Coat of arms

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For the album by Sabaton, see Coat of Arms (album).

A coat of arms is a unique heraldic design on an escutcheon (i.e. shield), surcoat, or tabard. A surcoat, and subsequently a coat of arms was used by medieval knights to cover, protect, and identify the wearer. Thus these are sometimes called coat armory. The coat of arms on an escutcheon forms the central element of the full heraldic achievement which consists of shield, supporters, crest, and motto. The design is a symbol unique to an individual person or family (except in the UK), corporation, or state. Such displays are commonly called armorial bearings, armorial devices, heraldic devices, or simply arms.

Sometimes the term coat of arms is used to refer to the full achievement, but this usage is wrong in a strict sense of heraldic terminology.[1][2]

The ancient Romans used similar insignias on their shields, but these identified military units rather than individuals. The first evidence of medieval coats of arms is found in the Bayeux Tapestry from the 11th Century, where some of the combatants carry shields painted with crosses. Coats of arms came into general use by feudal lords and knights in battle in the 12th Century. By the 13th Century arms had spread beyond their initial battlefield use to become a kind of flag or logo for families in the higher social classes of Europe, inherited from one generation to the next. Exactly who had a right to use arms, by law or social convention, varied to some degree between countries. In the German-speaking region both the aristocracy and burghers (non-noble free citizens) used arms, while in most of the rest of Europe they were limited to the aristocracy. The use of arms spread to Church clergy, and to towns as civic identifiers, and to royally-chartered organizations such as universities and trading companies. Flags developed from coats of arms, and the arts of vexillology and heraldry are closely related. The coats of arms granted to commercial companies are a major source of the modern logo.

Despite no widespread regulation, and even with a lack in many cases of national regulation, heraldry has remained rather consistent across Europe, where traditions alone have governed the design and use of arms.[citation needed] Unlike seals and other general emblems, heraldic achievements have a formal description called a blazon, expressed in a jargon that allows for consistency in heraldic depictions.

In the 21st century, coats of arms are still in use by a variety of institutions and individuals; for example, many European cities and universities have guidelines on how their coats of arms may be used, and protect their use as trademarks.[3][4][5] Many societies exist that also aid in the design and registration of personal arms. Some nations, like England and Scotland, still maintain the same heraldic authorities which have traditionally granted and regulated arms for centuries and continue to do so in the present day.

Traditions and usage[edit]

The German Hyghalmen Roll, ca. late 15th century, illustrates the German practice of thematic repetition from the arms in the crest

In the heraldic traditions of England and Scotland an individual, rather than a family, had a coat of arms. In those traditions coats of arms are legal property transmitted from father to son; wives and daughters could also bear arms modified to indicate their relation to the current holder of the arms. Undifferenced arms are used only by one person at any given time. Other descendants of the original bearer could bear the ancestral arms only with some difference: usually a color change or the addition of a distinguishing charge. One such charge is the label, which in British usage (outside the Royal Family) is now always the mark of an heir apparent or (in Scotland) an heir presumptive.

Because of their importance in identification, particularly in seals on legal documents, the use of arms was strictly regulated; few countries continue in this today. This has been carried out by heralds and the study of coats of arms is therefore called "heraldry". Some other traditions (e.g., Polish heraldry) are less restrictive — allowing, for example, all members of a dynastic house or family to use the same arms, although one or more elements may be reserved to the head of the house.[citation needed]

In time, the use of arms spread from military entities to educational institutes, and other establishments.[4] According to a design institute article, "The modern logo and corporate livery have evolved from the battle standard and military uniform of medieval times".[6]

In his book, The Visual Culture of Violence in the Late Middle Ages, Valentin Groebner argues that the images composed on coats of arms are in many cases designed to convey a feeling of power and strength, often in military terms.[7] The author Helen Stuart argues that some coats of arms were a form of corporate logo.[8] Museums on medieval armory also point out that as emblems they may be viewed as precursors to the corporate logos of modern society, used for group identity formation.[9][10]

When knights were so encased in armour that no means of identifying them was left, the practice was introduced of painting their insignia of honour on their shield as an easy method of distinguishing them. Originally these were granted only to individuals, but were afterward made hereditary in England by King Richard I, during his crusade to Palestine.

