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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.
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.
A shield is a piece of personal armour held in the hand, which may or may not be strapped to 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.
An achievement, armorial achievement or heraldic achievement in heraldry is a full display or depiction of all the heraldic components to which the bearer of a coat of arms is entitled. An achievement comprises not only the arms themselves displayed on the Escutcheon, the central element, but also the following elements surrounding it:
Escutcheon shapes are derived from actual shields used by knights in combat, and thus are varied and developed by region and by era. As this shape has been regarded as a war-like device appropriate to men only, British ladies customarily bear their arms upon a lozenge, or diamond-shape, while clergymen and ladies in continental Europe bear theirs on a cartouche, or oval. Other shapes are in use, such as the roundel commonly used for arms granted to Aboriginal Canadians by the Canadian Heraldic Authority or the Nguni shield used in African heraldry.
A knight is a man granted an honorary title of knighthood by a monarch, bishop or other political or religious leader for service to the monarch or a Christian church, especially in a military capacity.
The lozenge in heraldry is a diamond-shaped charge, usually somewhat narrower than it is tall. It is to be distinguished in modern heraldry from the fusil, which is like the lozenge but narrower, though the distinction has not always been as fine and is not always observed even today. A mascle is a voided lozenge—that is, a lozenge with a lozenge-shaped hole in the middle—and the rarer rustre is a lozenge containing a circular hole in the centre. A field covered in a pattern of lozenges is described as lozengy; similar fields of mascles are masculy, and fusils, fusily. In civic heraldry, a lozenge sable is often used in coal-mining communities to represent a lump of coal.
A cartouche is an oval or oblong design with a slightly convex surface, typically edged with ornamental scrollwork. It is used to hold a painted or low relief design.
Though it can be used as a charge on its own, the most common use of an escutcheon charge is to display another coat of arms as a form of marshalling. These escutcheons are usually given the same shape as the main shield. When there is only one such shield, it is sometimes called an inescutcheon.
The word escutcheon (late 15th century) is based on Old North French escuchon "shield".
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The earliest depictions of proto-heraldic shields in the second half of the 12th century still have the shape of the Norman kite shield used throughout the 11th and 12th centuries. By about the 1230s, shields used by heavy cavalry had become shorter and more triangular, now called heater shields. Transitional forms intermediate between kite and heater are seen in the late 12th to early 13th centuries. Transition to the heater was essentially complete by 1250. For example, the shield of William II Longespée (d. 1250) shown with his effigy at Salisbury Cathedral is triangular, while the shield shown on the effigy of his father William Longespée, 3rd Earl of Salisbury (d. 1226) is still of a more elongated form. The shield on the enamel monument to Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou (d. 1151) is of almost full-body length. The heater was used in warfare during the apogee of the Age of Chivalry, at about the time of the Battle of Crecy (1346) and the founding of the Order of the Garter (1348). The shape is therefore used in armorials from this "classical age" of heraldry.
A kite shield is a large, almond-shaped shield rounded at the top and curving down to a point or rounded point at the bottom. The term "kite shield" is a reference to the shield's unique shape, and is derived from its supposed similarity to a flying kite, although "leaf-shaped shield" and "almond shield" have also been used in recent literature. Since the most prominent examples of this shield have appeared on the Bayeux Tapestry, the kite shield has become closely associated with Norman warfare.
Heavy cavalry was a class of cavalry defined by their combat role, they were primarily intended to deliver a charge on the battlefield and also to act as a tactical reserve, they are also often termed 'shock cavalry'. They were distinct from light cavalry, who were intended for use in scouting, patrolling, skirmishing, screening armies, harassing the enemy and in pursuit. The distinction was not always rigid, and occasions when heavy cavalry scouted or light cavalry performed battlefield charges are numerous. Although their equipment differed greatly depending on the region and historical period, heavy cavalry were generally mounted on large powerful horses, and were often equipped with some form of scale, plated, chainmail or lamellar armour as well as either swords, maces, lances, or battle axes. It is, however, erroneous to regard armour as being a defining characteristic of heavy cavalry in all periods.
