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Thread: Components of Heraldry (Crests, Blazons)

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    Post Components of Heraldry (Crests, Blazons)

    Heraldry is the knowledge and art of describing-coats-of-arms, also referred to as achievements or armorial bearings. Its origins are in the need to distinguish participants in battles or jousts and to describe the various devices they carried or painted on their shields.

    However it is important to note that a given coat-of-arms is defined by a written description (which is given in heraldic language, called "blazon"), not by a picture. A given coat-of-arms may be drawn in many different ways, all considered equivalent, just as the letter "A" may be printed in many different fonts while still being the same letter. For example, almost invariably the shape of the shield is immaterial and different artists can depict the same coat of arms on many different shapes of shield.

    A description of a coat-of-arms is called a "blazon". To draw it is to emblazon it. To ensure that the pictures people draw after reading the descriptions are accurate and reasonably alike, blazons follow a set of rules. The first thing the blazon describes is the tincture (colour) of the field (background) (though in some cases of "landscape heraldry" all or part of the field is some sort of landscape), and then it describes the placement and tinctures of the different charges (objects) on the shield. The charges on a shield are described from the top to the base, from dexter to sinister. Dexter ("right" in Latin) is the left side of the shield, and sinister ("left") is the right, as seen by the viewer. The reason for this is that they refer to the shield-bearer's point of view, not the observer's.

    There are no strict definitions of the shades of colours used in heraldry, but the usual practice is to use bold, vivid colours rather than pastel shades.

    The word "crest" is commonly used to refer to a coat-of-arms. However, in heraldry, a crest is just one component of a coat-of-arms, so using the word to refer to the entire coat is in fact incorrect. In a complete depiction of a coat-of-arms, the crest is a design affixed to the helmet. Crests can also be used on their own; this is particularly useful when there is insufficient space to display the entire coat-of-arms, and this practice may be the origin of the popular usage.

    Shield and lozenge

    Traditionally, as women did not go to war, they would not have a shield. Instead, their coats-of-arms would be shown on a lozenge, usually a square standing on one of its corners. As women may now serve in the armed forces in a number of countries, some armigerous women prefer to use a shield anyway. A parallel usage for noncombatant clergymen could be found sometimes on the European continent, with the occasional placement of arms on a cartouche (an oval-shaped vehicle for their display).

    Very rarely and almost invariably in non-European contexts, such as the arms of Nunavut and of the former Republic of Bophuthatswana, specific shapes of shield are specified in the blazon (and the specific type of shield is sometimes followed to the extent, as in the arms of Gauteng (, that structures in the shield (in that case "shield thongs") function as charges).
    The arms of The Lady Thatcher and the late Sir Denis Thatcher, Bt
    A lozenge, the traditional shape of a woman's coat of arms A shield, traditionally used only by a man

    The colours used in heraldry are referred to as tinctures. See next post for a full description.

    Divisions of the field

    The field of a shield in heraldry can be divided into more than one tincture, as can the various charges. The divisions are named according to the ordinary that shares their shape. (It should be noticed that French heraldry takes a different approach in many cases than the one described in this article.)

    Common partitions of the field are:

    • parted (or party) per fess (parted horizontally),
    • party per pale (parted vertically),
    • party per bend (diagonally from upper left to lower right),
    • party per bend sinister (diagonally from upper right to lower left)
    • party per saltire (diagonally both ways).
    • party per chevron (after the manner of a chevron)
    • quarterly (divided "per cross," into four quarters)
    A field cannot be divided per bordure (as if this did exist it would be indistinguishable from the bordure); only a bordure can. Neither can a field (nor any charge) be divided per chief, for similar reasons.

    A shield vertically divided into blue (left side) and gold (right side) would be blazoned: Per pale azure and Or.

    The arms of the former Republic of Bophuthatswana were "per fess (at nombril point)" (lower than the regular per fess division; the "nombril point" is halfway between the fess point -- the exact middle of the field -- and the base point, at the bottom centre of the field).

    The arms of the French department of Côtes d'Armor show émanché, which is shown in this case as equivalent to the English per fess dancetty of two full points upwards.

    The arms of the State of Wisconsin show a quartered shield in which each of the four quarters has a field of or, but this is of questionable propriety.

