Heraldry - Entitlement & Achievements

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Entitlement

Who can bear arms?

The use of armorial bearings is limited to gentry, nobility and royalty. Badges are a special case exception to this and are discussed more fully below.

Characters may be armigers (entitled to bear arms) by birth, or may have a grant of arms made to them for services or upon achieving a noble rank.

Arms by Birth

Any character with a beginning Social Status of Gentry, Lesser Nobility, or Greater Nobility is either entitled to a coat of arms, or may apply to register arms with the College. The Gentry background is less likely to automatically bring arms; this should be discussed with a GM. In either case a character with one of these backgrounds (and who is not completely cast out by their family) should be able to make a standard application for arms with the College, pay the registration fee, and have arms granted.

Matriculation

Younger children and their descendants, although not actually inheriting arms do inherit a right to apply for a Matriculation of their ancestral Arms with appropriate differences. The advantages of this are two-fold, firstly the fee for Matriculation is about half that of a new Grant, but more importantly the differences made to an ancestral coat in this manner are less than the differences required for coats borne by non-blood relatives -- that is, matriculated arms may more closely resemble existing arms in the family than those of a new grant can.

Bastardy

Children born on the "wrong side of the blankets" are something of a special case for heralds. Acknowledged bastards, while generally unable to inherit, are considered to have the social status of their armigerous parent and may matriculate arms normally. Unacknowledged bastards are a trickier situation. The child will have to be able to prove their parentage to matriculate at all, and even then the College requires a second difference in the arms (the second difference need not however by a full "clear difference" as required for new grants). At various periods the "bar sinister" (a sort of cadency mark for bastards) has been suggested by heralds, but seldom used.

Arms by Attainment

Adventurers acquire all sorts of things during their checquered careers, and this can sometimes include lands and titles... or at least titles. A reward that raises the character's social status to either Gentry or Nobility will bring with it the ability to have arms registered with the College (upon application and payment of the usual fees). The nature and scope of the grant will be commensurate with the social status gained. If the level is not obvious it may have to be discussed with the granting GM (e.g. the character is granted a Knight's Fee, but is not actually knighted; are they a knight or an "esquire"?).

Arms are Individual

With the exception of Badges, armorial bearings registerd by the College of Heralds are the property of a single individual, and are passed to that individual's heir upon their death.

Cadency

Children of an armiger may display the armiger's coat of arms differenced by certain symbols to show that they are not the armiger, and their use of the arms is a courtesy extended by the owner. These symbols are called "Cadency Marks". On the death of the armiger the heir inherits the arms and removes their cadency mark as they are now the owner of the arms. The siblings of the new armiger may continue to use their parent's arms, but these arms are not heritable -- the children of the younger siblings of an armiger will have to apply for Matriculation of arms, which will in effect create new arms that are often strongly based on those of their armigerous relative.

Arms are Unique

The College of Heralds attempts to ensure that arms are unique within their jurisdiction. Accidents have been known to happen and these can lead to prolonged wrangling between armigerous families. Arms are not necessarily unique between jurisdictions although the College does attempt to esure that the arms for prominent persons (nobility and royalty) are checked with the elven heralds in Alfheim in an attempt to avoid international issues.

Badges

Badges are an exception to the rule that armorial bearings are personal and unique. Badges are arms granted to a Guild, Corporation, religious order, or military unit and intended for use by all members of that organization (although the organization itself may limit which of its members may use the badge.

Limitations

Badges may not normally be displayed on a shield shape, and are most commonly should on a roundel (although they may be shown on a lozenge, square or rectangle). They are usually limited in size to no more than six inches. The general theme of the limitations is to prevent them being passed off as personal heraldry.

Guilds

Guilds often restrict the use of their badge to registered Masters of the Guild, who may use the badge to mark their premises (showing their affiliation and rank) and also to mark work from their shops. In this case journeymen or even apprentices may be putting the badge on work that they have personally created, but it is assumed that they are doing so under the watchful eye of the Master (whose reputation will be affected if the work is sub-standard). Guilds will also carefully police the use of their badge to ensure that non-members are not attemtping to pass off their work.

