, a charge is any emblem or device occupying the field
of an ''escutcheon
'' (shield). That may be a geometric design (sometimes called an ''ordinary
'') or a symbolic representation of a person, animal, plant, object, building, or other device. In French blazon
, the ordinaries are called ''pièces'', and other charges are called ''meubles'' ("he
The term ''charge'' can also be used as a verb; for example, if an escutcheon depicts three lion
s, it is said to be ''charged with three lions''; similarly, a crest or even a charge itself may be "charged", such as a pair of eagle wings ''charged with trefoils'' (as on the coat of arms of Brandenburg
). It is important to distinguish between the ordinaries and divisions of the field
, as that typically follow similar patterns, such as a shield ''divided'' "per chevron", as distinct from being ''charged with'' a chevron
While thousands of objects found in nature, mythology, or technology have appeared in armory, there are several charges (such as the cross, the eagle, and the lion) which have contributed to the distinctive flavour of heraldic design. Only these and a few other notable charges (crowns, stars, keys, etc.) are discussed in this article, but a more exhaustive list will be found in the list of heraldic charges
In addition to being shown in the regular way charges may be ''umbrated'' (which, is to be distinguished from them being blazoned as ''detailed'' and, rather incorrectly, ''outlined'', highly unusual description of them as being ''shaded'' and are rather irregularly sometimes stated to be ''in silhouette'' or are, more ambiguously, confusingly, and unhelpfully, blazoned as ''futuristic'', ''stylized'' or ''simplified''. There are also several units in the United States Air Force
with charges blazoned as "mythical," or beasts as "chimerical," but those conceptions are meaningless and irrelevant to the conception of heraldry, and it does not affect the appearance of those charges.
Ordinaries and sub-ordinaries
Some heraldic writers distinguish, albeit arbitrarily, between ''honourable ordinaries'' and ''sub-ordinaries''. While some authors hold that only nine charges are "honourable" ordinaries, exactly which ones fit into this category is a subject of constant disagreement. The remainder are often termed ''sub-ordinaries'', and narrower or smaller versions of the ordinaries are called ''diminutives''. While the term ''ordinaries'' is generally recognised, so much dispute may be found among sources regarding which are "honourable" and which are relegated to the category of "sub-ordinaries" that indeed one of the leading authors in the field, Arthur Charles Fox-Davies
(1871–1928), wrote at length on what he calls the "utter absurdity of the necessity for any uch
classification at all," stating that the ordinaries and sub-ordinaries are, in his mind, "no more than first charges."
Apparently ceding the point for the moment, Fox-Davies lists the generally agreed-upon "honourable ordinaries" as the bend, fess, pale, pile, chevron, cross, saltire and chief.
Woodcock sheds some light on the matter, stating that earlier writers such as Leigh, Holme and Guillim proposed that "honourable ordinaries" should occupy one-third of the field, while later writers such as Edmondson favoured one-fifth, "on the grounds that a bend, pale, or chevron occupying one-third of the field makes the coat look clumsy and disagreeable."
Woodcock goes so far as to enumerate the ordinaries thus: "The first Honourable Ordinary is the cross," the second is the chief, the third is the pale, the fourth is the bend, the fifth is the fess, the sixth is the inescutcheon, the seventh is the chevron, the eighth is the saltire, and the ninth is the bar, while stating that "some writers" prefer the bordure as the ninth ordinary. Volborth, having decidedly less to say on the matter, agrees that the classifications are arbitrary and the subject of disagreement, and lists the "definite" ordinaries as the chief, pale, bend, fess, chevron, cross and saltire. Boutell lists the chief, pale, bend, bend sinister, fess, bar, cross, saltire and chevron as the "honourable ordinaries". Thus, the chief, bend, pale, fess, chevron, cross and saltire appear to be the undisputed ordinaries, while authors disagree over the status of the pile, bar, inescutcheon, bordure and others.
Several different figures are recognised as ''honourable ordinaries'', each normally occupying about one-fifth to one-third of the field.
As discussed above, much disagreement exists among authors regarding which ordinary charges are "honourable", so only those generally agreed to be "honourable ordinaries" will be discussed here, while the remainder of ordinary charges will be discussed in the following section.
* The ''chief
'' is the upper portion of the field.
* The ''bend
'' runs from the upper left to the lower right, as \, as seen by the viewer. The ''bend sinister'' runs from the upper right to the lower left, as /.
* The ''pale
'', a vertical stripe in the centre of the field.
