The term ‘Coats of Arms’ evolved from the practice of identifying knights, clothed head to foot in armour, on the battlefield. Patterns which were painted on battle shields were gradually replaced by the master’s Coat of Arms woven into cloth surcoats which were then worn over the suit of armour, and sometimes also decorated the horse. Records, called ‘armorials’ or ‘blazons’, were kept of the Coats of Arms and ‘heraldry’ relates to the role of the ‘herald’ in recording the blazons and announcing each knight at a jousting Tournament by sounding the trumpet, announcing the knight’s achievements and describing his Arms.

A symbol, or charge, placed on a Coat of Arms usually provided clues to a person’s background or history. The chevron (used in the Blacket Coat of Arms) symbolised protection and signified that the bearer had achieved some notable feat; hope was shown by a wheat garb or sheaf; joy by garlands of flowers or a red rose; crosses and religious symbols represented a closeness to God or symbolised the fact that the bearer was a veteran of The Crusades.

The first Arms consisted only of the shield, immediately above which was the helmet, on which was mounted the wreath, or torce. The crest was included in the Coat of Arms in the 13th century. The crest, painted on leather, metal or wood, was attached to the helmet and was the emblem that survived when the banner was destroyed and the shield shattered. The lambrequin or mantling cloth hung from the back of the helmet to signify the bearer had been to battle. In some cases the Coat of Arms was also used to pass a family motto down through the generations.

By 1419 court battles were increasing in number and Henry V of England imposed legal regulations over the use of Coats of Arms, forbidding anyone to take on Arms unless by right of ancestry or as a gift from the Crown. Later Henry VII sent heralds into the shires on ‘visitations’, held once every generation for almost two centuries to officially verify, list or deny Arms in use.

Under heraldic rules, only the first sons of recipients are permitted to bear their ancestor’s Arms. Younger sons may use a version but it must be different in some detail. If the bearer (‘Armiger’) dies without male heirs his daughter may combine her father’s Arms with that of her husband, called ‘impaling’.

[source: ? "Whitaker’s Peerage for the year of 1905, A Directory of Titled Persons", London, J Whitaker & Sons Ltd]

Next snippet: