A Complete Guide to Heraldry/Chapter 20
THE HERALDIC HELMET
SINCE one's earliest lessons in the rules of heraldry, we have been taught, as one of the fundamental laws of the achievement, that the helmet by its shape and position is indicative of rank; and we early learnt by rote that the esquire's helmet was of steel, and was placed in profile, with the visor closed: the helmet of the knight and baronet was to be open and affronté; that the helmet of the peer must be of silver, guarded by grilles and placed in profile; and that the royal helmet was of gold, with grilles, and affronté. Until recent years certain stereotyped forms of the helmet for these varying circumstances were in use, hideous alike both in the regularity of their usage and the atrocious shapes into which they had been evolved. These regulations, like some other adjuncts of heraldic art, are comparatively speaking of modern origin. Heraldry in its earlier and better days knew them not, and they came into vogue about the Stuart times, when heraldic art was distinctly on the wane. It is puzzling to conceive a desire to stereotype these particular forms, and we take it that the fact, which is undoubted, arose from the lack of heraldic knowledge on the part of the artists, who, having one form before them, which they were assured was correct, under the circumstances simply reproduced this particular form in facsimile time after time, not knowing how far they might deviate and still remain correct. The knowledge of heraldry by the heraldic artist was the real point underlying the excellence of mediæval heraldic art, and underlying the excellence of much of the heraldic art in the revival of the last few years. As it has been often pointed out, in olden times they "played" with heraldry, and therein lay the excellence of that period. The old men knew the lines within which they could "play," and knew the laws which they could not transgress. Their successors, ignorant of the laws of arms, and afraid of the hidden meanings of armory, had none but the stereotyped lines to follow. The result was bad. Let us first consider the development of the actual helmet, and then its application to heraldic purposes will be more readily followed.
To the modern mind, which grumbles at the weight of present-day head coverings, it is often a matter of great wonder how the knights of ancient days managed to put up with the heavy weight of the great iron helmet, with its wooden or leather crest. A careful study of ancient descriptions of tournaments and warfare will supply the clue to the explanation, which is simply that the helmet was very seldom worn. For ceremonial purposes and occasions it was carried by a page, and in actual use it was carried slung at the saddle-bow, until the last moment, when it was donned for action as blows and close contact became imminent. Then, by the nature of its construction, the weight was carried by the shoulders, the head and neck moving freely within necessary limits inside. All this will be more readily apparent, when the helmet itself is considered. Our present-day ideas of helmets—their shape, their size, and their proportions—are largely taken from the specimens manufactured (not necessarily in modern times) for ceremonial purposes; e.g. for exhibition as insignia of knighthood. By far the larger proportion of the genuine helmets now to be seen were purposely made (certainly at remote dates) not for actual use in battle or tournament, but for ceremonial use, chiefly at funerals. Few, indeed, are the examples still existing of helmets which have been actually used in battle or tournament. Why there are so few remaining to us, when every person of position must necessarily have possessed one throughout the Plantagenet period, and probably at any rate to the end of the reign of Henry VII., is a mystery which has puzzled many people—for helmets are not, like glass and china, subject to the vicissitudes of breakage. The reason is doubtless to be found in the fact that at that period they were so general, and so little out of the common, that they possessed no greater value than any other article of clothing; and whilst the real helmet, lacking a ceremonial value, was not preserved, the sham ceremonial helmet of a later period, possessing none but a ceremonial value, was preserved from ceremonial to ceremonial, and has been passed on to the present day. But a glance at so many of these helmets which exist will plainly show that it was quite impossible for any man's head to have gone inside them, and the sculptured helmets of what may seem to us uncouth shape and exaggerated size, which are occasionally to be found as part of a monumental effigy, are the size and shape of the helmets that were worn in battle. This accounts for the much larger-sized helmets in proportion to the size of shield which will be found in heraldic emblazonments of the Plantagenet and Tudor periods. The artists of those periods were accustomed to the sight of real helmets, and knew and drew the real proportion which existed between the fighting helmet and the fighting shield. Artists of Stuart and Georgian days knew only the ceremonial helmet, and consequently adopted and stereotyped its impossible shape, and equally impossible size. Victorian heraldic artists, ignorant alike of the actual and the ceremonial, reduced the size even further, and until the recent revulsion in heraldic art, with its reversion to older types, and its copying of older examples, the helmets of heraldry had reached the uttermost limits of absurdity.