* The ''fess
'' is a broad horizontal stripe across the centre of the field.
* The ''chevron
'' is a construction shaped like an inverted letter V.
* The ''cross
'' is a geometric construction of two perpendicular lines or bands. It has hundreds of variants, most of which are common charges rather than ordinaries; some of these will be discussed below.
* The ''saltire
'' is a diagonal cross, often called ''Saint Andrew's cross''.
Most of the ordinaries have corresponding ''diminutives'', narrower versions, most often mentioned when two or more appear in parallel: ''bendlets, pallets, bars'' (multiples of the ''fess''), ''chevronels''.
File:Argent a chief azur.svg|Chief
File:Ecu d'argent au pal de sable.svg|Pale
File:Blason Bootzheim 67.svg|Cross
File:Blason ville fr Souday (LoirCher).svg|Saltire
In addition to those mentioned in the above section, other ordinaries exist. Some of these are variously called "honourable ordinaries" by different authors, while others of these are often called ''sub-ordinaries''.
* The ''pall
'' or ''pairle'' is shaped like the letter Y.
* The ''pile
'' is a wedge issuing from the top of the field and tapering to a point near the bottom. Its length and width vary widely. Piles may occur in any orientation, e.g. ''pile reversed'', ''pile bendwise'' and so on.
* The ''quarter
'' is a rectangle occupying the top left quarter of the field, as seen by the viewer.
* The ''canton
'' is a square occupying the left third of the chief (sometimes reckoned to be a diminutive of the quarter).
* The ''bordure
'' is a border touching the edge of the field.
* The ''orle
'' may be considered an inner bordure: a reasonably wide band away from the edge of the shield, it is always shown following the shape of the shield, without touching the edges.
'' is a narrower version of the orle, rarely seen except in the ''double tressure flory and counter-flory'', an element of the royal coat of arms of Scotland
and of many other Scots coats.
* The ''fret'' originally consisted of three bendlets interlaced with three bendlets sinister; other depictions form the outer bendlets into a mascle through which the two remaining bendlets are woven. This has also been called a Harington knot, as in the arms of Harington.
* The ''base'' or ''terrace in base'' is the lower portion of the field.
es'', ''flanches'' or ''flasks'' are regions on the sides of the field, bounded by a pair of circular arcs whose centers are beyond the sides of the shield.
* A ''label
'' is a horizontal strap, with a number of pendants (usually called ''points'') suspended from it; the default is three, but any number may be specified. The label is nearly always a mark of cadency
in British and French heraldry, but is occasionally found as a regular charge in early armory and even in the 20th century. It is sometimes called a ''file'', as in the canting arms of Belfile, a label with a bell hanging from each point. There are some examples in which the strap is omitted, the points issuing from the top of the shield.
* The ''gyron'' is a right triangle
occupying the lower half of the first quarter: its edges follow per bend and per fess from the dexter side to the centre of the field. A ''gyron sinister'', much rarer, is a similar figure in the sinister chief. Gyrons are sometimes blazoned to be shown in other positions - as in 'the sun in his splendour ... along with in dexter base a sixth gyron voided'
File:Blason Jean Chandos.svg|Pile
File:Pile reversed demo.svg|Pile reversed
File:Blason Anstaing 59.svg|Quarter
File:Blason ville fr Trémoulet (Ariège).svg|Canton
File:Blason ville fr Le Born (Haute-Garonne).svg|Bordure
File:Earl of Dysart COA.svg|Fret
File:Ecu d'argent à un lambel à cinq pendants de gueules.svg|Label
So-called ''mobile charges'' are not tied to the size and shape of the shield, and so may be placed in any part of the field, although whenever a charge appears alone, it is placed with sufficient position and size to occupy the entire field. Common mobile charges include human
figures, human parts, animal
s, animal parts, legendary creature
s (or "monster
s and floral designs, inanimate objects, and other devices. The heraldic animals need not exactly resemble the actual creatures.
A number of geometric charges are sometimes listed among the subordinaries (see above), but as their form is not related to the shape of the shield – indeed they may appear independent of the shield (''i.e.'' in crests
) – they are more usefully considered here. These include the escutcheon or inescutcheon, lozenge, fusil, mascle, rustre, billet, roundel, fountain, and annulet.
* The ''escutcheon
'' is a small shield. If borne singly in the centre of the main shield, it is sometimes called an ''inescutcheon'', and is usually employed to combine multiple coats. It is customarily the same shape as the shield it is on, though shields of specific shapes are rarely specified in the blazon.
