by Joseph C. Wolf
One day during my years in the genealogical department of
the Newberry Library a young married couple appeared at the
desk to inquire for an illustration of a certain coat of
arms. The husband said it was his family coat of arms and
he wished to have it reproduced in a painting to hang in
their new home.
I found the coat of arms which he said several genealogists
had told him was the one belonging to his family. A good
picture it was, in full color, and the young couple examined
it carefully. Finally, the bride said, "Oh, it's black and
silver! I'm afraid it won't harmonize with our scheme of
She took to examining the other coats of arms that happened
to be on the same page and suddenly pointed to one, saying
"Now, there's one, red and silver. That would harmonize
beautifully!" She turned to her husband and said, "Let's
take that one."
He stammered a little and began, "But, dear -- that's not my
But he saw, as I saw, that this was no impediment to the
bride. She wanted red and silver and she got it! The last I
saw of them they were arranging to have it copied by an
artist and hung in their home.
This incident, I discovered in time, was not at all uncommon.
All genealogists have had something like it appear frequently
across the years.
There have been, unfortunately, a great many people who
insisted upon having a coat of arms, whether they had any
right to them or not; and there are also a number of
pretenders calling themselves heraldic artists who were
willing to supply anything for a price. As a consequence,
many people today cherish and use coats of arms that were
fabricated for themselves or for their ancestors generations
ago. Both buyers and sellers are to blame, and each lures
the other. Thedelusion of one, that money will buy anything,
and the deplorable thought of the other, that it is proper
to do anything for money, may have resulted in more
decorative living rooms , but they also have perpetrated
To one who has studied the science of heraldry, it is really
pathetic to hear one of these pretending heraldic artists
say such things as: "I find that your family name is Clark,
and this illustration is the prettiest, so it must be your
own Clark coat of arms." Or this, "It makes no difference
what shape the shield is; it is only what's in it that
counts. Or this, "Gold and silver are not used any more in
painting because they tarnish so easily. Or perhaps, most
humorous of all, "A wife or husband can use each other's
coat of arms - it doesn't make any difference."
These all are mistaken notions and anyone who will take the
time to study a standard work on heraldry, can find that a
coat of arms does not necessarily belong to him just because
someone of the same surname had it. He must prove descent
from the owner. Further, the shape of the shield is a very
definite and positive thing, determined largely by the
fashion at the time the grant was issued and it should not
be designed according to anyone's whim or fancy. Again,
metals must be used in heraldic paintings if they are to be
correctly emblazoned. Finally, a husband has no right to use
the wife's coat of arms, nor has she the right to use his,
since a coat of arms descends by blood and not by marriage.
An exception is that a wife and a husband may "quartet" arms.
Anyone who says anything different from this is either
misinformed or is trying to foist something upon an
unsuspecting victim. When you have heraldic work done,
be sure of two things: that you can show absolute blood
descent from the man to whom the coat of arms was granted,
and secondly, that the coat of arms is painted by an artist
who really knows heraldic work.
Despite what I have been saying, a good many people are
descendants of old families. A glance over their names and
a brief personal study of their families will convince
anyone of their honorable heritage. Nevertheless, some of
these people, too, have been sadly misled with regards to
coats of arms.
An actual instance is that of a motion picture star who
proudly displayed what she thought was her family coat
of arms in gorgeous colors on her automobile -- and
probably everything else that she owned -- until it was
pointed out by a genealogist that she had been parading
a "baton" which is a staff borne generally as a mark of
illegitimacy. This resembles the diminutive of the "bend"
sinister (and hence is often called a sinister baton) in
general form, but usually couped at both extremities. The
sinister baton was in later times made a mark
of illegitimacy of the first bearer, and was of metal when
assigned to the illegitimate descendants of royalty. In
every other case it was of color, even though placed upon
another color. It was said that the baton should not be
laid aside until three generations had borne it, and not
then, unless succeeded by some other mark assigned by the
king of arms, or unless the coat was changed.