The recent revival of heraldry is due to men with accurate and extensive knowledge, and many recent examples of heraldic art well compare with ancient types. One happy result of this revival is a return to older and better types of the helmet. But it is little use discarding the "heraldic" helmet of the stationer's shop unless a better and more accurate result can be shown, so that it will be well to trace in detail the progress of the real helmet from earliest times.
In the Anglo-Saxon period the common helmet was merely a cap of leather, often four-cornered, and with a serrated comb (Figs. 560 and 561), but men of rank had a conical one of metal (Fig. 562), which was frequently richly gilt. About the time of Edward the Confessor a small piece, of varying breadth, called a "nasal," was added (Fig. 563), which, with a quilted or gamboised hood, or one of mail, well protected the face, leaving little more than the eyes exposed; and in this form the helmet continued in general use until towards the end of the twelfth century, when we find it merged into or supplanted by the
movable "ventaille," or a visor, instead of the "nasal." This helmet (which was adopted by Richard I., who is also sometimes represented with a conical one) was the earliest form of the large war and tilting "heaume" (or helm), which was of great weight and strength, and often had only small openings or slits for the eyes (Figs. 565 and 566). These eyepieces were either one wide slit or two, one on either side. The former was, however, sometimes divided into two by an ornamental bar or buckle placed across. It was afterwards pointed at the top, and otherwise slightly varied in shape, but its general form appears to have been the same until the end of the fourteenth century (Figs. 567, 568). This type of helmet is usually known as the "pot-shaped." The helmets themselves were sometimes painted, and Fig. 569 represents an instance which is painted in green and white diagonal stripes. The illustration is from a parchment MS. of about 1241 now in the Town Library of Leipzic. Fig. 570 shows another German example of this type, being taken from the Eneit of Heinrich von Veldeke, a MS. now in the Royal Library in Berlin, belonging to the end of the twelfth century. The crest depicted in this case, a red lion, must be one of the earliest instances of a crest. These are the helmets which we find on early seals and effigies, as will be seen from Figs. 571-574.
The cylindrical or "pot-shaped" helmet of the Plantagenets, however, disappears in the latter part of the thirteenth century, when we first find mention of the "bascinet" (from Old French for a basin), Figs. 575-579. This was at first merely a hemispherical steel cap, put over the coif of mail to protect the top of the head, when the knight wished to be relieved from the weight of his large helm (which he then slung at his back or carried on his saddlebow), but still did not consider the mail coif sufficient protection. It soon became pointed at the top, and gradually lower at the back, though not so much as to protect the neck. In the fourteenth century the mail, instead of being carried over the top of the head, was hung to the bottom rim of the helmet, and spread out over the shoulders, overlapping the cuirass. This was called the "camail," or "curtain of mail." It is shown in Figs. 576 and 577 fastened to the bascinet by a lace or thong passing through staples.
The large helm, which throughout the fourteenth century was still worn over the bascinet, did not fit down closely to the cuirass (though it may have been fastened to it with a leather strap), its bottom curve not being sufficiently arched for that purpose; nor did it wholly rest on the shoulders, but was probably wadded inside so as to fit closely to the bascinet.
It is doubtful if any actual helm previous to the fourteenth century exists, and there are very few of that period remaining. In that of the Black Prince at Canterbury (Fig. 271) the lower, or cylindrical, portion is composed of a front and back piece, riveted together at the sides, and this was most likely the usual form of construction; but in the helm of Sir Richard Pembridge (Figs. 580 and 581) the three pieces (cylinder, conical piece, and top piece) of which it is formed are fixed with nails, and are so welded together that no trace of a join is visible. The edges of the metal, turned outwards round the ocularium, are very thick, and the bottom edge is rolled inwards over a thick wire, so as not to cut the surcoat. There are many twin holes in the helmet for the aiglets, by which the crest and lambrequin were attached, and in front, near the bottom, are two + shaped holes for the T bolt, which was fixed by a chain to the cuirass.
The helm of Sir Richard Hawberk (Figs. 582 and 583), who died in 1417, is made of five pieces, and is very thick and heavy. It is much more like the later form adapted for jousting, and was probably only for use in the tilt-yard; but, although more firmly fixed to the cuirass than the earlier helm, it did not fit closely down to it, as all later helms did.
Singularly few examples of the pot-helmet actually exist. The "Linz" example (Figs. 584 and 585), which is now in the Francisco-Carolinum Museum at Linz, was dredged out of the Traun, and is unfortunately very much corroded by rust. The fastening-place for the crest, however, is well preserved. The example belongs to the first half of the fourteenth century.
