Shields or Escutcheons

Shields, or escutcheons, and how they’re used in heraldry is a vast topic. This will only touch the surface.

An escutcheon is the central part of the coat of arms. Sometimes people call it a crest, but the crest in heraldry is the symbol above the helmet. Various shields have also become heraldic symbols.

The term ‘escutcheon’ represents a family and its honor. A family member who has done something to bring shame on the family is often called a blot on the escutcheon.

The outline shape is rarely of any significance, but there are several styles of outline

Escutcheon Outline Shapes

Image courtesy Wikipedia

1. Old French
2. Modern French
3. Oval or Cartouche ~ non-combatant clergy
4. Lozenge ~ usually for women who didn’t go to war or non-combatant clergy
5. Square
6. Italian
7. Swiss
8. English
9. German
10. Polish
11. Spanish

A escutcheon can also be a boucle design.

Image courtesy Charles Boutell

The surface is called the field. The divisions refer to the pattern on the field. Some Divisions and Ordinaries share the same shape and name.

Shapes Found on Escutcheons & Their Meanings

Name Description Symbolic Meaning
Benda column from top corner to opposite bottom cornera knight’s scarf, defense
Bordurea border around the edge, wood used on bridgeshonor, used to differentiate between family members
Cantona small square in an upper cornera flag added to the arms, may contain a charge granted by a Sovereign
Chevronlike the roof of a house, an inverted “V” shapeprotection, faithful service
Chief a bar across the top Dominion, authority, wisdom, achievement in battle
Crosstop to bottom and left to rightChristian or Crusader
Fessa center column, left to right, like a military belthonor
Palea center column top to bottommilitary strength
Pilea “V” shape on the front, wood used on bridgesconstruction, building
Saltirean “X” shaped cross going corner to cornerSt. Andrew’s Cross, resolution

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