1902 Encyclopedia > Heraldry > Common Charges - Birds

(Part 6)

BIRDS.—The bird of heraldry before all others is the Eagle, the symbol of the fourth evangelist. Its earliest and chief popularity was in Germany, where it was adopted by the empire and by many of the principal sovereign princes.

It appears but twice in the roll of Henry III., but after his brother Richard, earl of Cornwall, became king of the Romans, he adopted the eagle, which on that account was to be seen in all the armorial glass of the midland churches, and was widely copied in private coats of arms. His son Edmund, while bearing "Cornwall" for his arms, suspended his shield from the beak, and placed it on the breast of an eagle in reference to his father’s rank. In the roll of Edward II. there are forty-three examples of eagles.

The nobles of the old Holy Roman empire place their shields upon the breast of an eagle, as may be seen in England in the insignia of the duke of Marlborough as a prince, and of the earl of Denbigh and Lord Arundel of Wardour as counts, of that empire.

The imperial eagle is always represented with two heads, the origin of which is obscure. The emperor Frederick II. on his con-temporary shield in Westminster Abbey has a single-headed eagle. The second head is supposed to have been produced by the dimidiation of two coats, each an eagle, but this is scarcely probable. The eagle of the house of Brandenburg has but one head. Some of the North Wales gentry, headed by Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, place their shields upon the breast of an eagle, single-headed, and the practice is not unknown in Scotland. The seal of the widow of one of the Warwickshire Harpurs in the time of Edward II. gives an eagle, and in his two claws shields of her husband’s arms and her own.

Besides the eagles of Austria, Brandenburg, Russia, imperial France, and the United States, the bird was the emblem of Este, Bohemia, and Moravia, of many of the German, Italian, and French nobles, and of many very ancient English and Scottish names, as Monthermer, Bedingfield, Biddulph, Glyn, Weston, in England, and Ramsay, Maxwell, and Carnegie, in Scotland. The great financiers Rothschild use an eagle for their arms.

The eagle is always shown "displayed," that is, upright, with his breast to the front, and his legs, tail, and wings expanded,—what is commonly known as a spread eagle.

When the beaks and talons of birds of prey are specified, they are said to be beaked and armed. In the roll of Henry III., Sir Dru de Barenton bore sable, three eagles or, and his descendents in the reign of Edward II. had increased the number to six and gave them argent. Piers Gaveston bore six eagles upon his shield and horse furniture.

Peter, earl of Richmond and Savoy, who built the Savoy Palace in 1250, and was uncle of Eleanor, queen of Henry III., on the shield of his monumental effigy at Aqua Bella bears an eagle for Savoy. The cross, the later arms of that house, appears on the pommel of his sword. Long before this, about 1142, when Mathieu de Montmorenci married Adela of Savoy, he added four alerions or eaglets to his arms, probably in compliment to his wife, who bore an eagle displayed ; and certainly in 1206 the acknowledged arms of the house of Savoy were an eagle.

Parts of birds, especially of eagles, are borne, as the head, wings, legs, and feathers. When feathers are used, and the quill is of a special colour, they are said to be quilled. When a bird is leaving the ground it is "rising," when oil the wing it is "au vol," when the wings are down it is "closed," when open "disclosed."

Bedingfeld of Oxburgh : ermine, an eagle displayed barry argent and gules (fig. 104).

Glynne of Hawarden argent, a two-headed eagle sable (fig. 105).

Culcheth of Culcheth: argent, an eagle disclospd, preyant on a child in a mantle gules, wattled or. This is the crest of Stanley, well known in Lancashire as the bird and bantling.

Aubrey of Llantrithyd : azure, a chevron between three eagles’ heads erased or. Seymour: gules, two eagles’ wings conjoined in lure or (fig. 106).1

Bray of Shere : argent, a chevron between three eagles’ legs erased à la quise ("cuisse," that is, removed at the thigh) sable, armed gules (fig 107).

The Falcon, as an accessory to field sports, was much esteemed, and is often borne in heraldry. It is also called a gerfalcon, peregrine falcon, and tiercelet. The falcon is usually borne with the jesses or leather thongs about its legs, sometimes with a hood and bells. It is then jessed, hooded, and belled. When feeding it is "at prey." The lure was a bunch of feathers towards which the bird was taught to return. On the seal of Alice, countess of Eu (1234-42), she bears on her hand a falcon with its jesses pendant. It was the custom to slip over the claws of the young birds a silver ring, which could not afterwards be removed. Two such rings were found at Castle Hedingbam, the seat of the De Veres, engraved "Ox-en-forde." One of gold found at Biggleswade bore "Sum regis Angliae," and within the ring "et comitis Herfordiae." How-ever well trained, these birds were always liable to prove riflers, that is, not to return to the lure—

"For though thou night and day take of him hede,

And strew his cage faire and soft as silk,

And give him sugre, hony, bred, and milke,

Yet right anon so that his door is up

He with his feet will spurren down his cup,

And to the wood he will, and wormes," &c.

Falconer of Halkerton bore originally gules, three hawks’ lures or. After a marriage with Douglas they bore or, a falcon’s head proper, issuant out of a man’s heart gules between three stars azure. The English Falconers bore argent, three falcons gules, jessed, belled, and hooded or (fig 108).

Degge : or, on a bend azure, three falcons rising argent, jessed and belled of the field.

