DIFFERENCES, in heraldry, though often, or indeed generally, confounded with marks of cadency (q.v.), have, in strict usage, a totally different function—the former being employed to distinguish brothers and their descendants after the death of the father, the latter whilst he is still alive. Differences in this limited sense may consist either of a chief added to or a bordure placed round the plain shield borne by the head of the house; or should the shield exhibit any of the ordinaries (q.v.), as the bend, fess, pale, etc., the difference may be indicated by an alteration on the lines. The proximity of the bearer to the head of the house is indicated by the character of the line by which the differeneing chief, or bordure, or ordinary is marked off from the field, the follow ing being the order usually observed: the first or eldest brother, on the death of his father, inherits the pure arms of the house; the second brother, if the difference is to consist of a bordure, carries it plain; the third, ingrailed; the fourth, invented; the fifth, embattled; etc. Other modes of differencing have been invented by heralds, and are not unknown to practice; such, for example, as changing the tinctures either of the field or of the principal figures, of which Nisbet gives many famous examples—altering the position or number of the figures on the shield, adding different figures from the mother's coat or from lands, and the like. Where the cadet is far removed from the principal family, if the field be of one tincture, iris sometimes divided into two, the charge or charges being counter-charged, so that metal may not lie on metal, or color on color.
The confusion between differences and marks of cadency, above referred to, is by no means peculiar to the heraldic usage of England, though there it is more prevalent than in Scotland. In France, the cadets of the house of Bourbon have been in the habit of continuing these marks, and at the present day, as in Mackenzie's time, the label or hunbel is to be seen on the arms of all the members of the Orleans family. That no dis tinction between what we call marks of cadency and differences was there observed, is further apparent from the fact that, whilst such was the practice of the house of Orleans, the house of Anjou carried a bordure gules, and that of Alencon a bordure gules charged with eight bezants. In Germany, sir George Mackenzie says that the several branches of great families distinguish themselves only by different crests (Precedency—Works, 616); and he gives as the reason, that all the sons succeed equally to the honors of the family. In Britain, and in France, some change is always made on the shield as carried by the head of the house; but the practice even of good heralds has been so irregular, as to bring the rule very nearly to what Mackenzie holds to be the correct one—viz., that every private person should be allowed, with the sanction of the proper authorities, "to make what marks of distinction can suit best with the coat which his chief bears."