Heraldry , the art or science of blazoning or describing in appropriate technical terms coats of arms, badges, and other heraldic and armorial insignia. The use of distinctive devices, both national and personal, is very ancient. The eagle was the emblem of Persia and of imperial Rome, the ox of Egypt, the owl of Athens; and the dragon has served as the national symbol of China and Japan from the most remote times. The warriors of Greece bore distinguishing symbols on their shields, and at Rome the families of those who had held a curule office had the right to display waxen images of their ancestors as a mark of hereditary distinction. But heraldry, in the present acceptation of the term, is a comparatively modern invention, and cannot be traced as a system to a time earlier than the close of the 12th century. It is generally admitted to have had its origin in the necessity, in battles and in tournaments, of using some device to distinguish persons concealed by their armor. It was gradually elaborated during the crusades in the time of Richard I., and it was probably systematized to some extent by the Germans; but to the French is due the credit of perfecting it and reducing it to a strict system, and the technical nomenclature invented by them was adopted with slight modifications by other nations.
By the end of the 13th century heraldry had become bound by strict rules and terms, and from this time onward arms were displayed on coins, monumental brasses, and tombs, and in architectural decorations, and were borne on shields, banners, and military surcoats. From their use on garments is derived the phrase "coat of arms." - The rules of heraldry, as now practised, are comparatively modern, and differ somewhat in different countries. The general principles however are the same, and as it will be impossible to enter into minor details, this article will be confined to English heraldry. According to early authorities arms are divisible into ten classes, but these may be reduced to three : arms of states, of communities, and of persons and families. Arms of states are those assumed by sovereign princes or by governments as distinguishing badges for their respective kingdoms, empires, or states. Arms of communities include those of ecclesiastical, lay, and municipal corporations. Arms of persons and families are insignia borne by individuals and families, generally by right of inheritance or of grant. All these classes of arms follow the same general heraldic rules, and are displayed on a shield or escutcheon.
There is no prescribed form for the shield, which has differed in different ages and among different nations, but the shape usually adopted is that in the accompanying plate. The shields of maids and widows are in the form of a lozenge. The face of the shield, on which the arms are blazoned, is technically called the field. To facilitate description, heralds divide this into nine parts (see plate), viz.: A, the dexter chief; B, middle chief; C, sinister chief; D, honor point; E, fess point; F, nombril or navel point; G, dexter base; H, middle base; and I, sinister base. The shield is always described with reference to the position of the bearer, which brings the dexter or right side opposite the left hand of the observer. Fields are diversified by tinctures, lines of division, and charges. Tinctures are composed of metals, colors, and furs. Metals are or (gold) and argent (silver). Colors are gules (red), azure (blue), sable (black), vert (green), and purpure (purple). The furs are ermine, vair, and potent. Ermine is a field argent with spots or tails sable. When this is reversed, a field sable with spots argent, it is termed ermines. Er-minois is a field or with spots sable, and pean a field sable with spots or.
Vair (Lat. va-rius), supposed to represent the skin of the squirrel, is expressed by several rows of little shields or bells, alternately argent and azure, the base of the argent ones against the base of the azure. In counter vair the bells of the same tincture are placed base against base and point against point, or counterplaced, as it is technically called. Potent, though classed as a fur, signifies a crutch or gibbet (Fr. potence). The crutches, argent and azure, are placed as in the plate. In potent counter potent the crutches are counterplaced. If the colors used in vair and potent are other than argent and azure, they must be specified; if not, it is unnecessary. In drawings and engravings the tinctures are designated by dots and lines. Thus or is known by the shield being filled with dots, argent by a plain shield, gules by vertical lines, azure by horizontal lines, etc. This invention is attributed to both the French heraldist De la Columbiere and the Italian Silvestro di Petrasancta. The earliest example in England of this method of indication is found on some of the seals attached to the death warrant of Charles I. - The field being often of a combination of colors, it is variously divided by lines.
When the division is into two equal parts by a vertical line, it is said to be parted or party per pale; by a horizontal line, per fess; by a dexter diagonal line, per bend; by a sinister diagonal line, per bend sinister; by a vertical and a horizontal line crossing at right angles, per cross or quartered; by diagonal lines crossing, per saltier; by two lines starting from the sides in the dexter and sinister bases and meeting in an angle in the fess point, per chevron; and by vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines into eight equal parts, gironny. When a shield is quartered, the several quarters are numbered, the dexter upper quarter being called the first, the sinister upper the second, the dexter base the third, and the sinister base the fourth. If one or more of these divisions is subdivided into quarters, it is said to be quarterly quartered, and the quarter thus quartered is called a grand quarter. A shield divided into any number of parts by lines drawn through it at right angles to each other is said to be quarterly of the number; thus, if divided into eight parts by three vertical lines crossed by one horizontal, it is said to be quarterly of eight.