    When a field is quartered in a swastika-like (a swastika-like form in heraldry is called the fylfot and obviously predates any anti-Semitic associations) pattern, this is called quarterly en equerre.[1] (

    The arms of Mpumalanga Province in South Africa show "per bend sinister, inclined in the flanks per fess."

    There can also be party per chevron reversed, which is like party per chevron except upside down. Party per chevron reversed throughout (with the point reaching to the very bottom of the shield) is sometimes referred to as chaussee.

    Shields may also be divided into three parts: this is called tierced, as in tierced per pale, azure, argent, and gules (though in British heraldry this is not done and the foregoing shield would be blazoned [as the pale is supposed to be one-third of the width of the field and is always so depicted under these circumstances] per pale azure and gules, a pale argent.) A particular type of tiercing, resembling a Y in shape (division lines per bend and bend sinister coming down from the chief, meeting at the fess point, and continuing down per pale), is called per pall. (The arms of Sine ni Shranachain from the Society for Creative Anachronism Barony of the Forgotten Sea show this, but are inaccurately blazoned "Per pale argent and Or, on a chief triangular purpure a cat's face Or".)

    A field pily, as in the arms of the 2nd Baron Marks of Broughton, Michael Marks, is similar to a field per fess dancetty, except that the teeth are much more exaggerated.

    The division line may be of any of the different line shapes.

    When the term rompu is applied to a division of the field, the result will take a number of different forms depending on the manner of division. The arms of Lois Hole show Per chevron rompu Or and Vert, the centre section heightened of two points.

    More than one division of the field may be combined.

    One division of the field (though it is described by some as a charge) is restricted to the chief: when the chief is divided by a bow-shaped line, this is called chaperonnet.[2] (

    Reference: Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 105th edition.


    Charges can be animals, objects or geometric constructs (ordinaries).

    or Common animals are lions, leopards, martlets, eagles, gryphons, fish, boarsdolphins. There are dragons and unicorns as well, but they are not nearly as common as most people suppose. The default position of an animal is looking to the left. Animals are found in various different positions — a flying martlet is a martlet volant, a swimming dolphin is a dolphin naiant, and a walking lion is a lion passant. Other words for positions are rampant (on hind legs), salient (leaping), sejant (sitting) and gardant (looking at the viewer). There are humans as well, although they are unusual, like wild men or Saracens. If you show only the head of an animal, cut off at the neck, it is an <animal>'s head couped if the cut is straight, and erased if it looks as if the animal's head has been ripped off.

    Common objects are escallops (shells), crosses, mullets (a conventional five-pointed star shape, as on the American flag, which in fact represent spurs), crescents, bugle-horns, water-bougets, gauntlets, and different kinds of trees, flowers, leaves, and other plants. Circles are generally called "roundels", but in England instead of being described "a roundel vert", they have different names depending on colour: "bezants" if they are golden, "plates" if silver, "torteaux" if red, "hurts" if blue, "pellets" or "ogresses" if black, "pommes" if green, "oranges" if orange, and "guzes" if sanguine. A roundel that is "barry wavy argent and azure" is called a "fountain".

    Ordinaries (sometimes called "honourable ordinaries") are almost like partitions, but are handled like objects. Though there is much debate as to exactly which geometrical charges consitute ordinaries, certain ones are agreed on by everyone. A pale is a vertical charge starting from the top of the shield, ending at the bottom, and wide as a third of the shield's width. (The "Canadian pale", identical to the pale but taking up one-half the shield's width, was invented in 1964 by Conrad Swan, retired Garter King of Arms) [1] (; it can be seen in the arms of Rehder. [2] (

    A fess is the same thing, only horizontal.

    There are also bends, saltires, flaunches and crosses, as well as chiefs, and chevrons.

    A chief is a fess situated in the upper third of the shield. It can be associated with the fillet, a quite narrow horizontal band running along the bottom of the chief, [3] ( although it can be difficult if not impossible sometimes to distinguish between a fillet and a chief fimbriated, as the fimbriation of a chief occurs only along the lower line. The fillet is sometimes inaccurately described as a diminutive of the chief, but the chief has no diminutive. It is important to note that a chief "enhanced" (which gives it a narrower appearance), as in the arms of Martin F. J. Matthews [4] (, is not a diminutive.