* The ''lozenge
'' is a rhombus
generally resembling the diamonds
of playing cards. A more acute lozenge is called a ''fusil''. A lozenge voided (''i.e.'' with a lozenge-shaped hole) is a ''mascle''; a lozenge pierced (''i.e.'' with a round hole) is a ''rustre''.
* The ''billet'' is a rectangle, usually at least twice as tall as it is wide; it may represent a block of wood or a sheet of paper. Billets appear in the shield of the house of Nassau
, which was modified to become that of the kingdom of the Netherlands
* The ''roundel
'' is a solid circle, frequently of gold (blazoned a ''bezant
''). A ''fountain
'' is depicted as ''a roundel barry wavy argent and azure''. An ''annulet
'' is a roundel voided (''i.e.'' a ring).
Several other simple charges occur with comparable frequency. These include the mullet or star, crescent and cross.
* The ''mullet
'' is a star of (usually five) straight rays, and may have originated as a representation of the ''rowel'' or ''revel'' of a ''spur
'' (although "spur revels" do appear under that name).
Mullets frequently appear pierced. An unpierced mullet is sometimes called a "star" in Scottish heraldry, and stars also appear in English and continental heraldry under that name (often with six points). The "spur revel" is also found in Scottish heraldry.
* A star with (usually six) wavy rays is called an ''estoile'' (the Old French
word for 'star'; modern French ''étoile'').
* The ''comet
'' is shown as a mullet with a bendwise wavy tail, rather than naturalistically.
* The ''crescent
'', a symbol of the Moon
, normally appears with its horns upward; if its horns are ''to dexter'' it represents a waxing moon (''increscent''), and with horns ''to sinister'' it represents a waning moon (''decrescent'').
File:Blason Colombey les Belles 54.svg|Inescutcheon
File:Blason ville fr Vieillevigne (Haute-Garonne).svg|Lozenge
File:Blason fam fr du Puy du Fou.svg|Three mascles
File:Blason ville fr Courris (Tarn).svg|Rustre
File:Blason de la ville d'Aignay-le-Duc (21) Côte d'or-France.svg|Six billets
File:Blason Montrodat.svg|Three bezants
File:Blason Chalon Ville.svg|Three annulets
File:Blason Jean Leliwa (selon Gelre).svg|Star and crescent
File:Blason ville fr Plémet (Côtes-d'Armor).svg|Five mullets pierced
One of the most frequently found charges in heraldry, if not ''the'' most, is the ''cross
'', which has developed into, some say, 400 varieties. When the cross does not reach the edges of the field, it becomes a mobile charge. The plain ''Greek cross'' (with equal limbs) and ''Latin cross'' (with the lower limb extended) are sometimes seen, but more often the tip of each limb is developed into some ornamental shape. The most commonly found crosses in heraldry include the ''cross botonny'', the ''cross flory'', the ''cross moline'', the ''cross potent'', the ''cross patée'' or ''formée'', the ''cross patonce'' and the ''cross crosslet''.
File:Maltese cross.svg|Maltese cross
In English heraldry the crescent
may be added to a shield to distinguish cadet
branches of a family from the senior line. It does not follow, however, that a shield containing such a charge necessarily belongs to a cadet branch. All of these charges occur frequently in basic (''undifferenced'') coats of arms.
Human or humanlike figures
Humans, deities, angels and demons occur more often as crests and supporters than on the shield. (Though in many heraldic traditions the depiction of deities is considered taboo, exceptions to this also occur.) When humans do appear on the shield, they almost always appear ''affronté'' (facing forward), rather than toward the left like beasts. Such as the arms of the Dalziel
family of Scotland, which depicted a naked man his arms expanded on a black background. The largest group of human charges consists of saint
s, often as the patron of a town. Knights, bishops, monks and nuns, kings and queens also occur frequently. There are rare occurrences of a "child" (without further description, this is usually understood to be a very young boy, and young girls are extremely rare in heraldry), both the head and entire body. A famous example is the child swallowed by a dragon (the biscione
) in the arms of Visconti
dukes of Milan
mythological figures typically appear in an allegorical or canting
s very frequently appear, but angelic beings of higher rank, such as cherubim
, are extremely rare. An archangel
appears in the arms of Arkhangelsk
. The Devil
or a demon
is occasionally seen, being defeated by the archangel Saint Michael
. Though the taboo is not invariably respected, British heraldry in particular, and to a greater or lesser extent the heraldry of other countries, frowns on depictions of God
, though an exception may be in the not-uncommon Continental depictions of Madonna and Child
, including the Black Madonna
in the arms of Marija Bistrica
Moors—or more frequently their heads, often crowned—appear with some frequency in medieval European heraldry. They are also sometimes called ''moore'', ''blackmoor'' or ''negro'' Moors
appear in European heraldry from at least as early as the 13th century,
and some have been attested as early as the 11th century in Italy
where they have persisted in the local heraldry and vexillology
well into modern times in Corsica
. Armigers bearing moors or moors' heads may have adopted them for any of several reasons, to include symbolizing military victories in the Crusades
, as a pun on the bearer's name in the canting arms
of Morese, Negri, Saraceni, etc., or in the case of Frederick II
, possibly to demonstrate the reach of his empire.
