The four main devices (symbols) in the Elwood blazon are the demi lion, shamrock, mullet and buck’s head. The three main tinctures (colors) are ermine, gules 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.
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.4. The word gules is thought to come from the Arabic gule, or “red rose” 5. Later writers associated it with the precious stone ruby and the metal iron 6, perhaps because of the red glow of iron in the heat of the blacksmith’s forge.
The bright, strong blue color in Heraldry is known in English as azure, and similarly in other European languages – azul in Spanish, azurro in Italian and azur in French. The word has its roots in the Arabic word lazura, also the source of the name of the precious stone lapis lazuli 7. Despite this, those heralds who liked to associate colours with jewels chose instead to describe blue as Sapphire. According to Wade, the use of this colour symbolises “Loyalty and Truth” 8.
The demi-lion is a variant of the typical creature shown only from the waist upward. It can take all same poses and attitudes of its fully represented brethren and often appears to be emerging from some other device such as a fess or chief. 9 No special significance should be given to the demi appearance and it should be taken to have the same meanings and interpretations as the noble king of beasts itself.
Natural objects abound in heraldry, and one category that gives especial delight are the many flowers and flowering plants that frequently occur 10. Whilst the fleur-de-lys, the French “Flower of the Lily” may have become stylised almost beyond recognition 11, it still sometimes appears in a more pictorial form as the “lily of the garden”. The shamrock is also of this type, being drawn, at least a little, realistically and often to very pleasing effect. It is of course indelibly associated with the country of Ireland.
The heraldic mullet, not to be confused with the fish of that name, is shown as a regular, five pointed star. This was originally, not an astronomical object, but represented the spur on a horseman’s boot, especially when peirced, with a small circular hole in the centre it represents a type of spur known as a “rowel” 12. A clear example can be found in the arms of Harpendene, argent, a mullet pierced gules. The ancient writer Guillim associated such spurs in gold as belonging to the Knight, and the silver to their esquires 13. In later years, Wade linked this five pointed star with the true celestial object, the estoile and termed it a “falling star”, symbolising a “divine quality bestowed from above” 14.