The three main devices (symbols) in the Brunton blazon are the eagle, garb and beacon with flames. The two main tinctures (colors) are gules and or.
Red in heraldry is given the name Gules, sometimes said to be the “martyr’s colour”1. The colour is also associated with Mars, the red planet, and the zodiacal sign Aries 2. Later heralds of a more poetical nature would sometimes refer to the colour as ruby, after the precious stone.3.
The bright yellow colour frequently found in coats of arms is known to heralds as Or, or sometimes simply as Gold.4. Along with, argent, or silver it forms the two “metals” of heraldry – one of the guidelines of heraldic design is that silver objects should not be placed upon gold fields and vice versa 5. The yellow colour is often associated with the Sun, and the zodiacal sign of Leo.6.
Where the lion is undisputed king of the animals, the eagle undoubtedly plays the same role in the realm of the birds, its use in this form dating back to at least the Roman period 7. They tend to be illustrated in quite some detail, especially in continental European arms, and have almost as wide variety of postures and accessories as the lion, well illustrated in the reference 8 as well as being just the eagle’s head or eagle’s leg. The symbology of the eagle is deep and complex, Wade devotes several pages to the subject 9, but suffice it say that it has long been associated with Empire and those held in high honour – any armiger would be pleased to have any form of Eagle upon their arms!
Europe in the middle ages was still a largely agrarian society, and the wealth of the nobility resided in their estates and land. Since most people still lived and worked on the land they would find farm implements instantly recognisable, (an important feature for a coat of arms), even if they seem obscure to us today. 10 The garb for example is an ancient word for wheatsheaf, something now more frequently seen in Inn signs than in the field! 11
The Beacon is an iron basket raised on a post used for signalling in the event of peril or invasion and can be borne in flames or empty. A similar device, used more prosaically as a street light is the cresset. 12 Either device, for reasons that should be quite clear are to be regarded as emblems of “one who is watchful”. 13