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  1. #1
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    Heraldry Question

    A recent thread has me interested in the vocabulary of heraldry and arms, especially for an American. Let me preface this by stating that I am and always been a bit of a symbology 'geek' and enjoy codes and symbols as a way of communicating ideas, which explains an interesting military career on my part...

    I'm intrigued by the idea of using the process, protocols and vocabulary of heraldic symbols to communicate ideas relative to family history and/or to communicate the 'stoy' behind the bearer. I'm not on some hunt here to claim I am the rightful heir of some long lost arminger. This is an intellectual and artistic endeavor for me.

    This being said, I completely understand the idea of Americans not using crowns, and supporters in construction of heraldic devices, but what is said regarding the use of a compartment or mount?

    Please offer any thoughts you have. Links to further research would be very much enjoyed. I'm a complete ludite with a piqued curiosity.
    [I][B]Ad fontes[/B][/I]

  2. #2
    macwilkin is offline
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    John Duncan of Sketraw's arms is a good example:

    http://www.clan-duncan.co.uk/duncan-arms.html

    Yours aye,

    Todd

  3. #3
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    Other than for purely artistic considerations there is no reason why an achievement of arms could not be displayed as resting on a mound or compartment.

    While there are numerous books on heraldry, here are two that might be worth a look:

    Heraldic Design by Heather Childs and Simple Heraldry by Moncreiff and Pottinger

  4. #4
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    Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, in his great work Scots Heraldry, wrote the following:

    The Compartment
    In Scotland, supporters are always depicted on a suitable mount, rocks or maybe seashore, but occasionally the grant lays down some special feature; thus the Earl of Perth's supporters are set on "a compartment strewn with caltraps", and those of Dundas of that Ilk set on "a salamander in flames of fire". Nisbet restricts compartments to the Baronage, but they are occasionally granted as a distinction or for special services. They represent the bearer's territories, and are thus feudal honours, now only assigned to historic territorial houses, and in the case of clan-chiefs, now usually incorporate the plant-badge.

  5. #5
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    A Mini-Treatise on Supporters

    Quote Originally Posted by JSFMACLJR View Post
    Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, in his great work Scots Heraldry, wrote the following:

    The Compartment
    In Scotland, supporters are always depicted on a suitable mount, rocks or maybe seashore, but occasionally the grant lays down some special feature; thus the Earl of Perth's supporters are set on "a compartment strewn with caltraps", and those of Dundas of that Ilk set on "a salamander in flames of fire". Nisbet restricts compartments to the Baronage, but they are occasionally granted as a distinction or for special services. They represent the bearer's territories, and are thus feudal honours, now only assigned to historic territorial houses, and in the case of clan-chiefs, now usually incorporate the plant-badge.
    ...which is true, but only applies to Scotland. The concept of specific limitations for the external ornamentation of arms is not a concept universally followed in heraldry. Indeed, on the Continent, supporters are often adopted and discarded very much by whim. Likewise, when used by the titled aristocracy, supporters may, or may not, be set upon mounds, compartments, or fanciful curly lines that some heraldic writers have likened to 19th century gas brackets!

    One of the difficulties facing the armorial artist is the lack of a universal definition of what exactly constitutes a supporter. Stephen Friar, in his book A New Dictionary of Heraldry describes supporters as

    "Figures, usually beasts, chimerical creatures or of human form, placed on either side of the shield in a coat of arms to 'support' it."

    This is good, as far as it goes, although it is very much a British concept. On the Continent one frequently encounters single supporters (such as the Bald Eagle upon which is depicted the shield bearing the arms of the United States of America). Generally most heralds are in agreement that to be a supporter the figure depicted must be capable of movement, rather than be somehow "rooted to the spot". This convention traces back to the idea that supporters are the representation of servants who were dressed as mythical beasts and who carried their master's shield before him in processions and at tournaments. Since there is scant evidence to suggest the use of supporters before the 14th century-- when tournaments began to become more about pageantry and less about practicing for war-- it is easy to see how this may have led to the adoption of "supporters" by those of tournament rank (ie: knights).

    So, could trees, towers, bridges, traffic signs, etc. be used as, or construed to be, supporters? Well yes... and no. No, because they are incapable of moving in procession. Yes, because they could give the casual observer the impression that they were supporters in the sense that they have been defined in Mr. Friar's book. The upshot of all of this is simply that when composing an "armorial doodle" neither supporters or compartments are off limits. Good design is all about the balance of space and negative space, and if the design lends itself to "exterior ornamentation" (which is what supporters and compartments technically are) then the artist is free to make what use of them he will.

    External ornaments only become important when they are applied to a shield of arms with respect to the custom and "the law of arms" of a specific heraldic jurisdiction. Does that mean they should be adopted willy-nilly by all and sundry who wish to assume arms by their own hand? Only if they wish to be perceived by the vast majority of people (who think they know all about heraldry) as having ursurped something to which they have no entitlement.

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