The four main devices (symbols) in the Charles blazon are the fusil, chief, bend and barry nebulee. The two main tinctures (colors) are ermine and gules.
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.
Gules, the heraldic colour red is very popular, sometimes said to represent “Military Fortitude and Magnanimity”4. It is usually abbreviated as gu and in the days before colour printing was shown in a system known as hatching by vertical lines 5. 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).6
The fusil is a shape rather like a lozenge but taller and narrower, hence fusily refers to a field of similar shapes arranged in a regulat pattern. 7 It is though that the shape originally derived from that of a spindle of yarn. Wade believes that the symbol is of very great age and quotes an earlier writer, Morgan who ascribes it the meaning of “Negotiation”. 8
The chief is an area across the top of the field 9. It appears in many different forms and can itself be charged with other charges and ordinaries, 10, being treated almost as if it were a completely separate area. In its simplest form it can be clearly identified. Early examples include the award by Henry III of England to the knight Robert de MORTEYN BRETON of Ermine, a chief gules.
The bend is a distinctive part of the shield, frequently occuring and clearly visible from a distance – it is a broad band running from top left to bottom right 11. Indeed, so important is the bend that it was the subject of one of the earliest cases before the English Court of Chivalry; the famous case of 1390, Scrope vs Grosvenor had to decide which family were the rightful owners of Azure, a bend or (A blue shield, with yellow bend). 12. The bend is held in high honour and may signify “defence or protection” and often borne by those of high military rank 13.