The so-called "Pranker-Helm" (Fig. 586), from the chapter of Seckau, now in the collection of armour in the Historical Court Museum at Vienna, and belonging to the middle of the fourteenth century, could only have been used for tournaments. It is made of four strong hammered sheets of iron 1-2 millimetres thick, with other strengthening plates laid on. The helmet by itself weighs 5 kilogrammes 357 grammes.
stall plates, though far from being identical in shape, all appear to be of the same class or type of tilting-helm drawn in profile. Amongst the early plates only one instance (Richard, Duke of Gloucester, elected 1475) can be found of the barred helmet. This is the period when helmets actually existed in fact, and were actually used, but at the end of the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth centuries, when the helmet was being fast relegated to ceremonial usage and pictorial emblazonment, ingenious heralds began to evolve the system by which rank and degree were indicated by the helmet.
Fig. 608.—Pageant Helmet, with the Crest of Burgau.
Fig. 609.—Pageant Helmet, with the Crest of Austria (ancient) or Tyrol.
Before proceeding to consider British rules concerning the heraldic helmet, it may be well to note those which have been accepted abroad. In Germany heraldry has known but two classes of helmet, the open helmet guarded by bars (otherwise buckles or grilles), and the closed or "visored" helmet. The latter was the helmet used by the newly ennobled, the former by the older families of higher position, it being originally held that only those families whose birth qualified them to tilt were permitted to use this buckled helmet. Tournaments were of course always conducted on very strict lines. Woodward reprints in his "Treatise on Heraldry" the "Tourney Regulations for the Exposure of Arms and Crest, drawn up by René, Duke of Anjou, King of Sicily and Jerusalem," from Menêtrier's L'Origin des Armoiries. The rules to be complied with are there set out. Fig. 12 herein is a representation of a "Helmschau," where the examination of the crests is being carried on. It is interesting to notice therein that the whole of the helmets without exception have the grilles. Germany was perhaps the earliest country to fall from grace in the matter, for towards the end of the fifteenth century the buckled helmet is found with the arms of the lower Briefadels (those ennobled by patent), and the practice continued despite the violent protests of the tournament families, who considered their prerogative had been infringed. The closed helmet consequently sank gradually in Germany to the grade of a mere burgess's helmet, and as such became of little account, although in former times it had been borne by the proudest houses.
Similarly in France the "buckled" helmet was considered to be reserved for the military noblesse, and newly ennobled families were denied its use until the third generation, when they became bons gentilhommes. Woodward states that when "in 1372 Charles V. conferred on the bourgeoisie of Paris the right to use armorial bearings, it was strenuously denied that they could use the timbred helm. In 1568 an edict of Charles IX. prohibited the use of armoiries timbrées to any who were not noble by birth." The grilles of the helmet produced with the old French heralds the opportunity of a minutiæ of rule which, considering the multitude of rules fathered, rightly or wrongly, upon British heraldry, we may be devoutly happy never reached our shores. They assigned different numbers of grilles to different ranks, but as the writers differ as to the varying numbers, it is probable that such rules were never officially accepted even in that country. In France the rule was much as in this country, a gold helmet for the Sovereign, silver for princes and great nobles, steel for the remainder. It is curious that though the timbred helm was of course known in England whilst the controversy as to its heraldic use was raging in France and Germany, no heraldic use of it whatever occurs till the beginning of the seventeenth century. From Royalty to the humblest gentleman, all used for heraldic purposes the closed or visored helms.
The present rules concerning helmets which hold in Great Britain are that the helmet of the Sovereign and the Royal princes of this country shall be of gold, placed in an affronté position, and shall have grilles. The helmet of a peer shall be of silver, shall be placed in profile, and shall have golden grilles, frequently stated to be five in number, a detail not stringently adhered to. The helmet of a knight or baronet shall be of steel, placed full-faced, and shall be open; whilst the helmet of an esquire or gentleman shall be of steel and in profile, with the visor closed. Within these limits considerable latitude is allowed, and even in official grants of arms, which, as far as emblazonment goes, are very much of a stereotyped style, actual unvarying adherence to a particular pattern is not insisted upon.
