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Heraldry

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Although introduced, derived and developed in or around the 13th (and possibly in the late 13th) Century. "Heraldic practices" didn't really flourish until the 13th Century. Thus, coats of arms, blazons, etc, etc. are a necessary and vital part of most cultures or societies that the American Medievalist's Association attempts to re-enact. New members are advised that the association has definite rules and requirements in this area.

The American Medievalist Association has slightly different "colors" from conventional heraldry in that we have a white fur (blonde) in addition to 'argent', which in our case is always metallic silver. Likewise, 'ore' is always the metallic gold, never yellow. Our yellow is the color yellow (jaune). We have likewise officially designated brown and gray as the furs Braun' and 'Gris'. This was done to distinguish our blazons from the current system, as will be explained momentarily.

Since we are re-enacting 13th Century Heraldry’, anything that became established usage after that time is not relevant to our association. This eliminates a lot of pettifogging rules of cadency, mantling, crests, etc., etc. and introduces a healthy blast of fresh air into the whole hidebound mess. Our heraldry has nothing to do with any other recognized system of heraldry. We in the American Medievalist's Association would like to point out that "Heraldry", as it exists today, is only one surviving official system-British-and that throughout history there have been other systems. For example, French heraldry (wiped out by the revolution) was a little different from the British system. So were the various "Italian" systems as practiced in Milan, Florence, Sicily, etc. There was no 'Italy' until very recent times. The same can be said for the rest of Western Europe such as Saxony, Silesia, Denmark, etc. Were there not also (presumably) 'official' systems in the Central European Kingdoms of Poland, Hungary, and Austria? We have not even mentioned the Spanish Kingdoms either. Manuscript illuminations from all these areas show heraldic trappings; surely their systems were as elaborate at that time as that of England. If there were so many contemporary systems, why not one more? Thus, at a single stroke, we can revitalize the practice and at the same time eliminate a lot of the bad heraldry that arose when the British system degenerated into a revenue creating scheme (scam?) by the Crown.

Another significant difference with our associations heraldry is that (as in 13th Century) your relatives and retainers can "quarter" your arms to show their relationship, or even wear your charge as a badge. This was stopped fairly quickly in Britain so that everyone had to have their own blazon with its own registration fee, then re-registration fee, inheritance fees, etc. Of course the Crown got most of the money, and the registry clerks, oops, I mean heralds, got the rest. It was then in everyone's interest (except the "grantee") to examine, renew, etc. as often as possible. Note that the American Medievalist's Association is not re-enacting this bureaucratic part of heraldry, although we are attempting to make the rest as authentic as possible.

Since you cannot re-create an actual historical personage as your character, it follows that you cannot adopt an actual, or historically significant blazon as your own. With other blazons we advise caution and common sense. If, say, a French blazon involving honorable ordinaries was actually used at one time by some obscure knight, then you could not use it if your character was from France. Theoretically, your character could use the device if he/she was from somewhere else, e.g., Russia. This is particularly true for Royal Emblems. By using them, you would, in effect, be claiming to be that Royalty. You should not use the blazons of historically famous people or places for the same reason- you would be claiming to be that person or place. You cannot use the blazon of another Association member. You can use almost any other blazon with the adoption of 3 or more differences, only one of which may be color. There is no real need to copy any known device because there are so many combinations that only a minute portion has ever been used in the entire history of the world.

Finally, all knights and persons of nobility must have a blazon. Serjantz (who are identical with knights except for nobility) do not have to have one, but may, if their character is of gentle birth. Men-at-arms and commoners are not allowed to have a blazon since this would be not only pretentious, but also offensive to the nobility. The lower orders could wear a badge or token or something if they want to ape their betters. If you have any questions about a heraldic matter, you should first contact a herald, because 5 minutes on the phone is easier than repainting all of your possessions.

 

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Last modified: April 01, 2002