    Probert [5] (, Guillim [6] ( and others say that if one chief is "surmounted of another" (one chief is charged on another chief) it will have the appearance of a chief divided by a line running along the upper part of the "chief". The rare "chief couped" is a chief that falls short of reaching the dexter and sinister sides of the shield; the representation of Stonehenge in the arms of Sir Cecil Chubb, "the Baronet who owned Stonehenge and gifted it to the nation", show an example.[7] ( Chiefs are more commonly seen, though not blazoned as, couped when within a tressure.[8] (

    A chevron looks like a saw's tooth, arching from the middle of the left side of the shield to the middle of the right.

    A bordure is just that, a border around the shield. A bordure separated from the outside of the shield, which looks like a shield with another shield cut out of it, is an orle. Confusingly, when a number of charges (by default, eight) are arranged in the position a bordure (not an orle) would be in they are said to be "in orle".

    A quarter is the top left (dexter chief in heraldry) quarter of the shield; this is the default position. The top right quarter is a sinister quarter.

    The pall is a Y-shaped charge throughout the field, common to Scotland.

    There are diminutives of charges as well.

    The diminutive of the pale is the pallet and the diminutive of the fess is the bar. (The diminutive of the bar is the barrulet; barrulets are never borne singly. Bars are likewise rarely if ever borne singly, though the arms of Scheffeld are amazingly blazoned as having one-and-a-half bars.[9] ( "Barry of <number>" means that the background is divided into that number of horizontal stripes. There are diminutives of most partitions, like "bendy of" or "paly of". It should be noted that in order to be described as "barry" or "paly" there must be an even number of stripes, otherwise it is a field of x tincture and y pallets or bars. Thus the shield of the United States of America, though officially described as "Paly of thirteen argent and gules, a chief azure", is no such thing; it is "Argent, six pallets gules and a chief azure".

    The diminutive of the bend sinister is the scarpe.

    The diminutive of the chevron is the chevronel.

    The diminutive of the quarter is the canton, a square occupying, in theory, the upper left third of the shield. In theory a canton is never an original part of the shield, but some form of later addition, but this is not true in practice. Another charge can be completely hidden by the canton (sometimes, if the charge is not part of a predictable pattern of like charges laid out elsewhere on the shield, making it impossible to correctly blazon the shield); the charge so hidden is then called "absconded". (A highly unusual example of a quarter absconding charges can be seen when Robert Stewart, Lord of Lorn, marshalled his arms with those of Lorn: "Or a fess chequy of four tracts Azure and Argent between two buckles in chief and a garb in base of the Second; a sinister quarter Or bearing a lymphad Sable with sail set absconding one of the buckles and part of the fess; in the dexter base another quarter of the same absconding part of the fess". [10] ( When a shield contains both a fess and canton they are always shown in their theoretical size, and with no dividing line between them; as they appear to be one continuous thing, blazoning a shield with a fess and canton can be confusing for the novice. The canton can be borne sinister (unless blazoned "a canton sinister" the canton is dexter), but this rarely happens.

    A charge "in canton" is located in the position in which a canton would be.

    The diminutive of the canton is the chequer of the chequy field (but this never occurs alone).

    An escutcheon is a shield; it is usually shown in the shape of the larger shield it is on. An orle is a voided escutcheon.

    If you put a mullet on a bend, the bend "is charged with" the mullet.

    Any type of charge, but usually ordinaries and subordinaries, can be "voided"; without further description, this means that the charge has been "emptied" with a hole in the shape of the charge revealing the field behind it, and only a border has been left. It is possible, however, though highly unusual, that the voiding, the hole, is of a different tincture than the field behind the charge, which tincutre must then be specified; for example, "Argent, a mullet gules, voided or". It is also possible that the voiding is of a different shape than the voided charge, as in the arms of Newton Technical High School ( in South Africa: "Quarterly gules and sable; a lozenge or voided of a quatrefoil; at its centre a cog wheel argent; the whole within a border or".

