Armory refers to "that aspectof a herald's work which is concerned
with the marshalling and regulation of coats of arms and other hereditary
devices and insignia according to established conventions, practices,
and precedents" (Stephen Friar). As such, it may be subdivided
into three important aspects:
||theoretical armory which deals with the laws and rules underlying
the design of a coat of arms, the right to bear of coat of arms, the
history of armory and, finally, the knowledge about the individual
devices which, at an earlier age, was identical with the knowledge
||the practical art of armory which deals with the creation
and the design of a coat of arms, its outline or sketch, and the correct
armorial representation of all parts and components of a coat of arms,
according to established conventions and precedents;
||and, finally, the legal aspects of armory which comprise the
various rights to coats of arms and their use, including the right
to use a seal, the control of the uniqueness of individual devices,
distinctive features, and the titles to given coats of arms.
Historical development of the coat of
their origin to the present day, the history of the coat of
arms, of armory and of its respective regulations can be divided
into three major periods:
||the armory of the shield (the Origins);
||the so-called 'living' armory (the Age of Chivalry);
||and the so-called 'dead' armory (the Heraldry of Decadence).
In the course of the 12th century, the shield - which had hitherto
been made of more or less valuable material - came to be used
for the display of devices and insignia identifying its bearer;
however, such individual marks of distinction were not yet hereditary.
From a military point of view, insignia on the shield were a
bare necessity, because clearly identifiable signs of an individual
helped to make him known on the battle-field, to friend and
foe alike. The use of such identifying devices was however still
restricted to the shield proper; the heavy and simple battle
helmet was not yet supplied with a crest and mantling which
were later considered to be necessary components in a full achievement
of arms. The repetition of tinctures (colours) of the shield
on the helmet can therefore only be regarded as an additional
indication of identity.
A renewed influence of the techniques of war and weapons on the development
of armory is in evidence towards the end of the 13th century, that
is in a period when serious battles and battle games were scarcely
distinguishable. These new developments mark the end of the period
of the 'armory of the shield'.
From then on, the coat of arms increasingly gained significance. Originally,
a knight may have changed his shield figure several times; it now
became a permanent mark of its bearer. From 1200 onwards, it gradually
became hereditary, and its function changed from being a mark of personal
identity, to becoming the armorial sign of a family; the crest replaced
the shield figure as a new and personal mark of the individual knight.
These changes signal a new period in the development of armory as
an art of its own. The crest will identify the participants of a tournament
in the display of helmets which precedes it; at the same time, it
serves as evidence of the participant's eligibility.
From then on, the shield, the helmet, the mantling, and the crest
become the essential components of a full armorial achievement. The
shield which in former times had mainly served as a protective device,
acquired an additional value as part of an overall heraldic design.
It is at this point in the development that the period of the so-called
'living' armory begins: the heyday of the coat of arms will continue
throughout the middle ages, to the beginning of the 16th century.
During this period, the bearer of a coat of arms did use their arms
in combat and tournaments; in this period, armory came to be considered
an essential element of the military class, of standards of military
conduct and of the notions of chivalry and chivalric ideals. As part
of seals, coats of arms also gained legal significance.
age of the so-called 'dead' armory begins with the invention of
firearms. Their introduction led to far-reaching changes in the
technique of fighting and the technology of armor; sense and purpose
of the chivalric weapons of defence were lost. Eventually tournaments
also met their end; thus, the practical use of shields and helmets
displaying a coat of arms became extinct. From then on, armory could
only hold its own in the use of seals and as a decorative element;
it could only stand its ground until arbitrariness and ignorance
finally led to decadence and decay; in the end, coats of arms and
armory were fossilized into rigid chancery conventions which had
lost their original meanings and their original social functions.
Due to their expert knowledge of armory and persons, heralds were
particularly suited as servants of kings and magnates; heralds were
also responsible for arranging and supervising tournaments. They
wore a surcoat (known as "Tappert" in German) which was
adorned with the coat of arms of their lords - the heraldic badge
and liveries of the English tradition. It was their duty and right
to organize the display of helmets which preceded the tournaments;
it was their task to check the coat of arms of the participants
thoroughly for their correctness; it was their duty to insist on
a strict observation of the regulations for the application of tinctures,
to reject coats of arms to which there was no right, to decide on
the eligibility of participants and, finally, to draw up reports
of the tournaments. In the heyday of armory, from the 13th to the
beginning of the 16th centuries, the management of ceremonial, the
ordering and recording of armorial devices used on seals, at tournaments
and in warfare lay all in the hands of the heralds; they devised
the conventions and terminology of armory, and they greatly contributed
to its systematic development.
Once we pass the beginning of the 16th century, the duties and rights
of the individual heralds were increasingly transferred to heraldic
institutions so that the heralds gradually lost their significance
and disappeared in the end.
(We would like to take this opportunity to express our thanks
to Professor Wilhelm Busse of the Chair of Medieval English Literature
and Historical Linguistics at the University of Düsseldorf
in Germany for his kind support in translating this text and possible