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Additional Resources:
The Heraldic History

The Heraldic Language






The colorful medieval tournaments, which were held both for entertainment and to give practice in the use of the lance, provided a great stimulus to the development of heraldry. A Marshal and Constable supervised the armorial decorations at these tournaments and in this we find the origins of the College of Arms. This also resulted in heraldry becoming an organized and scientific art. The decline in jousting in the 16th century and changes in methods of warfare did not however, lead to a decline in the importance of heraldry. Arms were displayed on seats and this was useful because many of the nobility were illiterate.

Arms in stone and on stained glass silver and elsewhere have provided countless clues for historians in dating and identifying buildings and objects. As heraldry flourished and became regulated it was necessary to have a language whereby a herald could accurately describe arms, and his descriptions should be understood by other heralds. The language used was Norman French.

Heraldry, therefore, is first of all a system of personal devices (i.e. symbols on the shield) appertaining to an individual and continuing, with certain restrictions, for his descendants. It is therefore a hereditary distinction. It is also an art.



The Heraldic History
The Heraldic Language