The heater shield or heater-shaped shield is a form of European medieval shield, developing from the early medieval kite shield in the late 12th century as depicted in the great seal of Richard I and John. The term is a neologism, created by Victorian antiquarians due to the shape's resemblance to a clothes iron.
Beginning in the 15th century, and even more throughout the early modern period, a great variety of escutcheon shapes develops. In the Tudor era the heraldic escutcheon became more square,taking the shape of an inverted Tudor arch. Continental European designs frequently use the various forms used in jousting, which incorporate "mouths" used as lance rests into the shields; such escutcheons are known as à bouche. The mouth is correctly shown on the dexter side only, as jousting pitches were designed for right-handed knights. Heraldic examples of English shields à bouche can be seen in the spandrels of the trussed timber roof of Lincoln's Inn Hall, London.
The early modern period of modern history follows the late Middle Ages of the post-classical era. Although the chronological limits of the period are open to debate, the timeframe spans the period after the late portion of the post-classical age, known as the Middle Ages, through the beginning of the Age of Revolutions and is variously demarcated by historians as beginning with the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Renaissance period in Europe, the Muslim conquests in the Indian subcontinent, and the Age of Discovery and ending around the French Revolution in 1789.
A four-centred arch is a low, wide type of arch with a pointed apex. Its structure is achieved by drafting two arcs which rise steeply from each springing point on a small radius, and then turning into two arches with a wide radius and much lower springing point. It is a pointed sub-type of the general flattened depressed arch. Two of the most notable types are known as the Persian arch, which is moderately "depressed", and the Tudor arch, which is much flatter.
A spandrel is a triangular space, usually found in pairs, between the top of an arch and a rectangular frame; between the tops of two adjacent arches or one of the four spaces between a circle within a square. They are frequently filled with decorative elements.
The shape of the top, the sides and the base may be separately described, and these elements may be freely combined.The highly complex Baroque style shields of the 17th century come in many artistic variations.
In English heraldry, the lozenge has been used by women since the 13th centuryfor the display of their coats of arms instead of the escutcheon or shield, which are associated with warfare. In this case the lozenge is shown without crest or helm. For the practical purpose of categorisation the lozenge may be treated as a variety of heraldic escutcheon.
Traditionally, very limited categories of females have been able to display their own arms, for example a female monarch—who uses an escutcheon as a military commander, not a lozenge—and suo jure peeresses, who may display their own arms alone on a lozenge even if married.In general a female was represented by her paternal arms impaled by the arms of her husband on an escutcheon as a form of marshalling.
In modern Canadian heraldry, and certain other modern heraldic jurisdictions, women may be granted their own arms and display these on an escutcheon.[ citation needed ] Life peeresses in England display their arms on a lozenge. An oval or cartouche is occasionally also used instead of the lozenge for armigerous women.
As a result of rulings of the English Kings of Arms dated 7 April 1995 and 6 November 1997,married women in England, Northern Ireland and Wales and in other countries recognising the jurisdiction of the College of Arms in London (such as New Zealand) also have the option of using their husband's arms alone, marked with a small lozenge as a difference to show that the arms are displayed for the wife and not the husband; or of using their own personal arms alone, marked with a small shield as a brisure for the same reason. Divorced women may theoretically until remarriage use their ex-husband's arms differenced with a mascle. Widowed women normally display a lozenge-shaped shield impaled, unless they are heraldic heiresses, in which case they display a lozenge-shaped shield with the unaltered escutcheon of pretence in the centre. Women in same-sex marriages may use a shield or banner to combine arms, but can use only a lozenge or banner when one of the spouses dies.
The lozenge shape of quasi-escutcheon is also used for funerary hatchments for both men and women.[ citation needed ] Pretoria High School for Girls in South Africa is one of the few all-girls schools that was granted permission to use the lozenge as part of its coat of arms.[ citation needed ]
The points of the shield refer to specific positions thereon and are used in blazons to describe where a charge should be placed.
