see it clearly

Differences in Armorial Bearings

See your own family crest for free. Enter your surname below.

By the custom of the middle ages the "whole coat" which is the undifferenced arms, belonged to one man only and was inherited whole only by his heirs. Younger branches differenced in many ways, following no rule. In modern armory the label is rechoned a difference proper only to an eldest son.

But in older times, although the label was very commonly used by the son and heir apparent, he often chose another distinction during his father's lifetime, while the label is sometimes found upon the shields of younger sons. Changing the colors or varying the number of charges, drawing a bend or baston over the shield or adding a border are common differences of cadet lines. Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, bore "Gules with a fese and six crosslets gold." His cousins are seen changes the crosslets for martlets or for billets. Bastards difference their father's arms, as a rule, in no more striking manner than the legitimate cadets. Towards the end of the 14th century we have the beginning of the custom whereby certain bastards of princely houses differenced the paternal arms by charging them upon a bend, a fesse or a chief, a cheveron or a quarter. Before his legitimation the eldest son of John of Gaunt by Katharine Swinford is said to have borne a shield party silver and azure with the arms of Lancaster on a bend. After his legitimation in 1397 he changed his bearings to the royal arms of France and England within a border gobony of silver and azure. Warren of Poynton, descended from last earl Warenne and his concubine, Maude of Neirford, bore the checkered shield of Warenne with a quarter charged with the ermine lion of Neirford. Seal from shield of Robert de Pinkeny By the end of the middle ages the baston under continental influence tended to become a bastard's differnce in England and the jingle of the two words may have helped to support the custom. About the same time the border gobony began to acquire a like character. The "bar sinister" of the novelists is probably the baston sinister, with the ends couped, which has since the time of Charles II. been familiar ont he arms of certain descendatns of the royal house. But it has rarely been seen in England over other shields; and, althoughthe border gobony surrounds the arms granted to a peer of Victorian creation, the modern heralds have fallen into the habit of assigning, in nineteen cases out of twenty, a wavy border as the standard difference for illegitimacy.

Although no general register of arms was maintained it is remarkable that there was little conflict between two persons who had chanced to assume the same arms. The famous suit in which Scrope, Grosvenor and Carminow all claimed the blue shield with the golden bend is well known, and there are a few cases in the 14th century of like disputes which were never carried to courts. But the men of the middle ages would seem to have had marvellous memories for blazonry; and we know that the rolls of arms for reference, some of them the records of tournaments, existed in great numbers. A few examples of these remain to use, with painted shields or descriptions in French blazon, some of them containing many hundreds of names and arms.

Seal of Joan atte Pole

To women were assigned, as a rule, the undifferenced arms of their fathers. In the early days of armory married women - well-born spinsters of full age were all but unknown outside the walls of religious houses - have seals on which appear the shield of the husband or the father or both shields side by side. But we have some instances of the shield in which two coats of arms are parted or, to use the modern phrase, "impaled." Early in the reign of King John, Rober de Pinkeny seals with a parted shield. Ont he right or dexter side - the right hand of a shield is at the right hand of the person covered by it - are two fusils of an indented fesse: on the left or sinister side are three waves. The arms of Pinkeny being an indented fesse, we may see in this shield the parted arms of husband and wife - the latter being probably Basset. In many of the earliest examples, as in this, the dexter half of the husband's shield was united withthe sinister half of that of the wife, both coats being, as modern antiquaries have it, dimidiated. This "dimidiation," however, had its inconvenience. With some coats it was impossible. If the wife bore arms with a quarter for the only charge, her half of the shield would be blank. Therefore the practice was early abandoned by the majority of bearers of parted shields although there is a survival of it in the fact that borders and tressures continue to be "dimidiated" in order that the cahrges within them shall not be cramped. Parted shields came into common use from the reign of Edward II., and the rule is established that the husband's arms should take the dexter side. There are, however, several instances of the contrary practice. Seal of Beatrice Stafford On the seal widow of Robert of Hemenhale, (1310) of Maude, wife of John Boutetort of Halstead, the engrailed saltire of the Boutetorts takes the sinister place. A twice-married woman would sometimes show a shield charged with her paternal arms between those of both of her husbands, as did Beatrice Stafford in 1404, while in 1412 Elizabeth, Lady of Clinton, seals with a shield paled with five coats - her arms of la Plaunche between those of four husbands. In most cases the parted shield is found on the wife's seal alone. Even in our own time it is recognized that the wife's arms should not appear upon the husband's official seal, upon his banner or surcoat or upon his shield when it is surrounded by the collar of an order. Parted arms, it may be noted, do not always represent a husband and wife. Richard II parted with his quartered arms of France and England those ascribed to Edward the Cofessor, and parting is often used onthe continent where quartering would serve in England. In 1497 the seal of Giles Daubeney and Reynold Bray, fellow justices in eyre, shows their arms parted in one shield. English bishops, by a custom begun late in the 14th century, part the see's arms with their own. By modern English custom a husband and wife, where the wife is nto an heir, use the parted coat on a shield, a widow bearing the same upon the lozenge on which, when a spinster, she displayed her father's coat alone. When the wife is an heir, her arms are now borne in a little scocheon above those of her husband. If the husband's arms be in an unquartered shield the central charge is often hidden away by this scocheon.

