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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 Chapter Four

Differencing Chapter Five

Differencing a.k.a. Cadency

Chapter Six

The Quarter and the Canton

When examining the use of the quarter and the canton for cadency, it is essential to remember that we are looking at the early days of heraldry, before most of the principles we today take for granted had been laid down and accepted. The canton, of course, has been used in modern times in such a way as to be a difference in effect, such as when it has been used for an honourable augmentation, and where it is used for a baronet to display his badge, but this is outside the scope of this chapter.

A quarter also can be interpreted de facto as a difference even when its presence is for another reason. For example, Hay of Yester first bore as a differenced version of the Hay chief’s arms (Argent three escutcheons Gules) a blue field with silver shields (Azure three escutcheons Argent), but later, after marrying the Gifford heiress, the Gifford quarter (Gules three bars Ermine) was deemed sufficient to allow Hay of Yester to bear in the pronominal quarter the undifferenced Hay arms.

Arms of Hay of Yester (modern)
Arms of Hay of Yester (ancient)
Arms of Hay of Erroll
Later arms of
Hay of Yester
Early arms of
Hay of Yester
Hay arms
An interesting example of a quarter representing a marriage to a coheiress and then acting as a difference is to be found in the arms of Robert Stewart of Lorn who acquired that lordship and half its lands with his marriage to Jonet, daughter and coheiress of John Mac Alan, Lord of Lorn. He subsequently, in 1388, exchanged the lordship and lands for his brother’s lands of Durrisdeer, and his brother, John, who had married the other coheiress, Isabel, marshalled his arms differently. (John’s eldest son Robert, Lord of Lorn, was the first to bear the peerage title of Lord Lorn, and his third son, James, the Black Knight of Lorn, married the Queen Dowager Joan Beaufort, widow of the murdered King James I.)
Arms of Stewart
modified arms of Lorn Arms of Stewart of Lorn
Arms of Lorn
Arms of Stewart of Bonkyl Robert Stewart, Lord of Lorn until 1388, bore (1) Or a fess chequy of four tracts Azure and Argent between two buckles in chief and a garb in base of the Second (a differenced form of the Stewart of Bonkyl arms ~ see left). When he acquired Lorn, instead of quartering the Lorn arms (2) as would have been usual at a later time, he took the black galley alone to mount on the gold field of his paternal arms.
At this time, mid-14th century, differencing was a fairly loose discipline, cadets taking the general theme of the undifferenced arms and applying changes that could be distinguished in the heat of battle while retaining the family identification. Robert Stewart’s first coat is very significantly different from the Bonkyl coat, but it retains the famous Stewart chequy fess and the Bonkyl buckles. Similarly, his final coat (4) is also markedly different from the undifferenced coat of the Stewarts of Bonkyl, but the checkers and the buckle are there.
The marshalling of the final coat is perhaps unique in heraldry. The black galley was effectively placed on a gold field (3) and then that was added as second and third quarters ~ but not in the usual way of sitting neatly alongside the first and fourth quarters! These quarters were placed on top of the existing arms, so that one of the buckles was absconded (hidden), as were also the lower half of the chequered fess on the dexter side and the upper half on the sinister side. The garb in base was moved to the sinister so that it was not cut in two. The blazon for these arms is complex and probably contentious, but the following might serve ~ Or a fess chequy of four tracts Azure and Argent between two buckles in chief and a garb in base of the Second; a sinister quarter Or bearing a lymphad Sable with sail set absconding one of the buckles and part of the fess; in the dexter base another quarter of the same absconding part of the fess.
The canton is the diminutive of the quarter and is a square with the area of one-third of the chief. In early times, however, its dimensions were not observed precisely, and sometimes it can be found at almost the size of a quarter.
The cadet branches of the Bassett family that had the Earls of Richmond as their feudal overlords frequently used a canton of the Richmond Ermine (which the Earls bore in pretence of their claim on Brittany) to difference their arms. Subsequently further differences changed the cantons. In one instance the canton was charged with a black gryphon (below centre) , and in another the canton’s ermine was used for the field and the canton itself changed to Gules (below right).
Arms of Brittanny
Arms of Bassett
Arms of Bassett
Arms of Bassett Arms of Bassett
Arms of Louis le Batard
Two interesting examples of the cadency canton were in Flanders in the days before there were standard symbols for bastardy. Sire Louis le Batard bore the arms of Flanders on a canton on an otherwise plain shield, and his brother Sire Philippe le Batard bore the same with the Flanders lion differenced by a bendlet Gules. In the Armorial de Gelre the shields are shown as silver ~ the gold cantons thus contravening the rule of colours on metals, metals on colours. Arms of Philippe le Batard
In the next chapter we shall look at the use for differencing of the inescutcheon.

Chapter 1 - Minor Brisures
Chapter 2 - Geratting and Change of Tinctures
Chapter 3 - Addition of an Ordinary
Chapter 4 - Changing Charges
Chapter 5 - The Label
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