal badges or symbols, or even figures placed on helmets and shields of warriors for the sake of distinction, and those devices adopted by families as the exclusive property of themselves and their posterity.

The heroes and leaders celebrated by Homer, Virgil, and Ovid evidently bore distinguishing marks upon their shields and helmets, and Alexander the Great is said to have bestowed badges on his Captains and great soldiers, which it was forbidden any others to assume. These special marks of the Sovereign's favour were obviously conferred in order to excite emulation, by distinguishing meritorious services rendered to the State, but such marks of favour cannot be properly regarded in the same light as heraldic bearings.

The necessity of distinguishing the individual in the joust, the tournament, and in battle was no doubt the origin of the assumption of many particular personal bearings. This custom with regard to heraldic devices, properly so called, cannot be traced earlier than the 11th century, but the Leges Hastiludiales of Henry the Fowler in 938 rather assume an earlier usage, for they required the combatants in Tournaments to prove the bearing of their families for at least four generations of gentilitial ensigns.

Mr. Planché, in his work, "Heraldry founded upon Facts," and Mr. Nichols, the Editor of "The Herald and Genealogist," in a series of articles in that periodical in 1855 on "The Origin and Development of Coat Armour," take the view that arms cannot be shown to be hereditary until the 12th or 13th century, but there are no doubt a few exceptions. The majority of Coats used in the time of Henry III, as shown in the "Glover Roll," compiled probably about 1240, can be traced backwards to the middle of the 12th century, and this would show a considerable number born in the time of King Stephen. Although heraldic bearings were even then assuming a definite form, yet Richard I is the first King of England known to have adopted a heraldic bearing. On the great seal (1189) he bore the two lions for the Duchies on Normandy and of Poictou of Maine. In his second great seal (1198) he added a third lion for the Duchy of Acquitaine or according to some for Anjou.

A seal of Richard de Lucy before 1153 displays a fish or luce which the family bore for centuries afterwards. Waleran, Earl of Mellent, who died in 1166, bore chequy which his family continued long afterwards. Swallows were born on the shield of an Arundel in the time of Henry II and have ever since been their bearing. Gilbert de Clare, who died in 1148, sealed with three chevrons, a device used by his descendants as also by the Earls of Hertford and the family of Montfichet descended from his father.

The tendency of former days was to refer all things to a remote antiquity, while that of modern times is to attribute the origin of as much as possible to a later period. There has been excess in both directions. It does not follow that because arms were not hereditary in the time of Charlemagne, therefore they were not so before the time of Richard I, any more than because it may be demonstrated that but castles of wood were erected in this country during the reign of William the Conqueror, therefore castles of masonry were not erected before the time of Henry II.

It is but natural that when a man had distinguished himself in the field and the device under which he had fought had become well known and identified with the warrior; he should be regarded as having established a kind of proprietary right to the device. Further that the warrior's son and even his descendants might feel proud to bear the same device, the better to show their connection with the man who, under that device, had distinguished himself. It would stand to reason that the more distinguished would be the earliest from which deduction from father to son might be traced. Consequently though arms may not in the 11th century have become systematically inheritable (many in those days preferring to select fresh devices of their own), yet by the end of the 12th century they had become generally hereditary. Mr. Ellis, in his "Antiquities of Heraldry," endeavours to show that arms were "always as a general rule, hereditary, and that the reverse is only apparent," but however ably he advances his theory; it can only be accepted in a modified sense.

It seems clear that in these early days any knight could have chosen his own device, provided it did not conflict with another's, but what so natural as that a son should adopt a like device with his father, who by usage had, so to speak, acquired a right thereto as against others.

History of Heraldry

At the end of the 10th century we find tournaments held with great magnificence under the auspices of Hugh Capet, and this period probably marks the introduction of the more general assumption and usage of arms.