Even the arms of Pope Benedict XVI
feature a moor's head, crowned and collared red. Nevertheless, the use of moors (and particularly their heads) as a heraldic symbol has been deprecated in modern North America, where racial stereotypes have been influenced by a history of Trans-Atlantic slave trade
and racial segregation, and applicants to the College of Arms of the Society for Creative Anachronism
are urged to use them delicately to avoid creating offensive images.
File:Arms of Dalzell, Earl of Carnwath.svg|Human man
File:COA of Kyiv Kurovskyi.svg|Angel
File:Coat of Arms of Arkhangelsk.svg|Angel slaying Demon
File:Arms of Corsica.svg|Moor
File:Arms of the House of Visconti (1395).svg|Biscione
File:Coat of arms of Trakai district.png|Knight
File:Coat of arms of Lithuania.svg|Knight on horse
File:Arms of Gijón.svg|King
File:Blason de Cépie (version 2).svg|Clergy Member
Parts of human bodies occur more often than the whole, particularly heads
(occasionally of exotic nationality), hearts (always stylized), hands, torso and armored limbs. A famous heraldic hand is the Red Hand of Ulster
, alluding to an incident in the legendary Milesian
invasion. Hands also appear in the coat of arms of Antwerp
s occur in Iberian armory, canting for the Portuguese family ''da Costa''. According to Woodward & Burnett, the Counts Colleoni of Milan bear arms blazoned: "Per pale argent and gules, three hearts reversed counterchanged;" but in less delicate times these were read as canting arms
showing three pairs of testicles (''coglioni'' = "testicles" in Italian). The community of Cölbe
has a coat of arms with a similar charge.
Animals, especially lions and eagles, feature prominently as heraldic charges. Some differences may be observed between an animal's natural form and the conventional attitude
s (positions) into which heraldic animals are contorted; additionally, various parts of an animal (claws, horns, tongue, etc.) may be differently coloured, each with its own terminology. Most animals are broadly classified, according to their natural form, into beasts, birds, sea creatures and others, and the attitudes that apply to them may be grouped accordingly. Beasts, particularly lions, most often appear in the ''rampant'' position; while birds, particularly the eagle, most often appear ''displayed''. While the lion, regarded as the king of beasts, is by far the most frequently occurring beast in heraldry, the eagle, equally regarded as the king of birds, is overwhelmingly the most frequently occurring bird, and the rivalry between these two is often noted to parallel with the political rivalry between the powers they came to represent in medieval Europe. Neubecker notes that "in the heroic poem by Heinrich von Veldeke
based on the story of Aeneas
, the bearer of the arms of a lion is set against the bearer of the arms of an eagle. If one takes the latter to be the historical and geographical forerunner of the Holy Roman emperor
, then the bearer of the lion represents the unruly feudal lords, to whom the emperor had to make more and more concessions, particularly to the powerful duke of Bavaria and Saxony, Henry the Lion
of the House of Welf
The beast most often portrayed in heraldry is the lion
. When posed ''passant guardant'' (walking and facing the viewer), he is called a ''léopard'' in French blazon
. Other beasts frequently seen include the wolf
, and stag
or hart. The ''tiger'' (unless blazoned as a ''Bengal tiger
'') is a fanciful beast with a wolflike body, a mane and a pointed snout. Dog
s of various types, and occasionally of specific breeds, occur more often as crests or supporters than as charges. According to Neubecker, heraldry in the Middle Ages generally distinguished only between pointers, hounds and whippets, when any distinction was made. The unicorn
resembles a horse with a single horn, but its hooves are usually cloven like those of a deer. The griffin
combines the head (but with ears), chest, wings and forelegs of the eagle with the hindquarters and legs of a lion. The ''male griffin'' lacks wings and his body is scattered with spikes.
