Coats of Arms on Unusual Shields

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David E. Cohen
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Coats of Arms on Unusual Shields

Postby David E. Cohen » 26 Apr 2014, 14:43

As I am ultimately (several centuries, if not a millennium or two) of middle eastern ancestry, I have often thought it would be appropriate to display my arms on a round shield, and to use an "antique" helmet in a full achievement. Were I to have even an ounce of artistic ability in my body, I'd probably create one myself. Another possibility for an unusual shield type would be the pavise. With its "tombstone" shape and central ridge, a pavise might be a good choice for displaying the palewise key in my arms.

In general, I wonder why differently shaped shields are not used more often, to evoke an ancestral tie or for other reasons. For example, the hoplon of the ancient Greeks, which is often depicted as round, but can also be oval, and may have a large notch on one or both sides. Another interesting type would be the oval shields with points on the top and bottom which were used in fairly significant parts of sub Saharan Africa, perhaps most notably by the Zulu and the Maasai.

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Chris Green
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Re: Shortlived Arms of the Emirate of Kuwait

Postby Chris Green » 26 Apr 2014, 17:25

There are several well-known examples of the African shield, this one is Kenya's:

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The pavise was possibly more common during the medieval period than the shields we find depicted in heraldry. They were used by crossbowmen and to a lesser extent by archers as a mobile protection screen. Many cities maintained hundreds of pavises in their armouries for use by the citizen militia crossbowmen. These were often painted with the coat of arms or colours of the city, sometimes with depictions of the patron saint or other important symbol.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pavise

The notched Greek shield was usually the wicker pelte of the peltast. They were often painted with designs that might be considered proto-heraldic. But there is no evidence that they were painted with designs "owned" by their user. All the shields of a unit may have been the same for ease of identification in the heat of battle.

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The fact is that after the medieval period, that is when shields were no longer used in battle, coats of arms began to be depicted on shields that were never used in combat.

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When all is said and done, in the 21st century you can display your CofA on any shield that takes your fancy - but don't blame the IAAH if you get criticised for it!
Chris Green
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David E. Cohen
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Re: Coats of Arms on Unusual Shields

Postby David E. Cohen » 27 Apr 2014, 15:31

My response post seems to have migrated and started its own thread. :) It desn't lack for ambition. ;) :lol:

One nit to pick on your response, and my "initial" post, since I have done a bit of additional research. The Greek diplyon or Boeotian shields with notches on the sides were used mostly used by the earlier Greeks, and at the earlier part of the age of phalanx warfare, before the spears began lengthening to the extent they had to be wielded two handed (the shields becoming progressively smaller as time went on--wielding a 20 foot/6 meter pike in battle in a late period phalanx not being easy work! A google image search for "Boeotian shield" will produce plenty of examples.

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Chris Green
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Re: Coats of Arms on Unusual Shields

Postby Chris Green » 27 Apr 2014, 16:15

My response post seems to have migrated and started its own thread. It desn't lack for ambition.


Moderator's privilege! There is a lot to be said about shields of all eras.

Here is an extract from my book Lives and Times of the Garter Knights 1348-1600 that demonstrates what happened when a strong force of the best crossbowmen in Europe became separated from the carts containing its pavises. The battle of course was Crécy.

The Genoese

Amidst the noise and bustle of the rest of the French army, Ottone Doria and Carlo Grimaldi, commanders of the Genoese mercenary crossbow men, did what they had to do to get their men to the front and deploy them in their lines. They were tired and disgruntled after a long march, during which they had lost track of the carts carrying their pavises and spare ammunition. Their preferred tactics were very different to those of the English archers. The pavise-bearers would march forward and place them in a line. The crossbow men would then prepare, shielded behind the pavise wall, straighten up, fire their volley and crouch down again while the loaders reloaded or handed the shooters second loaded bows. Without their pavises the Genoese felt naked, but they maintained their discipline and marched forward, halting twice to dress their ranks before advancing again shouting their war-cries, though without their shield-wall they might have done better to choose a looser formation.
At this point any luck the Genoese might still have had deserted them, as a rain-squall swept across the field soaking everyone. While the English archers hastily removed their bow-strings and kept them dry under their helmets or jerkins, the Genoese had no time to remove theirs from their more complex bows. Thus, when they halted for the third time to dress ranks and took aim, their first shots mostly fell short. The English bowmen, with the advantage of the slope and their dry bow-strings took a half pace forward, raised their bows and let fly, and again, and again. The result was carnage among the unprotected crossbow men bending down to reload, or turning to receive loaded bows from their assistants. The survivors mostly did not stop to think but ran back to get out of range. Without their protective pavises and out-ranged by a foe who could shoot four or five shots to their one, the Genoese were doing the only sensible thing.
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MenkAndemicael
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Re: Coats of Arms on Unusual Shields

Postby MenkAndemicael » 28 Apr 2014, 17:11

I love a round shield!

My father (and his father, whom the arms were created for posthumously to honor his life) are Eritrean. The Abyssinian highlander culture made exclusive use of round shields. Decorated, but not with heraldic charges.

My blazon does not specify shield type, to allow emblazonments to be a bit more flexible.

For example, I display the arms in both the orthodox manner

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and in an emblazonment style which takes a bit more liberties with the various components to make them culturally specific.

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Ryan Shuflin
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Re: Coats of Arms on Unusual Shields

Postby Ryan Shuflin » 29 Apr 2014, 04:31

Circle shields are also used in Canadian heraldry to represent Inuit drums. Also an arrowhead is used as a shield for North Dakota. I think the popularity of a circle shield limits it's ability to be an unique symbol of a specific culture. I do like the idea of flexibility with shield shapes.

Jonathan Webster
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Re: Coats of Arms on Unusual Shields

Postby Jonathan Webster » 05 Jun 2020, 11:11

Some more non-traditional shields:

The arms of the former South African 'bantustan' of Bophuthatswana, which I believe is depicted on a traditional Tswana shield:
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Not strictly heraldic, though I suppose you could blazon it
'Sable, in chief a Torteau'...that's a traditional Sudanese shield from time of the rebellion of the Mahdi on the secretary bird's chest:

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-indeed the Wikipedia artist 'ssolberlj' has taken the time to render these arms in a different emblazonment (without supporter):

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