The Grammar of Heraldry/Chapter 9

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266382The Grammar of Heraldry — Accessories to the ShieldJohn Edwin Cussans



Are the crowns of princes and peers, and serve by their particular form to indicate to what rank the possessor is entitled. Within the golden circle, or rim, is a crimson velvet cap, guarded with ermine, and on the top a tassel of gold bullion.

On the circle of a Duke’s coronet are eight strawberry leaves of equal height, five of which are shown in representations. A ducal coronet serving as a crest coronet (Fig. 186) is not furnished with a cap.

A Marquis’s has four strawberry leaves, and as many pearls[1] set on pyramidical points, which alternate with the leaves, all being of equal height. Two of the pearls and three of the leaves are to be seen in drawings.

An Earl’s coronet has eight pearls set on as many lofty rays or spikes, alternating with strawberry leaves of about one fourth the height. In illustrations, four of the latter, and five of the former are shown.

A Viscount’s has fourteen or sixteen pearls, which are placed close together on the rim, without leaves. Eight or nine are apparent in representations.

A Baron’s coronet is ornamented with six pearls, of which four are seen.

Besides the above coronets, there are others which should more properly be considered but as common charges, as they are not the recognised insignia of any particular rank, but may be borne on the escutcheon of either peer or commoner, which are the Eastern, or Antique crown, which has its circle of gold, from which rise an indefinite number of rays, as shown in the illustration. Fig. 182.

Fig. 182.

Cussans-Fig. 182.png

Fig. 183.

Cussans-Fig. 183.png

Fig. 184.

Cussans-Fig. 184.png

The Celestial crown differs from the Eastern, in having its rays somewhat higher, and each charged on the top with a small etoille.

The Mural crown, also of gold, has the top of the circle embattled. It was conferred by the Romans on the soldier who first scaled the walls of a besieged town. Fig. 183.

The Naval crown bears on the circle the sterns of vessels, alternating with masts, on which are affixed sails. Fig. 184.

Helm, or Helmet.

The Helmet is always placed on the top of the escutcheon, and varies in form and material, according to the rank of the bearer. The Royal helmet is represented of gold: it stands affrontée, and is guarded with six bars, bailes, or grilles. The helmet of Dukes and Marquises also stands affrontée, and is made of steel, guarded with five bars of gold. That of Earls, Viscounts, and Barons is of silver, garnished with gold: it is represented in profile, and is guarded with ten steel bars, half of which number is visible. Baronets and Knights have their helmets of steel, garnished with silver: it stands affrontée, and has the visor or beaver thrown open.

Fig. 185.
The helmet assigned to Esquires and Gentlemen is of steel; it is represented in profile, with the visor closed. Fig. 185.

The Bascinet is a close-fitting helmet, without a visor, and is occasionally, though very rarely, used as a charge.

A very effective and becoming form of helmet, adapted for an achievement of arms, is that which was generally used at tournaments—styled a tilting-helmet, or salette—and is represented at Figs. 189 and 190.

Crest, Wreath, and Chapeau.

The Crest was formerly a device surmounting the helmet of a noble, so that he should be more easily recognised by his followers, amid the confusion of battle; for, the beaver or visor of the helmet concealing the face of the wearer, it would be impossible, without some conspicuous mark, to distinguish one leader from another. This, therefore, being the object which crests were intended to serve, they are not permitted to ensign the arms of ladies.

The helmet was encircled either with a crest-coronet (Fig. 186), or with a wreath formed of twisted silk, on which the crest appeared to be supported, and it is so represented in modern heraldry.

Fig. 186.

Cussans-Fig. 186.png

Fig. 187.

Cussans-Fig. 187.png

Fig. 188.

Cussans-Fig. 188.png

The wreath, bandeau, or torse, is composed of the predominant metal and colour contained in the arms, the metal being always placed towards the dexter end. Fig. 187.

The crest is also sometimes borne on a chapeau, or cap of maintenance, which may be of any tincture, but is usually represented as of crimson velvet, lined and guarded with ermine. Fig. 188. Unless specified to the contrary in the blazon, crests are always supposed to be supported on a wreath.

Two or more crests are sometimes seen ensigning a coat of arms; but if we consider what purpose crests were intended to serve, this practice is obviously incorrect. If a gentleman, on his marriage with an heiress, adopts her paternal crest, he ought to relinquish his own.


Badges, or Cognizances, are distinguished from crests in not being supported on a wreath. They were intended to be borne on helmets, banners, caparisons, &c., and also on the breasts of common soldiers, attendants, and household servants. The white hart, lodged, of Richard II., and the red and white roses of the Lancastrian and Yorkist factions, are familiar examples of badges. In the historical plays of Shakespeare, frequent allusions are made to badges. Clifford, in his quarrel with the Earl of Warwick, exclaims:—

‘I am resolved to bear a greater storm
Than any thou canst conjure up to-day;
And that I’ll write upon thy burgonet (helmet),
Might I but know thee by thy household badge.’

