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A coat of arms is a heraldic visual design on an escutcheon (i.e., shield), surcoat, or tabard. The coat of arms on an escutcheon forms the central element of the full heraldic achievement which in its whole consists of shield, supporters, crest, and motto. A coat of arms is traditionally unique to an individual person, family, state, organization or corporation.
Heraldry is a broad term, encompassing the design, display, and study of armorial bearings, as well as related disciplines, such as vexillology, together with the study of ceremony, rank, and pedigree. Armory, the best-known branch of heraldry, concerns the design and transmission of the heraldic achievement. The achievement, or armorial bearings usually includes a coat of arms on an shield, helmet, and crest, together with any accompanying devices, such as supporters, badges, heraldic banners, and mottoes.
In heraldry, an escutcheon is a shield that forms the main or focal element in an achievement of arms. The word is used in two related senses. First, as the shield on which a coat of arms is displayed; second, a shield can itself be a charge within a coat of arms.
A shield is a piece of personal armour held in the hand or mounted on the wrist or forearm. Shields are used to intercept specific attacks, whether from close-ranged weaponry or projectiles such as arrows, by means of active blocks, as well as to provide passive protection by closing one or more lines of engagement during combat.
The Roll of Arms is a collection of many coats of arms, and since the early Modern Age centuries it has been a source of information for public showing and tracing the membership of a noble family, and therefore its genealogy across time.
Nobility is a social class normally ranked immediately under royalty and found in some societies that have a formal aristocracy. Nobility possesses more acknowledged privileges and higher social status than most other classes in society. The privileges associated with nobility may constitute substantial advantages over or relative to non-nobles, or may be largely honorary, and vary by country and era. As referred to in the Medieval chivalric motto "noblesse oblige", nobles can also carry a lifelong duty to uphold various social responsibilities, such as honorable behavior, customary service, or leadership positions. Membership in the nobility, including rights and responsibilities, is typically hereditary.
Genealogy is the study of families, family history, and the tracing of their lineages. Genealogists use oral interviews, historical records, genetic analysis, and other records to obtain information about a family and to demonstrate kinship and pedigrees of its members. The results are often displayed in charts or written as narratives. Although generally used interchangeably, the traditional definition of "genealogy" begins with a person who is usually deceased and traces his or her descendants forward in time, whereas, "family history" begins with a person who is usually living and traces his or her ancestors. Both the National Genealogical Society in the United States and the Society of Genealogists in the United Kingdom state that the word "genealogy" often refers to the scholarly discipline of researching lineages and connecting generations, whereas "family history" often refers to biographical studies of ones family, including family narratives and traditions.
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Heraldic designs came into general use among western nobility in the 12th century. Systematic, heritable heraldry had developed by the beginning of the 13th century. Exactly who had a right to use arms, by law or social convention, varied to some degree between countries. Early heraldic designs were personal, used by individual noblemen (who might also alter their chosen design over time). Arms become hereditary by the end of the 12th century, in England by King Richard I during the Third Crusade (1189–1192).[ citation needed ]
Richard I was King of England from 1189 until his death. He also ruled as Duke of Normandy, Aquitaine and Gascony, Lord of Cyprus, Count of Poitiers, Anjou, Maine, and Nantes, and was overlord of Brittany at various times during the same period. He was the third of five sons of King Henry II of England and Duchess Eleanor of Aquitaine. He was known as Richard Cœur de Lion or Richard the Lionheart because of his reputation as a great military leader and warrior. He was also known in Occitan as: Oc e No, because of his reputation for terseness.
The Third Crusade (1189–1192) was an attempt by the leaders of the three most powerful states of Western Christianity to reconquer the Holy Land following the capture of Jerusalem by the Ayyubid sultan, Saladin, in 1187. It was partially successful, recapturing the important cities of Acre and Jaffa, and reversing most of Saladin's conquests, but it failed to recapture Jerusalem, which was the major aim of the Crusade and its religious focus.
Burgher arms are used in Northern Italy in the second half of the 13th century, and in the Holy Roman Empire by the mid 14th century. In the late medieval period, use of arms spread to the clergy, to towns as civic identifiers, and to royally chartered organizations such as universities and trading companies. The arts of vexillology and heraldry are closely related.
Burgher arms are coats of arms borne by persons of the burgher social class of Europe since the Middle Ages. By definition, however, the term is alien to British heraldry, which follows other rules.
