Feudal Nobility, part 4

The 3rd Crusade
The concept of Knighthood arose among the nobles and an esquires manor was rated according to the number of knights that were required in order to run their fiefdom. This system was in place in England and Germany by the 13th century. Thus these socio-ethnological foundations of medieval society arose in one form or another throughout western Europe and resulted in the feudal system that remained in place until the late 15th century. It is important to note that feudalism and knighthood predated Heraldry by a few hundred years. When arms began to be used in the sense that can be called Heraldic- that is when a man bore a device on his shield consistently throughout his life, and then transferred it to an heir- it is obvious that they must have been adopted by the leading lords of the day, and not by the lower echelons of the feudal nobility. Only a man in a superior position would venture to introduce new ideas in civil life and at court. Anyone of a lesser rank would have risked ridicule and rebuke. The earliest evidence of heraldry and coats of arms among the nobility are all associated with the great families. One of the first  authentic documented evidence of Heraldry is found on a seal from 1164 of Philip, Count of Flanders, image below, ( a sovereign prince) who bore the lion rampant, also borne by his descendants.
Phillip Count of Flanders coat of armsAn even earlier documented use of Coats of Arms are those of Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou who received a shield from Henry I of England in 1127 on which were charged three golden lions which was the forerunner of the current national arms of England. It was not until the third crusade in 1189 that the use of Heraldry had spread in European armies. Even in these cases the use of Arms was limited to the leading personalities from each province and European country, and it was the 13th century before the rank and file nobility went to war bearing their own Coat of Arms. It is therefore clear that while nobility in Europe preceded Heraldry, the possession of Coats of Arms was located, at first, in the higher reaches of the nobility and later penetrated all ranks of nobility.

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