The three main devices (symbols) in the Eden blazon are the garb, escallop and helmet. The three main tinctures (colors) are azure, or and gules .
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” 1. 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 2.
The bright yellow colour frequently found in coats of arms is known to heralds as Or, or sometimes simply as Gold.3. 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 4. The yellow colour is often associated with the Sun, and the zodiacal sign of Leo.5.
Gules, the heraldic colour red is very popular, sometimes said to represent “Military Fortitude and Magnanimity”6. It is usually abbreviated as gu and in the days before colour printing was shown in a system known as hatching by vertical lines 7. 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).8
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. 9 The garb for example is an ancient word for wheatsheaf, something now more frequently seen in Inn signs than in the field! 10
The escallopoccurs often in arms, represented as the outside of the shell, sometimes “fluted” of a different colour 11. It has been part of heraldic tradition almost from the beginning of the art, Henry III of England awarded Gules, 3 escallopes argent to Herbert de CHAMBERLEYNE in the 13th century, and it is present in the heraldry of almost all countries 12. It is believed that they were adopted as badges of those going to the Holy Land and can be found in the arms of many a crusading family. Hence Wade’s suggested association of the scallop with those that “complete long journeys to far countries” 13.
We should not be surprised to find items of armour depicted on shields, and perhaps to the wearer none is more important that the helmet. Wade suggests that its presence denotes “Wisdom and surety in defence”. 14 There are many variations of helmet described, now almost indistinguishable to modern eyes, and not having any particular significance – perhaps because of some play on words with the family name. There are complex heraldic rules and guidelines for the depictions of helmets belonging to various grades of nobility, lack of space prevents us from listing them all here!15