The Holy Roman Empire was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in Western and Central Europe that developed during the Early Middle Ages and continued until its dissolution in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars. The largest territory of the empire after 962 was the Kingdom of Germany, though it also came to include the neighboring Kingdom of Bohemia, the Kingdom of Burgundy, the Kingdom of Italy, and numerous other territories.
Vexillology is the study of the history, symbolism and usage of flags or, by extension, any interest in flags in general. The word is a synthesis of the Latin word vexillum ("flag") and the Greek suffix -logia ("study").
The term coat of arms itself in origin refers to the surcoat with heraldic designs worn by combatants, especially in the knightly tournament, in Old French cote a armer. The sense is transferred to the heraldic design itself in Middle English, in the mid-14th century.
A surcoat or surcote initially was an outer garment commonly worn in the Middle Ages by both men and women in Western Europe. It can either refer to a coat worn over other clothes or the outermost garment itself. The name derives from French meaning "over the coat", a long, loose, often sleeveless coat reaching down to the feet.
Despite no widespread regulation,[ citation needed ] heraldry has remained consistent across Europe, where tradition alone has governed the design and use of arms. [ citation needed ] Some nations, like England and Scotland, still maintain the same heraldic authorities which have traditionally granted and regulated arms for centuries and continue to do so in the present day. In England, for example, the granting of arms is and has been controlled by the College of Arms. Unlike seals and other general emblems, heraldic "achievements" have a formal description called a blazon, which uses vocabulary that allows for consistency in heraldic depictions. In the present day, coats of arms are still in use by a variety of institutions and individuals: for example, many European cities and universities have guidelines on how their coats of arms may be used, and protect their use as trademarks. Many[ citation needed ] societies exist that also aid in the design and registration of personal arms.
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It covers the northern third of the island of Great Britain, with a border with England to the southeast, and is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, the North Sea to the northeast, the Irish Sea to the south, and more than 790 islands, including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides.
A heraldic authority is defined as an office or institution which has been established by a reigning monarch or a government to deal with heraldry in the country concerned. It does not include private societies or enterprises which design and/or register coats of arms.
Heraldry has been compared to modern corporate logos.
The French system of heraldry greatly influenced the British and Western European systems. Much of the terminology and classifications are taken from it. However, with the fall of the French monarchy (and later Empire) there is not currently a Fons Honorum (power to dispense and control honors) to strictly enforce heraldic law. The French Republics that followed have either merely affirmed pre-existing titles and honors or vigorously opposed noble privilege. Coats of arms are considered an intellectual property of a family or municipal body. Assumed arms (arms invented and used by the holder rather than granted by an authority) are considered valid unless they can be proved in court to copy that of an earlier holder.
In the heraldic traditions of England and Scotland, an individual, rather than a family, had a coat of arms. In those traditions coats of arms are legal property transmitted from father to son; wives and daughters could also bear arms modified to indicate their relation to the current holder of the arms. Undifferenced arms are used only by one person at any given time. Other descendants of the original bearer could bear the ancestral arms only with some difference: usually a colour change or the addition of a distinguishing charge. One such charge is the label, which in British usage (outside the Royal Family) is now always the mark of an heir apparent or (in Scotland) an heir presumptive. Because of their importance in identification, particularly in seals on legal documents, the use of arms was strictly regulated; few countries continue in this today. This has been carried out by heralds and the study of coats of arms is therefore called "heraldry". In time, the use of arms spread from military entities to educational institutes, and other establishments.
In Scotland, the Lord Lyon King of Arms has criminal jurisdiction to control the use of arms. In England, Northern Ireland and Wales the use of arms is a matter of civil law and regulated by the College of Arms and the High Court of Chivalry.
In reference to a dispute over the exercise of authority over the Officers of Arms in England, Arthur Annesley, 1st Earl of Anglesey, Lord Privy Seal, declared on 16 June 1673 that the powers of the Earl Marshal were "to order, judge, and determine all matters touching arms, ensigns of nobility, honour, and chivalry; to make laws, ordinances, and statutes for the good government of the Officers of Arms; to nominate Officers to fill vacancies in the College of Arms; to punish and correct Officers of Arms for misbehaviour in the execution of their places". It was further declared that no patents of arms or any ensigns of nobility should be granted and no augmentation, alteration, or addition should be made to arms without the consent of the Earl Marshal.
