Talk:Charge (heraldry)

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Triple-headed Eagles[edit]

I've not seen a charge of a triple-headed eagle, and certainly not as the article states: "eagle, shown with two heads in the arms of the Holy Roman Empire and sometimes with three heads in the arms of imperial Russia". I believe that this phrase should more accurately read, "eagle, shown with two heads in the arms of the Byzantine, Holy Roman, and Russian empires, as well as of the present Russian Federation".

Others' thoughts? Firstorm (talk) 14:23, 19 October 2008 (UTC)

I have never heard of a triple-headed eagle being attributed to the Russian Empire either. I have, however, seen the curious eagle of Reinmar von Zweter, which appears in the Manesse Codex, and I have recently come across this triple-headed eagle granted to the German town of Waiblingen in 1957, the charge attributed to the dukes of Swabia. I've updated the article accordingly. Wilhelm_meis (talk) 10:45, 25 March 2009 (UTC)


The division of charges into "ordinaries", "sub-ordinaries" and other categories is a relatively modern practice that has been deprecated, and these terms much pejorated, in the writings of Fox-Davies and other heraldry authors.

A pejorated word is one that has acquired a negative meaning. That doesn't fit here, but I don't know what else can be meant if not "deprecated". —Tamfang (talk) 06:52, 22 March 2009 (UTC)

I think you are right, Tamfang, the word doesn't quite fit. Fox-Davies expressed much disdain for the terminology (more so for the actual practice of so categorizing heraldic charges), but that's not quite the same thing as a pejorated word. I can see how that sentence could be misconstrued as a linguistic commentary. I'll fix it if you haven't already. Wilhelm_meis (talk) 11:37, 22 March 2009 (UTC)


Very few inanimate objects in heraldry carry a special significance distinct from that of the object itself, but among such objects are the escarbuncle, the fasces, and the key. The escarbuncle is a particularly interesting case, in that it is a charge that developed from the radiating iron bands used to strengthen a round shield, eventually taking the form of a heraldic charge under the term "escarbuncle".

So, er, what is the special significance of the escarbuncle? —Tamfang (talk) 07:58, 22 March 2009 (UTC)

I think the significance Fox-Davies was pointing to was that while the actual device itself was virtually unknown by his time, the charge based upon its form was very common in heraldry, and very distinct to heraldry. I'll return to the original comment and see if I can clarify that point. Wilhelm_meis (talk) 11:40, 22 March 2009 (UTC)

Might mention that the ordinaries also began as bracing. —Tamfang (talk) 05:46, 23 March 2009 (UTC)
It seems that there are a number of ideas regarding the origin of ordinaries, one of these being that they came from shield bracing, which Fox-Davies discusses at some length. I don't remember seeing much in the way of their origin in the Oxford Guide, but I'll take another look, and my other heraldry books don't go into that much detail on the ordinaries. I think the arguments stated by Fox-Davies could be summed up, but they might be better placed at Ordinary (heraldry). I'll see if I can work something in here without going into too much detail. Wilhelm_meis (talk) 07:53, 23 March 2009 (UTC)
Here's a real curiosity. According to Hugh Clark, An Introduction to Heraldry, p. 131, an escarbuncle is "a precious stone, resembling a burning coal in its lustre and colour. The ancient heralds drew it as in the plate [which shows a normal-looking escarbuncle] to express those rays which issue from the centre, which is the stone." It may here be worth noting that Boutell agrees with Fox-Davies, that the escarbuncle originated as an embellishment on the radiating bands used to strengthen a shield. Wilhelm_meis (talk) 10:52, 25 March 2009 (UTC)
It looks like Clark was wanting to "gloss" a connection between escarbuncle and carbuncle (as garnet) (talk) 14:46, 6 November 2009 (UTC)A Carli
Sounds like another one of those folk etymologies that plagued much writing of the time. The heraldic charge undoubtedly has nothing to do with the stone. I just found it interesting that someone would publish such an odd assertion. Wilhelm Meis (Quatsch!) 03:22, 18 December 2009 (UTC)
One of my books (now boxed), probably F-D, has a picture of an equestrian seal in which escarbuncle-shaped bracing overlies the charges (lions?) of a shield. —Tamfang (talk) 18:14, 3 November 2009 (UTC)


