Brainstorming Armorial Designs From Period Sources

Sometimes submitters know that they want a device that looks authentically like the period arms of a particular time and place, but aren’t sure where to start.

My general advice for this situation is to spend an hour flipping through a couple of armorials from that culture to get a feel for the range of arms typical in that environment.

You can find armorials on this site, grouped by region and sorted by century:
https://caerlaverockroll.com/period-armorials-online/

Pick a few sources from your region and jump in, flipping through pages and getting a high-level impression of the arms that you see. Look at a few dozen pages of one source, and then bail out and choose another to flip through to see what’s similar and what’s different.

As you page through, take screenshots of your favorite elements — charges, arrangements, color schemes, etc.

After you’ve collected a dozen or so items that appeal to you, you can combine and remix them to produce something that’s uniquely yours.

Resist the temptation to shoehorn everything in, creating a monster with a dozen types of charge and all of the possible tinctures — your new design should have a complexity that’s comparable to the examples you are working from.

The result of this process is likely to be something that looks historically plausible, reflects the aesthetics of your chosen culture, and that meets the Society’s requirements for submissions, or is at least close enough that it serves as a good starting point.

However, while browsing period armorials for inspiration, there are a couple of caveats to be aware of:

  • Firstly, many armorials start with a pages of notable figures, which can include royalty of other kingdoms, or attributed arms of historical/mythical figures; you can usually just skip past the first quarter or so of the armorial to reach arms that are more representative of the populace at large.
  • Secondly, you’ll often find marshaled arms (especially in those opening sections of royalty) in which two or more arms are combined into quarters; when viewing those, treat each quarter as an independent device.

 

The Refrigerator Test

At the conclusion of an armorial design process, whether self-guided or in consultation with a herald, when you’ve found a device that appears to follow all of the rules and is free of conflicts, there can be an urge to rush it off to your kingdom’s submissions herald ASAP — after all, it’s perfect — and registration takes so long, you better get started now — and worst of all, what if someone else registers it first?

At this point, savvy practitioners will urge you to pause for a moment and catch your breath.

Continue reading “The Refrigerator Test”

Armory Submissions from Virtual Heralds Point

During the month of February, the College of Arms organized a online Virtual Heralds Point during which people could sign up for consultation with heralds who would guide them through the submission process for names and armory.

Below is a collage of armory I worked on as part of this event. (The rowan berries in the bottom left are a badge I did for myself during VHP but submitted directly.) Continue reading “Armory Submissions from Virtual Heralds Point”

Name and Device for Engel der Pfau

Engel der Pfau is a skilled fencer with a flamboyant Landsknecht persona who recently became the rapier champion of our local group.

He decided it was time to register a device, and asked for “an angry, fighting, pissed off peacock, his tail plumes out” on a red and black field. Continue reading “Name and Device for Engel der Pfau”

Name and Device for Hrotger the Tervingi

Hrotger had been using his name for many years without registering it, but was inspired to do so when he encountered my post of simple field-only armory.

In comparison to the simplicity of his chosen armory, researching his chosen name was significantly more difficult, because documentary sources for Germanic peoples in the period immediately following the collapse of the Roman Empire are somewhat limited, and it is not a culture with which I have much familiarity — an interesting challenge, and a good learning opportunity. Continue reading “Name and Device for Hrotger the Tervingi”

Name and Device for Arthur von Eschenbach

Arthur had already selected a name and armory in consultation with another herald, Francesco Gaetano Grèco d’Edessa, so preparing his submission forms was a simple matter of illustration and onomastic research.


Per fess argent and sable, a cross gules and in chief two fleurs de lys sable.


Arthur” is an English masculine given name. It is attested to the sixteenth century, appearing in “The Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources” (S.L. Uckelman, ed. 2018).

English given names may be borrowed into sixteenth-century German names under the terms of the February 2015 cover letter. Continue reading “Name and Device for Arthur von Eschenbach”

Name and Device for Bahja al-Azraq

Bahja had a name picked out and a lovely first draft of his device designed, but it needed a bit of adjustment to be registrable by the College of Arms.


Or, on a saltire between four rings purpure gemmed gules a pomegranate slipped and leaved Or seeded gules.

Although the original arrangement Bahja had sketched was problematic, we were able to retain all of the charges and the overall color scheme, while shifting them into a new layout which was free of conflicts.


Bahja is a Arabic masculine ism (given name) and al-Azraq is an Arabic masculine laqab (descriptive byname).

Both are found in “Arabic Names from al-Andalus” (Juliana de Luna, 2008).

Name and Device for Anne of Østgarðr

Anne is an active fencer in the Province, who wanted to register armory that was personally meaningful, and had already identified a silver tree as the primary charge.


Per fess sable and vert, a tree and in chief a comet bendwise argent.

The illustration of the tree comes from the Pictorial Dictionary of Heraldry, affectionately known as the PicDic, while the comet comes from the Viking Answer Lady’s SVG Images For Heralds collection.


Anne is a female given name in multiple parts of medieval Europe. It is found in the Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources at http://dmnes.org/name/Anne as attested to 1485 in Early Modern English, citing Wills and Inventories Illustrative of the History, Manners, Language, Statistics, &c. of the Northern Counties of England, from the Eleventh Century Downwards, volume I of Publications of the Surtees Society. London: J. B. Nicholas and Son, 1835.

Østgarðr is the name of the Crown Province of the East Kingdom, and the byname “of Østgarðr” follows the Branch Name Allowance of SENA PN.1.B.2.f.

Name and Device for Catelin Straquhin

Catelin wanted a name and device that reflected her family’s Scottish heritage, and had already picked a basic direction, so it didn’t take much additional effort to help her select something that was both unique and registrable.


Azure, a stag courant to dexter base between two roses argent.

Catelin had been interested in a “bucking” stag, but as that isn’t a recognized heraldic posture, we went looking for alternatives which would produce a similar visual effect.

While “courant to dexter base” is an unusual arrangement, it has been registered twice, most recently in January 2016.

The white rose was a badge of the House of York.

The illustrations for both charges are taken from Fox-Davies’ 1909 book A Complete Guide to Heraldry.


Catelin is a female given name found in the British Isles.

Straquhin is a late-period byname from the Scottish Lowlands.

SENA Appendix C indicates that after 1100, English and Scottish name elements may be combined.