In Ireland the usage and granting of coats of arms was strictly regulated by the Ulster King of Arms from the office's creation in 1552. After Irish independence in 1922 the office was still functioning and working out of Dublin Castle. The last Ulster King of Arms was Sir Nevile Rodwell Wilkinson [Ulster King of Arms 1908–1940], who held it until his death in 1940. At the Irish government's request, no new King of Arms was appointed. Thomas Ulick Sadleir, the Deputy Ulster King of Arms, then became the Acting Ulster King of Arms. He served until the office was merged with that of Norroy King of Arms in 1943 and stayed on until 1944 to clear up the backlog.
An earlier Ireland King of Arms was created by King Richard II in 1392 and discontinued by King Henry VII in 1487. It didn't grant many coats of arms – the few it did grant were annulled by the other Kings of Arms because they encroached upon their jurisdictions. Its purpose was supposedly to marshal an expedition to fully conquer Ireland that never materialized. Since 1 April 1943 the authority has been split between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Heraldry in the Republic of Ireland is regulated by the Government of Ireland, by the Genealogical Office through the Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland. Heraldry in Northern Ireland is regulated by the British Government by the College of Arms through the Norroy and Ulster King of Arms.
The heraldic tradition and style of modern and historic Germany and the Holy Roman Empire — including national and civic arms, noble and burgher arms, ecclesiastical heraldry, heraldic displays, and heraldic descriptions — stand in contrast to Gallo-British, Latin and Eastern heraldry, and strongly influenced the styles and customs of heraldry in the Nordic countries, which developed comparatively late.
In the Nordic countries, provinces, regions, cities, and municipalities have coats of arms. These are posted at the borders and on buildings containing official offices, as well as used in official documents and on the uniforms of municipal officers. Arms may also be used on souvenirs or other effects, given that an application has been granted by the municipal council.
At a national level, "coats of arms" were generally retained by European states with constitutional continuity of more than a few centuries, including constitutional monarchies like Denmark as well as old republics like San Marino and Switzerland.
In Italy the use of coats of arms was only loosely regulated by the states existing before the unification of 1861. Since the Consulta Araldica, the college of arms of the Kingdom of Italy, was abolished in 1948, personal coats of arms and titles of nobility, though not outlawed, are not recognised.
Coats of arms in Spain were generally left up to the owner themselves, but the design was based on military service and the heritage of their grandparents. In France, the coat of arms is based on the Fleur-de-lys and the Rule of Tinctures used in English heraldry as well.
The Queen of Canada has delegated her prerogative to grant armorial bearings to the Governor General of Canada. Canada has its own Chief Herald and Herald Chancellor. The Canadian Heraldic Authority is situated at Rideau Hall.The Great Seal of the United States uses on the obverse as its central motif an heraldic achievement described as being the arms of the nation. The seal, and the armorial bearings, were adopted by the Continental Congress on 20 June 1782, and is a shield divided palewise into thirteen pieces, with a blue chief, which is displayed upon the breast of an American bald eagle. The crest is thirteen stars breaking through a glory and clouds, displayed with no helm, torse, or mantling (unlike most European precedents). Only a few of the American states have adopted a coat of arms, which is usually designed as part of the respective state's seal. Vermont has both a state seal and a state coat of arms that are independent of one another (though both contain a pine tree, a cow and sheaves of grain); the seal is used to authenticate documents, whilst the heraldic device represents the state itself.
The Vatican City State and the Holy See each have their own coat of arms. As the papacy is not hereditary, its occupants display their personal arms combined with those of their office. Some popes came from armigerous (noble) families; others adopted coats of arms during their career in the Church. The latter typically allude to their ideal of life, or to specific pontifical programmes.A well-known and widely displayed example in recent times was Pope John Paul II's arms. His selection of a large letter M (for the Virgin Mary) was intended to express the message of his strong Marian devotion. Roman Catholic dioceses are also each assigned a coat of arms, as are basilicas or papal churches, the latter usually displaying these on the building. These may be used in countries which otherwise do not use heraldic devices. In countries like Scotland with a strong statutory heraldic authority, arms will need to be officially granted and recorded.
Flags are used to identify ships (where they are called ensigns), embassies and such, and they use the same colors and designs found in heraldry, but they are not usually considered to be heraldic. A country may have both a national flag and a national coat of arms, and the two may not look alike at all. For example, the flag of Scotland (St Andrew's Cross) has a white saltire on a blue field, but the royal arms of Scotland has a red lion within a double tressure on a gold (or) field.
