Newbury Branch meeting 12th February 2020
Speaker: Christopher Singleton
Heraldry originated in the need for armies to identify friend from foe in battle. By 1250 the simple designs used on shields were being formalised for use by families in a system under the control of royally-appointed heralds.
No two people can have the same coat of arms, so there was a need for a system to vary arms for a number of sons, and thereby display lineage.
The College of Arms was founded in 1484 under charter from Richard II. The English College of Arms consisted of three Kings of Arms, three Heralds, three Pursuivants, and four Heralds Extraordinary. Scotland – then a separate country – had its own Lord Lyon King of Arms appointed by Robert the Bruce, and Ulster appointed a King of Arms in 1552.
From 1500 heralds toured the country in visitations to police the system and weed out any rogue usage.
The shield (lozenge or oval for the few women who are entitled to arms in their own right) is divided into fields horizontally, vertically and diagonally, within which design elements represent details of the family. Normally a coat of arms is simply quartered, but examples exist of 719 images on a single shield.
The shield is topped by a helmet and crest, supported at the side by heraldic beasts, and it carries a motto at the base. The whole is called an achievement.
The Internet Archive is a useful online library (free) in which can be seen many reference works relating to heraldic families, such as:
1) Walford’s County Families;
2) Armorial Families (Fox-Davies);
3) Burke’s General Armoury (inlcuding some not in the College of Arms);
4) Alphabetical Drectory of Ordinary British Armorials;
5) Bridges’ Index of Printed Pedigrees (not restricted to armigers).
The author has made a pdf of the 44 slides that were used in his presentation, including more detail, source, links, and the research which he carried out at the request of two branch members (family names Brind and Corneck). This pdf can be emailed to members on request (NB 6Mb) to Newbury Branch.