Charges are the objects, birds or animals that are added to the field of the shield to identify its owner. The field can also be divided and coloured with different tinctures (colours).
Party is not an invitation to a shindig – it simply means parted or divided. A shield can be divided per fess – halving the shield across with a horizontal stripe or per pale which means halving the shield down the middle. The per is important as it makes it clear in the description that its the way the shield is divided and coloured where as a fess is a horizontal charge on the field and a pale is a vertical charge on the shield. Look for the per to see if its describing the tinctures of the field. The shield can also be divider per saltire which is a snazzy two tone colouring based on a saltire cross or even just per cross. And if you want to get really carried away then there is per bend – which is a diagonal division. Per chevron is nice and straight forward as the inverted ‘v’ shape should be becoming familiar and then there’s per pall. A pall can also be a charge.
And just to make life that little bit more exciting bends can be per bend sinister (top right to bottom left) or per bend dexter (top left to bottom right). Sinister is left and dexter is right. Another thing the Romans did for us.
With the passage of time those nice neat straight lines were adapted to be pointy or wavy further complicating the names that anyone interested in heraldry has to learn but extending the range of fields available for use.
Can you identify the following signatories of the Magna Carta from some of the elements of their coat of arms. One of them should be very familiar to readers of the histroyjar:
- Geoffrey de Say – per cross or and gules.
2. William de Mowbray – lion rampant argent
3. William Marshal – per pale or and vert
4. Robert de Ros – three water bougets argent ( a pair of water bags on a yoke)
5. Robert de Vere – mullet argent.