The three main devices (symbols) in the Barefoot blazon are the foot, lion’s gamb and fret. The three main tinctures (colors) are gules, vert and ermine .
The bold red colour on a heraldic shield is known as gules. It has a long history within heraldry, it is known that one of those who besieged the scottish castle of Carlaverock in 1300 was the French knight Euremions de la Brette who had as his arms a simple red shield.1. The word gules is thought to come from the Arabic gule, or “red rose” 2. Later writers associated it with the precious stone ruby and the metal iron 3, perhaps because of the red glow of iron in the heat of the blacksmith’s forge.
The deep green colour that is so often observed in heraldry is more properly known as vert. According to Wade, the use of this colour signifies “Hope and Joy”, but may also represent, rather delightfully, “Loyalty in Love” 4. It has other names also, the French call it sinople, perhaps after a town in Asia Minor from where the best green die materials could be found 5. More fanciful heralds liked to associate it with the planet venus and the precious stone emerald 6. More strangely, there is some evidence that the term prasin was anciently used, being the Greek for the vegetable we call the Leek!
Ermine is a very ancient pattern, and distinctive to observe. It was borne alone by John de Monfort, the Earl of Richmond and Duke of Brittany in the late 14th century 7 It has a long association with royalty and the nobility in general and hence represents “Dignity” wherever it is found 8. The ermine pattern is white with, typically, a three dots and a dart grouping representing the tail of the furred creature.9. The ermine spot is sometimes found alone as a special charge on the shield.
Heraldry is a human art, by and for people and it is not surprising that people themselves are frequently depicted in arms 10. Often these are images of knights and men-at-arms, or individual limbs, such as the “three armoured right arms argent” shown in the arms of Armstrong 11. As well as the nobility however, we also see both the mundane, ploughmen, fishermen and reapers; and the exotic in the form of club wielding savages and the Moorish or Saracen gentleman with his decorative wreathed turban 12.
The art of heraldry would be significantly poorer if we were without the lion in all its forms. Most general works on Heraldry devote at least one chapter solely to this magnificent creature and its multifarious depictions 13 14 15. Some of the earliest known examples of heraldry, dating right back to the knighting of Geoffrey of Anjou in 1127, where he is shown with six such beasts upon his shield 16 .The great authority on heraldic symbology, Wade, points out the high place that the lion holds in heraldry, “as the emblem of deathless courage” 17, a sentiment echoed equally today.The variant lion’s gamb is another word for leg, and its significance remains the same as its parent animal
The fret is a striking charge, often occupying the whole of the field and being two instersecting diagonal lines interlaced with the outline of a square. 18 It is believed to be derived from the image of a fishing net, which it does indeed resemble, and hence Wade believes that it should signify persuasion, although other writers regard it separately as the “the heraldic true lovers knot” 19