Shield of John Talbot

The practice of marshalling arms by quartering spread in England by reason of the example given by Eleanor, wife of Edward I., who displayed the castle of Cstile quartered with the lion of Leon. Isabel of France, wife of Edward II., seals with a shield in whose four quarters are the arms of England, France, Navarre and Champagne. Early in the 14th century Simon de Mantagu, an ancestor of the earls of Salisbury, quartered with his own arms a coat of azure with a golden griffon. In 1340 we have Laurence Hastings, earl of Pembroke, quartering with the Hastings arms the arms of Valence, as heir of his great-uncle Aymer, earl of Pembroke. In the preceeding year, the king had already asserted his claim to another kingdom by quartering France and England, and after this quartered shields became common in the great houses whose sons were carefully matched with heirs female. When the wife was an heir the husband would quarter her arms with his own, displaying, as a rule, the more important coat in the first quarter. Marshalling becomes more elaborate with shields showing both quarterings and partings, as in the seal (1368) of Sibil Arundel, where Arundel (Fitzalan) is quartered with Warenne and parted with the arms of Montagu. In all, save one, of these examples the quartering is in its simplest form, with one coat repeated in the first and fourth quarters of the shield and another in the second and third. But to a charter of 1434 Sir Henry Bromflete sets a seal upon which Bromflete quarters Vesci in the second quarter, Aton in the third and St. John in the fourth, after the fashion of the much earlier seal of Edward II.'s queen. Another development is that of what armorists style the "grand quarter," a quarter which is itself quartered, as in the shield of Reynold Grey of Ruthyn, which bears Grey in the first and fourth quarters and Hastings quartered with Valence in the third and fourth. Humphrey Bourcheir, Lord Cromwell, in 1469, bears one grand quarter quartered with another, the first having Bourchier and Lovaine, the second Tatershall and Cromwell.

Seal of Richard Beauchamp

The last detail to be noted in medieval marshalling is the introduction into the shield into another the shield of another surmounting shield called by old armorists the "innerscocheon" and by modern blazoners the "inescutcheon." John the Fearless, count of Flanders, marshalled his arms in 1409 as a quarteres shield of the new and old coats of Burgundy. Above these coats a little scocheon, borne over the crossing of the quartering lines, had the black lion of Flanders, the arms of his mother. Richard Beauchamp, the adventurous earl of Warwick, who had seen most European courts during his wanderings, may have had this shield in mind when, over his arms of Beauchamp quartering Newburgh, he set a scocheon of Clare quartering Despenser, the arms of his wife Isabel Despenser, co-heir of the earls of Gloucester. The seal of his son-in-law, the King-Maker shows four quarters - Beauchamp quartering Clare, Montagu quartering Monthermer, Nevill alone, and Newburgh quartering Despenser. An interesting use of the scocheon en surtout is that made by Richard Wydvile, Lord Rivers, whose garter stall-plate has a grand quarter of Wydvile and Prouz quartering Beauchamp of Hache, the whole surmounted by a scocheon with the arms of Reviers or Rivers, the house from whcih he tookthe title of his barony. On the continent the common use of the scocheon is to bear the paternal arms of a sovereign or noble, surmounting the quarterings of his kingdoms, principalities, fiefs or seigniories. Our own prince of Wales bears the arms of Saxony above those of the United Kingdom differenced with his silver label. Marshalling takes it's most elaborate form, the most removed from the graceful simplicity of the middles ages, in such shields as the "Great Arms" of the Austrian empire, wherein are nine grand quarters each marshalling in various fashions from three to eleven coats, six of the grand-quarters bearing scocheons en srutout, each scocheon ensigned with a different crown.