The three main devices (symbols) in the Ackford blazon are the horse, cross and water. The three main tinctures (colors) are gules, sable and azure .
Gules, the heraldic colour red is very popular, sometimes said to represent “Military Fortitude and Magnanimity”1. It is usually abbreviated as gu and in the days before colour printing was shown in a system known as hatching by vertical lines 2. Although it may look like a French word it is normally pronounced with a hard “g” and may be derived either from the Latin gula (throat) or Arabic gule (rose).3
Sable, the deep black so often found in Heraldry is believed to named from an animal of the marten family know in the middle ages as a Sabellinœ and noted for its very black fur 4. In engravings, when colors cannot be shown it is represented as closely spaced horizontal and vertical lines, and appropriately is thus the darkest form of hatching, as this method is known 5. Although it may seem a sombre tone, and does indeed sometimes denote grief, it is more commonly said to represent Constancy 6.
The bright, strong blue color in Heraldry is known in English as azure, and similarly in other European languages – azul in Spanish, azurro in Italian and azur in French. The word has its roots in the Arabic word lazura, also the source of the name of the precious stone lapis lazuli 7. Despite this, those heralds who liked to associate colours with jewels chose instead to describe blue as Sapphire. According to Wade, the use of this colour symbolises “Loyalty and Truth” 8.
In the mediaeval period there was no real percieved difference between real and mythical animals, after all, much of the world remained unknown and who was to say what strange and magical creatures existed in distant lands? Nevertheless, real animals 9 are perhaps one of the most common sights on coats of arms, especially animals of European origin. The horse Is a typical example of these.
No other symbol appearing in heraldry is subject to as much variation as the cross 10. Mediaeval Europe was a deeply religious and Christian and many of the nobility wanted to show their devotion by adopting the symbol of the cross as part of the arms. In its basic form, the cross is created from two broad bands of colour at right angles covering the whole extent of the shield. It has been subject to all manner of embellishment, and the interested reader is referred to the references, especially Parker’s Heraldic dictionary for many examples of these. 11 12 13 Suffice it to say that any armiger would be proud to have such an important device as part of their arms.
Water in heraldry is usually represented as a set of horizontal bars in wavy lines, alternately blue and white – barry wavy azure and argent.