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Coat of Arms, Heraldry, and Escutcheon! Is there one term?

gnomewerks

Registered User
Validated User
As the title says. I've done some research and found all sorts of stuff -
Coat of Arms, Escutcheon, Symbol, Heraldry, etc.

Once my wiki(fu) found things like this
Chief
Dexter
Sinister
Base
Dexter Chief
Middle Chief
Sinister Chief
Honour Point
Fess Point
Nombril Point
Dexter Base
Sinister Base

related to my Escutcheon search, I knew I was in way over my head.

Talking fantasy, table-top RPG, medieval period stuff, is there one broad term for the symbol/mark of a nation/empire/kingom/province/state/guild/faction/merchant/person/knight that would suffice?
Is there a general term for the standard/flag carried into battle? Is the symbol the exact same? If an empire has a symbol that is red and black (split down the middle) with a big X in the middle, is that exact same symbol shown on that battle standard?
Is it on the militia's armbands or is there a separate symbol in order to also indicate rank?
What about a merchant/wizard that wishes to show his mark? Would the symbol be nearly the same with a bit of flourish and a personal rune nearby?
What about a knight, representing a lord that owes fealty to the king. Does the knight manipulate the King's Empire symbol much? Is he even allowed to give it some personality and character while still being loyal in representing the king of his empire?
What about embroidery on the back of the robes of an elite wizard unit working for the empire? Would an outside faction, or even a mercenary, temporarily allied and/or working for said empire have to display the empires symbol?
How universal are the tabards, shields, cloths, table-cloths, paintings, clerical vestments, jewelry, large cloths hanging on the castle walls (like Game of Thrones stuff everywhere)? Would the same 3 artists create it all with the same dyes, textures, design shape, etc?
Is there one general term for all of this? If not, should I even bother to delineate or just create a word to encompass "a kingdoms mark", in all instances?

Thank you
 
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Sven_Noren

Statistical Outlier
Validated User
Try to find the book "Simple heraldry" by Iain Moncreiffe and Don Pottinger. It answers most of your questions in a simple and straightforward manner.

To adress some of your questions: the personal symbol, that indentifies an individual, is called a Coat of Arms or just Arms. Similarly, nations and organizations could have Coats of Arms, to be used by the head of the nation/org only.
This could be painted on a shield, called an escutcheon, or a banner, or a house etc. The motif does not have to be exactly identical, but follow the same description (called a blazon).
The king of Xland would carry the CoA on his shield, and a flunky would carry the banner showing where said king can be found. Said flunky, as well as hired personnel like soldiers, would NOT bear that coat, they would use something called a badge: a smaller and simpler motif that may or may not look anything like the Royal arms.

A battle standard is a type of flag that shows both the royal arms and the badges, and indicates where soldiers are expected to rally. That is why losing the standard would be such a catastrophe.

A knight in service to the king would display his own arms. The arms of the empire is only for the emperor to use. It is the royal heralds job to keep track of His Majesty's knights and their arms.

A merchant would use a (surprize!) merchants mark to identify his wares, just like a farmer or other free man would use a mark on his belongings. These are designed to be simple to draw and not rely on colours. If you think about a cattle brand you are not too far off the mark.

The science concerning this stuff is called heraldry, and you can really lose yourself in it.
 

Beaviz81

Smiles, everyone, smiles!
Validated User
I guess it would be something like this for soldiers. Just in different colors and such. Remember in those ages I think only the wealthy could afford good colors. The rest had to make due with crappy ones. It was a common order later to shoot at the guys in the smart uniforms. Which means what I wrote.

And how do I go about resizing and such?


 
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neutrondecay

An Experience
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Hi - I've studied heraldry for decades. It's a pretty complex area, and it's best to build up slowly. All those italicised terms in your first list are positions on a shield, which is the central part of a coat of arms, sometimes called an achievement of arms. For most purposes, you can just refer to the arms of a person, place or organisation. Which elements are regulated (by a sovereign of arms and their heralds) varies from place to place. In Scotland, for example, mottoes are regulated (by Lord Lyon, King of Arms), but in England (where Garter King of Arms governs) they are not.

Some commonly occurring elements are:

The shield
The helm (a helmet on top of the shield - style and position indicates rank)
The wreath (a cloth band on top of the helm)
The coronet (or a crown or cap, as appropriate - headgear indicating rank)
The crest (a figurative shape on top of the helm or rising from the wreath or coronet - ideally something a knight could actually have made out of leather or papier mâché and stick on a real helmet)
The supporters (figures - often animals - on each side of the shield)
Mantling (flowing fabric cascading from the wreath, behind or to the side of the helm and possibly the shield)
The compartment (an image of a patch of land on which the shield and supporters stand)

The colours of the shield often inform the colour choices for the wreath and mantling, and might also be worn as coloured clothing by the bearer's servants or supporters - this is called livery.

Usually, only one person is entitled to each coat of arms - it's an early form of trademark law. That person's relatives may use a subtle variation, though - this is called differencing, and there's a complicated system of showing which child or grandchild of the original bearer you are, called marks of cadence. More rarely, the whole of one person's shield design may be granted as an element in someone else's, in honour of some great service rendered. For instance, one family (I forget which) has the royal arms of Scotland on their own shield, where it appears as an inescutcheon (small superimposed shield) on a bend (diagonal stripe).

Arms are heritable property: if you die, your heir can apply to bear your arms undifferenced.

The use of individual heraldic symbols separate from their shields so on is less regulated; these are called badges.

nd
 

neutrondecay

An Experience
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I guess it would be something like this for soldiers. Just in different colors and such. Remember in those ages I think only the wealthy could afford good colors. The rest had to make due with crappy ones. It was a common order later to shoot at the guys in the smart uniforms. Which means what I wrote.
Pretty much this. The soldiers in the picture are wearing livery over their armour, with badges. The colours and badges would be derived from their lord's arms, so you'd know that their boss had, for example gules a lion rampant argent - red with a white rearing lion.

nd
 

Beaviz81

Smiles, everyone, smiles!
Validated User
Pretty much this. The soldiers in the picture are wearing livery over their armour, with badges. The colours and badges would be derived from their lord's arms, so you'd know that their boss had, for example gules a lion rampant argent - red with a white rearing lion.

nd
The weakness of reenactments is that everyone is dressed way too nice. I mean if you run around in the same outfit every day, its gonna be worn down. But I understand the guys not wanting to look like that.
 

neutrondecay

An Experience
RPGnet Member
Validated User
There are also technical distinctions between the different kinds of banners - pennants are pointed, flags are rectangular, but there are also standards - often square and hung from a crossbar - as well as guidons and other things I couldn't readily define. But that's the domain of vexillology more than heraldry, and what makes good arms doesn't always make a good flag, and vice versa.

nd
 
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