The Origins of Heraldry part 8

Knight in Battle
In all ages and countries of which we have any record there have been symbols used in war and in peace, but these are not the same as those which we call heraldic simply because they did not become permanent or hereditary. It is only in Western Europe that we find heraldic illustrations at the same time, in England, Scotland, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Holland and Belgium, appearing at about the same period (1135 – 1155), and continuing to spread. The common development does not necessarily mean that they are the product of a single mind, rather they most probably originated from a utilitarian motive. For some time after the Norman Conquest armor continued to be mostly of chain mail and was fairly light. The death of leaders, such as King Harold at the Battle of Hastings (1066), from an arrow piercing his eye when unprotected by any face armor, or later (1199) the death of Richard I from an arrow piercing his shoulder, led attention to be given to the problem of more body protection for the knights.

Very soon after, as can be seen from illustrations of the period, the helmet, instead of being open, closed over the face and gave additional protection in battle. At the same time the body was encased in solid plate armor which replaced the more flimsy chain mail. Thus the knight received more protection, but at the same time became less recognizable to friends and foe alike. Consequently it is probable that the use of coat armor developed out of the necessity of knowing one’s leaders in battle. It is a fact that the 12th century which saw the knight clad in armor saw also the development of coats of arms on his surcoat, his shield, his lance and banner.
Poland Coat of Arms

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