Heraldry is the profession, study, or art of creating, granting, and blazoning arms and ruling on questions of rank or protocol, as exercised by an officer of arms. I am neither a professional Herald nor an expert. Just a very enthusiastic amateur :-)
There are a variety of differences between heraldry in different countries. Most of what I will be discussing here concerns English heraldry as that is what I'm most familiar with.
The use of symbols to identify kings goes back as far as ancient Egypt. The tribes of Israel are each supposed to have a standard and the Legions of the Roman Army were identifiable by the symbols on their shields.
Origins as identification for individuals came to the fore in the 12th century. Geoffrey V (1113 - 1151), Count of Anjou has the first recorded use of a coat of arms. His shield of blue with gold lions was part of his memorial enamel.
England's Henry II is believed to have used a pair of gold lions as his personal arms, although the colours are unknown. His son Richard, added a third lion and this symbol of three lions has continued to be the Royal Arms of England to this day.
The Language of heraldry is Norman French. Just as English has words in it derived from Latin, so too does French (and German and most European languages for that matter).
A Blazon, is a word "map" to describe a coat of arms. The colours are called "Tinctures" and are made up of two metals, five colours, and two furs. Tinctures: Metals of Or (gold) and Argent (silver/white). Colours Azure (blue), Gules (red), Purpure (purple), Sable (black), Vert (green). Later heraldry incorporates three additional colours. Additional later colours include Tenné (brown), Murrey (wine), Sanguine (blood red). The cross hatching on the right side is how the colours are depicted when you only have the option of black & white drawings to display
The shield can be divided into several sections. Over these can be laid various lines, called "ordinaries". Some of you may have heard the rumour that a "bar sinister" denotes royal illegitimacy. This means you have been reading too many romance novels. A "fess" is a French word for Bar (or barre). As you can see on the chart, it's horizontal. It's possible to have a "bend sinister" but a bar sinister doesn't even exist.
Rather than just a straight line, the divisions can also be separated by patterns. But there's only so many ways that you can use a line to help break up the shield image, so people also used "Charges". Charges are animals, objects and people on the shield. Lions are pretty popular in Scottish and English heraldry.
Now, the top three are all "Lion Rampant", just to give you an idea of the artistic differences that still happen with an identical charge. "Rampant" is three legs raised in the air. Each of the positions of the lions has a different word to describe it. Sejent, passant, Statant
Linus Lacombe: What's the one saucily stick out his tongue called?
Edward Pearse: Lion Rampant Guardant. The Guardant means the face of the beast it towards the viewer.
One of the biggest myths about heraldry is the existence of a "family" coat of arms. No. Such. Thing. A coat of arms is like a title, you have to wait for the previous owner to die before you can lay claim to it.
Cullan: Although when one is a member of a clan, he is allowed to display his Chief's arms. Just like any retainer to a Lord. Land and names--the Kent area has the infamouse Cinque Port arms. Look at Hastings and Dover. Many families also re-use certain displays from father to son.
Edward Pearse: IF, and it's a big if, the titles is entailed to the property, then yes arms goes with the land, but they're rather rare now days.
Now, since only one person at a time may hold an achievement of arms, there comes into play a system called Cadency. This means you overlay the original arms with a mark to show you're in line to inherit. If you look across to my right, the bottom row shows the arms of the various sons of Queen Elizabeth II. Charles on the far left, then Andrew, followed by William and Harry. The diamond above them is Beatrice; since she's a girl she doesn't get a shield, she has a lozenge. When Elizabeth dies, the marks will then change with the succession
Obviously, not everyone inherits the main arms. Second and third sons usually add a change to show they are related but still have their own personal arms. Marks of Cadency aren't marks of succession, they're marks to show which son you are, until you're granted your own arms... Here's some examples of how arms may change with generations and marriages
Cadency is done a little differently in Scotland--usually noted with a border around the arms, rather than a label over it. As you can see here the original coat of arms stays the same on the left as it passes from generation to generation.
Now I think just about everyone on the planet heard about a small royal wedding last year.
Solace Fairlady: so the Royal heralds scurried to invent her a coat of arms?
Edward Pearse: And yes, the Middleton arms were done in a hurry. Hers are the top left. The blue bow indicates an unmarried woman. Once she was married and became Duchess of Cambridge her arms changed to those in the middle. Half Middleton, half Prince William.
Now, some families will keep the quartering to show they have a really good pedigree when it comes to important people. Some get a little carried away in my opinion. Possibly one of those with an important title but flat broke.
These were the arms for the Emperor of Austria Hungry as of 1915
OK, and these arms are for the university of Plymouth, granted as recently as 2008
And I'm going to skip over the Battle of Barnet story since we started so late. Ceejay, would you like to issue numbers for the questioners? :-)
Ceejay Writer: Ummmmmmm okay! Those with questions, please state your name to me.
Edward Pearse: Since hand won't work :-)
Ceejay Writer: I have one in the queue. Queue going once, going twice....
Edward Pearse: Ask away then
Ceejay Writer: Also, another reminder tht tips may be paid to the posters at the rear of the venue, thank you! Right then - Ethan Paul, your question?
Osric Worbridge: http://www.barnet.gov.uk/index/leisure-culture/libraries/archives/archives-histories/archives-barnethistories/archives-barnet-battleofbarnet.htm
Ethan Paul III: When two power countries lets say england and spain arange to have two equal rulers marry how is the coat of arms decided for the heir ?
Edward Pearse: Usually, the arms would be divided on the shield like Kate Middleton's
Ethan Paul III: Would that then blend into a new country
Edward Pearse: The male on the dexter (left as you face the shield) side
Edward Pearse: Well when Richard I was King of England, he didn't really care about it much. He was more interested in his lands in Normandy and Aquitaine. But "King" is a good title, and England gave him gold to bugger off on crusade
Cullan: When people marry, thier arms can be dimidated. They do not create a new country, because the right of Kingship falls to the male. Wimminz cant be king. Unless your name is Elizabeth.
Osric Worbridge: Queen Mary of England remained Sovereign while married to King Phillip of Spain.
Edward Pearse: When James the VI of Scotland inherited the throne of England his personal arms were revised to show the two Kingdoms. But the two remained separate countries, and did for another 200 years
Cullan: The marriage between Mary and Phillip was decided upon by rule of Parliament. They only agreed to it if England didn't become Spain's pet
Edward Pearse: So, yes the current arms for Elizabeth show the Royal Arms of England in the two corners and the arms of Scotland and Ireland in the other two. Wales doesn't get a look in :-)
Cullan: Unless shes in Scotland, and then they are switched
Edward Pearse: Yep
Edward Pearse: Couple of linkies for people:
The Use and Abuse of the Coat of Arms and Crest
By William Armstrong Crozier (published 1905)
Pssst! Want to Buy Your Family's Coat of Arms?
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