and our colours are 'argent and sable' as in silver and black

Cavalier/Knight Talk: Heraldry

Well, I’m bored, so inspired by our Captain’s post about Naval Flags, I decided I was going to do a short bit on something common to all Knights and nobles; Heraldry!

Let’s begin!


Heraldry is a pretty broad term, but generally refers to a Coat of Arms, personal, hereditary, military, or to some extent, even national. This usually takes the form of a shield or badge with associated colours, symbols, or heraldic beasts, mottoes, and occasionally a crest.
It is important to note a crest and a heraldic Coat of Arms are not the same thing; a crest refers to a 3D icon placed atop a helmet. Often this is related to the family of the one wearing the said crest, but not always.


Heraldry has kind of been in use since antiquity, but the essential purpose is to identify yourself and your allegiance. It’s not too dissimilar to modern forms of identification. For a Knight in the mediaeval period of history (so; fall of Rome onward to early Modern period), their heraldry was a way of declaring “I am Sir/Dame X of Y, belonging to house Z, etc”. Naturally, you’d think someone could just create their own heraldry and blag their way to the top, but Heralds kept a close eye upon which house had what heraldry, meaning it was not an easy task to create a convincing bit of heraldry without close scrutiny. Not to say it didn’t happen; it was just difficult.
Naturally, a person or family that was ennobled had the right to create their own heraldry, thus having special permission to do so.
Heraldry also played a part in combat; Knights would often avoid targets without heraldry, seeing the average soldier as beneath them, and targeting only other knights specifically. Or at least, ideally they would have done so. In reality, and especially toward the late mediaeval period, Knights would target anything in their way. However, even then, heraldry served the purpose of revealing whom was whom, what allegiance they held, and what forces they had gathered about them. Wearing your heraldic banner allowed your allies to rally around you, but also allowed enemies to focus upon you, making it a double-edged sword. However, glory-seeking Knights favoured open displays of their valour, thus it was considered honourable to display one’s Heraldry in battle.


Well that’s a pretty broad function to narrow down, but let’s focus upon the basics here:
To create heraldry, you have to use an assortment of things: ·       
- a shield/badge·       
- a heraldic symbol or beast·       
- personal colours of Heraldic specification (Tinctures)·       
- Occasionally (especially in modern military and academic organisations), a motto
All these things should be fairly unique and personal, which differentiates the bearer and marks them out. Remember; this is a form of identity!

Knight will use their own Coat of Arms for reference (no I’m not about to show you an image of it; that’d be telling), via description:

Knight’s Family Coat-of-Arms is a Shield/Field (Verte), slashed with Crosses (Ermine). The small crosses are all that separates this heraldic Coat from the similar Heraldry of the Kingsley Family.

So to translate that: Green Shield, White Crosses/Lines, Black small crosses.

The heraldic beast used as a crest for Knight’s family is usually depicted as either a Goat’s head or an Antelope, depending upon stylistic depiction, though more commonly the Goat.

The Motto is (as mottos often were), fluid, and there are two different mottos associated with the Family, specifically: “Virtute et Fortutido” and “Haud Facile”, meaning, respectfully: “By Valour and Strength” and “Not With Ease”. Both correlate well, making it fairly straight forward why both correspond to the theme here. 


Now, if Knight wanted to enter a tournament in the mediaeval period, along with a patent of nobility, he’d be expected to display his heraldic colours. Partly to gain glory, but also to let people know, again, who is who.
Special exceptions exist however, with “black knights” entering the tournaments using false or fake heraldry, or even fully painted black shields. Such things were allowed when a patent of nobility was presented at the lists, though a knight could keep anonymity by way of changing or hiding their heraldry. This was allowed in rare cases for rule of drama (hey, the mediaeval people liked plot-twists as much as we do now), sometimes without noble patent, but this was a very rare instance usually again permitted for dramatic purposes. A tournament is, after all, as much about showing off as it about sport!
Naturally, there were times when it was favourable to hide one’s heraldry, and this is where heraldry that was well known was useful; for example, in the High Middle Ages, High Middle French was commonly spoken by the nobility as their primary language. So, say you were a Knight in the Hundred Years War, trying to hide your English identity in French territory? Well, speaking High French was a good start, but if you happened to be able to repaint your shield of kit with Heraldry belonging to the Constable of France (Charles I of Albret), as an extremely high-profile example, you’d manage to pass in the French countryside fairly well. So essentially,  

Back to basics: Tinctures!
What are they? Essentially, colours, specific in Heraldry.
The most prominent and basic are the two Metalics: Or (Gold) and Argent (Silver/White). Essentially, these make up whites and yellows on Heraldry, and the former is usually used by Royalty.