The bird most frequently found in armory is, by far, the eagle
. Eagles in heraldry are predominantly presented with one or two heads, though triple-headed eagles are not unknown, and one eagle appearing in the Codex Manesse
curiously has its wing bones fashioned into additional heads. Eagles and their wings also feature prominently as crests. Eagles most frequently appear full-bodied, with one head, in numerous positions
including ''displayed'', ''statant'', ''passant'' and ''rising''. The ''demi-eagle'', which is shown only from the waist up, occurs less frequently. Double-headed eagle
s almost always appear ''displayed''. As a result of being the dominant charge on the imperial Byzantine
, Holy Roman
coats of arms, the double eagle gained enduring renown throughout the Western world. Among the present day nations with an eagle charge on their coat of arms are: Albania
, and Serbia
. Additionally, the ''Double-Headed Eagle of Lagash'' is used as an emblem by the Scottish Rite
. There are many meanings attached to this symbol, and it was introduced in France in the early 1760s as the emblem of the Knight Kadosh
, a stylized swallow without feet (sometimes incorrectly, at least in the Anglophone heraldries these days, said to have no beak), is a mark of cadency
in English heraldry, but also appears as a simple charge in undifferenced arms. The pelican is notable as frequently occurring in a peculiar attitude described as ''in her piety
'' (''i.e.'' wings raised, piercing her own breast to feed her chicks in the nest, which is how it is actually often blazoned, 'in its piety' being a fairly modern conceit). This symbol carries a particular religious meaning, and became so popular in heraldry that pelicans rarely exist in heraldry in any other position. Distinction is however observed, between a pelican "vulning herself" (alone, piercing her breast) and "in her piety" (surrounded by and feeding her chicks). The swan
is also often seen, and the peacock
in heraldry is described as being ''in its pride''. The domestic cock (or rooster
) is sometimes called ''dunghill cock'' to distinguish it from the ''game cock'' which has a cut comb and exaggerated spurs, and the ''moor cock'', which is the farmyard cock with a game bird's tail. Other birds occur less frequently.
The category of sea creatures may be seen to include various fish, a highly stylized "dolphin", and various fanciful creatures, sea monsters, which are shown as half-fish and half-beast, as well as mermaids and the like. The "sea lion" and "sea horse", for example, do not appear as natural sea lion
s and seahorse
s, but rather as half-lion half-fish and half-horse half-fish, respectively. Fish
of various species often appear in canting arms
, e.g.: pike
, also called luce, for Pike or Lucy; dolphin
(a conventional kind of fish rather than the natural mammal) for the Dauphin de Viennois
. The ''escallop'' (scallop
shell) became popular as a token of pilgrimage to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela
. The ''sea-lion'' and ''sea-horse'', like the mermaid
, combine the foreparts of a mammal with the tail of a fish, and a dorsal fin in place of the mane. (When the natural seahorse
is meant, it is blazoned as a ''hippocampus''.) The ''sea-dog'' and ''sea-wolf'' are quadrupeds but with scales, webbed feet, and often a flat tail resembling that of the beaver
Reptiles and invertebrates occurring in heraldry include serpents, lizards, salamanders and others, but the most frequently occurring of these are various forms of dragons. The "dragon
", thus termed, is a large monstrous reptile with, often, a forked or barbed tongue, membraned wings like a bat's, and four legs. The ''wyvern
'' and ''lindworm
'' are dragons with only two legs. The salamander
is typically shown as a simple lizard surrounded by flames. Also notably occurring (undoubtedly owing much of its fame to Napoleon
, though it also appears in much earlier heraldry) is the bee
File:Blason Duncan de Fife.svg|Lion ''rampant''
File:Blason Jean Sans Terre Sceau 1189.svg|Two lions ''passant''
File:Herb Polski.svg|Eagle ''displayed''
File:Bucks swan badge.svg|Swan ''gorged'' with a coronet
File:Laholm kommunvapen - Riksarkivet Sverige.png|Three salmon ''naiant''
File:Shield of Arms of the Lord Arundell of Wardour.svg|Six martlets
File:Blason ville be Kruibeke (ancien).svg|Unicorn
File:CoA Rostock County.svg|Griffin ''segreant''
File:Phildeptseal.svg|"Sea lion" with sword
File:Héraldique meuble Salamandre.svg|Salamander ''crowned''
are also very frequent charges, as are the paw or leg (''gamb'') of the lion, the wing (often paired) of the eagle, and the antlers (''attire'') of the stag. Sometimes only the top half of a beast is shown; for example, the ''demi-lion'' is among the most common forms occurring in heraldic crests.
