The four main devices (symbols) in the Haskins blazon are the chevron engrailed, lion, hands conjoined and heart. The four main tinctures (colors) are azure, or, argent 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.
Argent is the heraldic metal Silver and is usually shown as very pure white. It is also known more poetically as pearl, moon (or luna) 6. In a sketch or drawing it is represented by plain, unmarked paper 7.
Red in heraldry is given the name Gules, sometimes said to be the “martyr’s colour”8. The colour is also associated with Mars, the red planet, and the zodiacal sign Aries 9. Later heralds of a more poetical nature would sometimes refer to the colour as ruby, after the precious stone.10.
The chevron is one the major shapes used upon a shield, known as ordinaries, being in the form of an inverted ‘v’ shape 11. It is a popular feature, visually very striking and hence developed to have various decorative edges applied to distinguish otherwise identical coats of arms. The edge pattern engrailed is a series of scalloped indentations with the points facing outwards – and should not be confused with invected, which has the points facing inwards! Wade believes that both of these indented forms represent “earth or land”, and one perhaps can indeed see the furrowed earth embodied in them.
The art of heraldry would be significantly poorer if we were without the lion in all its forms. Most general works on Heraldry devote at least one chapter solely to this magnificent creature and its multifarious depictions 12 13 14. Some of the earliest known examples of heraldry, dating right back to the knighting of Geoffrey of Anjou in 1127, where he is shown with six such beasts upon his shield 15 .The great authority on heraldic symbology, Wade, points out the high place that the lion holds in heraldry, “as the emblem of deathless courage” 16, a sentiment echoed equally today.
Heraldry is a human art, by and for people and it is not surprising that people themselves are frequently depicted in arms 17. Often these are images of knights and men-at-arms, or individual limbs, including hands conjoined. It will come as no surprise that the use of this device is said to denote ”union and alliance”. 18