Red, with the former name of Belic, is the military colour for excellence and fortitude. Red corresponds to the metal copper and is denoted in engravings by numerous perpendicular lines. It also represents fire and summer. Ancient laws restricted its use to princes and their families. Red is symbolic of nobility, boldness and ferocity.
Purple is a rare colour in early rolls of arms. In heraldic terms it is referred to as “purpure.” This is the traditional colour of kings and royalty, and therefore, signifies justice and majesty. In engravings, it is expressed by lines in bend sinister, or slanting to the left.
An orange is the name given to a tawny roundle, a roundle being any circular charge of colour or metal. It is supposed to represent a tennis ball. Tennis was once a game played strictly by royalty and nobles and the orange indicates that the bearer was a member of that class; however, the orange is seldom met in heraldry.
Blue was called "azure" by heralds, and represents the colour of an eastern sky on a clear day. It also corresponds to the metal tin. The word, "azure" was introduced from the east during the Crusades. It signifies piety and sincerity, and is equated with autumn. In engravings it is represented by horizontal lines.
Black, the coldest of the colours, corresponds to lead. Black, or "sable," is symbolic of sadness. It also corresponds with winter and is a humble color, suitable for the deeply religious. It denotes the qualities of knowledge, piety, serenity and work. Engravers represent it with numerous horizontal and vertical lines crossing each other.
Green, or in heraldic terms, "vert," signifies felicity and pleasure. It was symbolic of joy, youth and beauty. Green was also associated with the spring. The bearer of the green is obliged to defend the peasant and all who work on the land. It is expressed in engravings by lines in bend, or slanting to the right.
Crowns of Heraldry
The eastern or antique crown has a gold rim with eight sharp, triangular rays, only five of which are seen. It is given to British subjects who have distinguished themselves in service in the East and it is also often born by merchants, the association being that they are like the magi. Towns where these merchants had had a long-standing trade also often adopted eastern crowns into their arms.
The celestial crown closely resembles an eastern crown, having eight sharp, triangular rays, only five of which are seen, with the addition of a five-pointed star on each ray. It was an ornament that frequently represented the achievements of deceased ladies and it was also often given to people or institutions connected with the church.
The crown is an emblem of victory, sovereignty, and empire. It is a visible sign of success, thus the term "crowning achievement," and its significance as the decoration of the ultimate level of rank and power, makes bearing the crown a great honour. Crowns are sometimes a symbol of God, as he is considered by some to be the “King of all.” The word crown blazoned without any additional details usually implies a ducal coronet without a cap.
A crown palisado is the name of a crown with palisades on the rim forming the spikes of the crown. This can either look like the pickets of a fence, or less correctly, like the silhouette of small houses side by side with every other one upside down, with the roof of each upside down one cut out of the metal. The latter description is called a champagne border. It is said that Roman Generals awarded the crown palisado to the one who entered the camp of the enemy first after breaking through their outworks. It is also called a crown vallary from the Latin vallus, which roughly translates to palisade.
The royal or imperial crown is an emblem of empire and sovereignty. It has a studded rim with alternating crosses and fleurs-de-lis, and it is capped, with four bands of metal meeting in the center at a small cross, mounted on a ball. The imperial crown may also refer particularly to the crown of the German Emperor, though, which is very unique and only appears in a few crests.
The mural crown is plain gold circlet of battlements on a narrow rim. It is supposed to have been given by the Romans to the soldier that first mounted the breach in the walls of a town or fortress. It would also apply to the defender of a fortress or be an appropriate token of civic honour.
The naval crown is gold and uniquely ornamented with alternating topsails and sterns of ancient galleys. This was legendarily awarded to the one who first boarded the enemy’s ship and now it is awarded, in arms, to distinguished naval commanders. Some heralds say that the Emperor Claudius invented it as a reward for service at sea.
