The Grammar of Heraldry/Chapter 1

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
265108The Grammar of Heraldry — The Grammar of HeraldryJohn Edwin Cussans


By a study of the science of Heraldry is learned the proper method of arranging and explaining all that appertains to the bearing of coats of arms, badges, and other hereditary or conceded marks of honour, for which purpose it is necessary to acquire a knowledge of blazoning and marshaling. By the former is meant the displaying or describing of certain armorial insignia in proper heraldic terms, and by the latter the grouping of two or more coats of arms on one shield or escutcheon.

All the various figures and devices represented on a shield, whether by themselves or with other figures placed on them, are called charges, and the shield on which such figures are represented is said to be charged with them. Thus, in the royal arms of England, the shield is charged with three lions.

As the various heraldic insignia were formerly charged upon the shields of the owners, so they are universally represented at the present day. There is, however, no definite rule to be observed in regulating their form,[1] except in the case of unmarried ladies and widows, who bear their arms on a lozenge (q. v.).

It must be remembered that the shield, when in actual use, was held by the warrior in front of him; the right-hand side, therefore, was towards the left hand of a person before him. Thus, in a representation of a coat of arms, the right side of a shield, as it appears to the spectator, is always called the sinister, and the left the dexter. The words right and left are never used in Heraldry.

For the sake of accurately determining the position of any charge upon an escutcheon, the different parts are distinguished as follows:—

A Dexter Chief.
B Chief.
C Sinister Chief.
D Honor Point.
E Fess Point.

F Nombril Point.
G Dexter Base.
H Base.
I Sinister Base.

The Chief and Base are not absolutely restricted to the precise points indicated by B and H. If, for instance, a shield were blazoned with three escallop shells in chief, they would be severally placed at A, B, and C. In English heraldry, mention is seldom made of the Honor and Nombril points.

  1. See ‘Achievements of Arms.’