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Journalists' &
Authors' Guide to Heraldry and Titles



Coat of Arms

Heraldic Achievement


Metals, Furs and Colours

Clans, Badges and Tartans

Differencing Chapter One

Differencing Chapter Two

Differencing Chapter Three

Differencing a.k.a. Cadency

Chapter Four

In the last chapter we examined how, during the early days of heraldry, a junior member of a family might add an ordinary to the arms borne by the head of the family. We did not look at the addition of a sub-ordinary, principally because there are so many examples and because this was the natural way for heraldry to develop.
However, before moving on to the short-lived practice of differencing by changing the charges, we might just note (because we shall need to mention it in future articles) the use of a specific sub-ordinary, the riband (or ribbon). To remind readers ~ the riband is half the width of a cost, which is half the width of a bendlet, which is half the width of a bend.
Arms of Fife Arms of Abernethy
A cadet line of the MacDuff Earls of Fife took the name of Abernethy when they were granted lands of that name in the days when heraldry in Scotland was still young. They differenced the basic coat with a black riband bendwise.
The direct Abernethy line ended with three co-heiress daughters who took the arms to the Earls of Angus (Stewart), Rothes (Leslie) and Crawford (Lindsay), while the line of the heir male eventually took the arms, via a female, to the Frasers of Philorth, now represented by Lady Saltoun.
Differencing with a Change of Charge

The first example we should examine is in the Leslie clan. The Chief's pronominal arms (left) are of silver and blue and feature three golden buckles, as do those of Leslie of Balquhain (right). The chief's bend has been changed to a fess in the Balquhain coat, but the general effect is that the arms are of the same family.

Arms of Leslie of Balquhain
Arms of Leslie of that Ilk
The maintenance of this similarity is unusual when a charge is changed, which is why this system belongs only to the early days of heraldry.
Ancient arms of Brochusen Arms of the Counts of Brochusen
Consider the Brochusens in Flanders. The arms of the senior line, Gyronny Argent and Gules, were changed for a cadet line (subsequently Counts) to Barry of four Argent and Gules ~ thus keeping only the tinctures. The sense of a family with a basic coat is gone.
Two more examples should be sufficient. The two shields below left are of two Bassetts featured in the Calais Roll (1345) Or three piles meeting in base Gules and a canton Ermine, and Or three pallets Gules and a canton Ermine. On the right are the arms of the Charbonel family of Normandy ~ William (left) Azure a mullet of six points Argent and on a chief Gules two mullets of six points also Argent, and Robert (right) who changed the mullets to plates (silver roundels).
Arms of William Charbonel
Arms of Lord Bassett arms of Rauf Bassett Arms of Robert Charbonel
The ermine canton on the Basset arms, together with the same tinctures of gold and red, is perhaps just sufficient to hint today at a blood connection between the two bearers. (It would have been more noticeable in the 14th century.) But the Charbonel brothers bear two coats that are sufficiently dissimilar in their appearance as to represent two unconnected families. Blood relationships are supposed to be readily visible. Here they are not, which is why the practice of differencing by changing charges did not deserve to survive.
In the next chapter we shall take another look at the use of the label.

Chapter 1 - Minor Brisures
Chapter 2 - Geratting and Change of Tinctures
Chapter 3 - Addition of an Ordinary
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