Military Units

The one time that they may be shown shield shaped is when used by a military unit and painted on actual shields -- it is expected that in this case there will be a number of these appearing and their use as a badge, rather than a personal design, will be obvious. Military units may also display their badges on banners or flags used to mark the units position in battle or in a camp.

Personal Badges and Livery

Armigers may choose to use their arms as badges. Such badges do not need separate registration but obey the limitations on badges above (for example, when displayed on goods as a badge the arms will not be displayed in a shield shape). Conversely, the armiger may choose to use a charge from their arms as an unofficial badge. When used this way the chage must be used fieldless, that is, without a background. Fieldless charges are not registerable.

Livery Colours

Armigers may choose to wear colours derived from their arms, or to outfit retainers in such colours. The College provides for "livery colours" that may be used without separate registration. Livery colours are defined as: "two or fewer tinctures from the armiger's achievement, displayed without charges and divided into two or fewer divisions by a line of partition".

A simple example of this would be an armiger who bore: "Azure, a lion Or", might choose to outfit their retainers in clothes divided "per pale" (split down the middle) in blue and gold. The retainers could not display the lion as livery (it being a charge) and nor could their garments be divided quarterly (more than two divisions).

National Badges

A sovereign ruler may make a badge available to the people of the kingdom, duchy, etc, as a way of showing national identity. The same or another badge may also be made available as a flag which can be used by military units of that nation, and flown from ships owned there.

Grants of Arms

How to get arms

When a persons of appropriate social rank who is not directly inheriting arms wishes to gain armorial bearings they may make application to the College of Heralds and petition the King of Arms to grant them an achievement. Assuming that the petitioner is eligible for a grant of arms, that there are no outstanding disputes and all applicable monies are paid (see the table of fees for armorial services) then the grant will be aproved.

The College of Hearlds then designs a coat of arms, the arms are entered into the College's heraldic archives, and an illuminated patent of the arms is delivered to the new armiger. While in theory the heralds are free to design any arms they wish, in reality they will take considerable direction from the petitioner as to the form of the arms; the process being a conversation between the two, and the herald only making such changes as are needed to ensure that the arms are unique, and do not violate the rules of registration.

The process of designing and granting arms for an esquire or knight should take no more than a year, but the time taken for peerage grants tends to be longer to allow as thorough as possible conflict checking, research and consideration.

What cannot be registered?

There are a number of restrictions on registration of arms. Full details can be discussed with the College, but as a summary:

Offensive
The College does not legislate taste, but there are certain charges that cannot be registered as they are likely to be seen as offensive by a significant number of viewers.
Conflicting
Arms are unique and must be identifiably different from existing registered arms. In general two clear points of difference are required between any new grant of arms and any existing arms.
Assumed Association
Arms closey derived from extant coats may only be granted via matriculation to members of the family with documented and verifiable family association. Granting these arms to a non-relative would give viewers the incorrect impression that the bearer was a member of that family. Matriculated arms needs only have a single clear point of difference from the ancestral arms.
Pretentious
Certain charges or arrangements of charges may give a viewer the impression that the armiger possesses honours that they do not in fact hold. Some charges can only be registered for persons holding certain ranks or honours. For example, a Bishop's mitre will not be granted in a new registration for someone who is not a Bishop (although the descendants of a Bishop could matriculate a coat incorporating mitres).
Livery Colours
In order that armigers may freely use livery colours the College will not register chargeless fields of two of fewer divisions and tinctures. This means for example that "Sable" cannot be registered, nor can "Per pale gules and azure". Conversely "Quarterly gules and azure" could be registered -- there are more than two divisions, as could "Sable, a bend Or", as even this simple Ordinaire means the arms are not chargeless.
GM Note
Certains charges that would not have raised an eyebrow in medieval europe can be considered offensive in the modern viewer. The most common of these is the flyflot, a good medieval charge, better known in modern times as the swastika.

Using Unregistered Arms

The display of unregistered arms and claiming arms that are not ones own is an offence which the Nobility take seriously in most areas. If characters display arms to which they are not entitled they may find themselves in court and quite severely punished, with substantial fines and even imprisonment not unknown.

GM Note
This is not intended in anyway to discourage characters from having or displaying heraldry, but to provide a framework and social setting for those who wish to either register arms, or for that matter knowingly and deliberately use arms to which they are not entitled.

