Heraldry, is the art of the obvious display of designs and ornaments in the form of a shield, seal, flag, or emblem. The display of some form of identity can be traced back to the early Egyptians, the twelve tribes of Israel, and possibly to the beginning of man.
Some form of symbolism has been used for identification throughout time. It wasn`t until the late 1000`s though, that men began to design significant types of identification. This form of identity eventually became known as a Coat of Arms.
The first Coats of Arms were used by Christian knights during the Crusades. The Christian knights wore suits of armor, and helmets that would cover their entire head making it impossible to identify one knight from the other. A Coat of Arms was displayed on the knights flag or shield so he could be identified.
Heraldry comes from the office of Herald. A Herald is a person of rare ability. A Herald`s duties varied over the years, but, their basic duty remained the same--to identify the knight, attend to them, and to mediate negotiations for them.
Soon this form of identity became fashionable and was used as a distinctive form of identity for documents, military ranks, possessions, royalty, and eventually individual families. The appearance of the Coat of Arms began taking on a very colorful and distinct design. This distinction would become a symbol of identity of rank or royalty for years to come.
The office of Herald became a distinct position ruling over the designs of Arms. The Coat of Arms became a symbol of the position of an individual and their ancestors. Markings distinguish order of birth, marriage, occupation, military, and many other positions in life.
A Coat of Arms is a very complex piece of work, with each part having a very specific purpose. Every Coat of Arms begins with a shield; topped by a helmet (helm) generally having a flowing robe or cloak (mantle) which falls about and some times around the helm and shield. The mantle is usually attached to the helm by a curled rope (torse). Beneath the shield on a fancy scroll or ribbon is the motto. Some countries place the motto above the crest; a crest is a symbol that sometimes rests atop the helmet. This coat in its entirety is called an achievement. These are only the very basic symbols represented on a Coat of Arms. There are many more charges (objects) that may be placed on a sheild.
Heraldry is a discipline all its own. The language or terms used within the scope of heraldry are difficult. Many terms go back to the old Norman French, which is an ancient language. Most students of heraldry appreciate the old language and desire to remain with it. But, it is this old language that causes most people the greatest problem when trying to learn about this ancient form of identification, which is one of the more romantic sciences of our history.
This simple art of identification of one man from another developed into an art that still creates and draws interest from people in all walks of life. With the ever growing interest in genealogy--the popularity of heraldry is increasing also. Being able not only to trace one`s ancestor back to the 11th or 12th century, but being also able to find a Coat of Arms belonging to your family, brings a feeling of satisfaction or gratification, which is not easily described.
Heraldry has changed over the years, many Coats of Arms are displayed with little thought of the true meaning and science behind the origin of a Coat of Arms. The scope of Heraldry is one of the most prestigious arts known in the area of identification. Discover your heritage today. Perhaps in your search for your coat of arms you will discover a treasure chest of information about your family. And you may even find your coat of arms comes from that of Royalty!