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Family Crest Lines

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Eleven varieties of lines, other than stright lines, which divide the shield, or edge our cheverons, pales, bars and the like, are pictured in teh heraldry books and named as engrailed, embattled, indented, invected, wavy or under, nebuly, dancetty, raguly, potente, dovetailed and urdy.


As in the case of many other such lists of the later armorists these eleven varieties need some pruning and a new explanation.

The most commonly found is the line engrailed, which for the student of medieval armory must be associated with the line indented. In its earliest form the line which a roll of arms will describe indifferently as indented or engrailed takes almost invariably the form to which the name indented is restricted by modern armorists.

The cross may serve as our firt example. A corss, engrailed or indented, the words being used indifferently, is a cross os deeply nothced at the edges that it seems made up of so many lozenge shaped wedges or fusils. About the middle of the 14th century begins a tendency, resisted in practice by many conservative families, to draw the engrailing lines in the fashion to which modern armorists restrict the word "engrailed," making shallower indentures int he form of lines of half circles. Thus the engrailed cross of the Mohuns takes either of the two forms which we illustrate. Bends follow the same fashion, early bends engrailed or indented being some four or more fusils joined bendwise by their blunt sides, bends of less than four fusils being very rare. Thus also the engrailed or indented saltires, pales or cheverons, the exact number of the fusils which go to the making of these being unconsidered.

For the fesse there is another law. The fesse indented or engrailed is made up of fusils as in the engrailed bend. But although early rolls of arms sometimes neglect this detail in the blazon, the fusils making a fesse must always be of an ascertained number. Montagu, earl of Salisbury, bore a fesse engrailoed or indented of three fusils only, very few shields imitating this. Medieval armorists will describe his arms as a fesse indented of three indentures, as a fesse fusilly of three pieces, or as a fesse engrailed of three points or pieces, all of these blazons having the same value. The indented fesse on the red shield of the Synhams has four such fusils of ermine. Four, however, is almost as rare a number as three, the normal form of a fesse indented being that of five fusils as borne by Percys, Pinkenys, Newmarches and many other ancient houses.

Indeed, accuracy of blazon is served if the number of fusils in a fesse be named in the cases of threes and fours. Fesses of six fusils are not to be found. Note that bars indented or engrailed are, for a reason which will be evident, never subject to this counting of fusils. Fauconberg, for example, bore "Silver with two bars engrailed, or indented, sable." Displayed on a shield of the flat-iron outline, the lower bar would show fewer fusils than the upper, while on a square banner each bar would have an equal number - usually five or six.


While bends, cheverons, crosses, saltires and pales often follow, especially in the 15th century, the tendency towards the rounded "engrailing," fesses keep, as a rule, their bold indentures - neither Percy nor Montagu being ever found with his bearings in aught but their ancient form. Borders take the new fashion as leaving more room for the charges of the field. But indented chiefs do not change their fashion, although many saw-teeth sometimes take the place of the three or four strongs points of early arms, and parti-colored shields whose party line is indented never lose the bold zig-zag.

While bearing in mind that the two words have no distinctive force in ancient armory, the student and the herald of modern times may conveniently allow himself to blozon the sharp and saw-toothed line as "indented" and the scalloped line as "engrailed," especially when dealing with the debased armory in which the distinction is held to be a true one and one of the first importance. One error at least he must avoid, and that is the following of the heraldy book compilers int heir use of the word "dancetty." A "dancetty" line, we are told, is a line having fewer and deeper indentures than the line indented. But no dancetty line could make a bolder dash across the shield than do the lines which the old armorists recognized as "indented."


In old armory we have fesses dancy - commonly called "dances" - bends dancy, or cheverons dancy; there are no chiefs dancy nor borders dancy, nor are there shields blazoned as parted with a dancy line. Waved lines, battled lines and ragged lines need little explanation that a picture cannot give. The word invecked or invected is sometimes applied by old fashioned heraldic pedants to engrailed lines; later pedants have given it to a line found in modern grants of arms, an engrailed line reversed. Dove-tailed and urdy lines are mere modernisms. Of the very ray nebuly or clouded line we can only say that the ancient form, which imitated the conventional cloud-bank of the old painters, is now almost forgotten, while the bold "wavy" lines of early armory have the word "nebuly" misapplied to them.