Frequently Asked Questions: FAQ
Taking a cue from the World Wide Web, I wish to present in the FAQ format several topics to which I will refer in the following chapters as I discuss the Breakey Arms.
Q. Why are some families in doubt as to their Arms?
A. As Thomas Woodcock, Rouge Croix Pursivant, College of Heralds, London explained in a personal letter to the author (27 Jan 1982):
“The reason why families were in doubt as to their Arms
is that very often they were only used on seals and of
course the colours are not shown on a seal so the Heralds had to
confirm them in certain colours. As their practical use ceased
when they were no longer worn in battle by the 16th and 17th
centuries in some cases, …the family did not know what their
Q. What is an armorial achievement?
A. A full coat of arms may be referred to as an armorial achievement or achievement. However, it is incorrect to refer to the coat of arms as a ‘crest.’ It is also “strictly correct to refer to the coat of arms as a ‘Shield of Arms’…” (Franklyn, 1968, p. 14).
Q. What constitutes a coat of arms?
A. See Figure 7.
The Make-up of a Coat of Arms
B. Wreath: a twisted pad of material that attaches the mantle to the helmet
C. Shield: divided into 9 numerical areas, or geographical locations
D. Field: that area within the boundary lines of the shield
F. Helmet: not present in Breakey Arms
G. Mantle: not present in Breakey Arms
H. Supporters: not present in Breakey Arms.
Q. Why do shapes of shields differ?
A. It is generally thought most probably for artistic purposes, whereas originally it may have been for practical purposes.
Q. What does it mean to “trick” the arms?
A. To trick the arms means to paint it, or color it. Outlining the achievement and placing in the appropriate areas the colors by use of abbreviations is considered an example of tricking the arms. Another manner of tricking the arms is by the system of “hatching,” whereby certain established scratches or sketched line patterns indicate certain colors.
Q. Can any color of one’s choice be used in a coat of arms?
A. No. There are established guidelines, and the colors used are known as tinctures. The term includes two metals and five colors, the colors appearing brilliant, not pastel.
Or: gold, usually shown as yellow
Argent: silver, usually shown as white
Furs may also be found on an armorial achievement. In heraldic description, a fur is a “generic term for the stylized representation of animal pelts used in heraldry” (Neubecker, 1976, p. 45). No furs appear in the Breakey Arms.
Q. What is a ‘charge?’
A. On the field of the shield will be found a charge or charges. According to Pine (1974, p. 38), the chevron on the Breakey Arms is an example of one of the various ordinaries used as a primary charge, being “…a form of lines of a quasi mathematical nature.” Pine continues to describe other charges, often objects found in nature or daily life. The three stars of eight points would be such an example.
Q. What do you do when you “blazon” the arms?
A. You describe the arms in a concise, established manner. In other words, you describe the arms in heraldic language. If you will turn to the Breakey Arms (see Figure1), I will give an example.
In a rather typical and uninformed fashion, the description might go like this: the Arms of Breakey consist of a silver shield upon which there are three golden eight-pointed stars in an inverted triangular fashion. There is also a gold fleur-de-lis centrally placed on a blue chevron. Atop the shield is….etc. The reader will soon come to see the benefits of an established manner of description.
In his report, The Arms of Breakey (de Brequet), Dr. Edward P. Breakey (1963a) provides this heraldic description of the Arms of Breakey:
Arms - Argent, on a chevron azure, between three eight-pointed mullets, a fleur-de-lis or.
Crest – A lion’s head couped.
Motto – “Aime Dieu” (“Love God”)
Q. Are there rules and regulations governing heraldry?
A. Yes. In design, in tinctures used, in blazoning and in the passage of arms. (The author wishes to discuss this question in some detail because of its relevancy to the discrepancies found in the Breakey Arms).
Marks of cadency are established (Pine, pp. 77, 109). In France these are known as brisures.
1st son: a label
2nd son: a crescent
3rd son: a five pointed mullet (‘the rowel of a spur’)
4th son: a martlet (‘the heralds’ bird without feet’)
5th son: an annulet (‘small ring, pierced’)
6th son: a fleur-de-lis
7th son: a rose
8th son: a cross Moline
9th son: a double quatrefoil (similar to a flower with eight leaves)
Q. Are there rules and regulations governing marks of cadency?
A. Yes (Franklyn, 81).
1. “Brisures, not being charges, do not conform to the color rule: tincture may rest upon tincture….”
2. “…brisures should be smaller, in proportion than they would be were they charges.”
3. “Centre chief is the normal position for a brisure, but if that is ungainly, ugly or inconvenient…the brisure may go elsewhere. Its size and colour will distinguish it. On the ordinary, where there is one, is a good place.”
1 The reader may question the necessity of including this in reference to our study of the Breakey Arms, however to a great extent this section influences the author’s interpretation of the Breakey Shield.