What is an Armorial Achievement?Armorial Achievement is the correct name for what most people refer to as a “Coat of Arms.” You will see them referred to as a “Coat of Arms” on this site because that is what people typically search for on Google, so we have to use the term to make sure they find what they are looking for even if it isn’t technically correct.
What’s a Family Crest then?Family Crest is actually a complete misnomer. The term “Crest” is used by itself and is the part above the helm on a set of arms. Not all arms contain a crest and just because one was granted to a specific member of a family does not mean that the whole family can display it. See the next question.
How do I get a Coat of Arms for my family name?There is no such thing as a Coat of Arms for a family name. They always belong to a specific individual or organization. So if you bought the “Richards Family Crest” (sic) from a medieval fair, you are in possession of someone else’s armorial bearings.
Who grants Armorial Achievements in the United States?No one is the short answer. While it can be a civil infraction to bear arms in England and an actual crime in Scotland, the U.S. has no official granting body. So arms in the United States are “Assumed” and that is why this site is called Assume Arms.
Why should I register with Assume Arms?Most importantly because it is free. It is also a worldwide repository of heraldic art that allows others to see your arms and a convenient place for you to share your arms with friends and family.
What are all these weird sounding terms about?Heraldry is replete with unusual and interesting terms from the middle ages. Here are a list of the most commonly used terms that you will find on this site. While this is by no means a complete list, we feel that it contains most of the terms you will need in order to convey your wishes to us.
Achievement:The full armorial bearings of an armiger (one who bears arms), e.g. shield, crest, torse, helm, mantling, supporters and compartment.
Armiger:One who is entitled to, or in the US, chooses to bear heraldic arms.
Armorial:Of or pertaining to heraldry or heraldic arms.
Arms:Originally strictly the devices painted on the shield, it now tends to be used more loosely and may refer to the entire achievement.
Blazon:The written description which uses very specific terms to describe each color, object, division of the shield and their placement. A proper blazon should allow a heraldic artist to emblazon (graphically draw) an achievement from nothing but the blazon (text).
Charge:Any object or figure placed on a heraldic shield or on any other object of an armorial composition. Charges can be animals, objects, or geometric shapes.
Compartment:The support, often drawn as a grassy mound, on which the supporters stand.
Crest:The device which is set upon the helm.
Dexter:The right side. When applied to a shield it refers to that part which would be towards the right side of the man carrying it, thus the portion on the viewer’s left.
Emblazonment:The graphical representation of the blazon. That is, it is the actual image created from the blazon (text descripton) of the armorial achievement. There may be many emblazonments for any given blazon. Each artist will emblazon a set of arms in their own style.
Escutcheon (Shield):The shield on which the charges are pictured.
FieldThe basic surface on the shield on which the charges are placed. When blazoning, the field is always stated first.
Helm (Helmet):The helmet device that sits directly upon the shield or escutcheon.
Heraldry:The study and art of tracing genealogies, of determining, designing, and granting coats of arms, and of ruling on questions of rank or protocol.
Lambrequin (Mantling):See Mantling.
Mantling (Lambrequin):Originally a cloth draped from the helm to prevent the helmet from overheating. Currently depicted as carried down on either side of the shield. Sometimes called the Lambrequin.
Ordinary:A basic geometrical charge used in arms, usually divided into the (honourable) ordinaries and the subordinaries.
Sinister:The side of the shield toward the left of the man carrying it, thus to the right when viewed from in front.
Supporters:The human, natural, or creatures which stand on either side of a shield of arms and support it.
Tincture:The colors used in heraldry.
Torse (Wreath):Originally the way the Mantling was attached to the helm. Currently an ornamental way of hiding the points where the crest is attached to the helm.
Wreath (Torse):See Torse.
Notes on Artistic License and Anti-PlagiarismAll of my works have my name attached to them and as such I have considerable interest in making sure they are historically accurate and follow all of the best traditions of British heraldry. To that end, I have the final say about any item that I create and I do not take requests as to style. You will receive arms in my style, much as if you asked Bob Ross to paint you some trees, you would get “Happy Trees” in his style. You wouldn’t go to Bob Ross and ask him to do some impressionistic trees now would you? So while I will honor a request like rotating a shield 20 degrees in the Germanic fashion, I do not do mantling from the Victorian period. My mantling is historically accurate and uniquely identifiable as being mine. I also do not cut and paste, so although I want, and in fact, sometimes need for you to send me pictures of a certain animal or plant, I will not be placing that specific file in the master file. I will be creating my impression of it. And as the actual shade of the Colours or the shape of the helm or shield are not defined in blazon, they too are at my discression, though I am happy to discuss your particular requests and see if it falls within the historically accurate context of what we are trying to do. I really want you to be happy first but in the end I have to sign off on it too. 400 years from now when someone sees your arms, I don’t want them saying “What is that about?” or “What was that heraldic artist thinking?” What we create together will likely outlast either of us by many years, possibly hundreds of years, so I want to do it well.