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A Beginner's Guide to Understanding a Coat of Arms

BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING A COAT OF ARMS What are they? FIRST THINGS FIRST; WHAT EVEN IS A COAT OF ARMS? Coats of Arms were highly popular in the medieval period for Knights to use as a form of identification. They are still a matter of Civil Law in England and the use and distribution of them are governed by the College of Arms. What do they mean? STEP 1 ESCUTCHEON/SHIELD The focal point of any Coat of Arms is the Escutcheon, or Shield. These are often derived from actual shields but if you don't have one of those in the cupboard, then we recommend: Diamond or Lozenge for women Oval design if you're in the clergy Traditional shield shape for men STEP 2 THE FIELD The field can be divided in a number of ways so that different tinctures (colours), and furs (patterns) can appear on them. These are known as charge patterns. TINCTURES Tinctures are plain colours found on the Escutcheon. Different colours have different meanings, which can be found below: Gold or Yellow Green Red Generosity Hope, Joy and loyalty in love Military Strength Purple Royal majesty and sovereignty Silver or White Blue Peace and sincerity Truth and Loyalty Black Maroon Orange Worthy ambition Constancy or grief Patient and victorious in battle FURS Furs refer to patterned designs on the Escutcheon. They also have meanings: Ermine White (the most common fur) Valour, justice and dignity Pean Black (a representation of Ermine) Valour, justice and dignity Ermine Black (the reverse of Ermine White) Valour, justice and dignity Erminois Gold (the reverse of Pean Black) Valour, justice and dignity Vair (Blue and White bell shapes) Great wealth STEP 3 ORDINARIES Often on the Shield symbolic lines, or Ordinaries can be found. A broad band across the top is known as a Chief and stands for domination of will A Pale is a vertical band down the shield and shows great defensive military strength A Cross would denote the Christian faith of the bearer STEP 4 SUPPORTERS Supporters are found either side of the shield, and they are granted to the nobility or at the behest of the Sovereign. They usually have some local relevance or they are hereditary. Examples include real or imaginary animals, human figures, or even a plant STEP 5 CORONET A nobleman's shield is often topped by a coronet or a small crown. The style of the coronet often indicates rank STEP 6 THE HELM The Helm is a helmet that sits above a nobleman's coronet, or a commoners shield and the position of the helm and the visor is also an indicator of rank. Open or barred helmet, reserved Mitre, used by bishops in place of a helmet for nobility STEP 7 THE TORSE OR WREATH AND MANTELLING Above the helmet sits a torse, or wreath, which is a twisted roll of fabric laid above the top of the helmet, and from this hangs decorative ribbons the mantelling.These are purely decorative. The torse or wreath There are always six twists and mantelling are always the same colour STEP 8 THE CREST Standing upon the torse, and above the helm is the crest. Sometimes these were won in tournaments but their primary purpose was to aid the identification of a knight in battle. For that reason neither women nor clergy are supposed to bear crests. Examples include animals, arms holding weapons, or bird's wings. The use of crests was particularly popular with the British and to this day it is the family crest that is used primarily on signet rings and domestic silverware. Whereas the use of crests on the continent was far less widespread and they still tend to only use the shield. STEP 9 THE MOTTO The motto sits beneath the shield except in Scotland where it sits above the crest. HONOUR AND PROTECT nothing without do and hope labour FAQET SPERA ABSQUE LABORE NIHIL The motto can vary between generations and branches of the same family depending upon the the general intention and motivation of the individual. STEP 10 THE COMPARTMENT Above the motto and below the shield is the compartment, which is best understood as a surface for the supporters to stand on. FAQET SPERA This is purely decorative and is usually some kind of landscape. like grass, but it could be clouds or a seascape. However, it is rarely seen. STEP 11 ORDERS If the bearer had been awarded an order of merit by the government or dynastic house or organisation then the image of this would appear at the base of the shield. crest mantelling.... ............. torse or wreath helm ............. .. coronet supporters .. ..- tincture fur ordinary (pale) ....orders compartment FAQET SPERA motto .. . © A Beginner's Guide To Understanding A Coat Of Arms O+

A Beginner's Guide to Understanding a Coat of Arms

shared by joe.shervell on Feb 10
This is a visual guide to deciphering and understanding your family's coat of arms. It breaks down the elements and explains the variations and differences associated with the different choices.




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