Heraldry, for use on weaponry and other clothing, is a complex, convoluted, confusing term...and system. So first, a definition ~

Herald ~ noun

  • historically a person who carried official messages, made proclamations, and oversaw tournaments
  • a person who announces important news
  • an indication of the approach of something or someone
  • a person or thing viewed as a sign that something is about to happen

Herald ~ verb

  • to signal the imminence of
  • announce or proclaim
  • greet enthusiastically or joyfully
  • praise vociferously
  • foreshadow or presage

Heraldry ~ noun

  • emblems indicating the right of a person to bear arms

Heraldic ~ adjective

  • of or relating to heraldry
  • indicative of or announcing something to come

In Medieval times when two opposing forces would go out to do battle, they couldn’t tell who was friend or foe through the armor and helmet. Thus heraldic designs developed as a means of recognition. Like the clan plant badges in the Scottish Highlands. But if you knew your uncle and his men wore a red lightning bolt on their shields, you knew it was them. If instead, you saw a blue star on a red background, that was your enemy’s brother’s sign and you’d better prepare to fight!

Like so many other things, with time a system evolved, with rules. Of course, where there’s rules, there also needs to be an enforcer. He is called the Officer of Arms, or in Scotland the Lord Lyon. Understanding these rules is the key to sound, accurate heraldry.

Though heraldic symbolism, as we know it, is nearly 900 years old, it is still very much in use. When William the Conqueror and his Normans invaded the British Isles in 1066, they brought their system of identification with them as both a military device and a social system. There are also references to heraldry as early as the 7th century, when the Saxons invaded England and were defeated by the Scottish Highlanders.

A short history of The Crusades touches on its strong influence on Medieval Heraldry.

The following quote is from Rob Roy MacGregor, a Jacobite of fame and a Scottish folklore hero

What! Is it possible? Not know the figures of Heraldry! Of what could your father be thinking? ~ Rob Roy [1671-1734]

[The Scottish Wedding Dreams Newsroom blogged Rob Roy on May 21 & 22, 2008]

A Coat of Arms, also called armorial bearings or arms, is a design used exclusively by a person, who owned the arms. Read more at Coat of Arms.


The Shield or Escutcheon is an actual shape in the main display area of the arms. The field is the surface of the shield and how it’s divided or impaled.

    The Elements of a Shield are the

  • Field ~ the surface of the shield. When covered with multiple small charges, or symbols, the field becomes Semy.

    Fur, Feathers, and Scales are also classified as Semy.

  • Charges ~ Heraldic Symbols, including Heraldic Knots, Crosses, and Christian Symbols

  • Ordinaries ~ geometric shapes on the face of the shield.

  • Sub-Ordinaries ~ ordinaries subordinate to the main ordinaries

  • Partitions ~ Lines of Division dividing the field into structured sections

  • Borders ~ add distinction, they outline the shield

  • Supporters

  • Mottos
Scottish Wedding Dreams has more information on Badges, which were used as an emblem or personal device to indicate allegiance to or property of an individual.

Banners & Pennants

Tinctures are the colors, metals, furs, seme, tapissé, masoned, folds, honeycomb, and diapering

What’s blazon, who does it marshall? Blazon & Marshalling will tell you more.

Some badges made a pun or play-on-words on the owner’s name, location, or deed. Read more about the Heraldic Cant, Rebus, and Puns

Coats of arms, as legal property, are passed from father to son. Wives and daughters bore modified arms, indicating their relation to the current holder of the arms.

How do you use a coat-of-arms, crest, or badge? Read Heraldic Uses and find out.

Hatchments & Achievements are one of the convolutions of heraldic use.

If you think women could stay out of the heraldic field, take a look at these examples of Historic Heraldic Clothing.

Modern Heraldic Examples, including Mardi Gras and Wedding Umbrellas.

Heraldic Merchandise Sources

Heraldic Military Symbols offers a wide variety ~ from the somber Presidential Seal to the wild and wacky for the down-to-earth troops

Service Stations across the county will take you on a reminiscent tour of heraldic symbols at the gas stations.

Some examples of heraldic design are so unique they have earned pages of their own

A few words have also taken significant meanings in heraldry ~

  • Halycon
  • Miniver
  • Cabosh

Most of the following pages are under construction and will become active as they are completed.

This page in being revamped, please return later

National Flags and Arms

Scottish Clan Heraldic Information

Please realize this website just touches the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Our main purpose is to introduce heraldic use, give you the symbolism attached to the charges or symbols, colors, and shapes. Armed with that little bit of information, a bride can pick and chose colors and symbols for her Scottish theme wedding.

If you really get into studying the heraldic field and can’t find family shields or badges you can use, you can design your own heraldry with software from Chris Puncher . You can experiment without knowing heraldic terms and the correct syntax for a blazon and create a simple design.

There are also several professional designers online that will create a coat of arms to meet your particular needs.

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