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     Heraldry is the art or science of assigning significance to the symbols (or charges) that appear on a coat of arms. According to PIMBLEY'S DICTIONARY OF HERALDRY, it also addresses the history and meaning of armorial bearings, rules governing their use and transmission, and their connection with rank, family dignities and genealogies.

     The earliest coats of arms were fairly simple and were used to identify family groups in battle. However, over the years, bearing a coat of arms became a prerequisite to participating in tournaments. Due to the importance of social standing in such pageants, a coat of arms became a mark of noble status and thier designs became more complex. The practice of quartering developed when incorporating the arms of families acquired through marriages.

     Heraldry continues to flourish today. Institutions, companies, and private individuals may obtain officially recognized coats of arms from governmental heraldic authorities.

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     The blazon of arms is the official, written description of the coat of arms. It is a system of code words to denote colors, placement, and styling by using an economy of words. However, the mantle, helm, and banners for names and mottoes are not official elements of the blazon of arms.

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The Kent Coat of Arms
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Kent Coat of Arms


     A coat of arms consists of several parts: the shield, the mantling, the helm, the wreath, charges, and the crest.

     The word "crest" is commonly used to refer to a coat of arms. However, in heraldry, a crest is just one component of a complete achievement of arms. It should also be noted that not all arms have crests.

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Shield


     Shield shapes vary according to the geographical origin as well as the time period. The colors and charges are a part of the official blazon, but the shape is not.

     In this example there is one division of the shield called a "Chief". It symbolizes dominion, authority, wisdom, and achievement in battle.

     

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Tinctures

     The metals, colours, and furs used in heraldry are known as tinctures. The tinctures depicted on this coat of arms include:

     GOLD/YELLOW (metal) symbolizes generosity.
     AZURE/BLUE (colour) symbolizes strength, truth, and loyalty.
     Ermine (fur-white with a pattern of black spots) the mere fact that a shield contains furs suggests a mark of dignity.

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Charges


     A charge is any object found in nature or technology that appears in the armory. Charges can be animals, objects, or geometric constructs (ordinaries).

     Animals are found in various stereotyped positions. This shield depicts a lion in the passant guardant position. Here the lion represents bravery, strength, ferocity, valour, and dauntless courage.

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Helmet


     All coat of arms may display a "helm" or helmet, which sits over the shield and carries the crest. Not a part of the official blazon, the helmet varies with the bearer's rank, the century represented, or the artist's preference.

     The helmet signifies wise defense.

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Wreath


     The wreath (also known as a "torse") is not a part of the official blazon. It is a twisted cloth found atop the helm and below the crest. The wreath usually consists of the primary color and metal of the coat of arms.

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Crest


     The crest, also a part of the official blazon, is whatever appears above the helm. Often but not exclusively an animal, crests were a sign of superior rank. However, since Tudor times, crests have been granted with all English coats of arms.

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Mantle


     Mantling is not a part of the official blazon (except that sometimes the colors are specified. This is said to represent the cloth that hung from the wreath and protected the back of the head and neck, even though it may often be depicted more like the leaves of a plant.

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TO LEARN MORE, VISIT ONE OF THESE SITES

Free Coat of Arms
Family Crest and Coat of Arms
Coat of Arms - Wikipedia
House of Names
Heraldry on the Internet
Music of the Renaissance
Pimbley's Dictionary of Heraldry
Heraldic Charges - What they mean

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Music
Music
Greensleeves
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