Heads may appear ''cabossed'' (also ''caboshed'' or ''caboched''): with the head cleanly separated from the neck so that only the face shows; ''couped'': with the neck cleanly separated from the body so that the whole head and neck are present; or ''erased
'': with the neck showing a ragged edge as if forcibly torn from the body. While cabossed heads are shown facing forward (''affronté''), heads that are ''couped'' or ''erased'' face dexter unless otherwise specified for differencing. Heads of horned beasts are often shown cabossed to display the horns, but instances can be found in any of these circumstances. A lion's head cabossed is called simply a ''face'', and a fox's head cabossed, a ''mask''.
File:Earl of cromartie arms.svg|Hart's head ''cabossed''
File:Wood (OfOrchard Lew Trenchard Devon) Arms.png|Three leopard's faces
File:Complete Guide to Heraldry Fig345.png|Fox's mask
File:Blason ville fr Sains-du-Nord (Nord).svg|Boar's head ''erased''
File:POL Sejny COA.svg|Bull's head ''couped''
Attitude of animals
The ''attitude'', or position, of the creature's body is usually explicitly stated in English blazon. When such description is omitted, a lion can be assumed to be ''rampant'', a leopard or herbivore ''passant''.
By default, the charge faces dexter (left as seen by the viewer); this would be forward on a shield worn on the left arm. In German armory, animate charges in the dexter half of a composite display are usually turned to face the center.
* An animal ''toward sinister'' or ''contourny'' is turned toward the right of the shield (as seen by the observer, i.e. the shield-bearer's left), the sinister.
* An animal ''affronté'' or ''full faced'' faces the viewer.
* An animal ''guardant'' faces dexter with its head turned to face the viewer.
* An animal ''regardant'' faces dexter with its head turned toward sinister, as if looking over its shoulder.
Certain features of an animal are often of a contrasting tincture. The charge is then said to be ''armed'' (claws and horns and tusks), ''langued'' (tongue), ''vilené
[, "Vilené: se dit un animal qui a la marque du sexe d'un autre émail que le corps"; translating roughly to "Vilené: when an animal has its genitals in another color than the body"]
'' (penis), ''attired'' (antlers or very occasionally horns), ''unguled'' (hooves), ''crined'' (horse's mane or human hair) of a specified tincture.
Many attitudes have developed from the herald's imagination and ever-increasing need for differentiation, but only the principal attitudes found in heraldry need be discussed here. These, in the case of beasts, include the erect positions, the seated positions, and the prone positions. In the case of birds, these include the "displayed" positions, the flying positions, and the resting positions. Additionally, birds are frequently described by the position of their wings. A few other attitudes warrant discussion, including those particular to fish, serpents, griffins and dragons.
The principal attitude of beasts is ''rampant'' (''i.e.'' standing on one hind leg with forepaws raised as if to strike). Beasts also frequently appear walking, ''passant'' or, in the case of stags and the occasional unicorn, ''trippant'', and may appear ''statant'' (standing), ''salient'' or ''springing'' (leaping), ''sejant'' (seated), ''couchant'' or ''lodged'' (lying prone with head raised), or occasionally ''dormant'' (sleeping). The principal attitude of birds, namely the eagle, is ''displayed'' (''i.e.'' facing the viewer with the head turned toward dexter and wings raised and upturned to show the full underside of both wings). Birds also appear ''rising'' or ''rousant'' (''i.e.'' wings raised and head upturned as if about to take flight), ''volant'' (flying), ''statant'' (standing, with wings raised), ''close'' (at rest with wings folded), and waterfowl may appear ''naiant'' (swimming), while cranes may appear ''vigilant'' (standing on one leg). Fish often appear ''naiant'' (swimming horizontally) or ''hauriant'' (upwards) or ''urinant'' (downwards), but may also appear ''addorsed'' (two fish hauriant, back to back). Serpents may appear ''glissant'' (gliding in a wavy form) or ''nowed'' (as a figure-eight knot
). Griffins and quadrupedal dragons constantly appear ''segreant'' (''i.e.'' rampant with wings addorsed and elevated) and, together with lions, may appear ''combatant'' (''i.e.'' two of them turned to face each other in the rampant position).