"The label is nearly always a mark of cadency" is not the same as "Cadency nearly always uses labels." (It is not uniquely Gallo-British: it's also used in the royal houses of Italy and Portugal, at least.) If it's not used for cadency in Germany, fine – is it used otherwise in Germany? —Tamfang (talk) 06:07, 23 March 2009 (UTC)

Indeed you are correct that those statements are not the same, but I would argue the former is more accurate than the latter (provided that it is modified by a phrase such as "in British and French heraldry". Indeed, it is also used as a mark of cadency in Portugal (Spain too?) and Italy; but is it almost always a mark of cadency when it occurs in those countries? Honestly, I do not know the answer to that question. Certainly the file appears in German heraldry, but usually not (if ever) as a mark of cadency. Would it be better to rephrase the statement this way?:
The label, when it occurs in British and French heraldry, is nearly always a mark of cadency,[7] but is occasionally found as a regular charge in early armory.
Please also refer to the footnote provided. I was thinking of also reformatting the references tagged #2, #7 and #15 as actual footnotes. Wilhelm_meis (talk) 07:53, 23 March 2009 (UTC)
From Woodward, p. 424: "In Germany, Spener [Philipp Jakob Spener, Opus Heraldicum, p. 350] tells us that the use of the label, though occasional, was not frequent... and he gives a few examples, though he is unable to assign the reason for its assumption as a heraldic bearing." The cases of Leiningen and Blanckenheim are then discussed; the former bearing a label gules in the first and fourth quarters, and the latter bearing Or, a lion rampant sable, over all a label of four points gules, for reasons unknown. Sadly, as to Spener's reasoning for the labels' origin, we are left with a reference to Spener's own p. 740 and p. 243. I have been unable to find a digitized copy of the Spener volume on the web, and it is well outside of my limited resources here (and not even available on or Abe Books!), so this meager explanation may have to suffice for now. Wilhelm_meis (talk) 13:18, 25 March 2009 (UTC)
No need to argue the former is more accurate than the latter; the former is what I said, and the latter is (if I remember right) what you denied in annotating your change to it ... — I didn't find any Spanish examples in a quick look, but that's not evidence. —Tamfang (talk) 18:49, 26 March 2009 (UTC)

Help with references[edit]

I've put some work into this article, and it's better than it was, but there is still more work to be done. I need help tracking down sources and providing proper references for the following statements:

  1. The cross... is sometimes referred to as the "noblest" of the honourable ordinaries.
  2. James Parker states that an "African" appears in the arms of Routell.
  3. The canting arms of the Lombard family of Bartolomeo Colleoni bore "per fess gules and argent, three pairs of testicles counterchanged". (The image at the link provided did not match its own description, which was simply replicated here.)
  4. The snowflake is only known in more recent times, though the snowball predates this by some centuries.
  5. A charge distinctive to Italian arms is a mount stylized as a 'pyramid' of three or six domed cylinders.

Thanks in advance for any help you can lend to this effort. I'd like to see this article go up for GAN, and if these lacking citations can be resolved, it may happen. Wilhelm_meis (talk) 14:18, 23 March 2009 (UTC)

Woodward & Burnett, A Treatise on Heraldry, British and Foreign, p.203: "The arms of the Counts COLLEONI of Milan are, in modern times, blazoned as: Per pale argent and gules, three hearts reversed counterchanged. In ancient, and less delicate, times the bearings had a different significance as armes parlantes." Too oblique? I've seen a 'less delicate' illustration somewhere, possibly in Spreti Enciclopedia storico-nobiliare. —Tamfang (talk) 19:20, 23 March 2009 (UTC)
Thank you for that reference. The original passage stated The canting arms of the Lombard family of Coglione bore "per fess gules and argent, three pairs of testicles counterchanged", giving this page as a reference. The text there states the family of Coglione, in Naples, bore per fess argent and gules, three pairs of testicles counterchanged. One Bartolomeo Coglione, a soldier who distinguished himself in the service of René d'Anjou, king of Naples, was allowed to quarter his arms with those of his king (France ancient with a bordure gules). And yet the arms illustrated there are Argent, three [hearts inverted/pairs of testicles] gules, and on a chief France Ancient a file of the second. This differs significantly from any of these descriptions (and also from the description in your source, Tamfang). I'm just looking for some consistency somewhere here, but the whole thing was starting to stink. I've found the bibliographical information on the Open Library here, so I'll add it in. Wilhelm_meis (talk) 05:10, 24 March 2009 (UTC)
Just in case this hasn’t been spotted, there are several illustrations of the arms at Commons:Category:Coats of arms of the House of Colleoni. Oh and the Italian word coglione means ‘testicle’ [ref: any dictionary]. —Ian Spackman (talk) 07:10, 24 March 2009 (UTC)
Differencing of the field isn't surprising. —Tamfang (talk) 07:38, 25 March 2009 (UTC)