Now, in order to explain how this confused state of affairs
came about, and in order to indicate what proper practice
should be, I should like to do three things in the remaining
part of this paper. I am going to describe briefly the
origin and development of coats of arms, with special
emphasis on the heraldry of England and on practice in
America. Then, I want to describe and explain the
significance of the component parts of the coat of arms,
destroying at the same time, I fear, a good many popular
illusions. Finally, I will indicate the usage of arms-
bearing as they apply to women. Then, when you go forth
from this room, you will be fully informed on all
pertinent aspects of heraldry, and will be qualified to
sit in judgment upon any allegations made by friend or
In ancient times it was a general custom for nations and
tribes, or noble or important persons, to adopt some
symbol by which they could be distinguished from other
powerful individuals or groups.
This custom reached its fullest development in the late
Middle Ages. No exact date can be given for the
earliest use of coats of arms, as they became to be
known, but there are indications that they began to take
definite form in the time of the crusades. As ideas of
art were developed these insignia became decorative
and were worn outside the warrior's coat of mail.
Some authorities believe that their use grew out
of a need to distinguish various members of the feudal
army in time of war, when it was necessary to wear some
outward sign of identification. Other authorities think
that coats of arms grew out of the use of signet rings
and other seals by the gentlemen of the day.
Since only priests and other members of the church
knew how to write, laymen employed a scribe to write
a letter or sign a document and used a personal seal
stamped alongside his name as identification.
Whatever the origin of these symbols, they were
eventually used to mark a warrior's armor and his
surcoat, which was the garment he wore over
his suit of mail. From this use comes the expression "coat
These marks were not at first hereditary. They gradually
became so, however, and were recognized as evidence of the
wearer's noble or gentle birth. In the beginning,
Knights were free to choose their own symbols of "devices."
This, however, led to much duplication and confusion. In
1483, a College of Arms, or the Herald's College, was
incorporated by Richard III of England and was ordered
to bring order out of chaos. It was, and still is, the
duty of the officer of the College to trace coats of arms,
confirm titles of honor and examine claims of English
subjects to armorial rights. From the title of this officer
we get the term "Heraldry". No arms are considered legal
unless recorded in the College.
Beginning in 1528, the Herald's made what were called
"visitations throughout England. The principal visitations
were made in 1528, 1580, 1620 and 1686. The purpose of
these visitations was to find out what coats of arms
were actually in use, to ascertain by what right they were
used and to make a record of the genealogies of the
families using arms. The records of the visitations still
exist and many have been printed. Although the genealogies
are not always to be trusted, especially for the earlier
generationsof the pedigrees, taken together they give us an
incomparable genealogical record of the important families
of England, a record such as no other nation possesses.
When, with Royal permission, the Heralds decided to make a
Visitation of a county, they secured from the sheriff a
list of all persons using arms. Then they directed the
sheriff to summon the user of the arms to report at a
specified time and place and to show by what right he used
the arms, bringing grants of arms, wills, deeds, and other
evidences of right and of descent. If the evidence was
deemed satisfactory, the arms were either "respited" for
further proof, or disallowed. Sometimes persons were
summoned by the sheriff who did not use arms. They were
required to formally "disclaim" any right to arms, and their
"disclaimers" were recorded.
If there were persons who desired to use arms, but who
could not show a right to them by descent from a person
possessing the right, they could make application for
grants to the Earl Marshall. If the social position of the
applicant was that of a "gentleman'" the petition was
granted, and the Earl Marshall issued a warrant to the
officers of the College to grant arms to him. The nature
of the arms borne was decided by conference and agreement
between the applicant and the College, care being taken
not to infringe on any coat recognized by the Heralds.
It is presumed that most of the coats of arms now in use
in England owe their origin to these grants by the Heralds.
Grants are made still to properly qualified persons by the
College on petition and on the Earl Marshall's warrant.