Baker : argent, on a fess gules three falcons’ heads erased of the field.

Ridley of Blaydon : gules, a chevron between three gos-hawks argent.

Aldrington : sable, three hawks’ lures penned, stringed, and ringed argent.

The Swan was the cognizance of the Bohuns. Humphrey, earl of Hereford, in 1319, bequeathed to his son "un lit entier de vert poudré de cynes blanches." When gorged with a ducal coronet having a gold chain attached to it, it is called a cygnet royal. The swan was marked or nicked according to the rank of its owner. By a statute of 22 Edward IV. no man having less than five marks

FOOTNOTE (page 700)

1 Heralds differ about the blazoning of this cost. The old terms, gules, a pair of wings displayed or, were thought scarcely clear. York described it as gules, two wings conjoined in fess or. Ralph Brooke takes refuge in French with "Deux vols de l’aigle en coeur; but "vol," says Camden, "is a complete pair of wings." Guillim gives "a pair of wings inverted and conjoined." Who shall decide amidst so many wearers of the tabard.

per annum could lawfully keep a "game" of swans. The keeper who looked after them was the "gamester."

Pitfield of Dorset : azure, a bend engrailed between two cygnets royal.

Guest: azure, a chevron or between three swans’ heads erased proper.

The Peacock, paon, is more common as a crest than in the shield. He is usually represented with his tail spread, and is then blazoned as a "peacock in his pride," as seen in the crest of Manners.

Pawne: argent, three peacocks in their pride proper.

Yeo of Devon bore argent, a chevron sable between three Turkey Cocks, tails expanded, proper.

The Pelican is also more common as a crest than in arms. When in profile she is usually vulning herself, and when full-faced on her nest feeding her young she is "a pelican in her piety".

Carne of Nash : gules, a pelican in her piety or (fig. 109).

Pelham: azure, three pelicans vulning themselves proper.

The Ostrich is also better known as a crest as borne by Digby, or as a supporter by the earls of Buchan. The plume of ostrich feathers, the well-known cognizance of the Black Prince, gave rise to the arms of his arms of his natural son, Sir Roger Clarendon, who bore or, on a bend sable three ostriches’ feathers argent, passing through as many scrolls of the field.

Jervis of Devon : argent, six ostriches’ feathers, 3,2,1, sable.

The Stork.

Starkie of Huntroyde: argent, a bend between six storks sable.

The Heron is one of the few birds found in early coats of arms.

Heron of Chipchase and Ford occurs in the roll of Henry III. One of the family was the husband of her of whom


Whispered light tales" . .

at the court of James IV They bore gules, three herons argent.

The Cormorant, or liver, appears with a double pun in the arms of Liverpool: argent, a liver sable, billed and legged gules, holding in his bill a bunch of laver vert.

The Sheldrake, also a water-fowl, was introduced into heraldry to suit Sheldon, mayor of London in 1676, who bore sable, a fess between three sheldrakes argent.

The Raven, corbeau, has been the bearing of Corbet from the beginning of armorial bearings.

Corbet of Moreton Corbet: or, a raven sable—

"A raven sat on Corbet’s armed crest."

Ravenhill: argent, three mounts vert, on each a raven sable.

The Rook is occasionally borne, and sometimes conjointly with the piece known as the rook in chess.

Rook of Kent: argent, on a chevron engrailed between three rooks sable, as many chess rooks of the first.

The Owl, the bird of Minerva, but seldom condescends to figure in a coat of arms. The learned Sir Henry Savile however bore—

Argent, on a bend sable three owls of the field.

Sir Francis Theobald of Barking, Castello’s "harum linguarum callentissimus," bore sable, a fess embattled between three owls argent.

The Cock, more usual as a crest, is sometimes borne in arms. When his beak, comb, wattles or gills, and spurs are given, he is beaked, crested, wattled or jewlapped, and armed.

Cockaigne: azure three cocks argent, armed, crested, and jewlapped proper.

The Popinjay, papagay, or pye, is one of the earliest heraldic birds.

Curzon: argent, on a bend sable three popinlays or, collared gules.

Thwenge or Fitz Marmaduke: argent, a fess gules between three popinjays vert, beaked, legged, and collared of the second.

The Chough is in repute in Cornish heraldry; he is black, with red legs and beak.

Peniston: argent, three Cornish choughs sable, beaked and legged gules.

Onslow: argent, a fess between six Cornish choughs proper.

The Shoveller, said to be a Cornish bird, is borne by the family of Herle, who came to Cornwall from West Herle in Northumberland, and probably therefore assumed their arms, argent, a fess gules be-tween three shovellers proper, after their migration. The heiress married Hastings.

Tyrwhit: gules, three tyrwhits or.

The Swallow, or hirondelle, forms the very early coat of the Arun-dells, of whom William le Brito (1170) says—

"Hirundelae velocior alite, quae, dat

Hoc agnomen ei."

"More swift than bird hight Arundel,

That gives him name and in his shield of arms is blazoned well,

He rides amid the armed troops, and with his spear in rest

(The staff was strong, the point right sharp) runs full upon the brest

Of Sir Guillaume."

Sir Thomas Arundell was by Rudolph II. (1595) created a count of the empire for military service against the Turks. The Arundells of Wardour bear sable, six swallows argent, 3,2,1.

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