Among the states ruled by communist regimes, emblems resembling the Soviet design were adopted in all the Warsaw Pact states except Czechoslovakia and Poland. Since 1989, some of the ex-Communist states, as Romania or Russia have reused their original pre-communist heraldry, often with only the symbols of monarchy removed. Other countries such as Belarus and Tajikistan have retained their communist coats of arms or at least kept some of the old heraldry.
With the formation of the modern nation states of the Arab World in the second half of the 20th century, European traditions of heraldry were partially adopted for state emblems. These emblems often involve the star and crescent symbol taken from the Ottoman flag. Another commonly seen symbol is the eagle, which is a symbol attributed to Saladin, [ citation needed ] These symbols can be found on the Coat of Arms of Egypt and Syria.and the hawk of the Qureish.
African flags and emblems after decolonisation often chose emblems based on regional traditions or wildlife. Symbols of a ritual significance according to local custom were generally favoured, such as the leopard in the arms of Benin, Malawi, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and, in the form of the black panther, of Gabon.
In Kenya, the Swahili word Harambee (lit. "Let us come together") is used as a motto in the country's coat of arms. In Botswana and Lesotho, meanwhile, the word Pula (lit. "Rain") is used in like fashion.
In the coat of arms of Swaziland, a lion and an elephant serve as supporters. They are each intended to represent the king and the queen mother respectively, the nation's joint heads of state.
Japanese emblems, called kamon (often abbreviated "mon"), are family badges which often date back to the 7th century, and are used in Japan today. The Japanese tradition is independent of the European, but many abstract and floral elements are used.
The coat of arms of Nova Scotia is the heraldic symbol representing the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. It is the oldest provincial achievement of arms in Canada, and the oldest British coat of arms in use outside Great Britain. It is blazoned as follows: Argent, a saltire azure charged with an escutcheon of the Royal Arms of Scotland.
King of Arms is the senior rank of an officer of arms. In many heraldic traditions, only a king of arms has the authority to grant armorial bearings and sometimes certify genealogies and noble titles. In other traditions, the power has been delegated to other officers of similar rank.
The coat of arms of Ireland is blazoned as Azure a Celtic Harp Or, stringed Argent. These arms have long been Ireland's heraldic emblem. References to them as being the arms of the king of Ireland can be found as early as the 13th century. These arms were adopted by Henry VIII of England when he ended the period of Lordship of Ireland and declared Ireland to be a kingdom again in 1541. When the crowns of England, Scotland and Ireland were united in 1603, they were integrated into the unified royal coat of arms of kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland. The harp was adopted as the emblem of the Irish Free State when it separated from the United Kingdom in 1922. They were registered as the arms of Ireland with the Chief Herald of Ireland on 9 November 1945.
The law of heraldic arms governs the "bearing of arms", that is, the possession, use or display of arms, also called coats of arms, coat armour or armorial bearings. Although it is believed that the original function of coats of arms was to enable knights to identify each other on the battlefield, they soon acquired wider, more decorative uses. They are still widely used today by countries, public and private institutions and by individuals. The earliest writer on the law of arms was Bartolus de Saxoferrato. The officials who administer these matters are called pursuivants, heralds, or kings of arms. The law of arms is part of the law in countries which regulate heraldry, although not part of common law in England and in countries whose laws derive from English law.
Portuguese heraldry encompasses the modern and historic traditions of heraldry in Portugal and the Portuguese Empire. Portuguese heraldry is part of the larger Iberian tradition of heraldry, one of the major schools of heraldic tradition, and grants coats of arms to individuals, cities, Portuguese colonies, and other institutions. Heraldry has been practiced in Portugal at least since the 11th century, however it only became standardized and popularized in the 16th century, during the reign of King Manuel I of Portugal, who created the first heraldic ordinances in the country. Like in other Iberian heraldic traditions, the use of quartering and augmentations of honor is highly representative of Portuguese heraldry, but unlike in any other Iberian traditions, the use of heraldic crests is highly popular.
Norwegian heraldry has roots in early medieval times, soon after the use of coats of arms first appeared in continental Europe. Some of the medieval coats of arms are rather simple of design, while others have more naturalistic charges. The king-granted coats of arms of later times were usually detailed and complex. Especially in the late 17th century and the 18th century, many ennobled persons and families received coats of arms with shields containing both two and four fields, and some even with an inescutcheon above these.
