Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Heraldry 101 part 13 - 'patterned' backgrounds

A short one, this: we have two more posts to go rafter this to complete the series, namely one on the edges of things, and one on a collection of little/entertaining things that didn't fit anywhere else.

So - backgrounds. You'll notice that almost all our backgrounds, with the exception of the furs, are single colours. It is, however, possible to have what are effectively patterned backgrounds.

One of the more common ones is a background strewn with charges of some sort. Most of the ordinaries can be used, for example a background can be bendy sable and or, which would be a field of alternate diagonal black and gold stripes.

Now at this point, the more astute among you are wondering, how do you tell the difference between (say) sable, three bends or, and bendy sable and or? Actually, it's pretty simple: if there are an even number of bands of alternating colour (i.e. the two extremes are not the same colour), it's a divided field, so bendy: if there are an odd number, i.e. the two extremes are the same colour, it's charges on a coloured field. Simples.

[As a slightly amused aside, the reason you're getting no diagrams for the above is that Coat of Arms Design Studio GETS IT WRONG for bendy!!!!]

You can do this with most of the common ordinaries and charges. Some of them have obvious names. Some, predictably, don't. Chevronny, barry, bendy and paly should be obvious, as I hope should chequey or checky (which we mentioned in passing in a previous post) and lozengy. Divisions of ordinaries are usually a colour and a metal, but can in rare cases be two of one or the other.
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For charges, in the absence of a suitable collective noun, we say the field is semy or semé of the charge, for example argent, semé of roses gules. And again, there are more exceptions to this than not: a roundel or, as you may remember, is a beazant - semé of beazants is beazanté or beazanty (as you may have noticed by now, trailing -é and -y are very interchangeable!) A field scattered with cross-crosslets (small crosses) is cruzily, and one scattered with fleurs-de-lys is referred to as semé-de-lys, as in the arms of France Ancienne (above right), azure, semé-de-lys or. 

In the case of a pattern of charges, the rule of tincture should be followed.

There's plenty more - the Wikipedia article on the variations of the field has enough to keep even a hardcore heraldry geek like me amused - but that's it for now. Next up, as I said, edges of things.

1 comment:

  1. I believe there is a numerical system that goes with these. For instance, the stripy bits on the US flag would be described as 'gules, six bars (barrels??) argent'. Had there been just 12 stripes (instead of 13), red over white, then 'barry of twelve, gules and argent.'

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