In many ways, crests and coats of arms were the brand logos of the medieval era. Back in the days when knights would clash on the battlefield or in jousting tournaments, the designs on their shields, helms, and other pieces of armor would clearly identify each individual to their friends, enemies, and audiences, helping them keep track of each knight’s prowess in the fray.
COAT OF ARMS FOR THE MONARCH - ENGLAND, IRELAND, SCOTLAND AND WALES
These soon evolved from being simple visual aids to family emblems, containing designs with coded intimations of personal history, honor, status, achievement, and other moral or religious values.
By the 13th century, every aristocratic family in Europe boasted a unique coat of arms that would be passed down the generations, with new generations updating or modifying the designs on the shield (known as the ‘charge’) to reflect their personal values, while maintaining the integrity of the upper portion (‘crest’) – the overarching symbol of the family.
COAT OF ARMS: PRINCE CHARLES - given to him at age 18
As the centuries passed, coats of arms and crests evolved further, growing from representing individuals and families to organizations and companies, even entire nations – the birth of the modern-day logo.
The Middleton Family Coat of Arms
Today, the traditional coat of arms is still an effective means of communicating heritage and prestige in print, and many individuals and organizations choose to adopt one in order to convey their history and values via their stationery. In Britain and many Commonwealth countries, to be officially recognized with a Royal Warrant, a coat of arms must be formally granted, and have its design approved by the College of Arms – the body responsible for maintaining the register of heraldic insignia since 1484. Unofficial coats of arms and crests have no such formal regulation.
COAT OF ARMS: PRINCE HARRY - given to him at age 13