Make Yourself a Coat of Arms

I’ve been trying to make a personal coat of arms (or achievement, as it’s properly known) for a long time now.

First thing’s first: in the UK and many other countries, you can’t just go ahead and design your own coat of arms. To officially acquire one, you have to have one presented to you by the College of Arms. But it’s extremely unlikely they’re ever going to knight me, and if they did, I doubt they’d let me use the one I came up with myself. So, no, this isn’t an official coat of arms.

But it’s a symbol designed using heraldic convention which I could still use to represent myself, especially if I get it copyrighted. So you can do that too, if you have the same peculiar desire to have a coat of arms that I do. (Just don’t go calling yourself a knight on any official documents.)

Why design a coat of arms?

Because it forces you to look inwards. That’s always a good thing, because it teaches you something about yourself, and forces you to define yourself and your beliefs. And at the end of it, if you did it right, you’ll have a badass symbol to use to represent yourself. Hey, if Trump can get away with it, so can you.

(Yes, Trump has a coat of arms – or at least, he uses a coat of arms as a commercial logo in the US, where he has copyrighted it. In typical Trump fashion, though, it is almost an exact copy of someone’s actual coat of arms, only he’s removed the word ‘Integrity’ and replaced it with ‘Trump.’ For this reason, he’s not allowed to use his ‘crest’ in the UK.)

My Coat of Arms

So let me tell you about my coat of arms.

I’ve tried lots of different designs. For a long time, nothing was working. I wanted to put a stag on it, because I love them and I live close to Cannock Chase, which has a large deer population. Stags appear on lots of civic heraldry around here, like the arms of the Chase itself. Then I wanted to include a chevron, because it appears on the arms of Stafford, where I was born. But I couldn’t get it to work.

Then I thought: arms are granted to people for their individual achievements, not families – though families can inherit them. So instead of making it about where I’m from, I should make it about me.

This is what I came up with.

First, you have the two quills, lying on top of two wavy bends. (Yes, that’s what they’re actually called.) This represents writing – not just my writing. I like writing because it’s the only time someone can lay out an idea without fear of being interrupted. It’s a great empathy tool because of that – the reader can only read on or leave, and most of the time, they choose to read on.

The hearts are also there to represent empathy. I believe in seeing the best in people, supporting them when they’re down and trying to understand them, even if they are very different to yourself. The heart is a welcoming, non-threatening and open symbol, something I hope I project in the way I interact with people. I also love fairly easily. So it’s an image I’m happy to have on my shield eight times!

Blazonry

For those interested, I had a go at writing the blazon for my coat of arms. It’s a bit of an unconventional one, so hopefully I got it right. If you know about these things and think there’s a more elegant way to word it, by all means correct me.

Per bend sinister Argent and Gules, on two bends wavy per bend sinister Vert and of the First surrounded by eight hearts counterchanged two feathers bendwise counterchanged.”

Let me break this down.

  • [Party] per bend sinister Argent and Gules: this is describing the field – the background of the arms. Party simply means divided, and is usually omitted. Per bend sinister means it’s divided diagonally, starting in the top right and finishing in the bottom left. Argent and Gules are the heraldic words for white and red.
  • [on] two bends wavy per bend sinister Vert and of the First: We don’t need to worry about the ‘on’ here because that relates to the later section. After the field, we describe the primary ordinaries on the crest – an ordinary is a simple ‘charge’ (an image that appears on the field) that is usually a geometric shape. In this case, two bends wavy. A ‘bend’ is a diagonal shape, it always comes from the top left and ends bottom right unless it’s a ‘bend sinister’, which is the other way. Usually the sides are assumed to be straight, so here I’ve specified ‘wavy’ – the sides look like waves. Usually this is enough, but my bends are divided further – they’re divided bend sinister, like the field behind them, so I have to specify ‘[party] per bend sinister’ – again, the party is omitted. Then we describe the colours: Vert is green, and of the First simply means the first colour mentioned, because colours usually aren’t repeated in a blazon. In this case, that’s white!
  • Surrounded by eight hearts counterchanged: There are eight hearts on the field and they surround the bends, so we say the charges on the bends (which we’re describing next) are ‘surrounded by’ these hearts. The hearts are described as counterchanged, meaning they have the opposite colour of the field from the side they’re on. So the hearts on the white side are red and those on the red side are white.
  • Two feathers bendwise counterchanged: Here’s why we had that ‘on’ earlier: on those bends are two feathers, described as bendwise to say they’re following the shape of the bends. Not strictly necessary, because the artist would probably assume that anyway, but it removes any confusion. Again, we don’t need to specify their colour because they are counterchanged too.

Phew. Alright. With that in mind, your could probably describe it as:

“A background divided diagonally from top right to bottom left, white and red. On this, two diagonal lines from top left to bottom right, also divided diagonally from top right to bottom left, green and white. Surrounding these are eight hearts, four red on the white side and four white on the red side. On the diagonal lines are two feathers, white on the green side and green on the white side.”

It quickly gets very complicated, which is why blazonry omits some words and tries to be as brief as possible – unfortunately ending up looking like another language, especially when the arms aren’t straightforward.

8 comments

  1. Reblogged this on C. M. Rosens and commented:
    I love this – I’ve published on arms and seals and the uses of medieval iconography in my academic life, but this is a really fun exercise and might be useful for self-reflection.

    Some medieval facts:
    > If you weren’t important enough to have your own arms, you would bear those of your lord. For example, William Marshall (1146/7-1219) started off in the household of the Tankervilles and bore their arms until he was allowed to carry his own. [You’ll notice he was very long-lived: nobles often lived beyond 60, with the benefit of good constitution and diet etc].

    >There was a sense of visual unity in family crests, but individuals chose what went on them as they inherited the title and lands. Some chose to adopt their father’s, but add something of their own; their son might revert to a further direct paternal ancestor (because patrilineal primogenture was the model of inheritance) and adopt their great-grandfather’s arms without changing it. It depended on what they wanted to convey!
    More on my blog (on hiatus): melissajulianjones.wordpress.com

    Loved this post!! Recommend giving this blog a follow.

    Liked by 3 people

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