The Bayeux Tapestry has often been appealed to the favour of certain coats being born at the time of the Battle of Hastings (1066), but this celebrated tapestry, prepared probably under the directions of Bishop Odo by Norman workpeople at Bayeux for their Church there, cannot truly be regarded as furnishing any evidence in that direction. (See "The Bayeux Tapestry: a Description and History," by Frank Rede Fowke, 1875 and 1897.)

It was the practice when knights attended these tournaments to blow a horn announcing their arrival. The herald, who blazoned or described aloud the arms born by the knight, answered this. Blasen in German signifies to blow a horn, and hence arose the term blazon or blazonry, which is the describing of coats of arms in proper terms according to established rules. Coats of arms were probably at first made up of several fillets or narrow pieces of cloth of different colours whence originated the fesse, the bend, the pale, etc., indicating the manner in which these bands were born.

The French prefer to derive the name blazonv from the word blázer (to shine, to blaze) of Celtic origin, often used instead of shield or buckler. The Author of the romance, "William-the Short-Nosed," describing a battle in the twelfth century, writes that the assailants crushed the helmets, broke the blazons in pieces: and in the not less ancient romance of "Garin le Loherain," the hero is overthrown by a terrible blow dealt at his blazon by Chevalier Ivait: in another place, King Amadus, attacking a Gascon, strikes the buckle, or central part, of his adversary's blazon. Blazon, therefore, according to some French writers, must have meant the buckler or the shield.

No doubt the Crusades in 1095 gave a great impetus to the bearing of various devices. Every private soldier wore as a badge of distinction the form of a cross sewed or embroidered on the right shoulder of his surcoat. The cross varied in form and colour and mainly by these was the different nations distinguished. The national distinction of the English was the white cross, as may be gathered from Tasso, who however more particularly refers to the Third Crusade. The colour generally adopted by the French was red and the banner which the King of France received in vassalage from the Abbot of St. Denis was composed of red taffeta or strong silk, and was called Oriflamme. This cross waved at the head of the French armies from the 12th to the 15th century. The Flemings assumed the green cross, and those who belonged to the States of the Church were distinguished by the cross and keys. To this period we may assign the relapse of the cross from its pristine form into the almost indescribable varieties to be met with. The cross fitchée was probably one of the earliest variety, being the form which would offer the greatest convenience for temporary erection and removal.

Guillim, in his treatise, describes 39 varieties of crosses in use, and Legh 41, adding: "You bring in so many crosses and of so sundry fashions that you make me in a manor werye of them." De la Colombière enumerates 72 and Upton declares himself quite unable to catalogue the many kinds in use, while Berry, in his "Encyclopædia Heraldica," sets forth 223, and of Saltiers 29, together 252 varieties. It is true Mr.Hulme, in his excellent "History, Principles, and Practice of Heraldry," 1897, attributes to poor Berry 385 varieties, but the varieties are as we have stated. Mr. Elvin, in his "Dictionary of Heraldry" (1889) exceeds Berry's number, depicting 268 varieties. Two hundred and forty-three varieties of crosses and 42 Saltiers, making in the whole 285, will be found in the present work, and it is apprehended this number has never been exceeded in any published book.

To the Crusaders also we owe the introduction of gryphons, dragons, harpies and so forth, the reflection of the eastern imagination mingled with the romantic element let loose from the western clime. The ordinaries such as the bend, fesse, chevron, chief, etc., were then usually born singly.

The feudal system, tending as it did to military display and personal prowess, aided in the growth of heraldry as a science, and it gradually developed into a complete system adapting itself to the habits and manners of the times. Devices which in their origin embellished the shield armour in time of war, by degrees found a place amidst the appendages of grandeur and magnificence in the intervals of peace; they enriched the most splendid apparel and formed the most highly prized decorations in the dwellings of the great-sometimes not in the most appropriate positions. In the hall of the fortified castle were displayed, pensile against the spacious walls, the shields and accoutrements of its warrior lord, ornamented with those honourable trophies which addressed the imagination in the most impressive manner, operating not only as a memento of past achievements but as a stirring stimulus to future acts of heroism.