Next up are the primary Heraldic colours: Gules (red), Azure (blue), Verte (green), Sable (black), Purpure (purple), Sanguine (blood red), Tenny (tan).In addition to that are the furs: Ermine (white and black), Emines (black and white), Erminois (yellow and black), Pean (black and yellow), Vair (blue with white belled shapes), Counter-Vair (blue with white), Potent (Blue with white T shapes), Counter-Potent (reverse of the former). 

This is VEEEERY broad subject. Basically most animals can be used in heraldry, as with mythological beasts, most typically a dragon (early England, Scandinavian countries) or Unicorn (Greece). The way an animal is depicted in posture defines it at times by name. Most obvious example:Lion on all fours = “Leopard”/Lion-passant-guardant
Lion on hind legs = “Lion”/Lion-RampantBoth are Lions, but depending on how it is depicted, it will be named a Lion or a Leopard. Reason being is caught up in mediaeval zoology; a leopard was thought to be a beast created by the union of a lion and a fictional beast called a Pard; hence “Leo-Pard”.Back on topic; literally any animal can be used and there is a huge list of heraldic beasts, and if I tried to list them all we’d be here all day. In short; the only limit is your imagination. Though, naturally, people will try to keep it noble, native, or mythological, and somewhat serious. 

Let’s make some imaginary examples of heraldry, using the WAA gang.
To make it simple, I’m going to use Tarek (Paladin), Meriel (AntiPaladin) and Edward (Knight/Cavalier), as they are all knights, and would use heraldry.

So let’s take what defines each as a character, and their symbolisms/aesthetics;
Tarek = Light, black and gold, goodness, courage, Middle-Eastern aesthetics.
Meriel = Darkness, blood red and black, evil, fear and strength, Lovecraftian aesthetics.
Edward = Chivalry, red, gold and black, honour, bravery, High Mediaeval aesthetics.Some of those are, again, a bit broad, but these are what I’ll work with.
So, assuming all of them use a shield base, lets take their colours.

Tarek = Black and gold becomes Pean (black field with gold marks)
Meriel = Sanguine field and Sable (blood red and black)
Edward = Gules field and Or (red and gold)Now add additional symbolism.

Tarek is an adherent of the First Sun, so we can use a Sol alchemical symbol, or to fit his aesthetics, a Persian inspired sun symbol, in the colour Or (gold). This fits nicely on the black background and golden symbols (which themselves give a mid-eastern look).
Meriel USED to be a Paladin of Serenae (sun goddess), but is now a dark and corrupted version. Considering her family had an attachment to said Goddess, and being the landed gentry, I’ll assume they used the sun as well in their own heraldry, and Meriel has since altered it to fit her new Patron; red field upon which a Sable jagged Sol/Sun sits, sort of like the Germanic Black Sun symbol of antiquity.
Edward embodies Knighthood on the whole; knights and chivalry are associated with armour and the sword. For this mental exercise, I’ll draw upon both; a gauntlet grasping a sword, Ors (gold).

Now the Heraldic beasts. Kind of hard to summarise for the characters individually, but I’ll take what seems to fit:

Tarek = Persian inspired Lion/’Leopard’ (Lion-passant-Guardant), or perhaps a Phoenix? Naturally, the colour here will be Or (gold).
Meriel = Lovecraftian aesthetics are hard to put onto heraldry, so I’ll use a very odd creature for hers that is terrifying – either a Yale, or Biscoine. The former being a bizarre and somewhat terrifying looking beast almost resembling a goat, the latter being a serpent in the act of consuming a child. Colours used will be Sable (black).
Edward = Lion Rampant, due to the courageous, noble, and chivalric connotations. Colour used will be Or (gold).

So what do we get for our basic level Heraldry?

Tarek = A shield in Pean (black with gold), depicting a stylised Sun and Lion/Phoenix roaring or rising beneath the dawning sun imagery.
Meriel = A shield in Sanguine (blood red), depicting a black and wrong looking Sun in Sable (black), beneath which a Yale or Biscoine howls or swallows the very symbol of youth and life itself under the corrupted sky.
Edward = A Gules (red) field, with a Lion Rampant in Or (gold), wearing a gauntlet and grasping aloft a sword, also in Or (gold). 

This is, of course, just a basic example, but I hope this has been an interesting read for all that have observed it!

~ Knight

@weareantipaladin, @wearepaladin
I know Antipaladin wanted help with heraldry a while back, not sure what became of that. If you’re still looking, hopefully this is useful.
As for Paladin…I just hope you enjoy the idea for your heraldry?