Coat of Arms

See heraldry for a fuller account of the history, design, and regulation of coats of arms.
A coat of arms or armorial bearings (often just arms for short), in European tradition, is a design belonging to a particular person (or group of people) and used by them in a wide variety of ways. Unlike seals and emblems, coats of arms have a formal description that is expressed as a blazon.

Traditions and usage

Coat of arms elements
Enlarge picture
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, and 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.

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) 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.

United Kingdom

In Scotland, the Lord Lyon has criminal jurisdiction to enforce the laws of arms. In England, the use of arms is a matter of civil law.

Today, the term "coat of arms" or "arms" is frequently applied in two different ways. In some uses, it may indicate a full achievement of arms or heraldic achievement, which includes a variety of elements — usually a crest sitting atop a helmet, itself sitting on a shield; other common elements include supporters holding up the shield and a motto (beneath in England, above in Scotland). Some people wrongly use "coat of arms" or "arms" to refer to the escutcheon (i.e. the shield itself), or to one of several designs that may be combined in one shield. (Note that the crest is one specific part of a heraldic achievement and that "crest of arms" is a misnomer.) The "coat of arms" frequently are adorned with a device - a motto, emblem, or other mark used by a Knight-errant to distinguish himself from others. If a motto is a part of the achievement, it sometimes has some punning allusion to his name. A device differed from a badge or cognizance primarily because it is a personal distinction, and not a badge borne by members of the same house successively.

Japan

The Japanese equivalents, called kamon (often abbreviated "mon"), are family badges which often date back to the seventh century, and are still actively used in Japan today.

Nordic countries



In the Nordic countries, provinces, regions, cities and municipalities have a coat of arms. These are posted to the borders and shown in official documents advertising the area. Indonesia also have different coat of arms at province and regency level for each of the 33 province and 370 regency in Indonesia.

At a national level, "coats of arms" were generally retained by those 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. However, today, nearly every nation in every part of the world has its own "coat of arms", in many cases emblems that do not fully conform with European heraldric traditions. Since 1989, some of the ex-Communist states, such as Romania, have resumed their former arms, often with only the symbols of monarchy removed.

USA

The Great Seal of the United States is often said to be the coat of arms of the United States of America. Although the seal contains some armorial elements, it was not designed to be used as a coat of arms and does not fully conform with European heraldic traditions. However, the main point of contention in this dispute is a matter of wording; the blazon is intentionally improper to preserve the number 13 in the symbolism. Nevertheless, the design of the Great Seal of the United States owes more to Roman civil government seals than to medieval European heraldry. The U.S. state of Vermont, founded as the Vermont Republic, follows the American convention of assigning use of a seal for authenticating official state documents, but also has the coat of arms of Vermont. It is the only U.S. state to have authentic armorial bearings described in a blazon.

Flags and banners

Note that not all personal or corporate insignia are heraldic, though they may share many features. For example, 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 field.

Gallery

See also

External links

Heraldry in its most general sense encompasses all matters relating to the duties and responsibilities of officers of arms.[1] To most, though, heraldry is the practice of designing, displaying, describing, and recording coats of arms and badges.
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Europe is one of the seven traditional continents of the Earth. Physically and geologically, Europe is the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, west of Asia. Europe is bounded to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the west by the Atlantic Ocean, to the south by the Mediterranean Sea,
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seal is an impression printed on, embossed upon, or affixed to a document (or any other object) in order to authenticate it, in lieu of or in addition to a signature. Only in the case of a dry seal
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emblem is a pictorial image, abstract or representational, that epitomizes a concept — e.g., a moral truth, or an allegory — or that represents a person, such as a king or saint.
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blazon is a formal description of, most often, a coat of arms or flag, which enables a person to construct or reconstruct the appropriate image. A coat of arms or flag is therefore not primarily defined by a picture, but rather by the wording of its blazon (though often flags are
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Coat of arms elements
Escutcheon is often the term used in heraldry for the shield displayed in a coat of arms. An inescutcheon is a smaller escutcheon borne within a larger escutcheon.
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field. The field is usually composed of one or more tinctures (colours or metals) or furs.

