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          Excerpts from the book





          Written and illustrated by

          Carl Alexander von Volborth , K.St.J., A.I.H.


          Copenhagen 1973


          Internet version edited by   Andrew Andersen, Ph.D.







Arms of Alliance and Women's Coats of Arms 

(pp. 42-44 and 188-190)



A person who, perhaps because of his possessions, had the right to several coats of arms originally bore each on its own shield, but the shields were often, as for example on his seal, grouped to produce a decorative effect. In more recent heraldry we find such a grouping of individual arms all belonging to the same person in the coat of the Russian Czars where the eagle has several shields displayed on each wing (see Fig. 808). It could also happen that a knight who was entitled to three coats of arms bore one on his shield, the other on his banner and the third on his horse's caparison.


At the close of the twelfth century the custom had already started of combining two or more coats of arms on the same shield. The oldest procedure was to divide in half vertically each of the escutcheons to be combined, the dexter half of one and the sinister half of the other, and join them to form a new coat of arms. The result of such dimidiation might however not only be unsightly but could be entirely incorrect. If a coat of arms containing a chevron is dimidiated, the result is one half with a charge which is in fact a bend (see Fig. 67);, and this is unsuitable, since it might be another family's arms. So whole coats of arms were combined instead, usually in a vertically divided shield. But this was not a very successful method either, because the proportions of the original escutcheon were spoilt. In Spain in the first half of the thirteenth century a way out of all these problems was found, and in the following centuries it was adopted all over Europe.


This was the system known as quartering. The shield was divided vertically and horizontally into four parts, all of which had more or less the same proportions as the original shield. If only two coats of arms are to be combined, they can both appear twice, the most important, often the paternal one, being placed in the first and fourth quarters, the other in the second and third (Fig. 366). Three coats are placed with the most important in the first and fourth quarters, the two others in the second and third (Fig. 309). Four coats are set each in their own quarter (Figs 2 and 291). If necessary a shield can be divided into even more 'quarters', six, nine or whatever number is required (Fig. 575). And each of the quarterings can itself be quartered (Fig. 271), and so on.



575. Arms of an Austrian prince,

the statesman Klemens von Metternich (1773-1859).




Another way of combining two coats of arms is to place one within the other as an inescutcheon. In Great Britain this is done according to strict rules, e.g. by a man whose wife personally bears a title of nobility (Fig. 240), or whose wife is an heraldic heiress (i.e. has no surving brothers or nephews to carry on her paternal arms). The children of such a marriage can quarter the arms of their father and mother (Fig. 234). On the Continent the inescutcheon is used almost exclusively in connection with quarterly coats and usually contains the person's or family's original or most important coat of arms (Figs 415, 580 and 609). Sometimes the inescutcheon contains a symbol of office (Fig. 288) or an augmentation (Fig. 282).


The chief too can be used in the combination of two coats of arms on one shield (Figs 244 and 718).


Archbishops, bishops and abbots can combine the arms of their see or monastery with their personal arms, either by placing them side by side (Figs 237 and 883) or by quartering (Figs 749 and 904). The arms, of office are placed in the first, or the first and fourth, quarters and the personal or family arms in the second (or second and third). A married man can combine his own arms with those of his wife or, in specific cases, with the arms of his office or an order of knighthood, but he. cannot do both at the same time.


A woman inherits her father's arms undifferenced. Some heraldists are of the opinion that women are not entitled to bear a helmet and crest, but this is a theory which is not everywhere accepted. In France, the Netherlands and Great Britain a woman's shield is often lozenge- shaped (pp. 44 and 53). This form of shield is known from the thirteenth century and was then used by men as well, but during the course of the sixteenth century it became the custom for women only to use it. But in Western Europe not all coats of arms for women took on this form, and in Germany and Scandinavia it never caught on. This is no doubt connected with the fact that the lozenge shape completely distorts the accepted heraldic proportions; certain devices, particularly when quartered, are almost impossible to reproduce in this form. The oval, which is also sometimes used for the arms of women (Fig. 247), is considerably better.


A husband's and wife's arms may be marshalled on one shield, as shown on pp. 42-3 (below). On the Continent the husband bears only his own personal coat of arms though the arms of man and wife can also be combined each in its own shield (see Figs 232 and 235). The husband's arms, which are placed on the dexter, are often de courtoisie turned towards the sinister to 'respect* the wife's.

In the heraldry of England and Scotland there are a number of rules for the combination of the arms of married couples, including those relating to their respective ranks. Some examples are given on pp. 43-4 (below), but the circumstances are so specific that we cannot go into details here.





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