The World of Heraldry Shields: A Beginner’s Guide

Heraldry is an ancient and fascinating tradition that has been around for centuries, with its roots in medieval Europe. This practice involves designing and displaying coats of arms that are made up of various symbols and colors that represent individual families, regions, or countries. One of the central elements of heraldry is the shield, which is used as a canvas for displaying these symbols. The purpose of this article is to explore the different types of shields used in heraldry, the meaning behind the symbols on them, and some fascinating facts about their use throughout history. Whether you’re a history buff or just find heraldry fascinating, reading this article is sure to provide you with some new insights and information.

What is Heraldry?

Heraldry is a system of designing and displaying coat of arms, badges, and other markings that allow individuals and families to display their identities and honorable achievements. It originated in Europe in the Middle Ages, during which knights and other warriors began to decorate their shields and armor with unique designs that indicated their lineage, achievements, and beliefs. One of the most famous examples of heraldry is the three lions of England which appears on the English coat of arms. Heraldry involves a rich vocabulary of unique terminology, including animals, plants, and other symbols, each with its own special meaning. Understanding the different symbols and designs used in heraldry can provide valuable insights into the cultural, historical, and philosophical values that were important to different societies and individuals over time. To learn more about the meaning behind different coat of arms divisions, charges, and symbols, check out /meaning-behind-coat-of-arms-divisions/, /beginners-guide-coat-of-arms-charges/, and /heraldry-animal-symbolism/.

Why Do We Use Shields in Heraldry?

Why Do We Use Shields in Heraldry?

Shields are one of the most recognizable symbols in heraldry. The use of shields in heraldry has been prevalent for centuries and is still commonly used today. But why do we use shields in heraldry? Here are a few reasons:

1. Identification: Shields were originally used to identify soldiers in battle. As armor became more prevalent, it became harder to recognize individual soldiers. Shields served as a way to identify soldiers from a distance, as each soldier would bear his own unique coat of arms.

2. Status Symbol: As time went on, the use of shields in heraldry became more of a status symbol. The designs on the shields would signify the rank, achievements, and social standing of the bearer.

3. Decoration: Shields in heraldry are not only functional but also decorative. The use of bright colors and intricate designs on a shield could showcase the creativity and wealth of the bearer.

4. Tradition: The use of shields in heraldry has become a long-standing tradition. Families and organizations have had their own unique coat of arms for generations, with each new bearer adding their own personal touch to the design.

Shields in heraldry serve as an important symbol of identification, status, decoration, and tradition. Understanding the meanings and significance behind the designs on the shields can provide an interesting glimpse into history and culture. To learn more about the significance of heraldry, check out our article on heraldic achievements.

Types of Shields Used in Heraldry

Types Of Shields Used In Heraldry

1. Heater Shield
The heater shield was a popular shield in the 13th and 14th centuries. It has a distinctive narrow top and wide bottom, which makes it easier to maneuver in combat. This type of shield was commonly used by knights and soldiers and was often painted with the coat of arms of the owner.

2. Kite Shield
The kite shield was a type of shield that was commonly used in the 10th and 11th centuries in Europe. It is characterized by its unique shape, which resembles a kite. This type of shield was used by medieval knights because it provided good protection for the legs in battle.

3. Round Shield
The round shield was one of the most commonly used shields throughout history. It was used by many different cultures, including the ancient Greeks and Romans. This type of shield was lightweight and easy to maneuver, making it a popular choice for foot soldiers.

4. Square Shield
The square shield was a popular shield during the 12th and 13th centuries. It is characterized by its square shape, which provided excellent defense against sword strikes. This type of shield was often decorated with the coat of arms of the owner.

5. Pavise Shield
The pavise shield was a large shield that was used by archers and crossbowmen during the Middle Ages. It was often used as a mobile shelter for archers while they took aim at their targets. This type of shield was typically held by a handle on the back and was placed upright on the ground when not in use.

6. Buckler Shield
The buckler shield was a small shield that was used in the Medieval and Renaissance periods. It was characterized by its small, round shape and was often held in the off-hand while the other hand held a sword. This type of shield was very versatile and could be used for both defense and offense.

