White City Heraldry


Webmaster's Note: Credit and thanks for a vast amount of work on this page, including all the images, should go to James F.




There is a strong heraldic tradition in the world of the White City, thus knowledge of heraldry can be fantastically useful if you want to interact with the nobility in a useful way. The construction of coats of arms ultimately comes down to the preference of the original bearer. The nobility of the White City are closer to being merchant princes than feudal lords, so an awful lot of heraldry is affectation. For all the discussion of symbolism which is to follow, heraldic devices are often perfectly literal, and a great many of them just seemed like a good idea at the time. Spiders, for example, feature prominently in the designs of the Family De Almedia, partially this is because of their symbolic connection with perseverance and industry but mostly it just comes from the fact that the De Almedias owe most of their fortune to the spiders and Weavers of the City of Silk.

If you want to design a shield for your character, just send a message to the mailing list describing the shield in English and we'll translate it into blazon (the heraldic language) for you and add it to the website. A basic guide to understanding blazons appears below.
Throughout this page, writing in blazon and heraldic terms is signified by the use of italics, though not all italics indicate the use of heraldic language (some are just used for emphasis).

Blazonry - Cults & Powers - Military Organisations - College of the Thousand Arts - Nobles

Please note, as ever, that this is a fictional setting with its own culture and due to this its heraldic system differs from the various real world systems in several ways (for example: the colour rule is not used, shield shapes are more important, repetition of colours is not seen as a problem, and some new blazon terms have been made up). Its creators reserve the right to adjust historical accuracy to suit their own tastes, and indeed to just make mistakes. Please feel free to help us correct any you can spot.




Blazonry

Blazonry is the science of describing the design of a coat of arms. It uses old vocabulary, dating back over 700 years to the time of the Civil War- and in some cases back over a thousand years, to before the Naming & Binding War. It is taught in the White City at the College of the Thousand Arts' Faculty of Heraldry, who maintain the definitive lists of all armorial grants.
Constructing a simple blazon is done in three steps. First a shield shape is chosen, then a field (background) colour, and then a charge (an object in the foreground).

Shield Shapes

Shields come in three broad styles; escutcheons, cartouches and lozenges.

Shield Shapes

Colours

There are two metals and five colours generally used in heraldry in the White City, plus a variation on one of the metals as used in the Port of Glass:

There are also several less-commonly-used colours:

Charges

There are two main types of charge. Ordinaries are thick lines across a shield, whilst other charges are graphical depictions of mundane objects.
Note that in heraldry one always assumes that one is looking at the shield from behind when describing left (sinister) and right (dexter).

Ordinaries

The names of the first 6 ordinaries (Pale, Fess, Bend, Bend Sinister, Chevron, or Saltire, but not Pile, Chief or Bordure) can also be used to make the background several colours.
For example On an Escutcheon Argent, a Pale Sable is a white shield with a black vertical line on it, like the first image in the above diagram. However An Escutcheon per pale Argent and Sable is a shield split vertically, half white and half black.

Note that in the White City quartering and impalement are not commonly used techniques, instead families that marry combine charges or colours from both sides. See the Nobles section below for more details.

There are a bewildering array of non-geometrical designs used as charges. These include beasts, birds, swords, stars, coins, roses and many others. Usually these had some kind of significance to the original bearer of the arms. There are a couple of interesting examples that bear citing on this issue:

There are formal rules dictating the order of how you write blazons, and concerning punctuation.
Nouns (shield shapes or charges) are capitalised, as are colours or metals (e.g. a Sword erect Argent.)
Colours or metals always come after the objects they are describing (e.g. a Sword erect Argent, not an Argent Sword erect.)
Blazons always work from the background up (i.e. they first describe the shield shape and colour, then any ordinaries except a Chief or Bordure on the shield, then any charges on the shield, then any charges on ordinaries, then any Bordures or Chiefs and any charges on them). Each level is separated by a comma.
Blazons normally work from dexter to sinister, but if there is a Fess, Bend Sinister or Chevron they work from chief to base (top to bottom).



Cults & Powers

Gods and Powers don't generally go in for coats of arms, but their followers and cults and temples often do. The following is by no means a comprehensive list - after all, there are almost as many ideas of religious symbolism in the world as there are priests.

Temples & Other Religious Organisations




Military Organisations

Heraldry originated in the military, and most military organisations still use designs painted on their shields to identify them. For the personal regiments of the various Noble Families, these tend to be simply the Family Arms. Here are some others:

Notable Military Organisations




The College of the Thousand Arts
& Associated Faculties

The College of the Thousand Arts

The College of the Thousand Arts - On a Lozenge Tenne, a Compass Rose Argent edged Or, between two Quill-Pens Argent nibbed Azure. (A silver compass rose edged with gold, with a silver quill-pen [with blue decoration] on either side, on a brown diamond field.)
This is the shield of the College of the Thousand Arts, whose origins are traceable to before the founding of the College itself when the tallest spire in the city (now the Cartography Tower) was originally a temple to the Rose Princes. A small shrine is still carefully maintained at the highest point of this spire. An old legend has it that if any person is courageous enough to gain a blessing from all four Rose Princes and then to stand atop the spire during a lightning storm and survive, they will gain mastery over the Four Winds for a year and a day. Although several attempts have been made to prove the veracity of this legend, none have yet succeeded in gaining the blessing of all four Rose Princes and returning to the White City alive.

Each Faculty of the College also has its own jealously guarded personal arms, representations of which are often held on large ceremonial shields within the offices of the Chief Professor of that Faculty. An ancient amendment to the Charter of the College rules that, should a Faculty ever fail to present its arms during the ritual Chancellor's Inspection which takes place once a year at midnight on Midsummer's Day, said Faculty must be dissolved and all its members exiled from the White City in disgrace. This clause has never had cause to be invoked in recorded history; although the occasional student prank has led to the theft of one or other Faculty's shields, they have always been safely returned before Midsummer. All Faculty arms appear on Lozenges. Some sample Faculty crests follow:

The College of the Thousand Arts




Noble Families & Their Members

Whilst heraldry originated with the military and is also used by various religious and secular authorities, it is the nobility who use it the most. Various charges and their alignments are all used to indicate which Family a noble belongs to, who their relatives are, and their level of importance inside the Family.

There are, broadly speaking, three types of Noble Arms: Family Arms, Personal Arms and the City Shields. Each Family has its own Family Arms. These have normally remained unchanged for generations, and are often but not always used as the Personal Arms of the Head of the Family (and sometimes their spouse).
Each other member of the family will have their own Personal Arms, which often resemble the Family Arms with some small alteration for difference. Toquell Velasquez, for instance, uses the Velasquez Family Arms but with a purple snake instead of a white one. In large Families, different branches might have certain charges that set their members apart from the rest of the Family (the Cristofori Family has some particularly good examples of this). If a member of one Family marries a member of another, they will often modify their Personal Arms to combine the symbols of both Families. This Family Tree (opens in a new window) shows some examples of this.
Finally there are the City Shields. There are just four of these, one from each of the most powerful Families. They are used by the four High Captains of the High Guard, and feature a combination of the Family Arms and the arms of the High Guard. See the section on the High Guard for more details, or High Captain Matteus De Almedia for an example.

De Courci - De Almedia - Velasquez - Cristofori - D'Artois - Panastra - de Velland - de Fideli - du Valle - Luxfrey



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Blazonry - Cults & Powers - Military Organisations - College of the Thousand Arts
Noble Families - De Courci - De Almedia - Velasquez - Cristofori - D'Artois - Panastra - de Velland - de Fideli - du Valle - Luxfrey

This page last updated: 8th Jan 2007

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