From being the ornaments of the warrior they passed into the region of domesticity and formed the chief embellishments of the ordinary attire of those who attended the Royal Court. We find them not only exhibited in architecture, on floors executed in Mosaic work, on brasses, the pilasters on canopies, but also placed over the dormitories of the dead and in conjunction with monumental inscriptions commemorating the honours of the deceased. Many of our venerable edifices still contain these relics, which to the educated present pleasing reminiscences of antiquity and furnish material illustrative of family and national history.

The path to the highest elevation of chivalry was open to the meritorious, and it was customary for the great lords and feudal barons, in order to mark the extent of their power and influence, to keep in constant attendance a numerous retinue of youths, children often of their superior tenants and followers, who by this means acquired that skill in arms and those accomplishments conducive to their future fortunes. The denomination page was given to such previous to their investiture with arms. When the page had acquired due experience and attained maturity he was, if willing, promoted to the position of esquire, when usually attached himself to some knight of renown, each knight being allowed the attendance of a certain number of esquires according to his dignity.

It needs no argument to demonstrate that in the days of a general ignorance of written language the ensigns of heraldry were particularly significant, and found a response more striking than even words could have done. They became as it were the symbolic language of civilization.

Arms were so called from their being principally displayed on bucklers, banners and other apparatus of war; and coats of arms from the custom of embroidering the arms on the tunics and surcoats, which were worn over the arms in a like manner as heralds do to this day on the occasion of public ceremonies such as the coronation of the Sovereign and the like.

The surcoat, cyclas, or tabard was a sleeveless dress, long or short, and open at the sides, back or front according to the fancy of the wearer. It was originally of simple cloth, and being worn over the armour was the only part of the dress in which magnificence could be displayed. As luxury advanced it became richer and was made of cloths of gold and silver, trimmed or lined with rich furs. In time the surcoat became a mark of distinction, and a knight was said to wear a coat of argent, gules, sable, ermine, vair, etc. At length, to render them more distinct the rich materials of which the tabards were composed were formed into different shapes and colours and intermixed, but with an attention to certain rules; and in process of time developed into what, with the crest, was called the coat of arms . The emblazoned supravests were known previous to the Crusades, and were in use during the continuance of mail and mixed armour, but went out of usage when plate armour was worn, as it then became the custom to emboss the arms on the armour, or on the shield or banner. On State occasions in times of peace, however, the tabard retained all its splendour.

Mr. Gough says that the arms sculptured on the shield of the effigy in the Temple Church of Geoffrey de Magnaville, Earl of Essex, who died in 1144, are the earliest that have been discovered.

History of Heraldry
Part 3

By the time of Henry III the heralds had no doubt fixed upon certain terms and rules according to which arms should be described. This is clear from the existence of a MS. Roll of Arms of the time of this King, containing the blazon of about 220 coats, little differing from the manner in which the same coats now are blazoned. A copy made of this roll in 1586 by Glover, Somerset Herald, is in the College of Arms; the original has unfortunately disappeared. Another roll of about the same period, possibly twenty or thirty years later, contained nearly 700 coats. The original of this roll has also disappeared, but a copy made by Nicholas Charles, Lancaster Herald, in 1607 is amongst the Harleian MSS. in the British Museum (See too, copies of "The knights with Edward I at the battle of Falkirk," and of those who were at the Tournaments at Dunstable Edw. II 1309, and an original Roll of Arms in the time of Edw. II, probably compiled between 1306 and 1314, amongst the Cotton MSS. In the Brit. Mus., Caligula A. xviii, and one containing the names and arms of those slain at Boroughbridge 15 Edw. II (1321), in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford No. 731). The celebrated roll of the Karlaveroc gives the names and banners of those barons and knights who in 1300 attended King Edward I in his expedition into Scotland. In this roll not only are the banners and shields most minutely described, but also we find many illustrations of the peculiarities of ancient blazonry. The Roll of Arms of Edward II gives the blazonry of upwards of 1,100 earls, barons and knights arranged in counties.