Plants are extremely common in heraldry and figure among the earliest charges. The turnip
, for instance, makes an early appearance, as does wheat
. Trees also appear in heraldry; the most frequent tree by far is the oak
(drawn with large leaves and acorns), followed by the pine
s and bunches of grape
s occur very frequently, other fruits less so. When the fruit is mentioned, as to indicate a different tincture, the tree is said to be ''fructed'' of the tincture. If a tree is "eradicated" it is shown as if it has been ripped up from the ground, the roots being exposed. "Erased" is rarely used for a similar treatment. In Portuguese heraldry, but rarely in other countries, trees are sometimes found decorticated
The most famous heraldic flower (particularly in French heraldry) is the ''fleur-de-lis
'', which is often stated to be a stylised lily, though despite the name there is considerable debate on this. The "natural" lily
, somewhat stylised, also occurs, as (together with the fleur-de-lis) in the arms of Eton College
. The rose
is perhaps even more widely seen in English heraldry than the fleur-de-lis. Its heraldic form is derived from the "wild" type with only five petals, and it is often ''barbed'' (the hull of the bud, its points showing between the petals) and ''seeded'' in contrasting tinctures. The thistle
frequently appears as a symbol of Scotland
are abstract forms resembling flowers or leaves. The trefoil is always shown ''slipped'' (i.e. with a stem), unless blazoned otherwise. The cinquefoil is sometimes blazoned ''fraise'' (strawberry flower), most notably when canting
for Fraser. The trillium
flower occurs occasionally in a Canadian context, and the protea
flower constantly appears in South Africa, since it is the national flower symbol.
Wheat constantly occurs in the form of "garbs" or sheaves and in fields (e.g. in the arms of the province of Alberta
, Canada), though less often as ears, which are shown unwhiskered (though some varieties of wheat are naturally whiskered). Ears of rye
are depicted exactly as wheat, except the ears droop down and are often whiskered, e.g. in the arms of the former Ruislip-Northwood Urban District
, and oat
s also occur. The "garb" in the arms of Gustav Vasa
(and in the Coat of Arms of Sweden) is not a wheatsheaf, although it was pictured in that way from the 16th to 19th century; rather, this "vasa" is a bundle but of unknown sort.
File:Héraldique meuble Pommier.svg|Tree ''fructed'' and ''eradicated''
File:Armoiries de Wachtendonck.svg|Fleur-de-lis
File:Ledenice CZ CoA.svg|Heraldic rose
File:Blason de la ville de Trets (13).svg|Three trefoils
File:Canadian Coat of Arms Shield.svg|Three maple leaves
Very few inanimate objects in heraldry carry a special significance distinct from that of the object itself, but among such objects are the ''escarbuncle'', the ''fasces'', and the ''key''. The escarbuncle developed from the radiating iron bands used to strengthen a round shield, eventually becoming a heraldic charge.
(not to be confused with the French term for a ''bar'' or ''fess'') is emblematic of the Roman magisterial office and has often been granted to mayor
s (taking a form similar to a "skeleton key
") are emblematic of Saint Peter
and, by extension, the papacy
, and thus frequently appear in ecclesiastical heraldry.
Because St. Peter is the patron saint of fishermen, keys also notably appear in the arms of the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers
is a disc with twelve or more wavy rays, or alternating wavy and straight rays, often represented "''in his splendour''" (''i.e.'' with a face). The moon
"in her plenitude" (full) sometimes appears, distinguished from a ''roundel argent'' by having a face; but crescent
s occur much more frequently. ''Estoiles
'' are stars with six wavy rays, while ''stars'' (when they occur under that name) have straight rays usually numbering five in British and North American heraldry and six in continental European heraldry. Cloud
s often occur, though more frequently for people or animals to stand on or issue from than as isolated charges. The raindrop as such is unknown, though drops of fluid (''goutte
'') is known. These occasionally appear as a charge, but more frequently constitute a field semé
(known as ''goutté''). The snowflake
occurs in modern heraldry, sometimes blazoned as a "snow crystal" or "ice crystal".
