The Role of Armorials in the Fourteenth Century

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While many people think that coats of arms or crests are fun to research, the fact is that at one time they were vitally important methods of identifying and recording the deeds of specific individuals. One of the ways that they were used was in an armorial or roll of arms. By looking at the armorials or rolls of arms for important events, historians and family members can gain important information on the social structure of Medieval Europe.

In some very limited circumstances, armorials were created in order to keep track of which nobles or individuals were living in a specific geographical area. There were county armorials that recorded which county a noble lived in. These were rare however and the vast majority of records were created to commemorate events rather than acting as a form of census.

Tourneys and Battles

Many times, armorials were used to record the participants in various activities. Two of the main activities that often were recorded using armorials were tournaments and battles. Being able to prove that you were at a specific event could be critical for many reasons, so it was incredibly helpful for someone to have a coat of arms that could be marked down.

In tournaments, many different knights and nobles competed in order to prove that they were the best fighters, archers or riders. While many tournaments involved jousting matches, there may have been other events that were also occurring. The kind of event would vary from country to country. For example, in the court of Henry VIII of England, often the game of tennis would be played with various nobles competing in matches over a period of a week or more.

Expeditions and Sieges

There were often expeditions and sieges that nobles could take part in. Because the risk of death or injury was quite high in many of these cases it was important to have a record of who participated in a specific event. For example, many knights who went on Crusade lost their lives either due to wounds they suffered in battle or from the harsh conditions that they had to endure both in the Holy Land and on the voyage to reach Jerusalem. Even the boat crossing from Europe to the Holy Land was fraught with danger and many individuals were lost when their boats sank or were attacked.

Modern Forms of Armorials

In the past, an armorial or roll of arms was often recorded on paper. Paper records could be expanded on as more coats of arms or crests were added. The coats of arms could be recorded in image form or, using the language of heraldry, could be recorded in a method that is known as blazoning.

Now, technology has made it easier for organizations to keep track of coats of arms. They are often available in both image and blazon form and can be accessed by the internet. There are many companies which will help you locate your family’s coat of arms and would be willing to put it on a variety of different materials. You do need to make sure that you are working with a reputable company that will help you locate the correct coat of arms especially if you are from a large family or have a fairly common last name.

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