    Special charges known as "differences" may distinguish otherwise similar blazons; these often indicate "cadency", or what number son owns the shield, to distinguish him from other sons and the father.


    Full descriptions of shields range in complexity:

    • "Ermine" (the arms of Brittany)
    • "Azure, a bend Or" (over which the families of Scrope and Grosvenor fought a famous legal battle)
    • "Sable, two swords crossed in saltire argent, between four fleurs-de-lis Or, all contained within a bordure purpure"
    • "Party per fess argent and sable, in chief a falcon close vert, in base a plate charged with a fleur-de-lis vert"
    • "Party per fess: The chief Argent, charged with five bezants, the centre bezant charged in chief with a latin cross of the field, on a canton in sinister base of the first, a bucket: The base party per pale Azure and Argent, the dexter side charged with three rings conjoined at their centres in pairle, the sinister side charged with a bend sinister Azure bearing three quatrefoil of the field. Behind the shield a pastoral staff. The shield contained within a cartouche and ensigned with an ecclesiastical hat supporting six tassels on either side of the shield."
    • "Quarterly, I three lions' heads affrontés crowned Or; II chequy Gules and Argent; III Azure, a river in fess Gules bordered Argent, thereupon a marten proper, beneath a six-pointed star Or; IV per fess Azure and Or, overall a bar Gules, in the chief a demi-eagle Sable displayed addextré of the sun in splendour, and senestré of a crescent Argent, in the base seven towers three and four, of the third; enté en point Gules, a double-headed eagle Proper on a peninsula Vert, holding a vase pouring water into the sea Argent, beneath a crown Proper with bands Azure; overall an escutcheon barry of eight Gules and Argent impaling Gules, on a mount Vert a crown Or, issuant therefrom a double cross Argent; overall an escutcheon tierced in pale a lion rampant Gules crowned Or, Gules a fess Argent and Or on a bend Gules three allerions Argent."

    Supporters and other additions

    The coat-of-arms of Saskatchewan, with parts labelled

    An armiger may be entitled, depending upon their rank to several other items.

    • Supporters. Peers of the realm, senior members of British orders of knighthood and some corporate bodies have supporters on either side of the shield. Often these can have local significance (such as the Fisherman and the Tin miner granted to Cornwall County Council) or a historical link (such as the lion of England and unicorn of Scotland on the two variations of the Royal Arms in Great Britain).
    • A coronet of a design appropriate to a peer's rank would be placed on top of the shield.
    • Helm. All coats of arms may be displayed with a helm or helmet, which sits over the shield and carries the crest (see below). The form of the helmet may vary with the rank of the armiger.
    • The crest rests above coronet (if applicable) and helm, usually on a 'wreath' of twisted cloth in the two principal colours of the coat of arms. Often but not exclusively an animal, crests were used to identify a knight at the joust and were, therefore, at first, a sign of the superior rank expected of participants in medieval tournaments. Since Tudor times, however, crests have been granted with all English coats of arms. The City of Sunderland's crest is a wild boar, a remembrance of the parish of Hetton-le-Hole, which became part of the City in 1974. A woman does not display a crest (just as no woman would have fought in a medieval tournament). The crest rests on the helm, as it would have done in real life, or it may be illustrated directly above the shield without a helm (as in the illustration of the arms of Sir Denis Thatcher). His wife, Lady Thatcher, as a woman, displays no crest but her coronet as a baroness is placed above her arms.
    • Clergy, like women, and for the same reason (their non-participation in combat), traditionally do not display a helm or crest. Higher clergy, such as bishops or abbots, may display appropriate headwear (the mitre) above the shield, similar to the display by peers of their coronets. Lower clergy often use clerical hats with tassells appropriate to their seniority: this practice began in the Roman Catholic church but was subsequently adopted by some Anglican clergy. The Chief Herald of Ireland has granted Father William Richardson the crest A dexter hand couped at the wrist Gules holding a crown of thorns Proper., but this is often shown next to the shield, the only item above the shield being the historical tasselled hat of a priest.
    Besides the shield

    In addition to the shield, most coats-of-arms include a crest, placed above the shield, and a motto, usually placed below it.

