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Ian Grant
Finest kilt accessories, heraldic & ornamental hand engraving

Heraldry - Some Basics

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Ian Grant's arms. Link to his blazon

The armiger

is the individual to whom the arms are granted.  In Scotland it is unlawful for any person to use arms which have not been granted by the Lord Lyon King of Arms and duly registered.  It is also unlawful for any person other than the armiger to use or display the arms (or the shield or crest alone).  There is an exception to this which we mention in our page about clan badges.

The coat of arms

was indeed a coat.  It was the surcoat worn over armour.  A system of regular patterns and bright colours was used, frequently along with charges such as animals, mythical creatures and every-day objects.

The combination of pattern, colour and charges would be unique to an individual so that the knight could be recognised by his coat alone. This imagery was repeated on the shield and banner.  Later it was used on seals to identify the signatory of documents and on personal possessions to identify the owner.

The shield

is the basic element in the award of arms.  Some people may only have the right to a shield, but nothing else (crest, helmet etc) can exist without the shield.  The charges which appear on Ian Grant's shield are three silver antique crowns and in each of eight compartments a "cross pattée" (a cross where the four limbs splay out and have straight edges).

Some coats of arms have supporters on either side of the shield.  Ian Grant is not entitled to these, because their use is reserved.  Clan chiefs, for example, may use supporters.

The helmet

(or "helm") reflects the rank of the person to whom the arms are granted.  A Royal helmet is gold and faces full front.  All other helmets face as illustrated here.  A Peer is entitled to silver with gold grille and gold garnishing.  All others are steel with or without grills, with open or closed visor, and with or without garnishing; these features are dependent on whether the person is a Knight or Baronet, Feudal Baron, Esquire or Gentleman.   Ian Grant has a gentleman's helmet in steel and ungarnished.

The livery A livery is a uniform worn by a civilian. Livery colours would also have been used on the coaches and today the word is also used, for example, to describe the common design and paint scheme a company uses for its vehicles.  colours are the principal tinctures of the arms: the colour of the shield and the colour of the metal. In Ian Grant's case that would be red and silver.

The fabric draped from the helmet is

the mantling

. It originally served to reflect the heat from the sun and because in use it was liable to be torn and to fray this has given scope to heraldic artists to illustrate it with considerable ornamentation. The mantling in the arms displayed here is quite subdued.

With a few exceptions the rule for the colour of the mantling is that this be the main colour of the shield and lined ("doubled") in the colour of the principal metal; so in this case that is red doubled silver.  The mantling on Royal arms is gold, doubled ermine and for Peers and some others it is crimson doubled ermine.

The mantling was held in place by piece of cord or twisted fabric.  In the arms displayed here this is the wreath on which the crest is mounted.  As depicted here the convention is for the colours match those of the mantling.

The crest

, from latin crista, a cock's comb, was the ornamentation of the ridge of the helmet. Subsequently in tournament this was formed in leather and the wreath securing it could be a lady's favour.  In time the crest was incorporated in the coat of arms.

Finally there is the motto and taking this along with all the other components the full coat of arms is more correctly referred to as

the achievement


If you click on the image of Ian Grant's arms at the top of the page you will find a written description of Ian Grant's coat of arms on the website of the Heraldry Society of Scotland.  This is

the blazon

.  It is a precise statement and anyone well-versed in heraldry can reproduce the achievement in full colour from the blazon alone.