In extremely rare cases, the field (or a subdivision thereof[1]) is not a tincture, but may be a landscape.
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supporters are figures usually placed on either side of the shield and depicted holding it up. These figures may be real or imaginary animals, human figures, and in rare cases plants or inanimate objects.
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The word crest is often mistakenly applied to a coat of arms. For further information see Heraldry. For Japanese usage, see mon (badge).


Coat of arms elements
A crest
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Coat of arms elements
In heraldry, the torse is a twisted roll of fabric wound around the top of the helm and crest to hold the mantle in place.

Like the mantle
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Coat of arms elements
In heraldry, mantling or lambrequin is drapery tied to the helmet above the shield. It forms a backdrop for the shield.
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Coat of arms elements


In heraldry, a compartment is a design placed under the shield, usually rocks, a grassy mount, or some sort of other landscape upon which the supporters are depicted as standing.
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In heraldry and vexillology, a charge is an image occupying the field on an escutcheon (or shield). Charge can also be a verb; for example, if an escutcheon bears three lions, then it is said to be charged with three lions.
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Coat of arms elements
A motto (from Italian) is a phrase or a short list of words meant formally to describe the general motivation or intention of an entity, social group, or organization.
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In heraldry, cadency is any systematic way of distinguishing similar coats of arms belonging to members of the same family. Cadency is necessary in heraldic systems in which a given design may be owned by only one person (or, in some cases, one man) at once.
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In heraldry and vexillology, a charge is an image occupying the field on an escutcheon (or shield). Charge can also be a verb; for example, if an escutcheon bears three lions, then it is said to be charged with three lions.
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label is a charge closely resembling the strap with pendants which, from the saddle, crossed the horse's chest.

It is the oldest mark of difference, but sometimes borne as a charge.
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herald, or, more correctly, a herald of arms, is an officer of arms, ranking between pursuivant and king of arms. The title is often applied erroneously to all officers of arms.
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The Lord Lyon King of Arms, the head of Lyon Court, is the most junior of the Great Officers of State in Scotland and is the Scottish official with responsibility for regulating heraldry in that country, issuing new grants of arms, and serving as the judge of the oldest
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The word crest is often mistakenly applied to a coat of arms. For further information see Heraldry. For Japanese usage, see mon (badge).


Coat of arms elements
A crest
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helmet is a form of protective gear worn on the head. Traditionally, helmets have been made of metal. In recent decades helmets made from resin or plastic and typically reinforced with Aramid fiber (e.g. Twaron or Kevlar) have become preferred for most applications.
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shield is a protective device, meant to intercept attacks. The term often refers to a device that is held in the hand, as opposed to armour or a bullet proof vest.

Prehistoric and Antiquity


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supporters are figures usually placed on either side of the shield and depicted holding it up. These figures may be real or imaginary animals, human figures, and in rare cases plants or inanimate objects.
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Coat of arms elements
A motto (from Italian) is a phrase or a short list of words meant formally to describe the general motivation or intention of an entity, social group, or organization.
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Coat of arms elements
Escutcheon is often the term used in heraldry for the shield displayed in a coat of arms. An inescutcheon is a smaller escutcheon borne within a larger escutcheon.
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Coat of arms elements
A motto (from Italian) is a phrase or a short list of words meant formally to describe the general motivation or intention of an entity, social group, or organization.
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emblem is a pictorial image, abstract or representational, that epitomizes a concept — e.g., a moral truth, or an allegory — or that represents a person, such as a king or saint.
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A knight-errant (plural knights-errant) is a figure of medieval chivalric romance literature. "Errant" meaning wandering or roving, indicates how the knight-errant would typically wander the land in search of adventures to prove himself as a knight, such as in a pas
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badge is a device, patch, or accoutrement which is presented or displayed to indicate some feat of service, a special accomplishment, a symbol of authority granted by taking an oath (e.g.
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See also: Cognizance (culfest), IIT, Roorkee.
Cognizance (Latin: cognoscere, to know), knowledge, notice, especially judicial notice, the right of trying or considering a case judicially, the exercise of jurisdiction by a court of law.
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