The three main devices (symbols) in the Bowser blazon are the water bouget, cross and two lions conjoined. The three main tinctures (colors) are ermine, or and azure .
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 1 It has a long association with royalty and the nobility in general and hence represents “Dignity” wherever it is found 2. The ermine pattern is white with, typically, a three dots and a dart grouping representing the tail of the furred creature.3. The ermine spot is sometimes found alone as a special charge on the shield.
Or is the heraldic metal Gold, often shown as a bold, bright yellow colour. It is said to show “Generosity and elevation of the mind” 4. Later heralds, of a more poetic nature liked to refer to it as Topaz, after the gemstone, and, for obvious reasons associated it with the Sun 5. In drawings without colour it is usually represented by many small dots, or by the letter ‘O’ 6.
Azure is the heraldic colour blue, usually quite a deep, dark shade of the colour (there is a lighter blue that sometimes occurs, known as celestial azure). If colour printing is not available then it can be represented by closely spaced horizontal lines in a scheme known as “hatching” 7. The word is thought to originate from the Arabic lazura and it represents the colour of the eastern sky. It is also said to be the colour associated by the Catholic Church with the Virgin Mary and hence of particular significance 8.
A wide variety of inanimate objects 9 appear in coats of arms, so of them still recognisable today, others now rather obscure. The images used are often simplified and stylised, the water bouget is a typical case of the later, such that the casual observer would be hard pressed to discern its function. It represents in fact a yoke with two skins attached to be worn over the shoulder and has been found in coats of arms almost from the beginning of the art. 10. Somewhat literally, Wade suggests that their appearance on arms may have been due to a holder who had “brought water to an army or beseiged place”. 11
No other symbol appearing in heraldry is subject to as much variation as the cross 12. 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. 13 14 15 Suffice it to say that any armiger would be proud to have such an important device as part of their arms.
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 16 17 18. 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 19 .The great authority on heraldic symbology, Wade, points out the high place that the lion holds in heraldry, “as the emblem of deathless courage” 20, a sentiment echoed equally today.