Achievements

Full achievement of arms of a knight granted supporters

All grants of arms will include the shield (or badge) and may or may not include other parts:

  • The grant of arms for an Esquire or Gentleman might only include the shield, but will often include a helm, mantling and wreath. Crests are rarely granted. Mottoes may sometimes be added.
  • The grant of arms for a Knight or Baronet will generally include helm, mantling, wreath, crest and motto.
  • Crowns, coronets, and supporters (on a mount) will generally only appear in the grants to Barons and nobles of higher rank.

Helm

Most achievements include a helm, though this need not be displayed unless the Crest is to be shown. Over the years there have been many decisions made as to the style of helm that is allowed or appropriate for different noble ranks, and these decisions have changed over time leading to some older coats displaying helms that are now below or above their station. The current (somewhat confusing) rules on helms can be summarized as:

  • Sovereign - A rounded gold helm with golden grilles
  • Dukes, Marquises, Counts - A rounded silver helm garnished with gold and with gold grilles
    • usually five, though some heralds favour a differing number of grilles, claiming the number is tied to rank
  • Barons - A steel jousting helm garnished in gold
    • sometimes a a rounded steel helm with one or three grilles
  • Knights & Baronets - A steel helm garnished in gold with an open visor, or a steel pot helm garnished in gold.
    • occasionally a jousting helm may be used
  • Esquires & Gentleman - An ungarnished steel pot helm or helm with closed visor

Elven heraldry also makes use of helms, but there is a tendency to "go downmarket" in their use so people should not be surprised to see the arms of an Elven Duke with a simple form of helm such as a pot helm.

Bishops of the Western Church may display a Mitre above their shield in place of a helm, but need not do so. Generally martial bishops will retain the helm, while less war-like ones will use the Mitre.

Mantling

This evolved from a simple cloth worn over the head to keep cool and is now a very decorative part of the achievement, and used to fill space in a decorative fashion. The Western Sovereign, and Peers and Great Officers of State in the Western Kingdom may use crimson lined with ermine.

For all others the tinctures of the mantling are not usually described in the blazon, and the emblazon uses the principal livery colors, (usually one light and one dark). Where there are more than two equally valid tinctures to choose from the grant may specify which of the tinctures are to be used.

Wreath

The torse or wreath may be considered part of the mantling and is displayed in the same tinctures.

Crest

This developed from a 3 dimensional object set on the helm to help identify the knight in tournaments, and are very seldom worn in actual warfare. There are no specific rules about crests, except that they should be wearable were a model of them made and fixed to a helm. They may face left, right or ahead (affronte) as desired and will usually be positioned to complement the charges on the shield. There is no prohibition against two armigers having identical crests.

Motto

The motto is often a battle cry or some pithy comment on the armiger's beliefs or approach to life. Mottoes may be registered and changed separately from the rest of the achievement. Mottoes need not be unique, but the College will generally steer armigers away from well known existing mottoes.

Crowns and Coronets

Crowns are reserved for royalty, coronets for Peers. Both are usually displayed on top of the helm (often hiding the wreath) and with the crest issuing from them. There are specific types of crown or coronets for specific ranks (although due to changes in the rules and regulations over time there are a number of exceptions and counter examples.

  • Sovereign - the crown of the Western Kingdom (or whichever crown is being used as that crown at the moment).
  • Dukes - a coronet of acanthus leaves.
  • Marquises - a coronet of alternating acanthus leaves and groups of three pearls in trefoil
    • or sometimes two pearls side by side
  • Counts - a coronet of pearls
  • Viscounts - 4 large pearls (3 visible) alternating with smaller pearls
  • Barons - a circle of gold wreathed with a string of small pearls

Supporters

These are a high honour and are not always granted to nobles below the rank of Count, although some ancient titles of lower rank have hereditary supporters. Animals, People, and Monsters can all be used as supporters, usually in pairs, though the pair may be dissimilar.

Mount or Compartment

These are generally only granted and used if there are supporters. The mount is usually shown as a grassy mound, rocks, the ocean, etc. as appropriate. Sometimes more elaborate designs are used that may relate to a family’s history; these will be described in the blazon.