1902 Encyclopedia > Heraldry > Common Charges - Reptiles, Insects and Monsters

(Part 8)

REPTILES, INSECTS, AND MONSTERS.—Reptiles and Insects are charges rarely seen in early coats.

The Serpent is the bearing of the Visconti, dukes of Milan : ar-gent, a serpent gliding in pale azure, crowned or, vorant an infant issuant gules.

The Snake or bisse, anguis.

Sir Wm. de Malbisse: three testes de bysses.

The usual bearing of the name of Vaughan in S. Wales is azure, three boys heads couped at the bust argent, wreathed about the neck with a snake proper.

Bottreaux: argent, three toads (botraces) erect sable.

The Fly, musca.—Muschamp of Wooler bore argent, a chevron vert between three flies. This bearing is seen on a boss of the cloister at Canterbury, but the muscae are represented as butterflies, which loses sight of the allusion.

The Bee.—Both Sir Robert Peel and Sir Richard Arkwright appropriately placed a bee in their arms.

Chimaeras.—A chimaera isa modification of some existing animal, though often much more than "parce detorta" from its type. Of them the most celebrated is the winged lion of St Mark, the proud emblem of ancient Venice. Technically the bearing is "azure, a winged lion sejant’ gardant, with a glory, or ; in his fore paws an open book, thereon ‘Pax tibi, Marce, Evangelista meus,’ over the dexter page a sword erect,—all proper."

The Dragon, though not very much used in heraldry, is a chimaera of ancient date and much employed in early romance. He is thus described—

"There was a dragon great and grymme,

Full of fire and also of venym ;

And as a lion then was his fete,

His tayle was long and full unmete;

Between his head and his tayle

Was twenty-two foote withouten fail;

His body was like a wine ton,

He shone full bright against the sun;

His eyes were bright as any glass,

His scales were hard as any brass."

The dragon was a favourite standard with the Welsh princes, and used also by the Anglo-Norman sovereigns. He is drawn with four legs and wings, a long barbed tail usually knotted, and a body pro-tected by scales. In English heraldry he is used chiefly as a crest. In Wales, Rhys Ap Tudor Mawr is said to have borne "argent, a dragon segreant sable."

The Gryphon is popular both in romance and heraldry. He is an emblem of vigilance, and inhabited a mountain in Bactria and guarded much gold there. It was in defence of this that he

"Through the wilderness

Pursued the Arimaspian."

He is drawn with the body and tail of a lion, the head of a cock, a pair of wings, and very long sharp claws. When on his hind legs he is segreant.

Morgan of Tredegar: or, a gryphon segreant sable (fig. 112).

Evelyn of Wotton; azure, a grypbon passant and a chief or.

Cotton of Landwade: sable, a chevron between three gryphons’ heads erased argent.

The gryphon was an early cognizance of Redvers, earl of Devon, and was used statant by some branches of the Montacutes in the time of Henry III.

The Wyvern is a two-legged dragon with the body passing off into a long tail barbed at the end and usually borne nowed or knotted.

Drake: argent, a wyvern statant, tail depressed and nowed, gules (fig. 113).


Langley; argent, a cockatrice sable, combed gules.

The Unicorn or licorne abounds in Scottish heraldry, and was made the sinister supporter of the arms of Great Britain by James I.

"Ceste merveillose beste,

Qui une corne a en ta teste

Senefie nostre seigneur,

Ihesu Crist nostre sauveur.

C’est l’'unicorne spirituei,

Qui entre la vierge prist ostel."

Harting: argent, a unicorn sejant sable, armed and ungued or.

The Mermaid.

Ellis: argent, a mermaid gules, crined or, in her right hand a comb, in her left a mirror, argent.

The Martlet, or merlotte, a small bird without legs, and always represented close. It is one of the oldest and commonest of charges, but seldom if ever borne singly (see Fleetwood, fig. 12).

Furnival of Farnham Royal: argent, a bend between six martlets, gules.

Roger de Merley, roll of Henry III.: barry of ten, argent and gules, on a border azure eight martlets or.

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