Heraldry And The Coat Of Arms
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Heraldry And The Coat Of Arms

Maybe one day you will be waving a flag of your family shield right outside your house

Heraldry And The Coat Of Arms

Heraldry is the study of armorial bearings that represent rank and coat of arms. A lot of families can trace their ancestry to having some sort of ancestral symbol for their family. Coat of arms was a way of distinguishing individuals and even families. In a book called “The General Armory” there is a huge collection on coat of arms of families who lived in the great kingdoms of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. This summer I have been collecting research on my own family’s ancestral crest, and I was able to find and confirm it. My family crest is written in “The General Armory” and is listed as the following:

“Argent a cross between four crescents azure a chief of the last. Crest -- a horse courant gules in the mouth a broken spear’s head sable.”

Now, what does this actually mean? Well, in the coat of arms there are numerous colors. Metals come in either or (gold) or argent (silver or white). The five main colors that you can choose from are azure (blue), gules (red), vert (green), sable (black), and purpura (purple). There are also numerous designs that a shield can have. There are two main parts to a coat of arms: the shield and the crest. It is important to note that the crest is not the shield and the shield is not the crest. So already we can kind of translate the shield portion of the crest above:

“A white shield. A blue cross between four blue crescents a blue chief.”

So, a shield has numerous parts to it. In my case, my shield by itself is just a plain white shield. My shield has a part called the Chief. The Chief is the whole upper part of the shield being cut off horizontally by a straight line. In my shield, the chief is blue. My shield also has a blue cross below the chief which is composed of four lines, but not drawn throughout. Within the cross there are four blue crescents. The special thing about these crescents is that when we think of a crescent moon we think of it looking like the letter "C." In heraldry, the crescent is actually pointing upwards. In my shield, it is pointing towards the chief.

The Crest portion of my coat of arms features a courant red horse. Courant means that the horse itself is running. In its mouth is a black broken spear’s head.

So what is so important about coat of arms? The answer is symbolism. Coat of arms are no different than a national flag. The four blue crescents are different than the increscent and the decrescent due to their horns facing up towards the chief of the shield. The crescent is also a symbol of hope. A hope for greater glory. The red horse represents an eagerness to serve one’s country as both a warrior and martyr. We are always ready to serve our country through steadfastness, intelligence and masculinity. The broken spearhead represents a constant symbol of peace during a time of grief and resistance. The chief represents that strength, truth and loyalty are the rules and authorities of the Hills Family. And the cross represents that we have a strong faith and sense of protection.

Heraldry is pretty neat because a lot of history can be interpreted within it. Now, let’s look at a very well known family crest that of General George Washington himself. In “The General Armory” it states that the Washington family was descended from John Washington and his brother Lawrence Washington, natives of North England, who emigrated to North America during 1657 and settled off of the Potomac River. George Washington was the leader of the "North American Rebellion” and the first president of the US. His family crest is described as the following:

“Arms: Argent two bars and in chief three mullets Gules.
Crest: From a crest coronet a raven rising wings elevated and addorsed proper.”

So, his shield is described as being a white shield, and within this shield there are two red bars and in the chief portion of the crest there are three red stars or mullets. Below you can see what the shield looks like courtesy of my editing skills.

At the top of the shield is a raven with its wings elevated and looks as if it is about to take off. The term coronet means there is a crown at the top as well signifying that the family was of wealth or royalty. His coat of arms looks like this:

There have been numerous examples of coat of arms being turned into flags. In these cases only the shield is taken as part of the flag.The really cool thing about George Washington’s family crest is that the flag of Washington DC, the U.S. capital city state, is the exact shield of the Washington Family.

If you have the chance, definitely research to see if your family has a coat of arms. Many European countries used coat of arms to distinguish families. Who knows maybe one day you will be waving a flag of your family shield right outside your house.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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