Blazonry grew more complicated when the custom arose of including in the same shield the armorial bearings of every heir female with who an intermarriage had been made. Material assistance was however afforded to the genealogist of verifying his various descents, for by the fully quartered shield a comprehensive scheme of connections was presented at one view, often affording a clue without which perhaps an important link would never asserted that arms are one of the most permanent modes by which the descent and marriages of families have been preserved.

In early times not only was the right to possess a coat of arms recognized, but the right also of alienation acknowledged. We accordingly meet with cases both of the alienation or transfer of arms inherited as maternal heir, and of the paternal coat of arms of the family. A copy of a grant of this description made by Robert Morle, who was then Marshal of Ireland, to his friend Robert de Corby in the 22nd year of Edward III is give in Edmondson's "Heraldry". He also gives a copy of another grant made in the 15th year of Richard II by Thomas Grendale to William Morgne of the arms which had escheated to him and said Thomas Grendale upon the death of John Beaumeys to who he was cousin and heir. These grants are in Norman-French. In the 11th year of Henry IV the following grant was made by Sir Thomas de Clanvowe of his own family coat of arms to his cousin William Cirketot: "Sciant præsentes et futuri, quod ego Thomas de Clanvowe chevalier dedi, concessi, et hac presenti carta mea confirmavi, Willielmo Criketot consanguineo meo, arma mea et jus eadem gerendi, quæ mihi jure hereditario descenderunt. Habend. et tenend. predicta arma mea et jus eadem gerendi præfat. Willielmo, hæredibus et assignatis suis absque reclamatione mei vel hæredum meorum in perpetuum. Et ego prædictus Thomas et hæredes mei, prædicta arma et jus eadem gerendi præfato Willielmo hæredibus et assignatis suis contra omnes gentes warrantizabimus imper'tumm. In cujus rei testimonium præsenti cartæ meæ sigillum meum apposui. dat. apud Hergast, in festo corporis Christi, anno reni regis Henrici quarti post conquestum, undecimo."

Their original proprietors have in like manner granted crests and helmets. Edward III in 1335 gave to William Montague, Earl of Salisbury, and his crest of the Eagle, together with a warhorse caparisoned with the coat of arms of Montague. The King also conferred upon him the reversion of the manors of Welton and Mershewode. The crest was afterwards assigned by the Earl to his godson Lionel of Antwerp, the King's son, which the King approved of, and confirmed the manors to the Earl notwithstanding the assignment.

Richard III by letters patent March, 1483, directed the incorporation of heralds assigning for their habitation "one message with the appurtenances in London in the parish of All Saints called Pulteney's Inn or Cold Harbore, to the use of twelve the most principal and approved of them for the time being forever, without compensation or any other thing thereof to us or to our heirs to be given or paid." This mansion had belonged to Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter, and is said by Stowe in his "Survey" to have been "a right, faire and stately house" when given to Sir John Wryth or Wriothesley, Garter, in trust for the residence and assembling of heralds.

Before incorporation the heralds were mostly attendant upon the Court and regarded rather in the light of the King's household servants.

By Henry VII dispossessed the heralds of their property in "Cold Arbore," which was about this time the residence of the Earl of Shrewbury. They were removed to the Hospital of Roncevaux, near Charing Cross, and their revenues much diminished. Soon after Stanley House or Derby House on St. Benet's Hill, which had been erected by Thomas Stanley, he sold 2nd Earl of Derby of that name, having passed into the hands of Sir Richard Sackville by virtue of a mortgage, was sold by him to Thomas Duke of Norfolk, Earl Marshal. The Duke forthwith transferred it to the Crown, by who it was by charter dated the July 18th, 1554, granted to Sir Gilbert Dethick, Garter, and his associates.

