Clarion (heraldry)

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Arms of the ancient Grenville family of Stowe, Cornwall and Bideford, Devon: Gules, three clarions or. Copied from one of the many sculpted depictions on the monument to Sir Thomas Grenville (d.1513) in St Mary's Church, Bideford. The labia or fipples (semi-circular openings near the blown ends of the pipes, characteristic of certain wind instruments, such as recorders and organs) are present.

The clarion (also clarichord, clavicord, rest or sufflue), is a rare charge in heraldry of uncertain meaning and purpose. It originates from England and is still largely exclusive to that country, though latterly it has been imported to other Anglophone nations. In Canadian heraldry, it is the cadency mark of a ninth daughter.

It is generally said to represent a kind of wind instrument such as a panpipe or recorder, but does not resemble the trumpet-like clarion known to modern musicians. It may also be intended as an overhead view of a keyboard instrument such as a spinet. Alternatively it has been said to represent a 'rest', a device used by mediaeval knights to support a lance during jousting. In his Display of Heraldry John Guillim suggests that it may be a rudder. 'Clarion' is also the name given to a stop on an organ which imitates the sound of a trumpet.

Depiction of a heraldic clarion.

A verse of poetry published in 1568 does not do much to clarify the issue:

The claricord hath a tunely kynde

As the wyre is wrested hye and lowe
So it tuenyth to the players mynde
For as it is wrested so must it nedes showe
As by this reson ye may well know
Any Instrument mystunyd shall hurt a trew song
Yet blame not the claricord the wrester doth wrong.[1]

Translation:
The claricord has a tuneful nature
As the wire is tightened high and low
Thus is it tuned to the player's mind
For as it is tightened, so it must go
And by this reason, you must know
Any instrument mistuned shall hurt a true song
Yet blame not the claricord the tuner does wrong.

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