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Heraldic Tabards and Surcoats

Today only English and Scottish Heraldic officers wear official ceremonial dress. On British state occasions, such as coronations, the officers of Arms wear their full heraldic regalia of tabard and knee breeches and carry their staffs of office, continuing a tradition that was begun 800 years ago. In most other European countries the tradition of wearing ceremonial garb ceased after World War I. In the 12th and 13th centuries, when the Herald acted as a messenger or envoy, he would have worn the lord’s own tabard, or short surcoat, as a mark of favour and acknowledgement of the special relationship between a lord and his herald. Wearing his Lord’s armorial tabard clearly indicated that he had his master’s favor and...

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Marriage and Coats of Arms

The depiction of marriage on Coats of Arms in the early Middle Ages tended to include both Coats of Arms for husband and wife contained upon a single shield. In the late 13th century, in order to fit both Arms on the one shield a process known as dimidiated, or chopped in half, occurred. This unusual practice of  joining of two Coats of Arms did not persist for long and by the end of the 14th century showing full sets of Arms for both the husband and wife had become the norm. An early example of the practice of dimidiation can be seen in the Coat of Arms used by Margaret of France after her marriage to Edward I of...

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Coat of Arms Augmentation part 4

Many of the Coats of Arms of the Russian nobility include the ciphers of sovereigns and charges taken from the Arms of the Romanov emperors. One of the most augmented Coat of Arms of all time were those of Count Alexander Suvorov-Ryminsky, commander of the Russian Armies, whose brilliant strategies helped bring about the eventual defeat of Napoleon. As commander-in-chief of the Russo-Austrian Army during the Second Coalition, he drove the French out of northern Italy in 1799 and was created Prince Italiysky. He had also previously defeated a Turkish Army on the banks of the River Rymnik in Turkey in 1789. The augmentations on his Coat of Arms included a rendering of the map of Italy, an escutcheon (small...

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Coat of Arms Augmentation part 3

POLAND NATIONAL ARMS French Monarchs granted augmentations to Coats of Arms very rarely. They made one notable exception when they had to acknowledge the part played by Joan of Arc in the eventual eviction of the English. In 1429, Charles VII granted to the family of Joan of Arc a simple but very elegant shield displaying a blue field charged with a sword supporting the French crown and two fleur de lis in fess. The Coat of Arms are symbolic of the account by the writer, Holinshed, that Joan of Arc had wielded a sword “with five floure delicees graven on both sides”, and although there is little evidence to suggest Joan of Arc used these Coat of Arms herself,...

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Coat of Arms Augmentation part 2

THE ARMS OF CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS The advent of the later medieval period brought with it the exploration of the unknown world by European explorers financed by the monarchies of Europe. These expeditions were in search of new lands with resources to exploit. The European monarchs of this period vied with one another to be first to a new land. They were aided in their quest by professional sailors who were willing to put their lives and the lives of their crew at risk in return for a small percentage of the riches they might present to their sovereigns. All to frequently however these great voyagers received shabby compensation for their efforts. They could, however,  receive heraldic recognition. The shield borne...

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