All of these divisions are multiplied by the use of a variety of lines, the principal of which are called engrailed, invected, wavy, embattled, nebuly, raguly, indented, dancette, and dovetailed. When any of these lines are used in the division of a shield instead of straight lines, it must be described, as party per pale wavy, party per fess indented, etc. The term parted or party may be omitted as superfluous, it being un-derstood in phrases like the preceding. - A charge is any emblem or figure borne in a field, and the field thus blazoned is said to be charged. Charges are divided into honorable ordinaries, subordinates, and common charges. The honorable ordinaries, which are the principal charges in heraldry, are nine, viz.: the chief, pale, bend, bend sinister, fess, bar, chevron, cross, and saltier, the most of which have diminutives. The chief occupies the upper one third of the shield, determined by a horizontal line. Its diminutive is the fillet, one fourth its width and occupying its lower edge. The pale is formed by two parallel vertical lines drawn from the middle chief to the middle base, and occupying one third of the field. It has two diminutives, the pallet of one half its width and the endorse of one fourth its width, which frequently accompany the pale.
The bend is formed by two diagonal lines drawn from the dexter chief to the sinister base, and is one fifth the width of the field. Its diminutives are the bendlet or garter of one half its width, the cost or cotise of one fourth its width, and the riband of one eighth its width and couped or cut off at the ends. The bend sinister is like the bend, but is drawn from the sinister chief to the dexter base. Its diminutives are the scarpe of one half its width, and the baton of one fourth its width and couped at the ends. The baton and the riband are generally considered to indicate illegitimacy. The fess is formed by two parallel horizontal lines drawn through the middle of the field and occupying one third of it. The bar is similar to the fess, but occupies only one fifth of the field, and differs from it in that it is not confined to the middle, but may be placed in any part of the field; there may be also several bars in a field. Its diminutives are the barrulet of one half its width, and the closet of one fourth its width. The latter is never borne single. The chevron is a figure formed of two bars drawn from the dexter and sinister bases and meeting in an angle in the fess point. Its diminutives are the chevronel of one half its width, and the couple-close of one fourth its width.
The latter is borne in couples, generally one on each side of the chevron. The cross is a combination of the pale and the fess. This is the Greek cross, which is the only one included in honorable ordinaries. All variations of it are common charges. The saltier is a combination of the bend and the bend sinister. All of the honorable ordinaries may be engrailed, wavy, indented, etc, and may themselves be charged or borne between charges. - The subordinates are the bordure or border, orle, inescutcheon, quarter, canton, gyron, billet, paile or pall, pile, flanch or flanque, lozenge, mascle, rustre, fusil, and fret. The bordure is a stripe surrounding the shield, and is one fifth the width of the field. It passes over all the ordinaries except a chief, a quarter, and a canton. When divided into squares of alternate metal and color, it is said to be compony or gobony; when into two rows of squares, counter-compony; when into three or more rows, chequy. The bordure is often used to distinguish different branches of a family, and the bordure wavy is now the general mark to denote illegitimacy. The orle is one half the width of the bordure, and is borne within the shield and not extending to its edge. The inescutcheon is a small escutcheon borne within the shield.
The quarter is a square occupying the upper dexter quarter of the field. The canton is like the quarter but smaller, and occupies the dexter chief; if placed in the sinister chief, it must be described as a canton sinister. The gyron is formed by intersecting the quarter by a diagonal lino bendwise. The billet is an oblong rectangular figure twice as long as broad. The pall is a figure like the letter Y, representing the pall of an archbishop. The pile is a wedge-like figure issuing, unless otherwise specified, from the middle chief, and extending to the nombril point or lower. Flanches, which are always borne in pairs, are formed by curved lines drawn from the upper angles to the respective base points. The lozenge is a figure of four equal sides, the upper and lower angles of which are acute and the others obtuse. The mascle is a lozenge perforated so as to make it only a narrow border. The rustre is a lozenge with a circular perforation. The fusil is an elongated lozenge. The fret is formed by the interlacing of a figure like a saltier with a mascle. - A distinct group of charges are called roundles and guttae or gouttes, both of which may be of different tinctures. The roundle is circular, the goutte is round at the bottom and pointed at the top.
