The Composition of the Coat of Arms part 3

German coat of armsIn the 16th and 17th Centuries it became the fashion in Britain for the heralds in their Visitations (recording of arms) to grant crests to families which bore arms but which previously had no such addition to the arms. Prior to this time crests were limited to those wealthier families that took part in Knights Tournaments. In many cases arms are allowed in one Visitation and the crest in another some 50 years later. Most probably the crest had been assumed by the family in the meantime, following the well-known principle of keeping up with the Jones’s. There are very few families today who posses arms without a crest in Britain and most of Europe. A notable exception is the Iberian peninsula and Italy where the majority of grants of arms are recorder without a crest in Spain, Portugal and Italy.In Britain the adoption of the crest illustrates the spread of Heraldry among classes such as the richer merchants of the Tudor period, as among the upper middle classes in the late 18th century and 19th century, of ideas which had formerly been the exclusive concern of the landed gentry or knightly families. As to the form of the crests themselves, the original crests when used in battle were obviously very light. In the tournament the crest was often made of leather and could become heavy, but as it was worn only for a short period in the day it’s weight was not a large factor. In battle when the wearer spent the whole day in heavy armor the crest was lighter and made of a thin plate of metal.. In fact the crest may have developed from a comb-like arrangement on the back of the helmet. This appears in many examples in Germany. In manuscript scenes from the early middle ages, plumes are often portrayed on top of the helmet, a custom known in many ages, but not a crest, simply decoration. Thus in real warfare the crest tended to be simple, for example a dragon for the Earl of Lancaster and a lion for the Earl of Nottingham.

Spanish coat of arms

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published