In the great conflagration of the City of London, Derby House was destroyed, and a new commodious structure after a design by Sir Christopher Wren was erected by the munificence of the nobility, assisted by the members of the College, particularly by Sir William Dugdale.

Visitations were undertaken by the heralds every twenty or thirty years under a Royal Commission, for the purpose of registering and confirming the pedigrees and arms of the gentry throughout the country. The earliest on record is, "Visitatio Facto per Marischallum de Norry ult. ann. R. Henrici 4th (1412)", but this is not supposed to have been made under the authority of Royal Commission. The first known to have been made under such was that of Thomas Benoilt, Clarenceux, in 1528. These Visitations were continued at intervals until the year 1686. In numerous cases, however, the earlier generations as recorded in these Visitations must not be implicitly accepted.

Sir H. Nicolas compiled a "Catalogue of the Heralds' Visitation in the British Museum," and ample lists have been printed in "The Genealogist."

History of Heraldry
Part 4


Arms are distinguished by various names:

Arms of Adoption, are arms of another family either born alone or quartered with the family arms when a person has been adopted by another. These can only be assumed under a warrant from the Sovereign, or an Act of Parliament.

Arms of Alliance, are those, which families or private individuals join to their own to denote the alliances they have contracted by marriage. Theses arms are either impaled or quartered, and in the case of marriage with an heiress may be born on an escutcheon of pretence and quartered by the heiress's issue.

Assumptive Arms: these were such as might with the consent of the Sovereign be taken by one who had made captive in war another of higher degree than himself, enjoying them until regained by the vanquished. "If," says Sir John Ferne, "a gentleman, being no gentleman of blood or coat armour, or else, being a gentleman of blood and coat armour, shall captivate or take prisoner in lawful war any nobleman, gentleman, or prince, he may bear the shield of that prisoner, and enjoy it to him and his heirs forever." It was, however, usual to place the arms of the prisoner in a canton or in an inescutcheon of pretence, "for no Christian," says Camden, "may beare entirely the armes of a Christian who he taketh in warre." Instances will be found in the arms of Sir William Francis Clerke, Bart., of Hitcham, co. Bucks, and the Pelham Buckle in the arms of the Earl of Chichester.

Canting, Elusive or Parlantes arms are those containing charges hinting at the name, character, office or history of the original bearer. They are sometimes termed Rebuses. Thus amongst the French, du Poirier bears Or, a pear-tree, Vert and Faux, bears Azure, three scythes, Argent. Amongst the Germans, Schilsted bears Argent, a sledge sable; and Yagendorf, Azure, a hunter's horn, Or. Amongst the Italians, Colonna bears Gules, a column, Argent; and Urseoli, Azure, two bears combatant, Argent. In England, for the name of Arundel are six swallows, this name being derived either from the Latin which is hirundo from the old French term for the bird Aronde or Arondelle; for that of Corbet, a raven which name is likewise derived from the French word Corbeau, a raven; for that of Coningsby, three conies; for that of Ursus, a bear from the Latin ursus; for that of Shuttleworth, three weavers' shuttles; for that of Spratt, three sprats; for that of Tyrwhitt, three pewits or lapwings, on account of the particular cry of those birds, which is nearly similar to the utterance of that name. So in the arms of De la River are Gules, two bars wavy, Or; Waterford, Argent, wavy Gules; and Brooksby, Barry wavy Argent and Sable-all which by the waved lines suggests the idea of water. In Scotland, for the name of Camel is a camel; for that of Peacock, a peacock; so sprats are there called garvies and we find the arms of Garvey, to be Azure, three sprats naiant in pale Argent. In Ireland, the family of Barry bore Barry of six Arg. and Gul.; Butler bore Three covered cups to express the office of Chief Butler; and so on, whereof numerous examples might be given. The present Marquis of Ormonde (Butler) is 27th Hereditary Chief Butler of Ireland.