Roundles of or are called bezants, of argent plates, of gules torteaux, of azure hurtes, of sable pellets or ogresses, of vert pommes, of purpure golpes. A roundle barry wavy of six, argent and azure, is called a fountain. Gouttes of or are called d'or, of argent d'eau, of gules de sang, of azure de larmes, of sable de poix, of vert d'olive. - Charges and tinctures may be varied so as to cover the entire field. When the field is divided into an even number of partitions palewise, it is said to be paly, the number being always specified, as paly of six, paly of eight, etc. When divided bendwise it is called bendy, and when barwise barry. If there are more than eight bars, it is said to be barruly. Paly-bendy is when the field is divided by lines in the direction of the pale and bend; barry-bendy, in the direction of the bar and bend. Gyronny, lozengy, fusilly, and chequy indicate that the field is divided by lines in the direction of the sides of these several figures. The pales, gyrons, checks, etc, thus formed, are varied with different tinctures. A shield is said to be fretty when the field is covered with narrow bars in the direction of the bend and bend sinister, and interlaced. - Common charges are every device on a shield other than the ordinaries and subordinaries.
These include beasts, birds, fishes, shells, reptiles, insects, the human figure, imaginary beings, celestial bodies, trees, plants, and flowers, and miscellaneous inanimate objects. The principal beasts in heraldry are the lion, bear, tiger, leopard, bull, boar, wolf, antelope, stag, goat, fox, badger, talbot or hound, horse, beaver, and squirrel. The lion is one of the most noble and most frequent of charges, and previous to the 13th century constituted almost the sole armorial device. He is represented in many attitudes, as sejant, passant, rampant, etc, and may be of a metal, fur, or color. He is said to be guardant when his head is affronte or full-faced, and reguardant when his head is turned toward the sinister side. All charges must be represented as moving toward the dexter side of the field, unless otherwise specified; if moving toward the sinister side, they must be described as contourne. Beasts of prey are said to be armed of a tincture when their teeth, talons, or claws are of that tincture. When the tongue is shown, they are said to be langued of that tincture; animals with hoofs tinctured are unguled of fluff tincture, and stags and other docile animals, whose horns are colored, are attired of that tincture.
When the heads or other parts of beasts are borne as charges, if cut off smooth they are said to be couped; if with a jagged edge, erased. The principal birds used as charges are the eagle, falcon, swan, gamecock, chough, pelican, heron, popinjay or parrot, crow, goose, sheldrake, ostrich, raven, owl, dove, peacock, and bat. The eagle, as the noblest of birds, is one of the most honorable of charges. It is generally represented as displayed, but sometimes as rising or close. The double-headed eagle, adopted by the Russian, German, and Austrian emperors as the successors of the Roman emperors, is supposed to have symbolized the union of the eastern and western empires. A pelican sitting on her nest feeding her young is called "in her piety," and a peacock with tail displayed "in his pride." Of fish, the dolphin is the most common charge; in France its use was formerly restricted to the dauphin. Other fish used are the lucie or pike, roach, salmon, sturgeon, eel, trout, and herring. Of shells, only the escallop and whelk are found among charges; the former dates from the crusades. The reptiles and insects most commonly used are the serpent, tortoise, scorpion, bee, butterfly, and grasshopper. The human figure often occurs in charges, either whole or in parts, naked or vested.
The parts used are heads, arms, legs, etc, and these may be either couped or erased. Of imaginary beings, the griffin, dragon, unicorn, cockatrice, wyvern, triton, and mermaid are common. The celestial bodies, trees, plants, and flowers of many kinds, and many miscellaneous objects, such as helmets, swords, arrows, horseshoes, and buckles, are also used as charges. The numerous variations of the Greek cross are usually ranked as common charges. According to Guillim, there are 39 varieties, to Leigh 46, to Edmondson 109, to Robson 222, and to Berry 385. For some of the principal ones see the plate. - Charges are blazoned either on the field or on an ordinary or other charge. When on the latter, they are said to be in fess, in pale, in cross, in orle, etc. Sometimes an ordinary is placed over a charge, when the latter is said to be debruised by the former. When represented of its natural color, a charge is called proper. It is considered false heraldry to put metal on metal or color on color; but this rule does not hold when a field consists of two tinctures, as of metal and color. In such a case a charge placed on it is sometimes countercharged, which implies that the field and the charge are of the same tinctures, but reversed, so that metal may be on color and color on metal.
A charge is said to be over all when it is placed on top of all other charges. A series of nine emblems called differences or marks of cadency are used to distinguish the several sons in a family and the subordinate branches of each house. The eldest son bears in his arms the label, the second the crescent, the third the mullet, the fourth the martlet, the fifth the annulet, the sixth the fleur-de-lys, the seventh the rose, the eighth the cross moline, the ninth the double quatre-foil. In England none but the label is used to distinguish younger sons of the royal family, it being varied by additional pendants and by charges. When marks of cadency are used to distinguish subordinate branches of each house, they are charged with the same. For instance, the first son of the second house bears a crescent charged with a label, the second son of the second house a crescent charged with a crescent, etc. - Marshalling of arms is the orderly arrangement of a number of coats of arms within one shield, by impaling or quartering. A married man has the right to impale his wife's paternal arms, by placing them on the sinister side of his own shield. The joining of one half of his own coat with one half of his wife's in the same shield is called dimidiation, but this has now fallen into disuse.
