Armorial Bearings granted to Robert Lord alias Laward of London in 1510; College of Arms MS L10 folio 105b; copyright of the College of Arms, London. Used by permission.


In literature, the achievement is usually described merely as "arms" or "arms" and "crest," using a form of shorthand and terminology that is perhaps unfamiliar to the reader. It may be worth noting here, therefore, the basic terminology for decoration which we will encounter in this study.

Colors of the field.

Only five colors are used in Heraldry, of which the Lord arms employs but three:

  • "gules" or "gu" (Red)
  • "azure"or "az" (Blue)
  • "sable" or "sa" (Black)

Only two metals are used in heraldry, both used in the Lord arms:

  • "or" (Gold)
  • "argent" or "arg" (Silver)

The "charge" is anything placed on the background, or "field," of the shield, and the color "of the field" is often used to identify the color of one of the charges. It should be noted that in the language of heraldry, the adjective always follows the object it modifies. So you have to look to the end of the phrase to determine the color of the components listed in the description. Any object described as "proper" retains its natural color.

The family arms could be passed unmodified to the eldest son, although during the patriarch's lifetime, a mark or "label" had to be carried on the son's arms to distinguish them from the father's. With the eldest son of each generation carrying the family arms forward, such could pass on unchanged for generations, representing the main lineage of the name.

Younger sons, however, had to permanently alter the arms of their father in some way to distinguish them from that original family line. Obviously the minor elements of the assemblage would tend to be altered first, such as the crest and decoration in the fesse, while the most basic design of the arms would be kept intact. [We will return to this point later in the discussion, after we have surveyed the multiple "Lord" arms.]

In England, a man of the same surname - in this case "Lord" - is not automatically entitled to use another man's arms. If he can prove blood relationship, he may use a modified, or "differenced," version of these arms. Otherwise he can use no form of them at all. Unrelated families who had the same surnames were normally given totally dissimilar arms. For this reason, we have an advantage in associating a particular coat of arms with a particular branch of a family.

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