To which threat, Warwick replies:—

The rampant bear chained to a ragged staff.
This day I’ll wear aloft my burgonet.’
King Henry VI., Part II., act v. sc. 1.

In the ancient ballad, entitled ‘The Rising of the North Countrie,’ we read:—

‘Now spreade thine ancyent (banner), Westmorland,
    Thy dun bull faine would we spye;
And thou the Earle of Northumberland
    Now raise thy half-moone up on hye.’

Neville, Earl of Westmorland, carried a dun bull as a badge, and a dun bull’s head and neck erased, on a wreath, as a crest. The badge of Percy, Earl of Northumberland, was a crescent, or half-moon.


The Motto is an expressive word, or short pithy sentence, accompanying a crest or coat of arms. Mottoes were probably the war-cries or slogans used by the followers of a noble, when engaged in battle. To such an extent did these war-cries foster the spirit of partisanship, than on the termination of the wars between the rival houses of York and Lancaster, an act of parliament was passed, by which it was declared penal for any noble or villein to use any cry except ‘The King’ or ‘St. George for England.’

When the motto bears an allusion to the crest, it is usually placed above it; thus the Roche family (Baron Fermoy) have for a crest, a sea-eagle standing on a rock (roche), holding in its claw a roach, with the motto, ‘Mon Dieu est ma roche.’ In this case, the motto would be appropriately place over the crest: mottoes, however, are commonly inscribed on a scroll beneath the shield. There are many families who possess no motto.

Mottoes, though generally transmitted with the arms, are not strictly hereditary. An individual is at liberty to affix to his escutcheon whatever motto his fancy may dictate. (For illustrations of mottoes, see Armes Parlantes, page 64.)


Are figures of men, beasts, birds, or imaginary creatures, which, standing on the crest-scroll, seem to support the shield placed between them. The use of supporters is restricted to peers of the realm, and knights of the Bath; although they are sometimes specially granted by the sovereign to persons of lower rank, on account of some distinguished service. The privilege is also accorded to peeresses, whether unmarried, widows, or the wives of commoners, under the restrictions before mentioned.


The Mantling is the ornamental accessory generally depicted behind the escutcheon. When the arms have supporters, it is usual to represent the mantling as a cloak (manteau), or robe of estate. The royal mantling is of gold, and that of peers of crimson velvet; both being lined with ermine. The mantling of esquires is commonly depicted as hanging from the helmet; and the curls, and other fantastic shapes it is made to assume, are supposed to indicate that it has become thus mutilated from long service in war.

Augmentations of Honour.

These are certain honourable addenda to the hereditary arms, specially granted to individuals by the sovereign, for some extraordinary public service. Augmentations have generally an allusion to the particular act by which the bearer has distinguished himself. Thus, James VI. of Scotland permitted Sir John Ramsay to impale the following arms with his own: Az.; a dexter hand holding a sword in pale ar., pommelled and hilted or, piercing man’s heart ppr., and supporting on the point an imperial crown of the last. This was in commemoration of Sir John killing Ruthven and his brother the Earl of Gowrie, when they attempted to assassinate the king. Charles II. granted augmentations to a great number of those who remained faithful to his cause during the interregnum; amongst others, a royal crown to the Earl of Macclesfield, and lions of England to Sir Robert Holmes, Robinson of Crauford, Moore lord mayor of London, and Lane of Staffordshire, To Penderell and Careless (or, as the king afterwards called him, Carlos), who saved his life at Boscobel, he granted nearly similar arms: that of the former being Arg.; on a mount vert, an oak tree ppr.; over all a fess sa., charged with three royal crowns of the third: and that of the latter being Or, and the fess gu., the other charges remaining the same.

To the paternal arms of Sir Cloudesley Shovel were added, as augmentations of honour, two crescents and a fleur-de-lys, for victories gained over the Turks and French. The Duke of Wellington was permitted to charge on a shield of pretence, the Union Jack, in commemoration of his distinguished services to the nation.

To Sir Humphry Davy, the inventor of the safety-lamp, were granted as augmentations, a flame jppr., encompassed by a chain sa., issuant from a civic wreath or; with the motto, Igne constricto, vita secura.

An augmentation of honour is not restricted solely to the shield of him who acquired it, but is transmitted with the hereditary arms to his descendants.


In modern heraldry, Abatements—with the exception of the bâton, or mark of illegitimacy—have fallen entirely into disuse. There were formerly no less than nine different marks, which, for various dishonourable acts, were liable to be affixed to the escutcheon. The crimes which merited these abatements were: a knight revoking his challenge; deserting the banner of his sovereign; vainly boasting of martial achievements; ‘demeaning himself not well in battle;’ killing a prisoner with his own hands, when not justified by self-defence; uttering a lie to his sovereign; effeminacy; drunkenness and licentious conduct; acting as a traitor towards his king and country. For this last crime, the most disgraceful of all, the escutcheon was condemned to be borne reversed.

  1. The pearls are balls of silver.