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In order more particularly to distinguish the subordinates in an army (the chieftains of different countries alone being entitled to the preceding marks of honour), other figures were invented by ancient armorists, and by them termed subordinate ordinaries. Their names and forms are as follows:—


The gyron is a triangular figure formed by drawing a line from the dexter angle of the chief of the shield to the fess point, and an horizontal line from that point to the dexter side of the shield.

The field is said to be gyrony when it is covered with gyrons.


Ex. Gyrony of eight pieces, argent and gules .


The canton is a square part of the escutcheon, usually occupying about one-eighth of the field; it is placed over the chief at the dexter side of the shield: it may be charged, and when this is the case, its size may be increased. The canton represents the banner of the ancient Knights Banneret. The canton in the example is marked A.

See KNIGHTS BANNERET in the Dictionary.

The lozenge is formed by four equal and parallel lines but not rectangular, two of its opposite angles being acute, and two obtuse.


Ex. Argent, a lozenge, vert .

The fusil is narrower than the lozenge, the angles at the chief and base being more acute, and the others more obtuse.


Ex. Argent, a fusil, purpure.

The mascle is in the shape of a lozenge but perforated through its whole extent except a narrow border.


Ex. Gules, a mascle, argent .

The fret is formed by two lines interlaced in saltier with a mascle.


Ex. Azure, a fret, argent .

Fretty is when the shield is covered with lines crossing each other diagonally and interlaced.


Ex. Gules, fretty of ten pieces, argent .

At the present time it is not usual to name the number of pieces, but merely the word fretty.

The pile is formed like a wedge, and may be borne wavy, engrailed, &c.; it issues generally from the chief, and extends towards the base, but it may be borne in bend or issue from the base.

See PILE and IN PILE in Dictionary.


Ex. Argent, a pile, azure .

The inescutcheon is a small escutcheon borne within the shield.


Ex. Argent, a pale, gules, over all an inescutcheon or, a mullet sable .

An orle is a perforated inescutcheon, and usually takes the shape of the shield whereon it is placed.


Ex. Azure, an orle, argent .

The flanche is formed by two curved lines nearly touching each other in the centre of the shield.


Ex. Azure, a flanche, argent .

In the flasque the curved lines do not approach so near each other.


Ex. Azure, a flasque, argent .

In the voider the lines are still wider apart; this ordinary occupies nearly the whole of the field: it may be charged.


Ex. Azure, a voider, argent .

The tressure is a border at some distance from the edge of the field, half the breadth of an orle: the tressure may be double or treble.


Ex. Or, a double tressure, gules .

Tressures are generally ornamented, or borne flory or counter flory as in the annexed example.

Ornamented double tressure

Ex. Argent, a double tressure, flory and counter-flory, gules .


At first when the Feudal System prevailed, not only in England, but other parts of Europe, none but military chieftains bore Coats of Arms. And as few persons held land under the Crown but by military tenure, that is, under the obligation of attending in person with a certain number of vassals and retainers when their services were required by the king for the defence of the state, heraldic honours were confined to the nobility, who were the great landholders of the kingdom. When they granted any portion of their territory to their knights and followers as rewards for deeds of prowess in the field or other services, the new possessors of the land retained the arms of their patrons with a slight difference to denote their subordinate degree. The ingenuity of the armorist was not then taxed to find a multitude of devices to distinguish every family. And when chivalry became the prevailing pursuit of all that sought honour and distinction by deeds of arms and gallant courtesy, the knights assumed the privilege that warriors in all ages have used; viz. that of choosing any device they pleased to ornament the crests of their helmets in the field of battle, or in the mock combat of the tournament: the knight was known and named from the device used as his crest. Thus the heralds, in introducing him to the judges of the field, or to the lady that bestowed the prizes, called him the Knight of the Swan, the Knight of the Lion, without mentioning any other title. And knights whose fame for gallantry and prowess was firmly established, had their crests painted over their coats of arms. In two or three generations the bearer of the arms established his right to a new crest, and the heralds, to preserve the memory of the ancient honour of the family, introduced the old crest into the coat of arms, either as a charge upon the principal ordinary, or on an unoccupied part of the field. This will in some measure account for the variety of animals and parts of animals found in shields of arms. When the sovereigns of Europe, to decrease the power of the great barons, bestowed estates and titles not only for deeds of arms, but wisdom in council, superior learning, and other qualities which the original bearers of arms thought beneath their notice, the heralds were obliged to invent new symbols in emblazoning the arms of the modern nobility; and when arms were granted to civic and commercial corporations, and to private individuals who had no claim to military honours, we can easily conceive that the ingenuity of the armorists was severely tested, and excuse the apparent confusion that prevailed in granting arms after the War of the Roses. Sir William Dugdale, in his treatise entitled "Ancient Usage in bearing Arms", states that, "Many errors have been and are still committed in granting coats of arms to such persons as have not advanced themselves by the sword, being such as rise by their judgment or skill in arts, affairs, and trades"; with good reason affirming that the latter should however only be allowed "notes or marks of honour fit for their calling, and to show forth the manner of their rising, and not be set off with those representations which in their nature are only proper for martial men."