    Other items may be added to the coat, such as a helmet (decorated with mantling) in a variety of meaningful postures and designs; supporters on either side of the shield and the compartment on which they usually stand; and a variety of medals, ribbons, and other decorations. These items are often granted as special honours by the sovereign.

    Modern heraldry

    Heraldry is still practised today. Institutions, companies, and members of the public may obtain officially recognized coats of arms from governmental heraldic authorities. This typically has the force of a registered trademark. The first corporate coat of arms was probably granted to the Drapers' Company of the City of London in 1438 (see Coat of Arms of The Drapers Company). However, many modern "heraldic" designs are not registered with heraldic authorities, and do not follow the rules of heraldic design at all.

    Some people who are interested in heraldry as a hobby participate in the Society for Creative Anachronism and other such medieval revivals, or in micronationalism. For many more people, heraldry is seen as a part of their national, and even personal, heritage, as well as being a manifestation of civic and national pride.

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    Post Re: Heraldry

    Basic tinctures

    There are seven tinctures, consisting of two metals (light tinctures) and five colours (dark tinctures).

    Tincture Heraldic name Metals Gold/Yellow Or * Silver/White Argent Colours Blue Azure Red Gules Purple Purpure Black Sable Green Vert
    * "Or" is usually spelt with a capital letter (Gules, a fess Or) so as not to confuse it with the conjunction "or".)

    Sometimes the word "gold" is used for "or" in blazon, either to prevent repetition of the word "or", or because this substitution was the fashion in a particular period, or, more rarely, because it is the preference of an officer of arms, but "or" has been used much more frequently.

    Arthur Charles Fox-Davies has argued that in extremely rare circumstances, white can be a different heraldic colour from argent. He bases this in part on the "white labels" used to difference the arms of members of the British Royal Family. However, it has been argued that these could be regarded as "white labels proper", thus rendering white not a heraldic tincture.[1] ( White seems to be regarded as a different tincture from argent in Portuguese heraldry, as evidenced by the arms of municipal de Santiago do Cacém ( in Portugal, in which the white of the fallen Moor's clothing and the knight's horse is distinguished from the argent of the distant castle, and in the arms of the Logistical and Administrative Command of the Portuguese Air Force.

    The names of the tinctures mainly come to us from French. Azure is from the Arabic lazward meaning lapis lazuli; sable is named for the fur of the sable marten; and gules is from the French gueules, which is thought to refer to animal's red throats.

    Although the English term vert is also from French, the French themselves use the word sinople to refer to the tincture.

    The patterns illustrated are occasionally used to depict arms in a monochromatic context, such as a "hatching" (sketch) or engraving.

    Later tinctures

    Later heraldry introduced some more colours. Only three are of more than exceptional use in British heraldry: murrey (mulberry-coloured), sanguine (blood-red) and tenné (orange or tan, though in Dutch and South African heraldry orange is regarded as a different colour). These were sometimes called stainand colours, as some rebatements of honour were said to be blazoned of these colours.

    Other colours, particularly those used in Europe, include:

    • carnation (the colour of European human skin – most common in France),
    • bleu celeste (also ciel or celeste – sky-blue),
    • cendrée (dark grey)
    The "ash colour" in the arms of Gwilt of South Wales ("Argent, a lion rampant sable, the head, paws, and half of the tail ash colour") may be the same tincture as cendrée.[2] ( It is important to note, however, that descriptions of a type of animal (such as "a horse of bay colour") followed by proper, from true heraldic tinctures.

    These are rare – the seven primary tinctures are the most common ones. Rarer still are other such Continental colours as "Brunâtre". Brunâtre can be seen in the brown lion rampant in the arms of Simón Bolívar, and is blazoned "Braun" in German heraldry. In German heraldry there are also the colours "grey", "Eisen" (iron) and "earth colour" and "water colour". (It is unclear how "water colour" should be depicted.[3] ( The colour "amaranth" or "columbine" was used "in a coat granted to a Bohemian knight in 1701".[4] (

    The supporters of the arms of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames: On either side a Griffin Gules armed and beaked Azure each supporting an Oar proper the blade of the dexter Dark Blue and that of the sinister Light Blue.