7. Escutcheon Shield
The escutcheon shield was a flat shield that was used in the Middle Ages. It was commonly used by knights and nobles and was often decorated with the coat of arms of the owner. This type of shield was typically made of wood or metal and was designed to be held by a strap at the back.

8. Target Shield
The target shield was a small, round shield that was used in the Middle Ages. It was often used by foot soldiers in close combat and was held with a handle or strapped to the arm. This type of shield was very lightweight and could be moved quickly, making it an effective tool in battle.

Understanding the different types of shields used in heraldry can help one appreciate the history and significance of coat of arms. If you want to learn more about related heraldic concepts and terminology, check out our resources on heraldic terms meaning, symbolism of colors in heraldry, tinctures in heraldry significance, and heraldic mantling importance.

1. Heater Shield

The Heater Shield was a popular choice for knights in the late medieval period due to its shape and size. It was named for its resemblance to a flatiron, or “heater,” and was typically long and narrow with a slightly pointed bottom. These shields could be easily maneuvered in battle, allowing knights to protect themselves while still being able to attack their opponents. The Heater Shield was also often adorned with colorful /heraldry symbols/strong>, making it both functional and decorative. Interestingly, the Heater Shield was eventually replaced by the larger and more protective Kite Shield, but it remains an important part of the history of medieval warfare.

2. Kite Shield

The Kite Shield, much like its name suggests, was shaped like a kite and was popular during the 10th to 13th centuries. This type of shield was commonly used by Normans and Crusaders and was known for its long and narrow shape, which allowed for greater mobility and maneuverability during battle. The shield itself was made of wood or metal and was designed to cover the body from the shoulders to the knees. The pointed end of the shield was usually used to attack enemies by thrusting it towards them.

One unique feature of the Kite Shield was the ability to attach a crest to the top of the shield for identification purposes. Knights would often paint their heraldic symbol onto their shield’s crest to showcase their identity and rank on the battlefield. Due to its shape and versatility, the Kite Shield became a symbol of power and status for knights and soldiers.

Interestingly, the Kite Shield’s popularity began to decline in the 14th century due to advances in armor and weaponry. Shields became less necessary as full suits of armor were developed, allowing for greater protection in battle. However, the Kite Shield’s legacy lives on in the world of heraldry and medieval art where its unique shape and design are still revered to this day.

3. Round Shield

The Round Shield is a classic type of shield used in heraldry. This shield has a circular shape and is easy to recognize. It was commonly used by early medieval knights who needed protection during hand-to-hand combat.

One of the notable features of the round shield is its versatility. It can be used in both cavalry and infantry formations, and its shape allows for better coverage than other types of shields.

In heraldry, the Round Shield was often associated with symbols of protection, such as the cross or the sun. Some of the most popular symbols include lions, eagles, and dragons. These symbols were highly significant, representing the noble qualities of the owner.

Despite being commonly used in the past, the Round Shield is not very popular in modern times. It is more often seen in historical reenactments or in artistic interpretations of medieval warfare.

The Round Shield has a rich history in heraldry and was an important part of medieval warfare. Its iconic shape and versatility have made it a recognizable symbol of protection and defense.

4. Square Shield

When it comes to learning about the different types of shields used in heraldry, the square shield is a noteworthy example. As its name implies, this type of shield is shaped like a square. Generally regarded as a medieval design, it was a popular choice for knights in the 12th to 14th centuries.
Square shields provided a large amount of protection to the bearer due to their flat shape and four corners. Often made from sturdy materials like wood or metal and covered in leather or fabric, they were able to deflect weapons and protect against arrows.
Interestingly, the square shape of this shield also allowed for interchangeable use. Since all four corners were of equal length, the bearer could rotate the shield as needed to protect specific areas of the body. Square shields could also be used offensively, with the flat surface being an ideal canvas for displaying symbols and colors to intimidate opponents.
Although the popularity of square shields has diminished in modern times, they are still used in certain settings. For example, they are sometimes employed in fencing and martial arts as an educational tool on how to use shields in combat.

