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The Language of Heraldry part 2


The Language of Heraldry
It was only natural that if French should be the lingua franca of the worldly gentleman, just as Latin was of the churchman and the scholar, Heraldry would also speak that language. There was a movement in England around 1400 to substitute English words for old French terms in Heraldry, Silver instead of Argent, Gold instead of Or and so on, but this movement died out and the French terms are used to this day. This is not surprising, Norman French was used in the English Law Courts for pleading until 1735, so it’s use to the present day in Heraldry is understandable.

Now to the terms used in Heraldry. A shield, which is the main and essential part of the coat of arms, may be of a certain number of colors, of metals or, of furs. These are the 3 possible bases of the shield. This base is called the field. The derivation of these three classes is straightforward. The colors are those which were the earliest forms of differentiation between one shield and another. The metals are derived from the nature of a shield. The furs come from the rich drapings thrown or worn over the armor of wealthier knights.

All heraldic colors are primary. There are no pastel shades in Heraldry. The colors are:

Azure      Blue

Gules       Red

Purpure    Purple

Sable       Black

Vert         Green

There are two metals:

Argent      Silver

Or             Gold

There are four furs:

Ermine White fur with black spots

Ermines Black fur with white spots

Erminois Gold fur with black spots

Vair or Vaire Rows of small shields alternately reversed

Two other rarely used furs are paen, another variant of ermine, this time black with gold ermine spots, and potent, a fur composed of T-shaped divisions
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Heraldic furs

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