The earliest instance amongst the Garter plates in which a helmet with grilles is used to denote the rank of a peer is the stall plate of Lord Knollys in 1615. In the Visitations but few instances can be found in which the arms of peers are included. Peers were not compelled to attend and enter their arms and pedigrees at Visitations, doubtless owing to the fact that no Garter King of Arms ever made a Visitation, whilst it has been the long-asserted prerogative of Garter to deal with peers and their arms by himself. At the same time, however, there are some number of instances of peers' arms and pedigrees in the Visitation Books, several occurring in the 1587 Visitation of Yorkshire. In these cases the arms of peers are set out with supporters and mottoes, but there is no difference between their helmets and what we should now term the helmet of an esquire or gentleman. This is all the more curious because neither helmet nor motto is found in the tricks given of the arms of commoners. Consequently one may with certainty date the introduction of the helmet with grilles as the distinguishing mark of a peer in this country between the years 1587 and 1615. The introduction of the open full-faced helmet as indicative of knight or baronet is known to date from about the period of the Restoration.
Whilst these fixed rules as to helmets are still scrupulously adhered to by English heralds, Lyon King of Arms would seem to be inclined to let them quietly lapse into desuetude, and the emblazonment of the arms of Sir George Duff-Sutherland-Dunbar, Bart., in the Lyon Register at the recent rematriculation of his arms, affords an instance in which the rules have been ignored.
Some of the objections one hears raised to official heraldry will not hold water when all facts are known; but one certainly thinks that those who object to the present helmet and its methods of usage have ample reason for such remarks as one frequently sees in print upon the subject. To put it mildly, it is absolutely ridiculous to see a helmet placed affronté, and a lion passant looking out over the side of it; or to see a helmet in profile with the crest of a man's head affronté placed above it, and as a consequence also peeping over the side. The necessity for providing a resting-place for the crest other than unoccupied space has also led to the ridiculous practice of depicting the wreath or torse in the form of a straight bar balanced upon the apex of the helmet. The rule itself as to the positions of helmets for the varying ranks is officially recognised, and the elaboration of the rule with regard to the differing metals of the Royal helmet and the helmets of peers and knights and baronets is officially followed; though the supposed regulation, which requires that the helmet of an esquire or gentleman shall be of steel alone is not, inasmuch as the helmet painted upon a grant is always ornamented with gold.
These rules in England only date from the times of the Stuarts, and they cannot be said to be advantageous from any point of view; they are certainly distinctly harmful from the artistic standpoint. It is plainly utterly impossible to depict some crests upon a profile helmet, and equally impossible to display others upon an affronté helmet. In Scotland the crests do not afford quite such a regular succession of glaring examples for ridicule as is the case in England. No need is recognised in Scotland for necessarily distinguishing the crest of one family from that of another, though proper differences are rigidly adhered to with regard to the coats of arms. Nevertheless, Scotland provides us with many crests which it is utterly impossible to actually carry on an actual helmet, and examples of this kind can be found in the rainbow which floats above the broken globe of the Hopes, and the coronets in space to which the hand points in the crest of the family of Dunbar of Boath, with many other similar absurdities.
In England an equal necessity for difference is insisted upon in the crest as is everywhere insisted upon with regard to the coat of arms; and in the time of the late Garter King of Arms, it was rapidly becoming almost impossible to obtain a new crest which has not got a row of small objects in front of it, or else two somethings, one on either side. (Things, however, have now considerably improved.) If a crest is to be depicted between two ostrich feathers, for example, it stands to reason that the central object should be placed upon the centre of the helmet, whilst the ostrich feathers would be one on either side—that is, placed in a position slightly above the ears. Yet, if a helmet is to be rigidly depicted in profile, with such a crest, it is by no means inconceivable that the one ostrich feather at the one side would hide both the other ostrich feather and the central object, leaving the crest to appear when properly depicted (for example, if photographed from a profile view of an actual helmet) as a single ostrich feather. Take, for instance, the Sievier crest, which is an estoile between two ostrich feathers. If that crest were properly depicted upon a profile helmet, the one ostrich feather would undoubtedly hide everything else, for it is hardly likely that the estoile would be placed edge-forwards upon an actual helmet; and to properly display it, it ought to take its place upon an affronté helmet. Under the present rules it would be officially depicted with the estoile facing the side, one ostrich feather in front over the nose, and the other at the back of the head, which of course reduces it to an absurdity. To take another example, one might instance the crest of Sir William Crookes. It is hardly to be supposed that a helmet would ever have been borne into a tournament surmounted by an elephant looking out over the side; it would most certainly have had its head placed to the front; and yet, because Sir William Crookes is a knight, he is required to use an affronté helmet, with a crest which most palpably was designed for use in profile. The absurd position which has resulted is chiefly due to the position rules and largely a consequence of the hideous British practice (for no other nation has ever adopted it) of depicting, as is so often done, a coat of arms and crest without the intervening helmet and mantling; though perhaps another cause may have had its influence. I allude to the fact that an animal's head, for example, in profile, is considered quite a different crest to the same animal's head when placed affronté; and so long as this idea holds, and so long as the rules concerning the position of the helmet exist, for so long shall we have these glaring and ridiculous anomalies. And whilst one generation of a family has an affronté helmet and another using the same crest may have a profile one, it is useless to design crests specifically to fit the one or the other.