If the wife is an heiress, her arms may be borne on an escutcheon over his own, called an escutcheon of pretence. A widow impales her father's and her husband's arms in a lozenge; but if an heiress, she may bear her father's arms in an escutcheon of pretence over her husband's. Where several coats of arms have been acquired by intermarriages of ancestors with heiresses, they are quartered in one shield. According to some authorities, only eight quarterings should be admitted in a family escutcheon; others admit sixteen, but more than 100 shields have sometimes been quartered in one field. - Besides the devices borne on the shield, a coat of arms has often a number of exterior ornaments, viz.: the crown or coronet, helmet, mantlings, wreath, crest, scroll and motto, and supporters. The crown or coronet is borne above the shield by those privileged to bear it. (See Coronet.) Helmets are of four kinds. Those of kings and princes of the blood royal are of gold, full faced, with the beauvoir divided by six projecting bars and lined with crimson; of nobles, steel with five gold bars, and inclining to a profile; of knights and baronets, steel with visor open and without bars, and full faced; and of esquires and gentlemen, steel with visor closed, and in profile.
The mantling or lambrequin is a kind of scrollwork, flowing from the helmet. The wreath is formed of the two principal colors of the arms, and surrounds the top of the helmet like a fillet. Out of it rises the crest (Lat. crista, a comb), the uppermost device of a coat of arms. The crest is almost as ancient as devices upon shields, and was worn on the helmet by those of high rank or of noted valor as a means of distinguishing them in battle, from which it was sometimes called a cognizance. Unless stated to be on a chapeau or coronet, it is always on a wreath. No crest is allowed to a female. The scroll and motto are placed beneath the shield. Supporters are figures standing on the scroll on each side of the shield which they seem to support. - The offices of heraldry are performed by heralds, whose chief duties consist in the blazoning of arms, the preservation of heraldic records and of pedigrees, and the conducting of public ceremonials, such as coronations, the creation of peers, marriages, funerals, etc.
In England heralds are merged in a corporation called the college of arms or heralds' college, which was instituted by Richard III. in 1483. At the head of the college is the earl marshal of England, a dignity which has been hereditary since 1672 in the family of Howard, dukes of Norfolk. The royal commands are directed to him, and under his care are prepared the programmes for public ceremonies. Under him are three kings-at-arms, styled Garter, Clarencieux, and Norroy. Their subordinates are six heralds, called respectively Chester, Lancaster, Richmond, York, Windsor, and Somerset, and four pursuivants, portcullis, rouge-dragon, bluemantle, and rouge-croix. The Bath king-at-arms, attached to the order of the Bath, is not a member of the college of heralds. In Scotland the principal heraldic official is the Lyon king-at-arms, who holds the position by commission under the great seal. He has six subordinate heralds, styled Rothesay, Marchmont, Albany, Ross, Snowdon, and Islay, and six pursuivants, Kintyre, Dingwall, Carrick, Or-mond, Unicorn, and Bute. The chief officer for Ireland is the Ulster king-at-arms, who is appointed by the crown.
He has two heralds, Cork and Dublin, and two pursuivants, Athlone and St. Patrick. - The following are a few of the principal works on heraldry: Guillim, "Display of Heraldry" (London, 1610); Dug-dale, "The Ancient Usage in bearing Arms" (London, 1682); Nisbet, "System of Heraldry " (Edinburgh, 1722); Berry, "Complete Body of Heraldry" (2 vols. folio, London, 1780), and "Encyclopaedia Heraldica" (3 vols., 1828); Robson, "British Heraldry" (London, 1830); Von Biedenfeld, Die Heraldik, etc. (4to, Weimar, 1846); Burke, " General Armory of Great Britain and Ireland" (London, 1847); Saladini, Teatro araldico (8 vols. 4to, Milan, 1841); Grandmaison, Dictionnaire heraldique (8vo, Paris, 1852); De Magny, La science du blason (8vo, Paris, 1858-'60); Piferrer, No-biliario de los reinos y schorios de Espana, ilustrado con un diccionario de heraldica (6 vols. 8vo, Madrid, 1857-60); Bouton, Nouveau traite du Mason (Paris, 1862); and Boutell, "English Heraldry" (London, 1867). But the most important heraldic work of modern times is Siebmacher's Grosses und allgemeines Wap-penbuch, begun by Von Hefner and continued by Grenser and others (Nuremberg); it is to consist of 160 parts, of which 113 had been published up to 1874.