Monday, 23 June 2014

Neville Coat of Arms

'Gentlemen of Pitchfork' tells the story of Sir Robert Neville, a young English knight of a minor noble house. You could have already learned that Sir Robert Neville is also, not but sheer coincidence, the author's alias during knightly tournments. Truth be told Sir Robert Neville is a fictictous character. He is however well situated in the reality of his times.

Are they THOSE Nevilles?

The Nevilles from the book are a minor and fictitious branch of the famous House Neville, the ones that gave England Richard 'The Kingmaker' Neville among many other prominent figures.
Just as any respectable noble house would do, our Nevilles have a coat of arms - depicted above for your entertainment and education.

A bit of theory

Coat of arms was the main element of the sophisticated heraldic system. Its purpose was yet simple. To allow for identifying individuals by means of distinctive hereditary insignia. What's more interesting is that the coat of arms were assumptive i.e. assumed without reference to any higher authority. Anyone who wished to have a coat of arms just invented one. With the exception of people and families already possessing coat of arms who would proudly continue to bear them and protect their unique 'brand' against any 'unfair usage'.

How do I read it?

Each coat of arms is composed according to a strict set of rules and using a defined set of elements. There are colours called 'tinctures', divisions defining the amount and shape of fields on the shield, various types of partition lines and finally 'charges' - devices on the shield. This complex system with wide array of types and elements allowed for nearly unlimited number of combinations. A coat of arms for everyone, on the house!

Great, but HOW do I read it?

Now comes the tricky part. All elements have their special names. Initially they were named in French or Latin, later came the use of local languages but preserving some of the original nomenclature. The art of properly reading out loud a coat of arms was in fact... an art. And it was called 'Blazoning'.
When a knight entered a tournment he was announced by the sounding of a trumpet and the calling out of his coat of arms. Aside from the proper glossary blazoning had to keep a proper order. First came the tincture of the field, then the type of the division. Next, describe the partition lines only if they're not straight. Finally came the charges. That's the basics at least, by no means exhaustive.

arms quarterly 1&4 azure semee de lis or, a bordure compony gules and argent 2&3 sable a lion rampant or armed and langued gules.

Pretty straightforward isn't it? This is a blazon of one of the historical figures that appear in 'Gentlemen of Pitchfork'. Can you guess who that is? Please share it with us in the comments!

Neville coat of arms

The above coat of arms is a classic design that includes basic tinctures, shield division and badges. Claiming kinship with the major House Neville it partly comprises of the official Neville coat of arms that you can find in an English heraldic guide. The whole coat of arms was however created for the purpose of the book.
Would you like to know its proper blazoning?
Look out for posts coming this week!

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