Medieval Coat of Arms – Telling One’s Tale in Brief

It’s hard to stand out from the knight next door when everyone’s wearing armor and helms. What’s a knight to do? Create a medieval coat of arms of course!

Perhaps nothing helped a knight stand out more on the field of battle than a medieval coat of arms. And what started out as a way for people to identify a soldier, quickly evolved into a means of defining an entire family. The medieval coat of arms was initially used as a standard to help one man stand out from another. The use of the medieval coat of arms was effective since it was easy and fast to recognize and it helped avoid the need for the person doing the identifying to be literate.

Once a medieval coat of arms was adopted by a knight, or passed down in a family, it was placed on battle standards, clothing and even shields to readily identify a knight’s heritage. By using medieval coats of arms, those in combat could tell who was riding at them and perhaps even glean a bit of information about the person’s importance in society.

The medieval coat of arms used hundreds of color combinations and different shapes to tell the story of the knight or family behind the coat. Their use became quite popular in the 13th century when advances in armor such as face helms made it very difficult to tell who was who in battle. The medieval coat of arms placed on a flag or shield took the guesswork away in an instant.

In a sense, the medieval coat of arms was like a military uniform in that it enabled friend and foe alike to ascertain what side a combatant likely hailed from. Unlike the military uniforms of today, however, medieval coats of arms were very personal. They often spoke to the values and even the deeds of their owners or their ancestors. In addition to colors, the medieval coat of arms was known to carry very complex drawings of animals, shapes or symbols.

The significance behind the colors within a medieval coat of arms is great. Yellow or gold in a medieval coat of arms stood for generosity; purple designated royalty. In the use of animals in medieval coats of arms, a dog was loyalty while a lion stood for ferocity and bravery in battle.

While it’s true medieval coat of arms were often passed down through the generations, they tended to go from father to first born son. Other sons in the line of succession adopted a similar medieval coat of arms, but would add their own distinct touch, thus, telling their own tale.

Medieval coat of arms are still used today and it’s become quite a popular pastime to try and find a coat of arms to match family names. In addition, the medieval coat of arms is also used in contemporary times to serve as decoration, rather than identification.