Early Days ~ 2

In our introduction to this subject we noted that two principal consequences of the growth of heraldry were ~

1. The development of an extensive vocabulary of blazon to describe design variations precisely, and

2. The silent acceptance of a new heraldry which distinguished armigers from each other by differences so small that they could never be recognisable as differences on a battlefield.

The first article examined the simplicity and lack of precision in early heraldry. Here we shall discuss some developments in the vocabulary of blazon.

In the beginning a star was a star and the sun was the sun (and the moon was a crescent). A star would have rays that were more or less straight and they could be of any number. The sun would have curly rays which, again, could be of any number.
Subsequently, a star of five straight rays (above left) became known as a mullet, and if it had six wavy rays it was an estoile ~ but if the numbers were different they were stated, as in a mullet of seven points (right) from a 15th C. roll.
The de Vere arms above feature a silver mullet shown here with five rays, but some very early illustrations show it with six rays. The disastrous confusion at the battle of Barnet in 1471, when de Vere's silver star was mistaken for the King's white rose-en-soleil, may have been owed to too many rays.
A variation of the mullet is the pierced mullet or spur-rowel (top right) in which the hole may be "of the field " or of another tincture (as, in the illustration, Sable). Again, if of five rays (or points) the number need not be given, but if of more it must always now be stated.
Just as in the later period of heraldry the number of points of a mullet or rays of an estoile came to distinguish one coat from another (although in the mud and gore of battle this would be impractical), so with the development of the cross. Initially there were but two crosses ~ the ordinary, which touched the edges of the shield, and the cross couped (or humetty) of which the limbs stopped short of the edges of the shield and were trimmed neatly in a line.
Then the ends of a cross couped were split. That was not too bad a modification, for it was not too difficult to see whether or not the ends of the limbs of a cross were straight lines. But then there were further developments based on how far the split ends curled back. Above left is the original cross fourché. Then came the cross moline (above centre). And then came the cross recercelé (above right).
So why not split the ends into three? So then we had the cross patonce (above left), followed by one with a rough imitation of the fleur de lys at its ends ~ the cross flory (above centre), and then a cross couped with semi-fleur-de-lys additions ~ the cross fleuretty (above right). These are all differences sufficient to distinguish between various arms ~ but on the battlefield in the classical period, on fluttering banner or gory shield ??? It would not be easy.
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