John Shakespeare’s grants of arms in 1596 & 1599

Heraldic terms

relevant to John Shakespeare’s & the Arde(r)n(e) shields

Helen Moorwood  [April, 2013]
The Shakespeare arms

(first granted by Robert Cook in 1576, confirmed by William Dethick in 1596)

Or, on a bend sable, a spear of the first steeled argent, and for his crest or cognizance a falcon, his wings displayed argent, standing on a wreath of his colours, supporting a spear or, steeled as aforesaid, set upon a helmet with mantles and tassels as hath been accustomed and doth more plainly appear depicted on this margent.

[Numerous depictions of this appear online. Just google Shakespeare coat of arms]

The Arderne of Harden & Alvanley (therefore Wilmcote) arms

(first granted in the 12th century)

Gules three crosslets fitchée and a chief or, (with a cadency mark of martlet for difference)

The Arden of Park Hall arms

(derived from the arms of the Earls of Warwick)

Ermine a fess chequy or and azure

Thomas Woodcock & John Martin Robinson, The Oxford Guide to Heraldry, OUP, 1988, ‘Glossary of Heraldic Terms in General Use’, pp. 197-206.

[There are several dozen more such terms in the book named above. Thomas Woodcock was promoted in 2010 from Norroy & Ulster to Garter Principal King of Arms, the position held by Sir William Dethick, who confirmed John Shakespeare’s arms in 1596 and allowed the impalement of his wife Mary’s arms in 1599. HM]

Argent Heraldic term for silver or white.

Azure Heraldic term for blue.

Base The lower portion of the shield.

Bearing Originally synonymous with a charge borne on a shield, it now occurs most frequently in ‘armorial bearings’, which is used generally to mean as much of a full achievement as is depicted.

Bend The fourth Honourable Ordinary: a diagonal stripe drawn across the shield from the dexter chief to the sinister base.

Blazon The written description of armorial bearings.

Cadency mark. Device to distinguish the arms of junior members of a family.

Charge A bearing or figure represented on the shield.

Chequy, Checquy, or Checky A term applied to a field or charge divided into three or more rows of small squares of alternate tinctures like a chess board.

Chief The second Honourable Ordinary, created by drawing a horizontal line across the shield, and occupying at most the upper third of the shield.

Colours The principal colours are blue (Azure), red (Gules), Black (Sable), green (Vert), and purple (Purpure). See also tinctures.

Crescent Can be either achargeor acadency mark.

Crest A device mounted on the helmetin the days of chivalry, and still so displayed in modern heraldry.

Cross The first Honourable Ordinary. Many variations exist.

Cross-crosslet (depicted asfitchy, as in the Arderne arms)

Dexter (see sinister)

Difference To make an addition or alteration to arms and crest, usually to mark a distinction between the coats of arms of closely related persons whose shields would otherwise be the same.

Displayed Used of birds with outstretched wings, like imperial eagles.

Ermine One of the furs, black tails on white; variants: Ermines, Erminois and Pean.

Fess The fifth Honourable Ordinary is a band taking up the centre third of the escutcheon, and formed by two horizontal lines drawn across the shield.

Fitchée/fitchy Pointed, terminating in a point. Usually used with forms ofcross.

Gules Heraldic term for red.

Helmet The helmet bears the crestand differs according to rank. It can also be used as a charge.

Martlet A legless bird, sometimes said to represent the swift or swallow.

Or Heraldic term for gold or yellow.

Sable Heraldic term for black.

Sinister Left as opposed to right (dexter) when describing charges on the shield. All blazon assumes one is standing behind the shield. The sinister half of the shield is consequently the right-hand side to the spectator.

Steeled Not in the glossary named, but the tip, as opposed to the shaft, of a spear.

Tinctures The general designation for colours, metals, and furs.

Copyright © 2013. All Rights Reserved.