These officers are continually adding to the lineages
placed on record. It is their duty to trace coats of arms,
confirm titles of honor and examine the claims of
English subjects to armorial rights. Coats of arms are
conferred for meritorious service and granted to those
who prove eligible descent. One entitled to bear arms is
an armiger, the right being either earned originally or
inherited. To be inherited, the coat of arms must have
descended from an armiger in the male line bearing the
family name, subject to modification from generation to
Sons inherit their father's arms not equally but by law
of cadency; that is, each is added to his inherited arms
a particular token indicating his order among the sons
from the oldest to the youngest. On the death of the
father, the oldest son drops his mark of cadency to be
taken up by his oldest son, and he assumes his father's
There are three ways in which an hereditary coat of arms
may be modified: first, by adding a shield of pretense;
second, by a process known as quartering; third, by
changing the label as inherited by sons. A woman's right
is always inherited.
So much for the origin of heraldry and it's history in
England. The situation in America, as you will see in
a moment, was and is somewhat different.
While this country was under English domination, before
the Revolutionary war, there was some general regulation
of the right to bear arms, or at least there were customs
and rules of the mother country which the colonists
should have followed. Apparently, however, no effort was
made by the colonial governors to compel the citizens to
abide by these laws, and as a result the later colonists
did pretty much as they pleased about displaying anything
that struck their fancy. Some of the residents were, of
course, descended from gentle and noble families and were
entitled to bear arms. Others were not, but as they grew
in wealth and social prestige, they too desired to obtain
arms such as their neighbors had. Some of these persons
really tried to trace descent form an armigerous ancestor,
but others simply appropriated any design that was
pleasing or that seemed significant in their situation.
At the close of the seventeenth century this illegal use
of arms was helped along by an obliging carriage painter
of Boston named Gore. Mr. Gore created arms for the Boston
socialites of the day, and eventually he made a roll of
arms which is completely without authority, but which is
useful today as showing what families were then claiming
the right to use arms.
About a century later another gentleman performed similar
labors throughout New England. The work of this man,
Mr. Cole, has even less authority than Mr. Gore's, but his
influence, perhaps, has been more widespread and therefore
more disastrous in its results.
In my early years at the Newberry Library I well remember
being puzzled by the fact that all these paintings had
certain characteristics in common, such as an elaborately
embroidered shield, two leek or onion leaves crossed beneath
the shield, a much too high placing of the crest above the
helmet, and a motto which usually ran "By the name of
Jones," or "By the name of Smith" or whatever the family
name happened to be. Eventually, I learned that these all
were the productions of the Mr. Cole in question, and that
all were fraudulent. I have, I am afraid, wounded many of
our library's readers by pointing out this forgery.
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the
wholesale assumption of arms reached huge proportions.
Most persons took them without the shadow of a claim.
Some Americans then believed, and some still do, that the
bearing of a surname the same as that of an armigerous
family entitles them to use the same arms. I have already
said, and I now repeat, that a coat of arms belongs only
to the person to whom it was granted, and to those who
can prove direct descent, through the direct line, from
Because of the American interest in heraldry, the New
England Historic and Genealogical Society of Boston has
created a committee on heraldry. It is the function of
this committee to investigate and establish the right to
certain American families to bear arms, and it has
published a roll of authentic coats of arms. It must,
however, be borne in mind that such registration has no
legal effect, nor any meaning other than that in the
opinion of the committee, such arms are rightfully used
by certain families. The committee accepts all coats where
descent is proved from a grantee of arms or from a family
that has used them from mediaeval times. It also accepts
arms where it can be proved that the first comer to this
country used them; but if it be shown that such user was
without right, the arms are removed from the list. This
committee is as close as we can come to anything like
the English College of Arms.
It is obvious from what I have been saying that the use
of coats of arms in the United States is a mater of
personal taste. Unless you have a coat of arms that is
registered as a trademark in the Patent Office, there is
no government authority which can prevent any other
individual from using it. Moreover, there is no law by
which you can obtain a coat of arms. Since our government
does not require coat armor, it has become a matter of
custom that we use heraldic insignia only from personal
choice, and in so using it we should abide by the laws
governing its use in the country in which our family
originated. Therefore, since most of us who go digging
for ancestors are of English origin, we should follow
the English law covering the use of coats of arms.