The oldest geological charge is the ''mount'', typically a green hilltop rising from the lower edge of the field, providing a place for a beast, building or tree to stand. This feature is exceedingly common in Hungarian arms. Natural mountains and boulders are not unknown, though ranges of mountains are differently shown. An example is the arms of Edinburgh
, portraying Edinburgh Castle
atop Castle Rock
s are shown, almost without exception, as erupting, and the eruption is generally quite stylised. In the 18th century, ''landscapes'' began to appear in armory, often depicting the sites of battles. For example, Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson
received a chief of augmentation containing a landscape alluding to the Battle of the Nile
By far the most frequent building in heraldry is the ''tower
'', a tapering cylinder of masonry topped with battlement
s, usually having a door and a few windows. The canting arms of the Kingdom of Castile
are ''Gules, a tower triple-turreted Or'' (''i.e.'' three small towers standing atop a larger one). A castle
is generally shown as two towers joined by a wall, the doorway often shown secured by a portcullis
. The portcullis was used as a canting badge by the House of Tudor
("two-doors"), and has since come to represent the British Parliament. The modern chess-rook
would be indistinguishable from a tower; the heraldic chess rook, based on the medieval form of the piece, instead of battlements, has two outward-splayed "horns". Civic and ecclesiastical armory sometimes shows a church
or a whole town, and cities, towns and Scots burghs often bear a mural crown
(a crown in the form of a wall with battlements or turrets) in place of a crown over the shield. Ship
s of various types often appear; the most frequent being the ancient galley often called, from the Gaelic, a lymphad
. Also frequent are anchor
s and oar
The ''maunch'' is a 12th-century lady's sleeve style. Its use in heraldry arose from the custom of the knights who attended tournaments wearing their ladies sleeves, as "gages d'amour" (tokens of love). This fashion of sleeve would later evolve into Tippet
-style stoles. In French blazon this charge is sometimes informally referred to as ''manche mal taillée'' (a sleeve badly cut).
s also occur, sometimes "winged", but more frequently occurring is the ''spur-rowel'' or ''spur-revel'', which is said to more often termed a "mullet
of five points pierced" by English heralds.
s and coronet
s of various kinds are constantly seen. The ecclesiastical hat
and bishop's mitre
are nearly ubiquitous in ecclesiastical heraldry
. The sword
is sometimes a symbol of authority, as in the royal arms of the Netherlands
, but may also allude to Saint Paul
, as the patron of a town (e.g. London
) or dedicatee of a church. Sometimes it is shown with a key, owing to the fact that Saints Peter and Paul are paired together. Other weapons occur more often in modern than in earlier heraldry. The mace
also appears as a weapon, the war mace, in addition to its appearance as a symbol of authority, plain mace. The ''globus cruciger
'', also variously called an ''orb'', a ''royal orb'', or a ''mound'' (from French ''monde'', Latin ''mundus'', the world) is a ball or globe surmounted by a cross, which is part of the regalia of an emperor or king, and is the emblem of sovereign authority and majesty.
s constantly occur, most frequently in the arms of college
s and universities
, though the Gospel
are sometimes distinguished. Books if open may be inscribed with words. Words and phrases are otherwise rare, except in Spanish and Portuguese armory. Letters of the various alphabets are also relatively rare. Arms of merchants in Poland and eastern Germany are often based on house mark
s, abstract symbols resembling runes
, though they are almost never blazoned as runes, but as combinations of other heraldic charges. Musical instruments commonly seen are the harp
(as in the coat of arms of Ireland
. The drum
, almost without exception, is of the field drum type. Since musical notation is a comparatively recent invention, it is not found in early heraldry, though it does appear in 20th century heraldry.
are sometimes used as heraldic charges. They are blazoned in traditional heraldic style rather than in the Japanese style.
[''Tsubouchi, David Hiroshi (Canadian register of arms)](_blank)
File:Blason Famille de la Blétonnière.svg|Anchor
File:Luven wappen.svg|Book with letters
File:Blason ville fr Coustaussa (Aude).svg|Chess rook
File:GrenvilleArms ModernClarions.png|Three clarions
File:Blason ville fr Arquian.svg|Escarbuncle
File:Héraldique meuble Estoile.svg|Estoile
File:Blason ville Cluny ancien.svg|Keys addorsed
File:Blason fam uk Hastings (selon Gelre).svg|Maunch
File:Héraldique meuble Lune pleine.svg|Moon ''in her plenitude''
File:Badge of the Portcullis Pursuivant.svg|Portcullis
File:Ice cristal - heraldic figure.svg|Snow crystal
File:Blason famille fr Channac de la Selve.svg|Spur
File:Héraldique meuble Soleil avec visage.svg|Sun ''in his splendour''
File:Blason ville be Chimay (Thuin).svg|Sword
File:CoA civ ITA brunico.png|Tower on a mount
File:DEU Erfurt COA.svg|Wheel
* List of heraldic charges
* Ordinary (heraldry)
* Attitude (heraldry)
* Eagle (heraldry)
* Lion (heraldry)
* —Some illustrations of attitudes
* —Many illustrations