The three main devices (symbols) in the Gratton blazon are the heart, eagle’s leg and pale. The three main tinctures (colors) are gules, or and azure .
Gules, the heraldic colour red is very popular, sometimes said to represent “Military Fortitude and Magnanimity”1. It is usually abbreviated as gu and in the days before colour printing was shown in a system known as hatching by vertical lines 2. 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).3
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.
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 heart is represented by the conventional symbol that we see today on playing cards. In later arms it can also appear emflamed and crowned. 9 Guillim, the 17th century heraldic author, believes that it shows the holder to be a “man of sincerity…who speaks truth from his heart”. 10
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 11. 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 12 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 13, 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!
The Pale is one of the major, so called ordinaries, significant objects that extend across the entire field of the shield. The pale being a broad vertical band up the centre of the shield 14. In origin, the word probably has its roots in the same place as palisade, a defensive wall made of closely space upright timbers. Indeed, it is possible that the original “pales” arose where a wooden shield was constructed of vertical planks painted in different hues 15. This is perhaps why Wade, a writer on Heraldic Symbology suggested that denotes “military strength and fortitude” 16.