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The Shield of Arms

The following is an excerpt from Burke's General Armory, page xi-xii

According to the received authorities, there are ten classes of Arms:---

1. ARMS OF DOMINION, those borne by Sovereigns and annexed to the territories they govern. 2. ARMS OF PRETENSION, used by Sovereigns who are not in possession of the dominions to which such Arms belong, but who claim, or pretend the right to them. Thus the Kings of England from Edward III. To George III. Quartered the Arms of France. 3. ARMS OF COMMUNITY, those of bishoprics, universities, cities , and other corporate bodies. 4.ARMS OF ASSUMPTION, adopted without the grant of the Sovereign or of a King of Arms, and used as a proper right. For instance, if a prince or nobleman be taken, and transmitted them to his heirs. 5.ARMS OF ALLIENCE these are adopted by families or private persons, and are joined with their own heraldic bearings to denote the alliance which they have contracted by marriage. Arms of this description are impaled, or are borne in an escutcheon of pretence by those who have married heiresses. But the latter arrangement (that of the apparent escutcheon) is not allowed until the death of the father of the lady. 6. ARMS OF ADOPTION are borne by a stranger in blood, and are especially granted by the Sovereign to empower the person applying for them to obtain certain moneys or estates bequeathed on the condition of his assuming the mane and Arms of the test ator. 7. ARMS OF CONCESSION or HONOURABLE AUGMENTATION are peculiar marks of honour grated by the sovereign for some act deserving of royal approbation. 8. ARMS PATERNAL AND HEREDITARY are those transmitted from the first processor to his heirs; the son being a gentleman of second coat armour; the grandson of A gentleman of blood; and the great- grandson a gentleman of ancestry. the shield admits of various forms, and is divided into nine integral parts to mark the position of the several charges, but i shall only here allude to the relative positions of the principal parts.

First, it is to be observed, that the side of the escutcheon opposite the left hand of the person looking at it, is the dexter, or right side, and that opposite to the right hand the sinister, or left.The centre of the shield is called the fess point; the top of the dexter side, the dexter chief; the top of the sinister side, the sinister chief. the bottom of the shield is called the base and its respective sides are called the dexter and sinister base.

The colours common to shields and their bearings are called tinctures and are of several different kinds; two metals and five colours, or gold, argent silver, azure blue, gules red, vet green, purpure purple, and sable black. Some writers on the science admit two additional, tawney, or tenéc, orange; and sanguine, blood colour; but they are rarely to be met with British Arms.

When natural objects are introduced into Heraldry, they are often represented in their ordinary colours and this is expressed by the term proper. A shield is said to be quartered when it is divided onto four equal parts by horizontal and per perpendicular lines crossing the centre; that is the top of the dexter side is called the first quarter; the top of the sinister side is called the second quarter; the third quartet is at the bottom of the dexter side, and the bottom of the sinister side is the forth quater. When the shield is divided into two equal parts by a perpendicular line, it is called IMPALING; the dexter being the mans side the sinister being the womans. Dividing the shield into two equal parts by a horizontal line is called per fess.

Charges are the various figures on shields, by which the bearers are distinguished from one another.

All charges of Arms are either proper or common; those charges are said to be proper which by a certain property do particularly belong to the art heraldry, and are of ordinary use therein; hence they are styled ORDINARIES the common charges are the representations of all the emblems which retain their own names in the blazon. The principal ORDINARIES are the CHIEF, the PALE , the BEND, the , CROSS, the SALTIRE, and the CHEVRON. The SUB-ORDINARIES are - the BORDER, the OR;E, the. INSECUTCHEON, the QUARTER, the CANTON, the PAILE or PALL, the GYBON, the PILE, the FRENCH, ect.

DIFFERENCES, or MARKS of CADENCY, are the distinctions used the various branches or cadets of one family. The eldest son (during the lifetime of his father ) bears a label; the SECOND, a crescent; the THIRD, a mullet; the FORTH,a MULLET,the FIFTH, an ANNULET THE SIXTH, a FLEUR- DE- LIS; the SEVENTH, a ROSE; the EIGHTH, a Cross-Molinel the ninth, a double Quatrefoil. The mode of using these marks of cadency, as practised by the Heralds college, London, and Ulsters office, Dublin, is to carry them down to the third generation. There is no rule as to the colours of cadency marks except one, the label of three points must not be argent except for the Royal Family; but the same heraldic rule applies to these marks as to ordinary heraldic charges, colour cannot lie on colour, or metal on metal. If a younger son, say a third son, who bears a mullet for difference, assume by Royal Licence an additional surname, in addition to and after his own surname, and the arms belonging to that assumed surname, which would consequently be borne in the first quarter of his escutcheon, it is not necessary for him to continue the mark of cadency, as the compound coat is sufficient to distinguish him from the head of the family; if however, he wish to use the mark of cadency, it should be borne in the fess point of the compound coat.

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last updated on: April 3rd, 2017

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