Actually, very few American families are entitled to
bear arms, and I repeat once again, that a coat of arms
belongs only to the person to whom it was granted and,
like any other piece of property, to his direct descendants.
Other persons of the same surname, no mater how closely
or how distantly related, have no right to it unless they
descend from the original owner. Consequently, the right
to bear arms in the country is limited to those
comparatively few families who can show direct descent
from an arms bearing ancestor.
It is not my intention to teach you about heraldry from
A to Z, but the general confusion and lack of accurate
information on the subject leads us to think that perhaps
you would like to know something about the several parts
of a coat of arms and particularly about their significance.
I am frequently asked what a coat of arms means and
what the devices stand for and why those colors.
I usually answer those questions by two simple statements.
The first is that the coat of arms means the person it
designates. The second is that the devices and colors in
themselves have no symbolic significance or any meaning
beyond that which was in the mind of the person who first
The armorial insignia identified a person in the past in
the same manner as a surname does today, only more so,
since there are many families with the same surname, but
an identical coat of arms was used only by those of one
Devices on a shield were selected by the first bearer of
the shield for any reason that seemed good to him,
(provided no one else was using a similar combination),
or for no reason at all - just as you choose baptismal
names for your children.
Commercial firms and professionals selling reproductions
of coats of arms frequently give elaborate explanations
of the various "meanings of arms," such as: that the
cross indicates an ancestor went to the Crusades, the
owl indicates the family was noted for wisdom, and so forth.
This is purely imaginary, as the original adapter of the
arms did not outline his reasons, and no one knows what
motives moved him. Of course, it is interesting to
interpret the "charges" and colors in accordance with
their symbolical meanings, just as it is interesting to
know the symbolical meanings of Christian names. It is
probable, however, that very seldom was the meaning a
controlling factor in the selection of device or color,
except as that particular device might have symbolized
some personal experience for the first bearer. The owl
might more likely have been chosen because of some unusual
experience the owner had with the bird than because he
thought he rivaled the owl in wisdom.
A knowledge of the component parts of armorial bearings is
very necessary to one's understanding of the emblems.
Often we speak of a "crest" when we mean an "achievement."
The coat of arms itself is the "shield" or "escutcheon."
It represents an ancient piece of defensive armor on
the face of which, known as the field, are emblazoned
the charges or bearings in definite fixed colors.
Together they constitute a coat of arms. This is the most
essential of all the armorial insignia.
When the shield and crest are grouped and displayed,
including the helmet, the wreath, the mantling, and,
in the case of a peer, the supporters, if any, all this
is known as an "achievement" and not a crest.
An heraldic description of a coat of arms only describes
the shield and the crest. The depicting of these and the
grouping of the remainder of the achievement is left to
the person painting the arms. There are, however, fixed
rules to be followed in this. They are not stated in the
description of the arms since it is assumed that the
heraldic artist knows them and will draw the achievement
The purpose of the helmet in heraldry is to bear the crest,
and as the crest was generally made of either wood or
boiled leather, the helmet should be of sufficient size
to show that it is big enough to bear the extra weight.
Not only that, but it should be of a type which could
actually be worn.
The helmet represents that piece of armor anciently worn
to protect the head and neck of the warrior. The
achievement of arms is ensigned with a helmet by placing
it above the escutcheon. There were established rules
by which the rank of the bearer was designated by the
position occupied by the helmet, its material and
First, there was the helmet of the Sovereign and Princes
of the blood. It was born full-faced, open and
garde-visure with six bars; and of gold, burnished damask.
The second was the helmet of a Duke: borne of silver,
figured with gold, full-faced, open and garde-visure,
with five bars.