Arms of Concession or Augmentation; consisting of an entire coat or some particular charge given by the Sovereign as a reward for some special service. Such additions were formerly confined to the bordure, quarter, canton, gyron, pile, flasque, flaunch, voider and escutcheon of pretence, but with the exception of the last there seems to be no valid reason for selecting these ordinaries for such bearings. Henry VIII granted an augmentation of honour to Lady Catherine Parr; Or, on a pile between six roses, Gules, three others Argent. The same King also granted to Lady Jane Seymour a Pile Gules with three lions passant guardant Or, to be marshalled with her own paternal arms; also in a like manner he honoured Thomas Manners who he created Earl of Rutland on account of his being descended from a sister of Edward IV, with a Chief, Quarterly, Azure and Gules; on the 1st, two fleurs-de-lis in fesse, Or; on the second, a lion passant guardant, Or. An interesting example is that of Sir E. Lake, who at the battle of Edge Hill in the Civil Wars having received sixteen wounds and his left arm being disabled by a shot, was obliged to hold his bridle in his teeth while he continued in action. For this service he received a coat of augmentation to be born before his own private arms, viz., in a Field Gules a dexter arm in armour, carrying upon a sword a banner Argent, charged with a cross between sixteen shields of the first and a lion of England in the fesse point; and for a crest a chevalier in a fighting posture, his scarf red, his left arm hanging down useless and holding his bridle in his teeth. Queen Anne conferred on Sir Cloudesley Shovel a chevron between two fleurs-de-lis in chief, and a crescent in base to denote three great victories which he had gained-two over the French and one over the Turks. Lord Heathfield also was permitted to assume a fortress in remembrance of his gallant defence of the fortress of Gibraltar. The arms granted to Nelson are another instance.

Arms of Community are such as those born by cities, universities, societies, companies, bishoprics, and other bodies corporate or sole.

Arms of Dominion or Sovereignty are those which properly belong to kingdoms and states and annexed, as it were, to these, but born by their representatives or heads. These are rather ensigns of public authority than arms, strictly speaking, and are of great antiquity; for of old the heads of the Persians, Grecians and Romans had fixed ensigns of their sovereignty. One ascending to a throne by succession, if of the quality of a subject would lay aside his own arms and use only those of the dominion to which he had succeeded. Those who ascend a throne by election are said to bear their arms on an escutcheon placed in the centre of the arms of the dominion to which they have been elected. Thus William Prince of Orange placed his arms over those of England and Scotland as an elected King.

Arms paternal and hereditary are those distinguishing one family from another and transmitted from the first holder to son, grandson, great-grandson, etc. They are said to be the arms of perfect nobility begun in the grandfather or great-grandfather (as some heralds say) growing in the son, complete in the grandson or great-grandson, who becomes a "gentleman of ancestry."

Arms of Patronage are, first, such as governors of provinces, lords or manors, etc., add to their family arms as a token of their right and jurisdiction; and, secondly, parts of arms of those lords of which the persons bearing them held of them in fee. These were either added to the family arms or born as feudal arms to show the dependence, of the parties bearing them on their particular lord. Thus, as the Earls of Chester bore garbs, many gentlemen of the county are said to have born garbs also, and so as the Earls of Warwick bore chequy Or and Az, a chevron Erm, many families in Warwickshire are said to have bore chequy. The idea, however, is probably a delusion.

Arms of Pretension are those of such kingdom or state to which a prince or lord has some claim and which he adds to his own although not in possession of the territories he claims, as, for instance, the quartering by the Kings of Spain of the arms of Portugal an Jerusalem, to show their pretension to those kingdoms; and the quartering of the arms of France by the Kings of England from 1330 to 1801, when all pretensions on the part of the Kings of England to France had long ceased. On the union with Ireland the arms of France were first omitted and the ensign of Ireland substituted in the third quarter of the royal arms of Great Britain, on which occasion also the other bearings were re-marshalled. Perhaps Mary Queen of Scots offered no offence to Queen Elizabeth more deeply resented than the quartering of the arms of England with those of France.