Mr. G. W. Eve, who is certainly one of the most accomplished heraldic artists of the present time, has adopted a plan in his work which, whilst conforming with the rules to which I have referred, has reduced the peculiarities resulting from their observance to a minimum. His plan is simple, inasmuch as, with a crest which is plainly affronté and has to be depicted upon a profile helmet, he slightly alters the perspective of each, twisting round the helmet, which, whilst remaining slightly in profile, more nearly approaches the affronté position, and bringing the crest slightly round to meet it. In this way he has obtained some very good results from awkward predicaments. Mr. Joseph Foster, in his "Peerage and Baronetage," absolutely discarded all rules affecting the position of the helmet; and though the artistic results may be excellent, his plan cannot be commended, because whilst rules exist they ought to be adhered to. At the same time, it must be frankly admitted that the laws of position seem utterly unnecessary. No other country has them—they are, as has been shown, impracticable from the artistic standpoint; and there can be very little doubt that it is highly desirable that they should be wholly abolished.
It is quite proper that there should be some means of distinction, and it would seem well that the helmet with grilles should be reserved for peers. In this we should be following or closely approximating to the rules observed formerly upon the Continent, and if all questions of position are waived the only difficulty which remains is the helmet of baronets and knights. The full-faced open helmet is ugly in the extreme—anything would be preferable (except an open helmet in profile), and probably it would be better to wipe out the rule on this point as well. Knights of any Order have the circle of that order within which to place their shields, and baronets have the augmentations of their rank and degree. The knight bachelor would be the only one to suffer. The gift of a plain circlet around the shield or (following the precedent of a baronet), a spur upon a canton or inescutcheon, could easily remove any cause of complaint.
But whilst one may think it well to urge strongly the alteration of existing rules, it should not be considered permissible to ignore rules which undoubtedly do exist whilst those rules remain in force.
The helmets of knights and baronets and of esquires and gentlemen, in accordance with present official practice, are usually ornamented with gold, though this would not appear to be a fixed and unalterable rule.
When two or more crests need to be depicted, various expedients are adopted. The English official practice is to paint one helmet only, and both the crests are detached from it. The same plan was formerly adopted in Scotland. The dexter crest is naturally the more important and the principal one in each case. By using one helmet only the necessity of turning the dexter crest to face the sinister is obviated.
The present official method adopted in England of depicting three crests is to use one helmet only, and all three crests face to the dexter. The centre one, which is placed on the helmet, is the principal or first crest, that on the dexter side the second, and the one on the sinister the third.
In Germany, the land of many crests (no less than thirteen were borne above the shield of the Margraves of Brandenburg-Anspach), there has from the earliest times been a fixed invariable practice of never dissociating a crest from the helmet which supported it, and consequently one helmet to every crest has long been the only recognised procedure. In the United Kingdom duplication of crests is quite a modern practice. Amongst the Plantagenet Garter plates there is not a single example to be found of a coat of arms with more than a single crest, and there is no ancient British example of more than one helmet which can be referred to for guidance. The custom originated in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Germany. This point is more fully dealt with in the chapter devoted to the consideration of crests, but it may be here noted that in Austria a knight may place two and a baron three helmets over his shield. The Continental practice is as follows: When the number of the helms is even, they are arranged so that all look inwards towards the centre line of the escutcheon, half being turned to the dexter, half to the sinister. If the number be uneven, the principal helm is placed in the centre affronté, the others with their crests being turned towards it; thus, some face to the dexter, some to the sinister. The crests are always turned with the helmets. In Scandinavia the centre helm is affronté; the others, with their crests, are often turned outwards.
English officialism, whilst confining its own emblazonments to one helmet only, has never sought to assert that the use of two or more was either incorrect or faulty heraldry, and particularly in these later days of the revival of heraldic art in this country, all heraldic artists, following the German example, are inclined to give each crest its own helmet. This practice has been adopted during the last few years by Lyon King of Arms, and now all paintings of arms in Lyon Register which have two crests have the same number of helmets. Some of the Bath stall plates in Henry VII.'s chapel in Westminster Abbey also display two helmets.