    In addition to bleu celeste, there is also an apparently unique example in British heraldry of the use of "dark blue" and "light blue". It was first used in the arms of the former Borough of Barnes, through which the Oxford versus Cambridge boat race passes on the Thames, showing the respective blades of the teams' oars[5] (; when in 1965 that borough merged with its neighbours to form the Borough of Richmond upon Thames, the coloured oars were transferred to the supporters in the arms of the new borough.

    The arms of the Jewish Autonomous Region in Russia have a field of aquamarine, which is emblazoned more as a kind of dark green than a true aquamarine colour.

    In 1997 the colours rose and copper appeared in Canada. In South African heraldry, the arms of the University of Transkei provide an example of ochre[6] (

    The rule of tincture

    The first rule of heraldry is the rule of tincture: metal must never be placed upon metal, nor colour upon colour, for the sake of contrast.

    The main duty of a heraldic device is to be recognized, and the dark colours or light metals are supposed to be too difficult to distinguish if they are placed on top of other dark or light colours.

    The rule of tincture does not apply to furs (so furs are sometimes called "amphibious"), nor to charges proper (see below).

    Divisions of the field are considered to be beside each other, not one on top of the other; so the rule of tincture does not apply. The rule also does not apply to party-coloured (divided) fields; a field party of a colour and metal may have a charge of either colour or metal placed on it. Likewise, a party-coloured (of colour and metal) charge may be placed on either a colour or metal background. Neither does the rule apply to the tongue, horns, claws, hoofs of beasts (for instance, a lion or on an azure field could be langued [with his tongue] gules) when of a different tincture than the rest of the animal.

    This rule is so closely followed that arms that violate it are called armes fausses (false arms) or armes à enquerir (arms of enquiry); any violation is presumed to be intentional, to the point that one is supposed to enquire how it came to pass. (For example, such arms are sometimes caused by the addition of honourable augmentations granted by the monarch, which always ignore the rule of tincture.) One of the most famous armes à enquerir (often said to be the only example) was the shield of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, which had gold crosses on silver (thus, metal on metal). An example of "colour on colour" is the arms of Albania, with its sable two-headed eagle on a gules field.

    On the rare occasions this rule has been violated, the offending charge has perhaps most often been a chief (see Ordinaries and sub-ordinaries), which has led some commentators to question whether the rule should apply to a chief, or even whether a chief should be considered a charge at all, but rather a division of the field. (These violations usually occur in the case of landscape heraldry and augmentations, although French civic heraldry, with its frequent chiefs of France [with either three fleurs-de-lys or on an azure field or azure, seme-de-lys or], often violate this rule when the field is of a colour; the arms of Harvard Law School, with its gules chief on an azure field, is another example.) However, this is a radically minorial view.

    In French heraldry the term cousu ("sewn") is sometimes in blazon used to get around what would otherwise be a violation of the rule. In Italian heraldry terms such as per inchiesta are used in the blazons of the extremely rare violations of the rule, to acknowledge their exceptionality, or impropriety.[7] (

    Marks of cadency (whether bordures, the marks of the English cadency system, or any other mark) (and presumably marks of distinction), can be exceptions to this rule. (An example would be the arms of Anjou: Azure three fleurs-de-lys or and a bordure gules.[8] ( Also, in Great Britain, cantons added to indicate baronetcy of Ulster (showing a gules hand couped on an argent field) ignore this rule; otherwise they could be displayed by no one with a metal field.

    Another violation which is usually not worried about is a green mount on a blue field representing the sky.

    Fimbriation, the surrounding of a charge by a thin border, can obviate what would otherwise be a violation of the rule, as in the Union Jack (which, although a flag rather than a shield, was designed using heraldic principles). The "divise," a thin band running underneath the chief in French heraldry, can also obviate a violation, as can the parallel "fillet" in English heraldry.

    The rule of tincture has had an influence reaching far beyond heraldry. It has been imposed on flags, or perhaps it should be put, applied to the design of flags, so that the flag of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach was modified to conform to the rule.[9] ( The rule of tincture has also influenced World Wide Web design with respect to what colour font should be placed on what colour background.


    Furs, such as ermine, ermines, or vair, are regular variations of the field that represent various types of actual fur. Any charge may be of a fur. (In German heraldry, "fur proper" is sometimes used, but this is rare in the extreme.)

