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The following is an excerpt from Burke's General Armory, page xiii-xv

The CREST yields in honour to none of the heraldic insignia. It was the emblem that served, when the banner was rent asunder, and the shield broen, as a rallying point for the knights followers, and a distinguishing mark of is own process. The crest named by the French Cimier, from Cime, the top or apex, and by the Italians Cimiero, originated in the necessity of distinguishing one chief from another, and making him known to the battlefield and the tournament; consequently, no crest is ever allowed to a female. As early as the year 1101, a seal of Phillip, Count of Flanders, represents him with his crest; but at that period , and for a century and a half after, few of lesser degree than sovereigns and commanders in the wars ventured to carry this mark of distinction. the first example of a crest upon the helmet among English sovereigns occurs in the second great seal of Richard Coeur de Lion. The helmet has several vertical openings in front, and upon the top is placed a golden lion guardant. The seal, too, of Roger de Quincy, Earl of Winchester, one of the holy warriors of the reign of Henry III. , exhibits on a cylindrical casque a dragon as a device. After the institution, however, of the Garter, the Knights of that illustrious order adopted crests, and the practice soon became so general that these emblems were assumed indiscriminately, by all those who considered themselves legally entitled to a coat armour.

At their first adoption, crests were usually assumed from some charge in the shield; and thus, in very many ancient houses, we find the crest a mere emanation of the arms. Little information remains to us of the crests borne by the early nobility; and the little we do possess we owe to monumental effigies and illuminated manuscripts. Froissart, in particular, affords many curious examples. Nisbet and some other writers contend that these heraldic ornaments might be changed according to the good pleasure of the bearer, but this has long been forbidden by the kings of Arms. If crests be the distinguished tokens by which families may be known (and this seems most assuredly to be the intention of the device), one might as well alter a coat of arms as an hereditary crest, still however, circumstances may arise in which a change becomes desirable; but this should never be made on slight or unimportant grounds. In early times, Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, Earl Marshall of England, was, by the special concession of Richard II, allowed to carry the crest of England- the Lion passant guardent or; and John Howard, in a subsequent reign, having married the daughter and heiress of Mowbray, substituted for the old crest of Howard, viz, two wings, each charged with the family arms, the new but honourable cognizance of the golden lion.

No one is entitled to more than the crest unless he bears two surnames, or has received the additional device by a specific grant. The Germans, indeed, have long been accustomed to display in a row over their shields of arms the crests of all the houses whose ensigns they quarter; but their heraldry is perpendicular, differing from that of the other countries in Europe.In truth, the impropriety of the practice of carrying more than one crest is remarkable striking, if we consider for a moment the purpose for which these cognizance were first designed.

Originally crests were carved in light wood, or made or boiled leather passed into a mould, in the form of some animal real or fictitious, and fastened to the helmet by the TORCE or WREATH, which was formed of two pieces of silk, twisted together by the lady who chose the bearer for her knight. The tinctures of the wreath are always those of the principal metal and colour of the arms; and it is a rule in delineating the wreath (shown edgewise above the shield) and the first coil shall be of the metal, and the last of the colour of which the achievement is constituted.Such are the wreaths in general use. In depicting arams the wreath consists of six twists; when the crests is placed on a cap of maintenance, or on, or issuing out of a ducal or other crown, the wreath as not borne.The colours and metal Liveries are governed by the tinctures of the wreath, or in its absence by the principal metal and colour of the arms; thus, if the principal metal of the arms be argent, the buttons and lace of the livery id silver; if or they are gilt. The cloth is blue, red, black, or green, according to the prevailing colour in the arms; if the colour be red, the colour of the livery may be modified to claret colour; if the field of the arms be a metal, and the charge an animal of its proper colour, and no other colour depicted in the arms, the colour of the livery should follow as near as possible the proper colour of the charge. the most usual colour used in such cases is brown.

Crests have sometimes, but very properly, been confounded with Badges, altogether distinct devices, intended, to distinguish the retainers of certain great noblemen, and wrought or sewn upon the liveries with which the were supplied by their lord. The badge appeared also emblazoned on the chiefs standard or pennon, and was much esteemed until the reign of Queen Elizabeth, when the last brilliant relics of the feudal system- the joust, the tournament, an d all their accompanying paraphernalia - fell into disuse. Henry II. bore an escar buncle or; and introduced the famous badge borne so constantly by his successors, of the broom spring of Planta Genistae (II portrait ung Gennet entre deux Plantes de Geneste); and his son, Richard I , on assuming the title of King of Jerusalem, hoisted the banner of the Holy City - the dormant lion of Judah- the badge of David and Solomon. Edward I. had a rose. stalk Green and petals gold. Edward II. commemorated his Castilian descent by the badge of a gold tower. Edward III, bore silver clouds with rays descending. Richard II. adopted the white hart, the device of his mother, the Fair Maid of Kent, and used besides a White Falcon; and his successor, Henry IV. introduced the red rose of Lancaster, which became ever after the badge of Lancastrians, as opposed to the white rose of York. he also had for cognizance the Antelope, as well as the silver wan of the DeBohuns. When the lists against Mowbray, duke of Norfolk, his comparisons were embroidered with the antelope swan. Henry of Agincourt carried a beacon and fleur- de -lis crowned. The white rose, en soleil. denotes the forth Edward, and the whiteboar. the third Richard. Henry VI. had for a badge a panther, and also two ostrich feathers in saltire, one silver, the other gold. his Queen Margaret of Anjou adopted a daisy in allusion to her name The Daisy a floure white and red In French called La bele Margarete.

Henry VII. carried the red dragon of wales, and also the portcullis as well as the red and white combined, combined, emblematic of the union of the rival houses. In the marriage procession of Henry Tudor and Elizabeth York, says an agreeable writer each partizan of Lancaster gave his hand to a lady of the York party, holding a bouquet of two roses, der and white entwined; and at the birth of Prince Henry, the amourists composed a rose of two colours (the leaves alternating red and white), as an emblematical offspring of the marriage. horticulturists, too, forced nature to an act of loyalty, and produced a party- coloured flower known to the present day as the rose of Lancaster.

The same cognizance were used by Henry VIII. and Edward VI. the former of whom displayed sometimes a greyhound courant and collared; and at others, after the siege of Boulogne, a white swan, that arms of that city. Queen Mary, before her accession, adopted the red and white roses, but added a pomegranate, to show her decent from Spain; but on assuming the sceptre, she took Winged Time drawing truth out of a pit. with Veritas temporis filia. for motto. The badges of Queen Elizabeth were the red and white roses, the fleur- de- lis, and the Ireish harp, all ensigned by the royal crown, to which James I. added the Scottish thistle. Many of the greater nobility followed the royal example; Beauchamp had the bear and ragge dstuff; FitzAlan, the white horse of Arundel; Vere, the blue boar; Percy. the crescent and manacle; stafford and Bourchier, the knot.

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Last Updated: April 12th, 2023

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