Heraldry in the 17th and 18th Centuries part 4

Nelson coat of arms


The supposedly learned and educated class of the 17th and 18th century had such a poor opinion of the Middle Ages that it may have been expected that Heraldry , deprived of several of its former supporters, might fall into disrepair. This disrepair was perfectly illustrated by the terrible style in which Coats of Arms were produced during this time period. One prominent example of this is the dreadful Coat of Arms granted to Admiral Nelson. Admiral Nelson’s career is symbolized on his shield. The Nelsons were an ancient family, and the original Coat of Arms was simply a single black cross on a gold field with a red diagonal line: Or a cross sable, overall a bend gules. The system of augmentation that was in place meant that with each major victory of Lord Nelson’s the Coat of Arms was changed. On top of the red diagonal line ( bend) is placed another in gold which is charged with three bombs fired proper. Then a chief ( across the top of the shield ) was granted as an honorable augmentation in recognition of Nelson’s victory at the battle of the Nile. This chief is not straight but undulated having upon it “ waves of the sea from which a palm tree issues between a disabled ship on the right and a battery in ruins on the left, all proper. “

The trouble with this type of Heraldic design is that it does not merely mark a few Coats of Arms but the style, which it enshrines, has a tendency to perpetuate itself, which happened in the 18th century. Unfortunately many examples abound from Arms that were issued in this period

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