The third was the helmet of all those who were dignified
with the peerage under the degree of a dukedom: borne
silver, figured with gold, in profile, open and
garde-visure, three bars visible. The fourth was the
helmet of the Baronets and Knights: borne polished steel,
figured with silver, full-faced, open and without guards.
The fifth was the helmet of Esquires and gentlemen:
borne polished steel, and must be placed sideways or in
profile with closed beaver. All helmets were lined with
In showing arms of families from the British Isles, the
helmet used should be that of the Esquire or Gentleman.
The helmet of a knight, noble or sovereign is used only
with arms of the particular man having that rank.
There is a prevailing idea that everybody has a coat of
arms and that it is only a question of finding it. A
more fallacious idea could hardly exist. Another mistaken
idea is that anybody can assume a crest in the same
haphazard manner in which one designs a monogram. The
crest represents the molded, wrought or carved figure
fixed to the knight's helmet.
The delusion that crests are hereditary and may be assumed
at pleasure is very deep-rooted. Some of the library's
patrons will admit that they have no right to arms even
while they assert and maintain their claim to a crest. Let
me say at once and emphatically that such an idea is
utterly incorrect. There are many coats of arms in
existence to which no crests have ever been assigned, but
there is not a solitary crest lawfully existing without
its complementary coat of arms. Unless there be an
undoubted right to arms is it absolutely certain there
can be no right to a crest. A crest is essentially but
a part of a formal armorial achievement and cannot exist
Coronets in armorial bearings serve to distinguish the
different ranks of the peerage, each rank having its
distinct coronet, so, that by the coronet alone you can
tell to what rank the bearer belongs. In drawing a
coat of arms with its accompanying ornaments, the coronet
should be placed immediately above the shield, except in
the case of the Sovereign and the Prince of Wales, where
the helmet is placed between the shield and the coronet.
It has been said that every coat of arms commemorates some
glorious achievement of some unfortunately forgotten
ancestor. I dare say that of all the coats of arms in
existence, I question if more than a few hundred are truly
capable of such explanation. Arms in ancient days were used
for purposes of distinction. They were often a pun on a
man's name or on the name of his lands, and were generally
due to some such cause.
The crest is a figure or device anciently affixed to the
helmet of every commander for his distinction in the
confusion of battle. It was generally made of wood or
stiffened leather, and was laced on to the top of the helm.
Crests were in use before the hereditary bearing of coat
armor. Crests were not considered in any way connected with
the family arms until the 14th century. Thousands of men
wear crests upon their rings, and yet they are altogether
ignorant of what a crest really is and do not know the
difference between a crest and a coat of arms.
As I have mentioned before, the crest was laced to the
top of the helmet and in some cases was bolted on so
in order to hide the junction of the crest and helmet.
The wreath, or "torse" as it is alternately known, was
employed for this joining and is often called by the
uninformed, a "barber pole thing, or peppermint stick."
The wreath consisted of a twisted silken scarf which was
wound around the helm over the join, and knotted behind.
In modern heraldry, the wreath is depicted as if two
scarves had been wound together, the tinctures showing in
alternate sections, and the tinctures are the same as the
first named metal and the first named color in the blazon,
and are known as the colors.
A rule of heraldry is that wreaths should always show an
equal number of divisions (now restricted to six), the
coil or twist to the left showing the metal, and that at
the right the principal color of the arms. Every crest is
understood to be placed upon a wreath unless a chapeau or
some coronet be expressly mentioned.
The mantling or lambrequin is the device of the painter to
give prominence to the coat of arms and crest, and is
believed to have had its origin as a piece of cloth which
covered the helmet and hung down at the back to a point
beneath the base of the helm, and was intended to shield
the wearer from the heat of the sun and rain. It also had
an additional value in that it would, on coming out of
battle, have his mantling cut and slashed, and it is the
idea of this ragged mantling that is the origin of the
flowered and scroll-like addition which is seen on each
side of the design in a full achievement of arms. This
kind of mantling cannot be used by ladies because it is
inseparable from the helmet.