When two helmets are used, it has been customary, still following the German model, to turn them to face each other, except in the cases of the full-faced helmets of a knight or baronet, and (with the same exception) when three helmets have been employed the outer ones have been placed to face the centre, whilst the centre one has been placed in profile, as would be the case were it standing alone. But the multiplication of English crests in number, all of which as granted are required to differ, has naturally resulted in the stereotyping of points of difference in attitude, &c., and the inevitable consequence is unfortunately that without sacrificing this character of differentiation it is impossible to allow the English heraldic artist the same latitude and freedom of disposition with regard to crests that his German confrère enjoys. These remarks apply solely to English and Irish crests, for Scottish practices, requiring no differentiation in the crests, have left Scottish crests simple and unspoiled. In England the result is that to "play" with the position of a crest frequently results in an entire alteration of its character, and consequently, as there is nothing whatever in the nature of a law or of a rule to the contrary, it is quite as usual to now find that two profile helmets are both placed to face the dexter, as placed to face each other. Another point seems also in England to have been lost sight of in borrowing our methods from Germany. They hold themselves at liberty to, and usually do, make all their charges on the shield face to the centre. This is never done in England, where all face to the dexter. It seems therefore to me an anomaly to apply one rule to the shield and another to the helmet, and personally I prefer that both helmets and all charges should face the dexter.
In British heraldry (and in fact the rule is universal) no woman other than a reigning Sovereign is permitted to surmount her arms by a helmet. Woodward states that "Many writers have denied the right of ecclesiastics (and, of course, of women) to the use of helmet and crest. Spener, the great German herald, defends their use by ecclesiastics, and says that, in Germany at any rate, universal custom is opposed to the restriction. There the prelates, abbots, and abbesses, who held princely fiefs by military tenure, naturally retained the full knightly insignia."
In official English heraldry, there is a certain amount of confirmation and a certain amount of contradiction of this supposed rule which denies a helmet to an ecclesiastic. A grant of arms to a clergyman at the present day, and at all times previously, after the granting of crests had become usual, contains the grant of the crest and the emblazonment shows the helmet. But the grant of arms to a bishop is different. The emblazonment of the arms is surmounted by a mitre, and the crest is depicted in the body of the patent away from and distinct from the emblazonment proper in the margin. But the fact that a crest is granted proves that there is not any disability inherent in the ecclesiastic which debars him from the possession of the helmet and crest, and the rule which must be deduced, and which really is the definite and accepted rule, is that a mitre cannot be displayed together with a helmet or crest. It must be one or other, and as the mitre is indicative of the higher rank, it is the crest and helmet which are discarded.
There are few rules in heraldry to which exceptions cannot be found, and there is a painting now preserved in the College of Arms, which depicts the arms of the Bishop of Durham surmounted by a helmet, that in its turn being surmounted by the mitre of episcopal rank. But the Bishopric of Durham was, in addition to its episcopal character, a temporal Palatinate, and the arms of the Bishops of that See therefore logically present many differences and exceptions from established heraldic rules.
The rules with regard to the use of helmets for the coats of arms of corporate bodies are somewhat vague and vary considerably. All counties, cities, and towns, and all corporate bodies to whom crests have been granted in England, have the ordinary closed profile helmet of an esquire or gentleman. No grant of a crest has as yet been made to an English university, so that it is impossible to say that no helmet would be allowed, or if it were allowed what it would be.
For some reason the arms of the City of London are always depicted with the helmet of a peer, but as the crest is not officially recorded, the privilege necessarily has no official sanction or authority.
In Scotland the helmet painted upon a grant of arms to town or city is always the open full-faced helmet of a knight or baronet. But in the grant of arms to a county, where it includes a crest, the helmet is that of an esquire, which is certainly curious.
In Ireland no helmet at all was painted upon the patent granting arms to the city of Belfast, in spite of the fact that a crest was included in the grant, and the late Ulster King of Arms informed me he would not allow a helmet to any impersonal arms.
Care should be taken to avoid errors of anachronism when depicting helmet and shield. The shapes of these should bear some approximate relation to each other in point of date. It is preferable that the helmet should be so placed that its lower extremity reaches somewhat over the edge of the shield. The inclined position of the shield in emblazonment is borrowed from the natural order of things, because the shield hanging by its chain or shield-strap (the guige), which was so balanced that the shield should most readily fall into a convenient position when slung on the rider's shoulders, would naturally retain its equilibrium only in a slanting direction.