FOR NEARLY 1,000 YEARS the Western World has evidenced increasing interest in and use of armorial bearings. Many are surprised to learn that coats of arms are more widely used today, and that more new arms are designed and recognized today than at any previous time in history. The ancient armorial tradition would certainly have become extinct long ago were it not based in more than the early utilitarian purposes of medieval warfare and the sealing of documents. The bearing of heraldic arms suggests philosophical undergirdings related to the influence of arms upon the solidarity within the family, the sense of place and belonging they offer the individual, and upon the encouragement of a lifestyle based on honor and the recognition of the responsibility for service to others.

Since a coat of arms is a graphic means of identification, the arms represent the individual or family. The degree of honor and respect accorded to the arms depends upon the behavior and contributions to the community or society of those who bear them. Through the industry, responsibility, integrity, charity, honor and leadership, one may heap such honor upon the arms that descendants eagerly register to personally take up and bear the ancestral arms.

Such arms serve as a subtle but constant reminder to descendants who bear them of their continuing responsibility to lead lives of honor and service and thereby to bring even greater honor and recognition to the family arms. For the coat of arms proudly represents an active and present relationship between members of a family and, a visible linkage between past, present and future generations. The arms then represent continuance and endurance and provide a strong and lasting symbol for family unity. Arms serve to encourage a sense of interdependence which strengthens the family structure. The arms shared by members of a family are a heritage of “belongingness,” promoting the ideal of a family joined together and inseparable in spirit.

Armorial bearings contain a quality of intangibility which is most significant to the family. Lands, monies and properties may be lost because of economic changes, wars and other disaster, leaving ensuing generations without inheritance. However, a coat of arms is a recorded design of identification which is fully able to survive change and loss. It can even endure a dormant period only to be reclaimed by rightful descendants at a later time. At the armiger’s demise, he leaves an armorial estate to his descendants throughout all future generations. It is a legacy which can never be depleted, devalued, lost or stolen; rather, the arms of just and honorable persons singularly increase in their meaning, significance and value as they are taken up and borne by those descendants in each generation who proudly claim their birthright by registering to bear the ancestral arms.

Those persons holding these ideals and values to be precious and who wish to establish a rightful and recognized heraldic tradition for themselves and their descendants are invited to apply for membership in the College and to register the arms which will represent their family through the generations.

* If you came here looking for what the various elements of heraldry “mean,” please note this from our FAQs page:

Many individuals submit their application but aren’t quite sure what they want to include in their arms, and ask us to tell them which elements to include that specifically define elements of their life, their character, their family, etc. The truth is, there is no definitive “dictionary” of heraldic meanings.

Over time, certain symbols have been “assigned” traditional meaning in heraldry, and for those individuals who wish to start from scratch in their designs, here is a LIST OF HERALDIC “MEANINGS”. This is not to say that these are the College’s definitions for such symbols, but merely those which are commonly recognized in heraldic usage.

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