The Grammar of Heraldry/Chapter 8

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266379The Grammar of Heraldry — MarshallingJohn Edwin Cussans


By Marshalling is meant combining various coats of arms on one escutcheon, by which means the family alliances or official dignity of the bearer is indicated.

At marriage, the husband is entitled to marshal the arms of his wife with his own, thus forming a single composition. The usual mode adopted of combining the arms of two families is by impalement; the husband's being placed on the dexter side of the shield, and the wife's on the sinister, as in the annexed example (Fig. 181), which would be blazoned, Arg.; a pale gu., for —— (the name of the husband); impaling, Gu.; a chevron arg.,[1] within a bordure or, for —— (the family name of the wife).

Fig. 181.

Cussans-Fig. 181.png

To this achievement the wife is equally entitled, even after she has become a widow; in which case, however, she would bear it on a lozenge, and without a crest.

These impaled arms are not hereditary; that is, the arms of the wife would not appear in the subsequent shields of her children.

Should the wife, or, in heraldic language, the femme, be an heiress or co-heiress, the husband, or baron, does not impale her arms with his own, but may, after her father's death, charge them on an inescutcheon, or shield of pretence, as exemplified by Fig. 175; intimating that he has a pretension to her estates. The issue of such marriage would be entitled to bear their paternal and maternal arms, quaterly quatered: that of their father in the first and fourth quaters, and of their mother in the second and third.

As successive heiresses inter-marry with the family, they would each bring in the arms to which they are entitled; thus, an escutcheon may be charged with the bearings of an unlimited number of families.

A knight is not permitted to surround his shield, on which his own and wife's arms are combined, with the order of the garter, or any other distinction essentially pertaining to himself. In this case, the respective arms must be blazoned on two separate escutcheons, placed side by side.

Kings-at-arms and bishops bear their official arms impaled on the same shield with their hereditary insignia, the latter being placed on the sinister side.

If the daughter of a peer marry a commoner, the respective arms are not impaled, but are placed on two separate shields, side by side, the husband's towards the dexter, and the wife's towards the sinister. As, however, she retains, even after marriage, not only her title, but her maiden or widow name, she must bear her arms upon a lozenge, together with all the insignia to which her rank entitled her before such marriage. The position of peeresses is, under certain circumstances, rather anomalous. The daughters of a peer take the same rank as that of their eldest brother, during the lifetime of his father. Thus, the son and daughters of a duke would be styled marquis and marchionesses respectively. Now, supposing one daughter marries a baron—the lowest order of the nobility,—she loses three grades; but should another daughter form an alliance with a commoner, she still retains her rank, as I have before stated, and actually takes precedence of her sister, though the wife of a peer.

It was anciently the custom to combine the arms of the wife with those of her husband by dimidiation, or cutting off the sinister half of one coat, and the dexter half of the other. This was found to be extremely inconvenient, and in some cases to totally transform some of the charges. For example, if we wished to marshal by dimidiation, ‘Gu.; a bend sinister or,’ with ‘Party per pale, ermine and gu,; a bend or,’ we would produce ‘Gu.; a chevron or,’ and the ermine would be totally lost.

  1. As these are the arms of two separate families, the blazon must he kept totally distinct. It would be impossible to blazon the wife's arms as 'of the last, a chevron of the first;' for each is complete without the other. Observe that the bordure does not surround the entire shield when impaled with another coat. Had the shield been quaterly quatered, as at Fig. 175, the bordure would have been entire. Thus, the tressure surrounding the arms of Scotland is represented complete when quartered with the royal arms of England.