Ratford Coat of Arms

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Blazons & Genealogy Notes

1) Sa. a fess or, betw. three unicorns’ heads erased ar. Crest—A man holding a banner ar. charged with a saltire.
2) Ar. three chev. sa. a chief of the second.
3) Per bend ar. and sa. a lion ramp. (another, tail double queued) counterchanged.
4) Ar. fretty gu. on a chief of the second three hawks' bells of the first.

Origin, Meaning and Family History of the Ratford Name

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Ratford Coat of Arms Meaning

The four main devices (symbols) in the Ratford blazon are the unicorn, lion passant, hawks’ bell and fretty. The two main tinctures (colors) are sable and gules.

Sable, the deep black so often found in Heraldry is believed to named from an animal of the marten family know in the middle ages as a Sabellinœ and noted for its very black fur 1A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Sable. In engravings, when colors cannot be shown it is represented as closely spaced horizontal and vertical lines, and appropriately is thus the darkest form of hatching, as this method is known 2Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 26. Although it may seem a sombre tone, and does indeed sometimes denote grief, it is more commonly said to represent Constancy 3The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P35.

Gules, the heraldic colour red is very popular, sometimes said to represent “Military Fortitude and Magnanimity”4The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P36. It is usually abbreviated as gu and in the days before colour printing was shown in a system known as hatching by vertical lines 5Understanding Signs & Symbols – Heraldry, S. Oliver & G. Croton, Quantum, London, 2013, P52. 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).6A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1847, P154

In the mediaeval period there was no real percieved difference between real and mythical animals, after all, much of the world remained unknown and who was to say what strange and magical creatures existed in distant lands? As heraldry developed a whole menagerie of imagined creatures 7Understanding Signs & Symbols – Heraldry, S. Oliver & G. Croton, Quantum, London, 2013, P164 came into being, and their various representations became more or less standardised in form and appearance. The unicorn is an intresting example that is still part of our own mythology today. The unicorn as illustrated on even the most ancient coat of arms is still instantly recognisable to us today, and shares many of the same poses that both lions and horses can be found in. 8A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Unicorn. Wade, the 18th century heraldic writer suggested that were adopted as symbols because of “its virtue, courage and strength”. 9The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P85

There can be no animal more clearly associated with Heraldry than the lion, majestic King of the Beasts. Originally it appeared only in one pose, erect, on one paw, with the others raised 10Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 64 but such was the popularity of this figure, and the need to distinguish arms from each other, that it soon came to be shown in an enormous range of forms 11Understanding Signs & Symbols – Heraldry, S. Oliver & G. Croton, Quantum, London, 2013, P136-141. The lion passant is an example of these modified form, showing the creature on all fours, as if walking proudly. In common with all reprensentations of the lion it can be taken to be an “emblem of deathless courage”. 12The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P61

The Hawk’s bell is a small bell attached to the collar of a hawk, spherical and clearly different to the church bell. 13A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Hawk bell In addition to showing an affection for the hunt, Wade suggests that it also symbolises someone “not afraid to advertise their presence”. 14The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P76

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References   [ + ]

1. A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Sable
2. Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 26
3. The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P35
4. The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P36
5. Understanding Signs & Symbols – Heraldry, S. Oliver & G. Croton, Quantum, London, 2013, P52
6. A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1847, P154
7. Understanding Signs & Symbols – Heraldry, S. Oliver & G. Croton, Quantum, London, 2013, P164
8. A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Unicorn
9. The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P85
10. Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 64
11. Understanding Signs & Symbols – Heraldry, S. Oliver & G. Croton, Quantum, London, 2013, P136-141
12. The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P61
13. A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Hawk bell
14. The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P76