The four main devices (symbols) in the Jean blazon are the eagle, lion, fleur-de-lis and estoile. The three main tinctures (colors) are azure, vert and or .
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 1. 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” 2.
The deep green colour that is so often observed in heraldry is more properly known as vert. According to Wade, the use of this colour signifies “Hope and Joy”, but may also represent, rather delightfully, “Loyalty in Love” 3. It has other names also, the French call it sinople, perhaps after a town in Asia Minor from where the best green die materials could be found 4. More fanciful heralds liked to associate it with the planet venus and the precious stone emerald 5. More strangely, there is some evidence that the term prasin was anciently used, being the Greek for the vegetable we call the Leek!
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” 6. 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 7. In drawings without colour it is usually represented by many small dots, or by the letter ‘O’ 8.
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 9. 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 10 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 11, 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 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.
The fleur-de-lys (“flower of the lily”) has a long and noble history and was a symbol associated with the royalty of France even before heraldry became widespread. 17. The Lily flower is said to represent “Purity, or whiteness of soul”18 and sometimes associated with the Virgin Mary. The fleur-de-lys is also used as a small “badge”, known as a mark of cadency to show that the holder is the sixth son of the present holder of the arms 19