Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Heraldry 101 - part 15 - a broader palette

Let's go right back to part 2, shall we?

If you've been with this series since the start, you'll remember that I started out with the 'core' tinctures - colours, metals and furs - gules, sable, vert, azure, argent, or, ermine and vair

Time for the rest!

The other common colour is purple, or purpure. Additional to that are a number of other colours, usually referred to as stains: the most common of these are:

  • tenné - from an old French word from which we get, unsurprisingly, 'tawny', is a brownish orange shade
  • murrey - a 'mulberry' shade, sort of reddish-purple
  • sanguine - from an old French word meaning (obviously enough) blood red, is an orangey-red shade. 
Stains are mostly only known in post-mediaeval heraldry, and often found in livery. For those who remember Robert Lewis Stevenson's "Black Arrow", set in the Wars of the Roses:
"The chief part were in Sir Daniel’s livery, murrey and blue, which gave the greater show to their array."
Murrey and blue seems to have been quite common as a livery - the Duke of Clarence and Richard of Gloucester (Richard III), among a number of Yorkist lords.

And then we come to the extra furs, which come in a bewildering array I'll just list with handy examples from Coat of Arms Design Studio.






And there you have it. Heraldry 101.

I hope you enjoyed this series - I'll stick up a handy index post in a couple of days so you can find things.

Respectfully dedicated to the memory of Arthur Whitaker, teacher, Methodist local preacher and my grandfather, without whom I'd not love a number of the things I do today, and whose much thumbed and loved copy of "Boutell's Heraldry" has been my, and thus your, guide through this series.


  1. Nice one Mike, I've enjoyed the Heraldry posts, thanks!

  2. I think there's a simple reason for those other tinctures mostly showing up later: they aren't clear bright colours to help you spot your lord (or your soldiers) on a battlefield.


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