Essential Heraldic Pieces
Greyhound crest and torse
This device was worn on top of the helmet, and was usually made of wood, metal, or boiled leather. It provided the double advantage of easy identification and the addition of height to the wearer. In heraldry today, the crest and arms are usually displayed together.
Torse (Force or Wreath)
Formed by two pieces of silk twisted together by the lady who chose the bearer for her knight, the torse was used to hold the crest and mantling in place on the Helm. The tinctures of the torse are always those of the principal metal and color of the arms, the exception being in continental heraldry.
Coat of arms with motto
The Motto generally evolved from the watchword or war-cry of the family. Often the motto contained an allusion to a memorable event in the family history, for example: the Bruce motto "Fuimus" (Latin - "We were") refers to the fact that the family were once the kings of Scotland.
Originally the term meant the coat worn over a knight's armour. The term later evolved to mean the full achievement of arms included arms, crest and motto if they were recorded. The oldest coats of arms were just the arms and were generally of a very simple design. Crests and mottoes were often added later. Complex arms were usually a result of many generations of improvements or enhancements or honors that were duly recognized.
Helm, mantling, and
arms or shield
One of the first "arms" was likely just a silver or gold shield. Then, shields were painted simply with one or more bands of color or "ordinaries". Later the ordinaries were used in conjunction with other figures or symbols: beasts, birds, fish, flowers, celestial and ecclesiastical objects, monsters, and much more. Heraldry was thus rapidly enriched by the constant necessity to achieve distinction.
Helm (Helmet, Casque or Morion)
These varied in shape in different ages and countries. The Esquire's Helm, as depicted in family arms, is always with closed visor and facing to the left. One must always remember that as you view arms or devices in heraldry most elements are facing the left but are regarded as to the dexter or right side of the arms. Like the stage, where 'stage-left' is viewed as the 'right' side of the stage if one was seated in the audience, heraldry is based on the same perspective. In other words, if a device is described as 'sinister', it faces the right side of the shield as we view it. Many a layman or commercial artist have wrongly drawn an arms in 'sinister' not understanding the mistake they have made.
The mantling was spread over and draped from the helmet, and served as protection: "to repel the extremities of wet, cold and heat" and to preserve the armor from rust. The numerous cuts and slits indicated it had been torn and hacked in the field of battle, and betokened a certain evidence of prowess.
Furs of Heraldry
Ermine is represented by a white field with black spots. It is the fur most commonly used in heraldry, and the spots represent the tails of this small animal, sewn to the white fur for enrichment. This is a regal fur, since ermine has long been associated with the crowns and robes of royal and noble persons. It symbolizes valor, justice and dignity.
Ermines or counter ermine, which is the French translation, is a fur resembling Ermine but with the colours reversed. Thus, in a black field with white spots that inversely represent the fur, the white spots represent the tails of this small animal, sewn together against black fur for contrast. Like ermine, it symbolizes valor, justice and dignity.
Erminois is the reverse of Pean and both resemble Ermine only the colours are changed. Black spots represent the tails of this small animal, sewn together against a gold field for contrast. It symbolizes valor, justice and dignity.
Pean resembles Ermine only the colours are changed. Gold spots represent the tails of this small animal, sewn together against a black field for contrast. The name was derived from the old French “pannes” which was a word for square pieces of fur of different colour sewn together. It symbolizes valor, justice and dignity.
This bell-shaped pattern represents the fur of an animal like a weasel called a ver or a vair, from the Latin word varus, that had to be imported from Russia and was often used for lining the cloaks of rich nobles. Vair was a symbol of great wealth. Unless otherwise stated, it is always coloured blue and white and it is drawn in a sharp bell shape stacked in tiers on a shield. If there are more than four rows, it is called menu-vair by the French heralds, from which the medieval word minever is derived. This is often borne by Flemish families. When there are more than four rows the term gros vair is used. Counter vair describes alternating tiers of the pattern right side up and then inverted, and vair en pointe is slightly different again. The term vairy is often used when describing a definite tincure.
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