In the early part of heraldry only a small percentage of individuals
possessed arms. All that was needed to give each man
an undupicated shield of the coat of arms was to choose from the few
basic fields and ordinaries then in existence. The
ordinaries are of a rectilinear nature, such as a vertical or a
horizontal bar, a chevron, a cross, triangle shapes, in a very
These were later supplemented as needed
by a limited group of common charges, such as, the lion, eagle, molet,
boar's head, cinguefoil, and fleur-de-lis. The common charges
later grew to unlimited in number and were subdivided for
purposes of better examination.
1. Divine and Human Beings.
2. Living Animals.
3. Imaginary Animals.
4. Natural Objects.
5. Inanimate Objects.
Varying the tinctures would provide
further distinction where necessary between similar in arms. The
supply of possible
combinations that could be supplied from these forms and tinctures were
being exhausted by the increasing use of arms. The
effect being the inevitable appearance of many accidental
similarities. The needs of heraldry were being further
many men-at-arms to identify with their feudal lords by adopting arms
resembling those of their leaders. Some men who were
leaders displayed their alliance with another leader by incorporating
the latter's arms into their own. It soon became necessary to
establish a system of distinguishing between similar arms, known as
differencing. This was accomplished in several ways. If
a feudal lord was known by a particular common charge, such as a 'garb
of wheat', this common charge was added to the
individual bearings of his allies. If the feudal leader was
distinguished by the ordinary that he bore, which
were of a rectilinear
design, his allies could adopt them in one of three ways:
1. assume the entire form of
the bearing but reverse the tincture of the field
2. adopt the ordinary
but apply a new secondary charge
3. modify the ordinary
by adding cotises
to it or reduce the ordinary
itself to a diminutive of its orginal form.
Bear in mind this type of differencing deals with similar arms borne by
individuals unrelated or not of the same blood.
There is another type of
differencing for distinguishing each member of the same family and also
all of its braches. This
is called differencing
The several marks of cadency were
assigned to specific grades or seniority in the family line of
inheritance or succession,
and were given definite points of placement on the shield, so that such
a mark in such a position could mean only one thing.
The label became an
exclusive mark of the eldest son, and among royalty it is the only
cadency mark used in their arms.
- the eldest son (during father's lifetime)- is removed upon the
death of his father.
(with the horns pointed up)- the second son
- the third son
- the fourth son
- the fifth son
- the sixth son
- the seventh son
MOLINE - the eight son
(DOUBLE QUARTREFOIL) - the ninth son
The next generation arms can be
differenced by using the crescent or second symbol on which to affix
the original cadency symbols.
So that the eldest son in the next generation or next family in line of
inheritance would show a label on crescent, the next oldest son would
display a crescent on a crescent, and the third oldest a molet on a
In quartering it is possible to
display 2 sets of arms. The more important one is placed in the
first quarter(upper left) and the fourth
quarter(lower right). When more than 2 coats of arms are to be
displayed, the most important one occupies the first and fourth quarters
while the other 2 coats are placed in the second(upper right) and
third(lower left) quarters according to their remaining order of
Sources: Heraldry and Armor of the Middle Ages
by Marvin H. Pakula
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