.......Classical Heraldry .......

The Shape of the Shield (5)

In four previous articles we looked at various shield shapes and noted that one fuller and deeper than the heater was developed to accommodate the large number of quarters that became fashionable. We recommended the use of the heater shield be retained for pronominal arms, but that when drawing arms of four quarters, the point at which curvature begins could be dropped down to around the midpoint of the left and right edges.

This fuller shield is used by some artists even for just pronominal arms. A hundred years ago Graham Johnston at the Court of the Lord Lyon used it for a series of the arms of knights of the 13th-14th centuries . . . . . . .

Arms of Pirie-Gordon of Buthlaw impaling Michell of Fawcett

The Age of Chivalry

Sir Arthur Bryant gave to his brilliant description of the hundred years that followed the accession in 1272 of King Edward I of England the title of "The Age of Chivalry". It was the period most associated in the popular mind with the principal features of chivalry as they are remembered from schooldays ~ the Crusades, cavalry charges, Bannockburn and the Anglo-Scottish wars, Crécy and the Anglo-French wars, Wallace and the Bruce, the Black Prince and the blind King John of Bohemia, and, of course, the flowering of heraldry. Quartered arms were still comparatively rare. The emphasis lay on easy recognition, so the pronominal arms were usually considered sufficient for the shield and the banner. The decadence of Tudor heraldry lay in the future.

In producing here arms from Graham Johnston's series we have three aims. First, to continue the theme of our earlier pages on the shape of the shield and to emphasise the elegance of the classical shape of the heater and its fuller-bodied versions. Second, to illustrate the virtues of the simple artistry of arms from the classical period. Third, to provide a collection of the arms of notable knights from "the age of chivalry" in graphic form for those who do not find it easy to interpret the blazons given in the directories. (Many of these arms are still to be found as quarters in the arms of men and women alive today.)

On this first page are three that are very well known. The pages that are to follow, of which we publish one with this issue of the magazine, will contain a mixture of the famous and the forgotten.

Arms of the King of Scots
The King of Scots ~ Or a lion rampant within a double tressure flory counterflory Gules.

The origin of these arms is controversial. It has been argued that the royal arms were originally Or a lion rampant Gules, that this went through the line of an eldest son (Ethelred, Abbot of Dunkeld) to the earldom of Fife, and that the line of the second son (Malcolm III) that succeeded later (David I) differenced the arms with the double tressure. Why the double tressure? Here there is more controversy. The fleurs-de-lys it features had long been associated with kingship, but a double tressure flory counterflory hints heavily at the politically important Flemish origins of David's queen, Matilda (Maud).

Arms of the King of England
The King of England ~ Gules three lions passant guardant Or.

In the early days of heraldry a single lion was always shown standing on its hind legs, rampant, and three lions were in a horizontal posture and blazoned as leopards. Distinctions as to the way the head was turned (passant, passant guardant, passant reguardant) were introduced later. (Two lions could be either rampant or passant.) England's royal arms as they now are date from 1198, but there are suggestions they may have been used in some other form rather earlier. Arms attributed to William the Conqueror feature two leopards, and the coat presented by Henry I in 1127 to his son-in-law Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, progenitor of the Plantagenet kings, bore six lions rampant.

Arms of Llywellyn, Prince of Wales
Llywelyn, Prince of Wales ~ Quarterly Or and Gules four lions passant guardant counterchanged.

This is an unusual interpretation of the blazon of the Princes of Wales. (Llywelyn was recognised as Prince of Wales by Henry III of England in 1267 and married in 1278 Eleanor, daughter of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester. He was succeeded by his brother Dafydd III, Prince of Gwynedd, who was beheaded by Henry's son, Edward I, in 1283.)

These arms today are emblazoned with one lion in each of the four quarters, a variation that boxes the lions into the space and cramps the impression the arms give. This, the Scottish version, is a much more elegant interpretation.

Next page

Arms of Imperial Russia
The Shape of the Shield ~ Part One
The Shape of the Shield ~ Part Two
The Shape of the Shield ~ Part Three
The July-August 2000 Contents page
© 2000 The Baronage Press and Pegasus Associates Ltd
From the St Petersburg Collection