An inescutcheon is a smaller escutcheon that is placed within or superimposed over the main shield of a coat of arms. This may be used in the following cases:
Inescutcheons may appear in personal and civic armory as simple mobile charges, for example the arms of the House of Mortimer, the Clan Hay or the noble French family of Abbeville. These mobile charges are of a particular tincture but do not necessarily bear further charges and may appear anywhere on the main escutcheon, their placement being specified in the blazon, if in doubt.
Inescutcheons may also be charged with other mobile charges, such as in the arms of the Swedish Collegium of Arms (illustrated below) which bears the three crowns of Sweden, each upon its own escutcheon upon the field of the main shield. These inescutcheons serve as a basis for including other charges that do not serve as an augmentation or hereditary claim. In this case, the inescutcheons azure allow the three crowns of Sweden to be placed upon a field, thus not only remaining clearly visible but also conforming to the rule of tincture.
Inescutcheons may also be used to bear another's arms in "pretence".In English heraldry the husband of a heraldic heiress, the sole daughter and heiress of an armigerous man (i.e. a lady without any brothers), rather than impaling his wife's paternal arms as is usual, must place her paternal arms in an escutcheon of pretence in the centre of his own shield as a claim ("pretence") to be the new head of his wife's family, now extinct in the male line. In the next generation the arms are quartered by the son.
A monarch's personal or hereditary arms may be borne on an inescutcheon en surtout over the territorial arms of his/her domains,as in the arms of Spain, the coats of arms of the Danish Royal Family members, the greater coat of arms of Sweden, or the arms of Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England (1653–1659). The early Georgian kings of England bore an inescutcheon of the royal arms of Hanover on the arms of the Stuart monarchs of Great Britain, whose territories they now ruled.
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Modern (republican) French heraldry tends to be based on the pelta, a wide form of shield (or gorget) with a small animal head pointing inward at each end.[ citation needed ] This is Roman in origin; although not the shape of their classic shield, many brooches of this shape survive from antiquity.[ citation needed ] A form of pelta appears as a decoration above the head of every official on the Austerlitz table, commissioned by Napoleon for propaganda purposes.[ citation needed ]
The heraldic pelta appeared officially on the cover of the French passport early in the twentieth century, and in the mid-twentieth century as the emblem of the French state in the halls of the United Nations.[ citation needed ][ contradictory ] The Belgian coat of arms uses the same form of shield.[ citation needed ][ contradictory ]
A coat of arms is a heraldic visual design on an escutcheon, 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.
In heraldry, the field (background) of a shield can be divided into more than one area, or subdivision, of different tinctures, usually following the lines of one of the ordinaries and carrying its name. Shields may be divided this way for differencing or for purposes of marshalling, or simply for style. The lines that divide a shield may not always be straight, and there is a system of terminology for describing patterned lines, which is also shared with the heraldic ordinaries. French heraldry takes a different approach in many cases from the one described in this article.
An abatement is a modification of a coat of arms, representing a less-than honorable augmentation, imposed by an heraldic authority or by royal decree for misconduct. The practice of inverting the entire escutcheon of an armiger found guilty of high treason has been attested since the Middle Ages and is generally accepted as reliable, and medieval heraldic sources cite at least one instance of removing an honourable charge from a coat of arms by royal decree as an abatement of honour. Other abatements of honour implied by the addition of dishonourable stains and charges, appearing in late 16th-century texts, have never been reliably attested in actual practice. Additionally, as many heraldic writers note, the use of arms is not compulsory, so armigers are more likely to relinquish a dishonored coat of arms than to advertise their dishonor.
