The shield is the central and essential component of the Coat of Arms. Without the shield there cannot be a coat of arms. The shape of the shield may vary just as the design of the arms as a whole may vary and in fact does. It would be possible to have half a dozen examples of the same coat of arms yet to the uninitiated it would appear that they are different coats. The reason for this is that the artists in creating the arms from the original written description have been influenced as all artists are by varying fashions and styles in Heraldry. The shield can be represented in many ways and directions according to the fashion of the time, what goes on the shield however does not change.
From the shield we come to the helmet. This object exemplifies the essential practical side of original Heraldry. In the days when knights were bold and adventurous everyone wore a helmet of some sort in battle, so everyone was entitled to a helmet in their grant of arms. Heraldry has shown a power of adaption which has enabled it to survive when contemporary arts such as Armor making died out.
The shape of the helmet, like that of the shield, is varied and numerous. Some helmets are of the tilting variety, others are the barrel type where the weight began to be borne by the shoulders. More important than the shape of the helmet is its position. In Heraldry’s earliest days the position of the helmet in the coat of arms varied as much as the shape of the helmets, but since the 17th Century there have been rules laid down and generally observed for the delineation of helmets. A royal helmet is of gold, placed affrontée, i.e. with the helmet full face on, and the bars of the helmet down but the visor raised. The helmet of a peer is silver, in profile, visor raised and the bars are of gold. The helmet of a baronet or knight is steel, affrontée, visor up and without bars or grills. The helmet of an esquire or gentleman is steel, in profile with visor closed.