The tinctures to be used in painting the mantling, unless
otherwise stated, are the principal color and metal of
the bearer's arms, the outer part being the color, and the
inner part, or lining, being the metal. There is no set
rule in depicting this mantling. It is entirely the artist's
conception, but in so painting, simplicity should prevail.
Supporters are the figures placed on each side of the shield
in the attitude of holding up or supporting a shield. In
almost every instance in English heraldry supporters
appear in pairs, and they are taken from either living
or imaginary creatures - human, animal, beast, bird or
The origin of supporters is traced to ancient tournaments
where the knights caused their shields to be carried by
servants or pages who were disguised as lions, bears,
griffins, Blackmoors, etc.
Very few American families are entitled to supporters,
yet many commercial firms and heraldic artists in
furnishing a copy of the arms of a family will depict
it with supporters. Supporters do not pertain to the
arms of a family. They designate the specific rank of a
person, and are used only with the arms of that person.
The following persons may bear supporters:
All pears of the realm.
Knights of the Garter, Thistle and St. Patrick.
All knights, Grand Cross of the Orders of Knighthood.
In addition to the above there are a considerable number of
armigerous persons whose right to use supporters has been
admitted through "ancient usage."
The motto is of comparatively recent origin. It, too,
was not hereditary, and each man could adopt one or
discard one at will. American families of colonial stock
should not use a motto unless it can be shown that
a recent ancestor of the emigrant used it.
In Scotland and Ireland and in some English families
the "war cry" was used as a motto by custom, in which case,
of course, it accompanied the coat of arms. The motto is
most usually couched in French or Latin and should be
placed under the shield where it is always carried on a
scroll, also called the riband. The color of the scroll is
now left to the choice of the artist.
The arms of a woman, except one who is in her own right
a sovereign, are not shown on a shield, but on a lozenge,
that is, a diamond shaped frame. When arms had a
utilitarian purpose, the shield was part of the armor of
a warrior, and it was obviously improper for the feminine
sex to use armor.
A woman does not use in her armorial insignia either a
helmet, a crest or the mantling. The reason is apparent;
the crest was to aid in identifying a man in battle when
his helmet concealed his face. A woman did not go into
battle; she did not wear a helmet; therefore she needed
no such identification.
The mantling, which represented another portion of a
knight's equipment, was also considered inappropriate for
the use of women.
The motto, being a war cry, was not to be used by women.
The arms, however, were different. A woman might with
propriety, if unmarried, use her father's arms; if a widow,
her late husband's, to show the family to which she
belonged. However, to make it clear that the articles so
marked were those of a woman and not of a warrior, the
arms were shown in a lozenge. This form was in common use
as early as 1400 and was a definite requirement by 1561.
The lozenge form is used by both unmarried women and
by widows. If it bears a single coat of arms it is either
that of an unmarried woman or of a widow whose father
used no arms and who therefore bears her late husband's
The unmarried lady bears her father's arms upon a lozenge.
She also uses her father's marks of cadency and often
surmounts the shield with a true lover's knot of light
blue ribbon; this later, however, has no official sanction.
Before considering the arms borne by widows one should
remember that a woman did not have a coat of arms of her
own. She used her father's until she married; then she
used her husband's; after his death she still bore his
arms, but on a lozenge. If a woman whose father did not
have arms married a man who bore arms, on her husband's
death she would use the arms he had used when living,
(i.e., the arms of his family) but on a lozenge.
If a woman who had brothers, and whose father bore arms,
married a man who also bore arms, the arms of both
families were used by the husband and therefore by his
wife or widow. At an early date this was represented
by placing the two shields side by side, but by the
end of the 15th Century the present rule, using only
one shield, was being followed. The arms of the husband
are placed on the dexter or right side and the arms of
the wife's father on the sinister, or left side.