    (Although the name "sable" comes from a kind of fur, the colour sable is not considered a heraldic fur.)

    Ermine and its variants

    Ermine is in design a field argent, semé (see variations of the field) of ermine-spots sable, but is not so regarded; it is regarded as a plain tincture. An ermine-spot is a small bell-shaped item, variously depicted, that occasionally figures as a charge in its own right. Ermine represents the white coat of the animal to which tufts of its black tail fur were sewn.

    The arms of William John Uncles ( show an unusual field of "ermine the spots bendwise".

    Ermines is the reverse of ermine – a field sable semé of ermine-spots argent. It is occasionally called counter-ermine, especially by SCA heralds.

    Erminois is ermine with a field Or instead of argent, and pean is the reverse of erminois.

    James Parker says that "erminites" is like ermine except with a red hair on each side of the "spot", but by his own admission this is of doubtful existence.[10] ( John Guillim also mentions this.[11] (

    Other colours may be obtained, but they must be blazoned as, for example, gules, semé of ermine-spots Or.

    Vair and its variants

    Basic vair is a row of small items shaped like bells with straight edges. The bells on the next row down are placed with their bottoms facing the bottoms of the bells on the row above, and so forth down. The top row has the upright bells being argent, the next row down has them being azure. The pattern is thought to represent squirrel furs, sewn together in such a way that the white belly and blue-gray back alternate.

    The old depictions of vair are similar in appearance to bars of azure and argent divided by alternate straight lines and lines wavy. In the past this would simply be blazoned "vair", but nowadays this is usually (though not always) blazoned vair ancient.

    Counter-vair is like vair, except that bells with their bottoms facing have the same tincture. The effect is one of vertical columns of bells of the same colour, alternately upside-down and right side up.

    Vairy en pointe can be seen in the arms of Dr. Malcolm Robert Golin.[12] (

    Vair in pale has the "bells" or "shields" of one tincture "lined up" (in pale) above one another.

    Vair is thought to originate from the white and blue-grey fur of a type of squirrel being sewn together.

    Potent and counter-potent follow the same rules as vair, except using a T-shaped item instead of the vair bell. (The word "potent" means crutch; it is thought to derive from badly-drawn vair.)

    Other tinctures may be used, described as vairy, counter-vairy, potenty, or counter-potenty of (say) Or and gules. In extremely rare circumstances there is vairy of four colours, but apparently vairy is always either of two or four colours.

    Other furs

    German heraldry recognizes a fur called Kursch; this is said to be drawn brown and hairy, and there are occasional references in English to "vair bellies", which may be the same thing.


    Objects may also be depicted in their natural colours. In this case, they are described as "proper". Sometimes a colour must also then be given (e.g. a white horse proper).

    Some consider it bad form to depict too many charges as "proper", especially when those charges create a landscape. This experienced a vogue during the Victorian period, but came to be deprecated as being excessively difficult to draw from blazon, and somewhat contrary to the spirit of heraldry as favouring bold, clear, and unmistakable designs.


    The custom in English blazon is to reduce redundancy by only referring to a particular colour once in the blazon.

    For example, instead of saying Gules, on a fess Or a rose gules seeded Or, one would say, Gules, on a fess Or a rose of the field, seeded of the second.

    Likewise, instead of Vert, a fess Or between two lions passant Or, one would say, Vert, a fess between two lions passant Or.


    When a charge is placed across a division line, variation, or ordinary, it may be blazoned counterchanged.

    This means that the charge is divided the same way as the field it is placed upon, with the colours reversed.

    A shield which is green on the upper half and silver on the lower, charged at the centre with a lion whose upper half is silver and lower half green, would be blazoned: Per fess vert and argent, a lion counterchanged.

    In Scots heraldry, a charge may be blazoned as counterchanged of different colours from the field; e.g. Per fess gules and azure, a sun in splendour counterchanged Or and of the first. In English heraldry, this would be described as Per fess gules and azure, a sun in splendour per fess Or and of the first.

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    Post Re: Heraldry

    Johannes de León selections are always informative and well done!
    Thank you dear Fellow!

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