European tradition[edit]

British heraldry[edit]

The coat of arms of the University of Plymouth, which were granted in 2008 by the College of Arms, shows the heater shield and style popular in modern British heraldry.[11]

In Scotland, the Lord Lyon King of Arms has criminal jurisdiction to enforce the laws of arms. In England, Northern Ireland and Wales the use of arms is a matter of civil law and regulated by the College of Arms and the Court of Chivalry.

In reference to a dispute over the exercise of authority over the Officers of Arms in England, Arthur Annesley, 1st Earl of Anglesey, Lord Privy Seal, declared on 16 June 1673 that the powers of the Earl Marshal were "to order, judge, and determine all matters touching arms, ensigns of nobility, honour, and chivalry; to make laws, ordinances, and statutes for the good government of the Officers of Arms; to nominate Officers to fill vacancies in the College of Arms; to punish and correct Officers of Arms for misbehaviour in the execution of their places". It was further declared that no patents of arms or any ensigns of nobility should be granted and no augmentation, alteration, or addition should be made to arms without the consent of the Earl Marshal.

Irish heraldry[edit]

In Ireland, since 1552, the usage and granting of coats of arms has been strictly regulated by the Government of Ireland, through the Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland.

German and Scandinavian heraldry[edit]

Coat of arms of the city of Vaasa, showing the shield with the Royal House of Wasa emblem, a crown and a Cross of Liberty pendant.

The heraldic tradition and style of modern and historic Germany and the Holy Roman Empire — including national and civic arms, noble and burgher arms, ecclesiastical heraldry, heraldic displays and heraldic descriptions — stand in contrast to Gallo-British, Latin and Eastern heraldry, and strongly influenced the styles and customs of heraldry in the Nordic countries, which developed comparatively late.[12]

In the Nordic countries, provinces, regions, cities and municipalities have a coat of arms. These are posted at the borders and on buildings containing official offices, as well as used in official documents and on the uniforms of municipal officers. Arms may also be used on souvenirs or other effects, given that an application has been granted by the municipal council.

Other European countries[edit]

At a national level, "coats of arms" were generally retained by European states with constitutional continuity of more than a few centuries, including constitutional monarchies like Denmark as well as old republics like San Marino and Switzerland.

In Italy the use of coats of arms was only loosely regulated by the states existing before the unification of 1860. Since the Consulta Araldica, the college of arms of the Kingdom of Italy, was abolished in 1948, personal coats of arms and titles of nobility, though not outlawed, are not recognised.

Among the states ruled by communist regimes, emblems resembling the Soviet design were adopted in all the Warsaw Pact states except Czechoslovakia and Poland.

Since 1989, some of the ex-Communist states, as Romania, have resumed their former arms, often with only the symbols of monarchy removed.

Asia and Africa[edit]

Arab world[edit]

Flag of the Ottoman Empire (1844–1924)
Egyptian coats of arms showing common Near and Middle Eastern motifs, namely the crescent and stars which are symbols of the region's predominant religion, Islam, and an eagle.
Mitsubishi logo

With the formation of the modern nation states of the Arab World in the second half of the 20th century, European traditions of heraldry were partially adopted for state emblems.

These emblems often involve the star and crescent symbol taken from the Ottoman flag. Another commonly seen symbol is the eagle, which is a symbol attributed to Saladin,[citation needed] and the hawk of the Qureish.[citation needed]

Japanese Mon[edit]

Main article: Mon (emblem)

Japanese emblems, called kamon (often abbreviated "mon"), are family badges which often date back to the 7th century, and are used in Japan today. The Japanese tradition is independent of the European, and thus very different in style; but as in Europe many abstract and floral elements are used.[unbalanced opinion]

Yet, even these simple designs often express an origin.[unbalanced opinion] An example in recent use is the logo of Mitsubishi corporation which started as a shipping and maritime enterprise and whose emblem is based on a water chestnut derived from its maritime history with a military naval influence. The word mitsu means the number 3 and the word hishi meaning "water chestnut" (pronounced bishi in some combinations; see rendaku) originated from the emblem of the warrior Tosa Clan. The battleships of the Tosa Clan had been used in the late 19th century in the First Sino-Japanese War to reach Korea[13] and their name was given to a modern battleship. The Tosa water chestnut leaf mon was then drawn as a rhombus or diamond shape in the Mitsubishi logo.[14][15]

New World practices[edit]

Canada[edit]

Main article: Canadian heraldry

The Queen of Canada has delegated her prerogative to grant armorial bearings to the Governor General of Canada. Canada has its own Chief Herald and Herald Chancellor. The Canadian Heraldic Authority is situated at Rideau Hall.[16][17]

United States[edit]

The Great Seal of the United States, which displays as its central design the heraldic device of the nation.

