Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Coat of Arms Etiquette

It all started with knights wearing special colors and insignia into battle and in tournaments so that they would be recognized and would get full credit for their heroic deeds. These devices were called coats of arms because they were embroidered on sleeveless jackets worn over their armor. Heralds organized the tournaments and kept records of the various colors and insignia of the participants—thus the term heraldry. Direct male descendants who bear the family name inherit the family coat of arms. In the case of no sons, daughters inherit the coat of arms and become heiresses or coheiresses with their sisters until they marry. When a woman whose family has inherited a coat of arms marries a man who has none, she does not use her coat of arms after her marriage.
By the fifteenth century, so many social climbers had assumed a coat of arms for their families—even though many of them were not entitled—that the College of Arms was legally chartered in 1484 to regulate heraldry, and it continues to do so today. In America the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston will rule on a family’s claim to “bear arms.” However, the society does not grant the right to bear arms. You inherit your coat of arms on an individual basis. You can’t buy it, no matter how pretty it is.
Following are several uses of the crest and the coat of arms. The crest is a part of the full coat of arms.
  • The crest can be engraved or embossed on invitations and announcements if the father’s family has the coat of arms and if his name appears on the invitation. ➤ The crest can be embossed or engraved on place cards and menu cards for a formal dinner.
  • The full coat of arms or just the crest and motto can be engraved on large pieces of silver and embossed or engraved on stationery.
  • The coat of arms can be painted (blazoned) and framed and hung on the wall for decoration.
  • A woman may use her father’s or husband’s coat of arms in a diamond-shaped lozenge, the feminine version of the shield. She may use a crest on personal possessions, such as writing paper, linens, and dressing-table accessories.
Again, when a woman whose family has a coat of arms marries a man who has none, she does not use the coat of arms after her marriage. As you consider which style, color, and types of stationery to invest in, remember the factors that transcend these details. The stationery you choose is part of the message you will be sending and should reflect your personality.

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