HERALDRY, the art of arranging and explaining in proper terms all that appertains to the bearing of coats of arms, badges, and other hereditary or as sumed marks of honour ; also the art of marshalling processions and conducting the ceremonies of coronations, instal ments, creations of peers, funerals, mar riages, and all other public solemnities.
The origin of heraldry, in the first and most commonly understood sense, has been attributed, by the general consent of the best writers on the subject, to the ne cessity for distinguishing by some out ward sign, amidst the confusion of battle, the principal leaders during the expedi tions for the recovery of the Holy Land. But nothing is absolutely known concern ing it beyond the fact that the middle of the 12th century is the earliest period to which the bearing of heraldic devices, properly so called, can be traced ; and the commencement of the 13th, the time about which they became hereditary.
The earliest roll of arms of which we have any notice is of the reign of Henry Ill. ; and the reign of Edward I. presents us with the earliest heraldic document extant. The famous roll of Caerlaveroch, a poem in old Norman French, rehearses the names and armorial ensigns of all the barons, knights, &c., who attended Edward I. at the siege of Caerlaveroch castle, A.D. 1300. Heraldry is therein first presented to us as a system. The prin cipal rules and terms of the art were then in existence, and from about that time the terms are continually found in the fabliaux and romances of France and England.
The oldest writer on heraldry whose work has descended to us is Nicholas Upton, whose treatise De Militari Officio' was composed in the reign of Henry V., and translated in that of his successor by Juliana Berners, in the work known as the Hoke of St. Albans.' As Upton quotes no earlier authorities, his definitions and explanations can only be looked upon as assertions made nearly three hundred years after the origin of the practice, and consequently to be believed, or not, according to the discre tion of the reader. In the reign of Richard III. the English heralds were incorporated and the College of Arms founded, and in the following century a swarm of writers arose both in France and England, each contradicting the other, and wasting much learning and research in the most absurd and idle controversies.
On the decline of chivalry the study of heraldry became gradually neglected, and the art, which had formed for centuries a portion of the education of princes, and occupied the attention of some of the most learned men in Europe, was abandoned to the coach-painter and the undertaker, while kings of arms and pursuivants were looked upon as mere appendages of state pageantry, their office ridiculed, and their authority defied.
That the pedantry of such writers as Morgan, Ferne, Mackenzie, and others, contributed to these results, there can be little doubt. A taste for the critical study of antiquities generally is now however reviving throughout Europe, and the use of heraldry as a key to history and bio graphy is daily becoming more acknow ledged.
The rules of heraldry as now practised at the College of Arms are, as we have before remarked, comparatively modern, and vary in some points from those i observed in France and Germany. According to the received authorities there are ten classes of arms.
1. Arms of Dominion, being those which princes bear as annexed to the territories they govern.
2. Of Pretension, those borne by princes who are not in possession of the dominions to which such arms belong, but who claim or pretend to have a right to such possession, as for instance the kings of England from Edward III. to George Ill. quartered the arms of France.
3. Arms of C'onimunity, being those of bishoprics, cities, universities, and other bodies corporate.
4. Of Assumption, such as are assumed by a man of his proper right without the grant of his prince, or of a king at arms. As for instance, when a man of any degree whatsoever has taken prisoner in lawful war any gentleman, nobleman, or prince, he may bear the arms of that prisoner, and transmit them to his heirs for ever.
5. Arms of Patronage, such as gover nors of provinces, lords of manors, patrons of benefices, &c., add to their family arms, as a token of their superiority, rights, and jurisdiction.
6. Arms of Succession, borne by those who inherit certain estates, manors, &c., either by will, entail, or donation.
7. Arms of Alliance, such as the issue of heiresses take up to show their mater nal descent.
S. Arms of Adoption, borne by a stran ger in blood, with the special permission of the prince, applied for in order to fulfil the will of the testator who may be queath certain monies or estates on con dition of the party's assuming his name and arms.
9. Arms of Concession, augmentations granted by the prince of part of his own ensigns or regalia to such persons as he pleases to honour therewith.
10. Arms Paternal and Hereditary, such as are transmitted from the first possessor to his son, grandson, great grandson, &c. ; thereby forming complete and perfect nobility. The son being a gentleman of second coat-armour, the grandson a gentleman of blood, and the great-grandson a gentleman of ancestry.
These several sorts of arms are dis played on shields or escutcheons, and banners, the ground of either being called the field, and the figures borne upon it the ordinaries and charges.