The four main devices (symbols) in the Mare blazon are the chevron, bars dancettee, lion and leopard. The three main tinctures (colors) are gules, ermine and or .
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.1The Siege of Carlaverock, N. Harris, Nichols & Son, London, 1828, P180. The word gules is thought to come from the Arabic gule, or “red rose” 2Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 313. Later writers associated it with the precious stone ruby and the metal iron 3Understanding Signs & Symbols – Heraldry, S. Oliver & G. Croton, Quantum, London, 2013, P53, perhaps because of the red glow of iron in the heat of the blacksmith’s forge.
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 4A Complete Guide to Heraldry, A.C. Fox-Davies, Bonanza (re-print of 1909 Edition), New York, 1978, P69 It has a long association with royalty and the nobility in general and hence represents “Dignity” wherever it is found 5The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P39. The ermine pattern is white with, typically, a three dots and a dart grouping representing the tail of the furred creature.6Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 28. The ermine spot is sometimes found alone as a special charge on the shield.
The bright yellow colour frequently found in coats of arms is known to heralds as Or, or sometimes simply as Gold.7Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 27. 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 8A Complete Guide to Heraldry, A.C. Fox-Davies, Bonanza (re-print of 1909 Edition), New York, 1978, P85. The yellow colour is often associated with the Sun, and the zodiacal sign of Leo.9Understanding Signs & Symbols – Heraldry, S. Oliver & G. Croton, Quantum, London, 2013, P53.
The chevron is one the major shapes used upon a shield, known as ordinaries. The inverted ‘V’ of the chevron is perhaps thought to have originated to represent a military scarf folded on the shield 10A Display of Heraldry, J. Guillim, Blome, London, 1679, (various), or additional cross-pieces used to strengthen the shield and painted a different colour.11The Pursuivant of Arms, J. R. Planche, Hardwicke, London 1859. It has also acquired the meaning of “Protection… granted… to one who has achieved some notable enterprise” 12The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P45, possibly becuase of its resemblance to the roof truss of a house.
The bar is a thin, horizontal stripe across the centre of the shield, usually in groups of two or three (any more and there would be confusion with barry, a treatment of horizontal lines of alternating colours). It is also possible to place decorative edges along bars, typically these are smaller than those found on the major ordinaries like the fess and pale, but have the same design and share the same meanings. Dancettee (sometimes spelled dancetty or dancy) is a bold, zig-zag pattern, perhaps the most distinctive of the patterned edges. Purists might argue that the French variant denché Is not the same, being of larger size and with the points being 90º, but there is much variation in actual practice so the difference is perhaps not that meaningful. Wade, quoting Guillim suggests that dancettee be attributed to mean water, in the same fashion as undy or wavy, and one can understand this allusion.
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 13A Complete Guide to Heraldry, A.C. Fox-Davies, Bonanza (re-print of 1909 Edition), New York, 1978, P172 14Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 63 15Understanding Signs & Symbols – Heraldry, S. Oliver & G. Croton, Quantum, London, 2013, P140. 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 16A Treatise on Heraldry, J. Woodward, W & A.K Johnston, Edinburgh & London, 1896, P45 .The great authority on heraldic symbology, Wade, points out the high place that the lion holds in heraldry, “as the emblem of deathless courage” 17The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P60, a sentiment echoed equally today.