Coat of Arms

 

A coat of arms or armorial bearings is, in European tradition, a colourful design belonging to a particular person and used by him or her in a wide variety of ways. Coats of arms have their origins in designs used by medieval knights to make their armour and shield stand out in battle or tournaments to enable quick recognition by allies or spectators. The designs were used to decorate clothing worn over the knight's armour, from which the term ‘coat of arms’ is derived. Over time, coats of arms were adopted by other social classes as well as towns and cities. Each coat of arms has a unique heraldic design. The term ‘herald' stems from German and means army commander. It relates to the duties of officers of arms. Today, the word ‘heraldry’ is generally associated with the design, display and recording of coats of arms and badges. A coat of arms usually consists of several basic elements. Typical is a decorated shield as the main element with a motto below it, supporters to left and right (e.g. in the form of rampant lions), and a helmet or crest above.
The formal description of a coat of arms is called a blazon. This describes in correct heraldic manner the design and colour of all the elements and accessories of a coat of arms, such as the field (background), shield, supporters (figures either side of the shield), compartment (design below the shield on which the supporters stand) crown/coronet, helmet, torse (wreath above the helmet), mantling (protective helmet covering) and motto. Coats of arms are still used by numerous institutions and individuals and many are protected as trademarks. England and Scotland, both of which have a long tradition in the use of coats of arms, still maintain the medieval “Law of Arms” governing the granting and regulation of coats of arms.


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