Mr. Ward’s sophomore English class created their own ‘coat of arms’ while studying stories about King Arthur. The idea of a coat of arms began in the later 1100’s and was used to identify individual knights in battle, since they were all covered up in metal. The study and registration of coats of arms is called “Heraldry.”
According to the familytreemagazine.com website, coats of arms were awarded to individuals and then were normally passed down from oldest son to oldest son, if they earned the right. So, to have a coat of arms, you would have to have a direct line to the individual who received it along the male line. However, wives and first daughters often were awarded a variation of their husbands or fathers armature. It should also be pointed out that a coat of arms and a family crest are different things.
When disputes arose over who could legitimately use a particular design, Richard lll, in 1484, established the College of Arms and assigned heralds to visit households across England to record each owner’s design. This happened in the early 1500’s to the late 1600’s.
However, in spite of the regulations governing heraldry, it is still fun to create your own to represent you and/or your family through the structure and symbolism of the heraldic code. That’s what Mr. Ward told his class, anyhow, and it seemed to hold true as students got involved with thinking about the symbols and what they could do to represent themselves and maybe their family as well.
Everything about a coat of arms is symbolic, from the colors used, to the markings and divisions of a shield, to the objects and animals displayed. Each has a particular meaning. For our project, students were to think about themselves and then go through the list of symbols, referred to as ordinaries and charges. They were also allowed to use modern references, such as a hobby or sport. They associated with everything from mystical creatures, to sport references like soccer balls, and family pets like rabbits, all in a variety of color.
Coats of arms not only identified the individual, but also presented their values and ambitions – an advertisement of themselves to other knights and nobles. Students should have understood more about themselves and what drives them through the process of heraldry and laying claim to those things that represent them.