In heraldry, cadency is any systematic way to distinguish arms displayed by decendants of the holder of a coat of arms when those family members have not been granted arms in their own right. Cadency is necessary in heraldic systems in which a given design may be owned by only one person at any time, generally the head of the senior line of a particular family. As an armiger's arms may be used 'by courtesy', either by children or spouses, while they are still living, some form of differencing may be required so as not to confuse them with the original undifferenced or "plain coat" arms. Historically, arms were only heritable by males and therefore cadency marks had relevance to daughters; in the modern era, Canadian and Irish heraldry include daughters in cadency. These differences are formed by adding to the arms small and inconspicuous marks called brisures, similar to charges but smaller. They are placed on the fess-point, or in-chief in the case of the label. Brisures are generally exempt from the rule of tincture. One of the best examples of usage from the medieval period is shown on the seven Beauchamp cadets in the stained-glass windows of St Mary's Church, Warwick.
In heraldry, an ordinary is a simple geometrical figure, bounded by straight lines and running from side to side or top to bottom of the shield. There are also some geometric charges known as subordinaries, which have been given lesser status by some heraldic writers, though most have been in use as long as the traditional ordinaries. Diminutives of ordinaries and some subordinaries are charges of the same shape, though thinner. Most of the ordinaries are theoretically said to occupy one-third of the shield; but this is rarely observed in practice, except when the ordinary is the only charge.
In heraldry, a charge is any emblem or device occupying the field of an escutcheon (shield). This may be a geometric design or a symbolic representation of a person, animal, plant, object or other device. In French blazon, the ordinaries are called pièces while other charges are called meubles.
A funerary hatchment is a depiction within a black lozenge-shaped frame, generally on a black (sable) background, of a deceased's heraldic achievement, that is to say the escutcheon showing the arms, together with the crest and supporters of his family or person. Regimental Colours and other military or naval emblems are sometimes placed behind the arms of military or naval officers. Such funerary hatchments, generally therefore restricted in use to members of the nobility or armigerous gentry, used to be hung on the wall of a deceased person's house, and were later transferred to the parish church, often within the family chapel therein which appertained to the manor house, the family occupying which, generally being lord of the manor, generally held the advowson of the church. In Germany, the approximate equivalent is a Totenschild, literally "death shield".
Due to the differing role of women in past society, special rules grew relating to the blazoning of arms for women. The rules for women and heraldry developed differently from place to place and there is no one single rule that applies everywhere. In general, arms of women were most likely depicted not on shields but on lozenges or ovals. Different rules exist that depend on the woman's marital status and a married woman would also often make use of her husband's arms in addition to those from her family. In both the English and the Scottish systems of heraldry these differences remain active.
A Royal Badge for Wales was approved in May 2008. It is based on the arms borne by the thirteenth-century Welsh prince Llywelyn the Great, with the addition of St Edward's Crown atop a continuous scroll which, together with a wreath consisting of the plant emblems of the four countries of the United Kingdom, surrounds the shield. The motto which appears on the scroll, PLEIDIOL WYF I'M GWLAD, is taken from the National Anthem of Wales and is also found on the Welsh designs for £1 coins minted from 1985 until 2000. The badge formerly appeared on the covers of Assembly Measures; since the 2011 referendum, it now appears on the cover of Acts passed by the National Assembly for Wales and its escutcheon, ribbon and motto are depicted on the Welsh Seal.
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.
In English law, baron and feme is a phrase used for husband and wife, in relation to each other, who were accounted as one person by coverture. Hence, by the old law of evidence, the one party was excluded from giving evidence for or against the other in civil questions, and a relic of this is still preserved in criminal law.
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.
In heraldry and heraldic vexillology, a blazon is a formal description of a coat of arms, flag or similar emblem, from which the reader can reconstruct the appropriate image. The verb to blazon means to create such a description. The visual depiction of a coat of arms or flag has traditionally had considerable latitude in design, but a verbal blazon specifies the essentially distinctive elements. A coat of arms or flag is therefore primarily defined not by a picture but rather by the wording of its blazon. Blazon also refers to the specialized language in which a blazon is written, and, as a verb, to the act of writing such a description. Blazonry is the noun describing the art, craft or practice of creating a blazon. The language employed in blazonry has its own vocabulary, grammar and syntax, which becomes essential for comprehension when blazoning a complex coat of arms.
Over its long history, the Holy Roman Empire used many different heraldic forms, representing its numerous internal divisions.
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.
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.