The Great Seal of the United States uses on the obverse as its central motif an heraldic achievement described as being the arms of the nation.[18] The seal, and the armorial bearings, were adopted by the Continental Congress on 20 June 1782, and is a shield divided palewise into thirteen pieces, with a blue chief, which is displayed upon the breast of an American bald eagle. The crest is thirteen stars breaking through a glory and clouds, displayed with no helm, torse, or mantling (unlike most European precedents).

Only a few of the American states have adopted a coat of arms, which is usually designed as part of the respective state's seal. Vermont has both a state seal and a state coat of arms that are independent of one another (though both contain a pine tree, a cow and sheaves of grain); the seal is used to authenticate documents, whilst the heraldic device represents the state itself.

Ecclesiastic practice[edit]

Catholic Church[edit]

Coat of arms of Pope John Paul II, display the Papal tiara and crossed keys of the pontifical office.

Vatican City State and the Holy See each have their own coat of arms. As the Papacy is not hereditary, its occupants display their personal arms combined with those of their office.

Some Popes came from armigerous (noble) families; others adopted coats of arms during their career in the Church. The latter typically allude to their ideal of life, or to specific Pontifical programmes.[19] A well-known and widely displayed example in recent times was Pope John Paul II's arms. His selection of a large letter M (for the Virgin Mary) was intended to express the message of his strong Marian devotion.[20]

Roman Catholic dioceses also are assigned a coat of arms, as do a basilica or papal church also gets a coat of arms, the latter usually displaying these on the building. These may be used in countries which otherwise do not use heraldic devices.

In countries like Scotland with a strong statutory heraldic authority, arms will need to be officially granted and recorded.

Flags and banners[edit]

Main article: Heraldic flag

Flags are used to identify ships (where they are called ensigns), embassies and such, and they use the same colors and designs found in heraldry, but they are not usually considered to be heraldic. A country may have both a national flag and a national coat of arms, and the two may not look alike at all. For example, the flag of Scotland (St Andrew's Cross) has a white saltire on a blue field, but the royal arms of Scotland has a red lion within a double tressure on a gold (or) field.

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ A.G. Puttock, A Dictionary of Heraldry and Related Subjects, Exeter 1985. Blaketon Hall. ISBN 0 907854 93 1. P. 40
  2. ^ Stephen Friar (ed.), A New Dictionary of Heraldry, London 1987. Alphabooks/A&C Black. ISBN 0 906670 44 6. P. 96.
  3. ^ Glasgow University - The Coat of Arms
  4. ^ a b Educational Institute Coat of arms
  5. ^ Policy on use of the Workmark and Insignia of McGill University
  6. ^ Understanding Corporate Identity
  7. ^ Valentin Groebner, 2004, The Visual Culture of Violence in the Late Middle Ages ISBN 978-1-890951-37-5
  8. ^ Employee Identification with the Corporate Identity International Studies of Management and Organization, Volume 32, Number 3, 2002
  9. ^ Group Identity Formation in the German Renaissance
  10. ^ European Coat of Arms Museum
  11. ^ College of Arms
  12. ^ Volborth, Carl-Alexander von (1981). Heraldry: Customs, Rules and Styles. Poole, England: Blandford Press. ISBN 0-7137-0940-5.  ISBN 0-7137-0940-5 p.129.
  13. ^ Donald Calman, 1992 The Nature and Origins of Japanese Imperialism ISBN 0-415-06710-3
  14. ^ Mitsubishi Mark
  15. ^ Mitsubishi History
  16. ^ "The History of Heraldry in Canada". Royal Heraldry Society of Canada. 28 April 2004. Retrieved 2008-08-21. 
  17. ^ "The Canadian Heraldic Authority". Canadian Heraldic Authority. 27 September 2005; updated 2006-06-14. Retrieved 2008-09-02. 
  18. ^ 2004 Seal Broch
  19. ^ Coat of Arms of His Holiness Benedict XVI
  20. ^ Vatican press office

References[edit]

  • Pimbley, Arthur Francis (1908). Pimbley's dictionary of heraldry. Pimbley. 
  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "Pimbley's dictionary of heraldry", Arthur Francis Pimbley (1908)

External links[edit]