1902 Encyclopedia > Heraldry > Rules of Blazon

(Part 15)


To blazon a coat of arms is to describe it in the technical language of heraldry; and, although the works of the fathers of heraldic lore contain much irrelevant matter, and some confusion of arrangement, the rules of blazon, by whom-soever devised or perfected, are remarkable for their precision, brevity, and completeness. Great and successful care has been taken to produce clear and simple order, to avoid repetition, and to preserve a certain uniformity of arrangement through much complexity of detail. The technicalities arise in great measure from the use of terms once well known, and the language, as was to be ex-pected, shows traces of the French and Franco-Norman channels through which the "gentle art" reached England.

First comes the description of the field, its colour, or the arrangement of the colours (if more than one), and the character of the partition lines when parted. Thus the "parma inglorius alba" would be blazoned "he beareth argent." The coat of Waldgrave is per pale argent and gules ; that of D’Ebroicis, earl of Gloucester, was "per pale dancette argent and gules."

Next follow the charges, and first those of most im-portance and nearest the field, their name, number, and position (if an animal, its attitude), and finally the colour. The principal charge is that which occupies the principal position. Thus Backhouse of Kellet bore party per saltire, azure and or, a saltire ermine ; Bigland of Bigland, azure, two ears of big or. Where the principal charge is an ordinary placed between smaller charges, it follows the field: Foliot,—or, a fess between two chevrons gules. The same rule holds where the ordinary is charged, as in Braith-waite of High Wray,—gules, on a chevron argent three cross crosslets fitchy sable; or when the two are combined, as Kerr of Cessford—vert, upon a chevron between three uni-corns’ heads erased argent, horned and crined or, as many mullets sable. Where the ordinary may be charged, but does not admit of being placed between charges, it is blazoned thus : Russell,—argent, a lion rampant gules, on a chief sable three escallops of the field. If the field be semde of figures (i.e., besprinkled with them in regular order) they follow it: Pierrepoint,—argent, semée of cinquefoils gules, a lion rampant sable. Had the cinquefoils been on the lion instead of on the field the blazon would have run, argent a lion rampant sable, semée of cinquefoils gules.

The arrangement of common charges has already been explained (page 698, fig. 85) :—if one, central; if two, per pale ; if three, 2 and 1; if more, as must be specified, as in Babington (fig. 9). Such diminutives as are borne in pairs follow their ordinary: Cludde,—argent, a bend between four cotises sable. To avoid repetition, if a tincture occurs twice reference is made to the first : Scott of Abbotsford,—or, two mullets in chief and a crescent in fess, azure, within an orle of the last ; and so if the same number of charges occurs twice, the words "as many" are used: Maling of Scarborqugh,—ermine, on a chevron vert between three hawks’ jesses as many roses argent. Upton, who wrote, in Latin, is put to strange shifts to express his mean-ing. He thus blazons the arms of Mortimer (fig. 63) :—

"Portavit arma barrata, et caput scuti palatum est et angulatum de azorio et auro, cum quodam scuto simplici de argento." In heraldic French this is, "Il portoit barrée et ung chef palée cunetée d’asur et d’or, et ung eseu simple d’argent."

The following, from Menestrier, is the full blazon of the arms of the old kings of France :—

D’asur a trois fleurs-de-lys d’or 2 and 1. Escu timbré d’un casque ouvert d’or placé de front, assorty de ses lambrequins d’or et d’asur, couronné de la couronne imperiale Françoise, entouré des colliers des ordres du St Esprit et St Michel, soutenu par deux anges vetus en Levites ; la dalmatique des émaux de l’escu tenant chacun un baniere de France ; le tout placé sous un grand pavillon d’asur fleur-de-lisé d’or doublé d’ermines ; le comble rayonné d’or et couronné de la couronne imperiale Françoise.

Le dit pavillon attaché à la baniere ou oriflamme du Royeaume. Cri du guerre, "Montjoye St Denis." Devise, "Lilia non laborant neque nent," alluding to the operation of the Salic law.

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