Arms of Succession are such as are adopted by those who inherit certain estates either under settlement, will or otherwise, and which they quarter with their own. Thus the arms of the Isle of Man were long quartered by the Earls of Derby who claimed the feudal sovereignty of that island; and the Earls of Richmond bore generally a canton Ermine, that fur being the arms of the Duke of Bretagne, to whom the Duchy had formerly belonged.

Heraldry Art by Armorial Gold

History of Heraldry
Part 5


Escutcheon or Shield

The Shield or Escutcheon (from the Latin scutum) is the field or ground on which are represented the bearings or figures making up a coat of arms. Any shape may be adopted for the shield, except that in the case of a knight banneret the shield should be square and in the case of a woman it must take the form of a lozenge. The shape of the shield has varied according to the fashion of the age. In the earlier days of the adoption of devices on shields the shape was triangular and to the fact may no doubt be attributed the custom of heralds in placing the greater number of figures above and the smaller below, as three, two, one. A shield square and pointed at the bottom is one, which lends itself most readily to the quartering of arms. The shields of heralds, engravers, and printers however seldom bear any very near resemblance to the shield of the warrior actually used in warfare. The shield used by the Greeks and Romans, and sometimes called the Norman shield was cut straight at the top to protect the breast and shoulders, and shaped as a wedge towards the bottom for the easy wielding it in battle. The Amazonian pelta mentioned in the Æneid-"Ducit Amazonidum lunatis agmina peltis"--being of a half moon shape, gave free action to the right hand and was generally covered with the hide of beasts, on the whole rather resembling the Spanish target. The convex buckler sometimes found with curled ornamental border, was probably never used in warfare unless the object of the convex form was to glance off the javelin or other weapon thrown against it, but was probably the outcome of the imagination of the engraver of a later period.

The shield may be either one tincture or more than one; when there is one only, that is, when some one particular metal, colour, or fur is spread all over the surface or field, such a tincture is said to be predominant. But in shields, which have more than one tincture, as most have, the field is divided by partition lines, which according to their divers forms have various names.

Division Lines

The ways in which the shield may be divided are shown in the examples given on the accompanying Plate. Lines may be either straight or crooked. Straight lines are carried evenly through the shield and are of four different kinds, namely, perpendicular, horizontal, diagonal dexter, diagonal sinister. Crooked lines are those that are carried unevenly through the shield rising and falling. Twenty-four different kinds with their figures and names are shown on the accompanying Plate. The main reason why lines are used in heraldry is to difference bearings which would otherwise be identical; for a shield charged with a chief engrailed differs from one charged with a chief wavy or undy as much as if the one bore a cross and the other a saltier and so forth.

As the above mentioned lines serve also to divide the field it must be observed that if the division consist of two equal parts made by the perpendicular line, it is called per Pale; by the horizontal line, per Fesse; by the diagonal dexter, per Bend; by the diagonal sinister, per Bend sinister . If the Field be divided into four equal parts, by way of these lines, it is said to be quartered, which may be one of two ways:

      1. Quartered or per Cross, which is made by a perpendicular and horizontal line which crossing each other at the centre of the field divide it into four equal parts called quarters.

      2. Quartered or per Saltier, which is made by two diagonal lines, dexter and sinister crossing each other in the centre of the field and likewise dividing it into four equal parts.

        The shield is sometimes divided into a greater number of parts in order to place on it the arms of the several families to which one is allied, and in this case it is called a Genealogical Achievement. These divisions may consist of 6, 8, 12, 16, 50, or any number of quarters. A banner carried at the funeral of Viscountess Townshend in 1770 contained quarterings to the number of 160, and achievements with many hundred quarterings have been known.


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