Regarding #1 above, unless someone has the original source and can make an argument why it belongs here, I'm striking the comment. Regarding #2 above, would that be this James Parker? Presumably under the heading "African" or perhaps "Maure" or "Moor"? Does anyone have access to the actual text to verify this? Wilhelm_meis (talk) 06:53, 24 March 2009 (UTC)

Pursuant to boldness, I've stricken #1, #4 and #5, and reworked #2 and #3 according to the references you were able to provide. If anyone feels the urge to reintroduce one of the stricken passages, feel free but please include references. Wilhelm_meis (talk) 12:25, 27 March 2009 (UTC)

I don't know where to look for an explicit statement supporting #5. For what it's worth, the charge appears in the arms of eight Italian Popes. —Tamfang (talk) 05:01, 28 March 2009 (UTC)
Is it identified as a different charge, or is it merely an artistic embellishment on a mount argent? If it is a different charge, I think it would be useful to be able to name it and provide a reference to a source that establishes it as a distinct charge. I wonder if anybody at Ecclesiastical heraldry would have a source for this. Wilhelm_meis (talk) 08:28, 28 March 2009 (UTC)
Unlike the 'mount' that's so common in e.g. Hungarian arms, the Italian charge is sometimes freestanding (though I don't see an example here), and can have six coupeaux as well as three. But whether it's a different charge (in complementary distribution?) or an Italian style of representing the same thing is irrelevant to the point that it is a distinctive feature of Italian armory. —Tamfang (talk) 10:57, 28 March 2009 (UTC)

Fret vs. Fretty[edit]

As the article states, there is some disagreement over the definition of "fret". Some authors define a "fret" as three bendlets interlaced with three counterbendlets, while others reduce it to a bendlet and a counterbendlet interlaced with a mascle. Other authors call that a "Harington knot". While there may be a prevalent urge on Wikipedia to engage in an endless search for precision, the correct answer is that both are "frets", and the latter is also a "Harington knot", and the former is also "fretty", while more than three bendlets (ribbands) and counterbendlets (counterribbands) is unambiguously "fretty". So which one should be pictured in the article? I think the historically prevalent definition (at center below) should be given more weight than the definition preferred in modern heraldry (at right below), which is sufficiently described in the article's prose. Wilhelm_meis (talk) 04:36, 4 April 2009 (UTC)


is definitely not an 'authority' on Scots heraldry and is very often wrong - e.g. at the time he was saying that in Scotland the mullet is always shown pierced it hadn't been shown that way for really quite some time. It is very unwise to use Fox-Davies in a Scots context! Mich Taylor, 5 June 2010, 9.39 hrs

The Canton - wrong picture[edit]

"The canton is a square occupying the left third of the chief (sometimes reckoned to be a diminutive of the quarter)." This is the wrong shield. It clearly shows a "Quarter" not a canton and is labelled as such in the blazon. Kiltpin (talk) 14:46, 6 September 2011 (UTC)

The Quarter - wrong picture[edit]

The shield shown has a smaller quarter than the canton which is supposed to be smaller than it! The shield that shows the canton is really a quarter and the shield that shows the quarter is less than a quarter. Just look at the pair side by side on your monitor. The shield called canton should become the quarter and a new canton should be sourced. Kiltpin (talk) 14:52, 6 September 2011 (UTC)

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The "garb" in the arms of Gustav Vasa (and in the Coat of Arms of Sweden) are not a wheatsheaf although pictured in that way during the 16th to 19th century. This "vasa" are some kind of bundle but of unknown sort.

It looks like a stylized Silphium plant. I know this is original research but it looks exactly like it.--Planetjanet (talk) 03:13, 8 April 2017 (UTC)