It would be utterly impossible to give either a graphic or written description of all the charges in a book of this size or even in one ten times as large. The sun, moon, stars, comets, meteors, have been introduced to denote glory, grandeur, power, &c.; lions, leopards, tigers, serpents, stags, have been employed to signify courage, strength, prudence, swiftness, &c.

The application to certain exercises, such as war, hunting, music, fishing, has furnished lances, swords, armour, musical instruments, architecture, columns, chevrons, builders' tools, &c. Human bodies, or distinct parts of them, are frequently used as charges. Trees, plants, fruits, and flowers have also been admitted to denote the rarities, advantages, and singularities of different countries.

The relation of some creatures, figures, &c. to particular names has been a fruitful source for variety of arms. Thus, the family of Coningsby bears three conies; of Arundel, six swallows; of Corbet, a raven; of Urson, a bear; of Camel, a camel; of Starky, a stork; of Castleman, a castle triple-towered; of Shuttleworth, three weaver's shuttles. Hundreds of other names might be given, but the before-mentioned will be sufficient to show the reader the origin of many singular charges in coats of arms.

Not only were natural and artificial figures used, but the lack of information on Zoology and other branches of Natural History led to the introduction of fabulous animals, such as dragons, griffins, harpies, wiverns, &c. A great number of charges, indeed most of them that require explanation, will be found in the Dictionary of Heraldic Terms, which will prevent the necessity of describing them more at large in this part of the book.



The ornaments that accompany or surround escutcheons were introduced to denote the birth, dignity, or office of the person to whom the coat of arms belongs. We shall merely give the names of the various objects in this place, and refer the reader to the different words in the Dictionary. Over regal escutcheons are placed the crown which pertains to the nation over which the sovereign presides. The crown is generally surmounted with a crest: as in the arms of the kings of England, the crown is surmounted by a lion statant, guardant, crowned.

Over the Papal arms is placed a tiara or triple crown, without a crest.

Above the arms of archbishops and bishops the mitre is placed instead of a crest.

Coronets are worn by all princes and peers. They vary in form according to the rank of the nobleman. A full description will be found in the Dictionary of the coronets of the prince of Wales, royal dukes, dukes, marquises, earls, viscounts, and barons.

Helmets are placed over arms, and show the rank of the person to whom the arms belong: 1st, by the metal of which they are made; 2dly, by their form; 3dly, by their position. See the word HELMET in the Dictionary.

Mantlings were the ancient coverings of helmets to preserve them and the bearers from the injuries of the weather. It is probable that they were highly ornamented with scroll-work of gold and silver, and their borders or edges cast into fanciful shapes. They are now formed into scroll-work proceeding from the sides of the helmet, and are great ornaments to an escutcheon. See a more full description under the word MANTLING .



A chapeau is an ancient hat or rather cap of dignity worn by dukes. They were formed of scarlet velvet and turned up with fur. They are frequently used instead of a wreath under the crests of noblemen and even gentlemen.

The wreath was formed by two large skeins of silk of different colours twisted together. This was worn at the lower part of the crest, not alone as an ornament, but to protect the head from the blow of a mace or sword. In Heraldry the wreath appears like a straight line or roll of two colours generally the same as the tinctures of the shield. The crest is usually placed upon the wreath.

The crest is the highest part among the ornaments of a coat of arms. It is called crest from the Latin word crista , which signifies comb or tuft.

Crests were used as marks of honour long before the introduction of Heraldry. The helmets and crests of the Greek and Trojan warriors are beautifully described by Homer. The German heralds pay great attention to crests, and depict them as towering to a great height above the helmet. Knights who were desirous of concealing their rank, or wished particularly to distinguish themselves either in the battle field or tourney, frequently decorated their helmets with plants or flowers, chimerical figures, animals, &c.; these badges were also assumed by their descendants. The difference between crests and badges as heraldic ornaments is, that the former are always placed on a wreath, in the latter they are attached to the helmet. The scroll is a label or ribbon containing the motto: it is usually placed beneath the shield and supporters; see the word MOTTO in the Dictionary.



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