This placing side by side of the arms is called "impailing,"
- the recognized manner for a man to show that his wife
came from an arms-bearing family. A husband, however, is
not required to impale his wife's father's arms with his
own. In the majority of cases it would appear that, on
marrying, a man did not alter his own arms, but continued
to use the same coat of arms he had borne when unmarried,
even though he had the right to impale the arms of his
wife's family. In such a case the widow usually used the
arms of the husband's family alone, as she would have
done had her father not borne arms.
In the case of a man who had a coat of arms and no sons,
and therefore no male descendants, it is obvious that
his coat of arms could not be perpetuated unless his
daughters carried it to their descendants. In such cases,
the following was done: when the wife was an heiress or
co-heiress ( the word heiress used in the heraldic sense
means a daughter who is an only child, and co-heiress
means one of several sisters having no brothers) the
husband did not impale her arms. Instead, he placed
them in the center of his own arms. This is called an
escutcheon of pretense - a small shield over all on
which were displayed the arms of the wife's father. It
indicated that the husband was, through his wife, the
representative of her father's family and was, therefore,
carrying his arms for the benefit of his grandchildren.
On the death of the husband, the wife bore her husband's
escutcheon and all, but in lozenge form. Their children
inherited both arms, which were then quartered. This, by
the way, is of great value to the genealogist, indicating
as it does, the origin of the wife, her particular family,
and even whether she had brothers.
The arms of a peeress in her own right appear complicated
but can be narrowed down to the following rules. If
unmarried, her arms are placed upon a lozenge, with her
supporters on each side and her coronet of rank placed
above the lozenge. If she is married, her arms are placed
in an escutcheon of pretense in the center of those of
her husband, and this escutcheon of pretense is ensigned
with her coronet of rank. The complete arms will be
surmounted by her husband's helmet and crest. If he
himself is a peer, then his supporters are shown, together
with his coronet of rank. By the side of the husbands
arms, (to the sinister) the peeress' arms are placed in
the same form that she bore them before marriage.
The wife's coronet and supporters are personal to herself
and cannot be used by her husband. If she is a widow, a
similar arrangement is necessary: on the dexter side, in
a lozenge, will appear her late husband's arms, bearing
thereon her own arms in an escutcheon of pretense
surmounted by her coronet; while on the sinister side will
be placed her own arms, as before.
According to Wheeler Holohan's revised edition of Boutell's
"Manual of Heraldry,", London & New York, 1931, page 93:
"It is not too much to say that no definite rule exists
as to how divorce effects the arms of a lady. If she has
divorced her husband there would appear to be no good
reason why she should not continue to bear his arms impaled
with her own. But if she has been divorced, then it would
appear that she has forfeited her rights as a married woman
and her arms must be removed from her husband's shield."
Some authorities consider that a divorcee (that is, one who
has been divorced), should revert to her paternal arms
upon a lozenge, and should not make use of a lover's knot.
The absence of the knot and the fact that the arms on the
lozenge are not impaled, indicate that she is neither
unmarried nor a widow. Since, however, the use of this
know is by no means universal among unmarried ladies,
this proposed device would not always be an intelligible
index to the lady's condition.
To summarize all this, as it applies to women: if an
ancestor of yours was awarded a coat of arms for any
worthy act for his king or country, you have a perfect
right to be proud to know it, and keep a copy of it among
your family relics, or to hang upon your walls. You do
not have the right to use it as private insignia on your
stationary, plate, etc., unless you are an heir to the
same, as explained.
And now, in conclusion, just one word more. I have been
earnest in my condemnation of those who bear arms without
the right to do so. I should like to be just as earnest
in expressing my feelings about the general unimportance
of coats of arms.
It is not to be supposed, that because your ancestor did
not posses arms, it is any indication of inferiority of
family. Some of the finest old families of English
nobility did not posses arms, so their American descendants,
of course, inherited none. Arms are not a necessity;
consequently, since no one is compelled to use them there
is not one single solitary position in life which demands
the personal use of a coat of arms.
A man can be born, can live and can die perfectly happy
and contented without a coat of arms, good or bad. Millions
have done it in the past, and millions will do it in the
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