Blazoning a Coat of Arms by Dr. Bruce Durie.

Describing a coat of arms in correct heraldic language is called BLAZONING. This Armiger is a Peer (in fact, a Baron), and a Chief of name and Arms Most Armigers have simpler Arms

Metals and Colours

There are only four main colours and two metals

The terms we use derive from mediaeval French

Basic rule -

no meMetals and Colours


There are only four main colours and two metals The terms we use derive from mediaeval French

Ermine Vair Furs can also be used as colours, in which case the "no colour on a colour" rule does not apply: Gules, a cross Ermine Ermine. a chevron Gules Gules, three cinquefoils within a bordure all Ermine Points on the Escutcheon (shield):
The Court of the Lord Lyon
Scotland’s Heraldic Authority
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Or = gold Argent = silver (usually depicted as white) Sable = black Azure = blue Gules = red Vert = green In order to avoid confusion colours and metals are usually given capital letters (e.g., Sable, Or)

Basic rule - no metal on a metal, no

colours on a colour.

Blazon: Argent, a stag's head cabossed proper, on a chief engrailed Gules, a mullet between two crescents of the First. (James Thomson, merchant, Kirkcaldy) Read the blazon in this order... 1. The field of the escutcheon (shield) which here is Argent 2. The main charge or partition on the field (a stag's head) 3. Charges not central (in this case in chief) 4. Charges on the last mentioned (crescents and a mullet) 5. We try not to repeat ourselves, so of the First refers to the first colour given, Argent
"Dexter" means right and "sinister" means left - but from the point of view of the person holding the shield, not the viewer.
Argent is silver. "Cabossed" means a stag's head cut off and shown as above. "Engrailed" is the scalloped shape of the Chief. Gules is red. A "mullet" is a five- pointed star.
THE ORDINARIES DIMINUTIVES The simplest - and commonest - shapes on a shield are simple geometric designs. They have particular names. Because they are the simplest, they also feature in the oldest Coats of Arms.
Divisions of the field - follow the same logic... do positions on the field
PATTERNS AND LINES Patterns are often made from Diminutives Lines of Division - may be applied to any line or charge
fusil = a flint; semy = patterned; gouttes = drops (blood or water) Notice, by the way, the shield shape is not important, unless specified in the Blazon COMMON CHARGES A "charge" is anything on the shield - which could be a geometric shape, as above, an animal, an inanimate object, etc. Here are some of the most commonly found. There are many forms of cross, including...
ATTITUDES OF BEASTS If there is an animal in the Arms, it is necessary to say what it is doing - and different classes of "beasts" have their own vocabularies. “armed" = claws, "langued" = tongue, "gardant" = facing forward, "regardant" = facing backward, "dormant" = sleeping, "passant" = walking, "Proper" = the colour in nature. "attired" = stag's antlers, "displayed" = wings out, "urvant" = head elevated, "erased" = as if torn off, "couped" = as if cut off, "vulning" is particular to pelicans and means drawing blood to feed her chicks, "naiant" = swimming, "volant" = flying, "gorged" = collar around the neck.


There are no "family Coats of Arms" - all Arms are individual to a person. However, everyone of the same surname will usually have Arms based on similar "undifferenced" Arms (usually those of the Chief).
Follow the blazoning logic here... Quarterly: 1st and 4th Or, a fess chequy Azure and Argent (for Stewart); 2nd and 3rd Azure, three garbs Or (for the Earldom of Buchan) Arms of Stewart, Earl of Buchan "garbs" = sheaves of wheat or corn
Marshalling - putting Arms together
Here is a good example of this in practice -
the Arms (here in the form of a banner) of Richard Walter John Montagu Douglas Scott, 10th Duke of Buccleuch and 12th Duke of Queensberry KBE, DL
They show the senior patrilineal descendant of Sir James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, eldest illegitimate son of Charles II and Lucy Walter, who married Anne Scott, 4th Countess of Buccleuch. he took her surname, and the Scott Arms (shown here) appear an an escutcheon of pretence.
HELM, CREST, TORSE & MANTLING The Helm indicates rank The rank of a Peer is shown by the Coronet Wreath or Torse
Sovereign - burnished gold, affronty, i.e. face-on, with six bars, or grilles, and lined with crimson. Noble (Peer) - silver or polished steel, with gold bars or grilles, and lined with crimson Baronets and Knights - affronty (facing forward) with an open visor. Esquires and private gentlemen - a barrel helmet of steel, in profile, with the visor or beaver closed.
Normally the Crest rests on a Wreath or Torse "of the liveries" (main colours of the shield) Here, the Torse is Azure and Or Likewise the Mantling, which hangs from the Torse, is Azure doubled Or ("doubled" meaning the inside colour)
THE CRESTS The Crest sits atop the Helm, and started as a way of identifying knights and nobles in battle or at a jousting tournament. Typically, it repeats an element of the Arms, or refers to a family story, or is a pun.
Armstrong Beveridge Durie Macpherson Cockburn Ruthven Wallace Wood
FINAL EXAMPLE - William Forbes-Sempill of Craigievar, Baronet, Baron Sempill (granted 1885)
These Arms were granted when Sir William Forbes assumed the title and surname of Sempill. The shield is blazoned: Quarterly: 1st and 4th Argent, a chevron chequy Gules and of the First between three huntinghorns Sable, garnished and stringed of the Second (for Sempill); 2nd and 3rd Azure, a cross patée fitchée Or between three bears' heads couped Argent, muzzled Gules (for Forbes). The Helm is that of a Noble, atop the Coronet of a Lord of Parliament. Unusually, there are two Crests and Mottos, Keep Tryst taken from Sempill (on the dexter) and Watch from Forbes (sinister). The orange tawny Ribbon and Badge of a Baronet of Nova Scotia surround the shield. As a Peer (and also as a Chief), the Armiger has Supporters - two greyhounds Argent collared Gules It may be (no-one is really sure) that assume that hunting was one of the attractions of the lands around Lochwinnoch, hence the hurting horns, stag's head atd dogs. The current Lord Sempill says: "I have always thought that James IV had a sense of guilt in regards to those who died supporting his father at Sauchiburn, which is why John Sempill was made a Lord of Parliament". Sempill/Semple Forbes
Mr. Barr (Gules, a fess Or) meets Ms. Cross (Argent, a cross Azure)
They marry, become the Cross-Barrs, and their Arms are impaled (put side by side..
...unless Ms. Barr is an Armigerous Heiress (inherits her father's Arms), in which case Mr. Barr adds hers as an escutcheon of pretense to show he is carrying the arms for the benefit of the grandchildren of his wife’s father...
...and their children bear quartered Arms: Quarterly: 1st and 4th Gules, a fess Or; 2nd and 3rd Argent, a cross Azure. Note that the male name (Barr) comes last, and the paternal Arms go in the 1st and 4th quarters. This can be read like a visual Family Tree.
©Bruce Durie & Court of the Lord Lyon MMXXI