The tradition and art of heraldry first appeared in Spain at about the beginning of the eleventh century AD and its origin was similar to other European countries: the need for knights and nobles to distinguish themselves from one another on the battlefield, in jousts and in tournaments. Knights wore armor from head to toe and were often in leadership positions, so it was essential to be able to identify them on the battlefield.
Heraldry in the United States was first established by European settlers who brought with them the heraldic customs of their respective countries of origin. As the use of coats of arms may be seen as a custom of royalty and nobility, it had been debated whether the use of arms is reconcilable with American republican traditions. Families from English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, German, and other European nations with a heraldic tradition have retained their familial coat of arms in the United States. Several founding fathers also employed personal arms and a great number of Americans continue to do so.
A crown is often an emblem of a sovereign state, usually a monarchy, but also used by some republics.
Irish heraldry is the forms of heraldry, such as coats of arms, in Ireland. Since 1 April 1943 it is regulated in the Republic of Ireland by the Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland and in Northern Ireland by Norroy and Ulster King of Arms. Prior to that heraldry on the whole island of Ireland was a function of the Ulster King of Arms, a crown office dating from 1552. Despite its name the Ulster King of Arms was based in Dublin.
Danish heraldry has its roots in medieval times when coats of arms first appeared in Europe. Danish heraldry is a branch of the German-Nordic heraldic tradition.
English heraldry is the form of coats of arms and other heraldic bearings and insignia used in England. It lies within the so-called Gallo-British tradition. Coats of arms in England are regulated and granted to individuals by the English kings of arms of the College of Arms. An individual's arms may also be borne ‘by courtesy' by members of the holder's nuclear family, subject to a system of cadency marks, to difference those displays from the arms of the original holder. The English heraldic style is exemplified in the arms of British royalty, and is reflected in the civic arms of cities and towns, as well as the noble arms of individuals in England. Royal orders in England, such as the Order of the Garter, also maintain notable heraldic bearings.
German heraldry is the tradition and style of heraldic achievements in Germany and the Holy Roman Empire, including national and civic arms, noble and burgher arms, ecclesiastical heraldry, heraldic displays and heraldic descriptions. German heraldic style is one of the four major broad traditions within European heraldry and stands in contrast to Gallo-British, Latin and Eastern heraldry, and strongly influenced the styles and customs of heraldry in the Nordic countries, which developed comparatively late. Together, German and Nordic heraldry are often referred to as German-Nordic heraldry.
Icelandic heraldry is the study of coats of arms and other insignia used in Iceland. It belongs to the German-Nordic heraldic tradition, as the heraldry of Iceland has been primarily influenced by the heraldic traditions of Norway, Denmark and other Nordic countries. Iceland does not have a strong sense of heraldic tradition, however, because the country lacks a governing body to oversee this. As a result, coats of arms registered as such are virtually nonexistent in modern Iceland. While many municipalities use more or less heraldic logos, there are no heraldic standards to which these must adhere, and they are registered as graphic designs rather than as coats of arms.
Russian heraldry involves the study and use of coats of arms and other heraldic insignia in the country of Russia since its formation in the 16th century. Compare the socialist heraldry of the Soviet period of Russian history (1917–1991).
A national coat of arms is a symbol which denotes an independent state in the form of a heraldic achievement. While a national flag is usually used by the population at large and is flown outside and on ships, a national coat of arms is normally considered a symbol of the government or the head of state personally and tends to be used in print, on heraldic china, and as a wall decoration in official buildings. The royal arms of a monarchy, which may be identical to the national arms, are sometimes described as arms of dominion or arms of sovereignty.
Heraldry is the system of visual identification of rank and pedigree which developed in the European High Middle Ages, closely associated with the courtly culture of chivalry, Latin Christianity, the Crusades, feudal aristocracy, and monarchy of the time. Heraldic tradition fully developed in the 13th century, and it flourished and developed further during the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. Originally limited to nobility, heraldry is adopted by wealthy commoners in the Late Middle Ages. Specific traditions of Ecclesiastical heraldry also develop in the late medieval period. Coats of arms of noble families, often after their extinction, becomes attached to the territories they used to own, giving rise to municipal coats of arms by the 16th century.
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