5. Pavise Shield

The Pavise Shield is a unique shield that was popular in the late Middle Ages. It was invented to provide protection to archers and crossbowmen who were vulnerable to enemy arrows while reloading. The Pavise Shield is a large shield that is rectangular in shape and can range from 4 to 6 feet in height. It was typically made of wood and could be reinforced with metal plates.

What makes the Pavise Shield unique is that it could stand upright on its own, thanks to a special metal spike at the bottom of the shield. This allowed archers and crossbowmen to take cover behind the shield and reload safely while remaining protected from enemy fire.

The front of the Pavise Shield was often decorated with colorful heraldic designs which helped to identify the soldiers and their allegiance. Additionally, some Pavise Shields had a small ledge at the bottom that allowed soldiers to rest their crossbows or longbows while they reloaded.

The Pavise Shield was used extensively in Italy during the 14th and 15th centuries and was particularly popular among crossbowmen. It was a crucial piece of equipment that allowed them to reload safely and quickly and played a strategic role in many battles.

Today, the Pavise Shield is still used in historical reenactments, and many reproductions can be found in museums around the world. Its unique design and important role in medieval warfare make it an interesting piece of military history.

6. Buckler Shield

The Buckler Shield is a small round shield that was commonly used during the medieval period. The shield has a diameter of approximately 6-18 inches and is held with a handle, unlike other shields which were strapped to the arm. Because of its small size, the buckler shield could be quickly maneuvered in battle, making it an effective defensive weapon.

In addition to being used in combat, the buckler shield was also used in training for sword fighting. Fighters would use the shield to defend themselves while practicing sword techniques. It was also used as a bludgeoning weapon, as its small size and weight made it easy to swing at an opponent.

The design of the buckler shield varied depending on the region where it was used and the period in which it was made. Some were plain and simply designed, while others were adorned with intricate designs and embellishments. The shield was typically made of iron or steel and was often covered in leather to protect the warrior’s hand.

The buckler shield is a fascinating example of medieval weaponry. Its small size and maneuverability made it a common choice for knights and soldiers during battle and training. Today, the buckler shield is still used in historical reenactments and as a symbol of medieval history.

7. Escutcheon Shield

The Escutcheon shield is one of the most common and recognizable types of shields used in heraldry. It is also called a “coat of arms” shield or “achievement” shield. This shield is typically wider than it is tall and has a flat top with a rounded bottom. It is often divided into four sections, or quarters, with different symbols or colors in each section.

The Escutcheon shield is usually used to display a family’s coat of arms. The coat of arms includes symbols and colors that represent the family’s history, achievements, and values. The Escutcheon shield may also be used to display the coat of arms of a specific organization, such as a university or military unit.

Sometimes, the Escutcheon shield may be “quartered,” meaning that it is divided into four sections horizontally and vertically. Each section may contain a different symbol or color. This style of shield is often used to represent the different branches of a family or organization.

Here are some examples of symbols and colors that may be used on an Escutcheon shield:

Symbol/Color Meaning
Gold/Yellow Represents generosity and elevation of the mind
Red Represents bravery and strength
Blue Represents loyalty and truth
Lion Represents courage and bravery
Eagle Represents strength and freedom
Oak Represents strength and endurance

The Escutcheon shield is a powerful symbol of identity, history, and values. From medieval knights to modern organizations, this shield has played an important role in heraldry.

8. Target Shield

The Target Shield was a smaller version of the Heater Shield that was popular during the 14th and 15th centuries. It was shaped like a tapered oval, with the top of the shield being wider than the bottom. This gave the shield a distinct ‘teardrop’ shape and made it easier to hold during combat.

One unique feature of the Target Shield was its reinforced central boss, which was a circular piece of metal that stood out from the center of the shield. This boss provided extra protection to the hand and wrist of the bearer, while also adding weight to the shield.

Since the Target Shield was smaller than other shields, it was commonly used by foot soldiers, archers, and cavalrymen. Its lightweight design made it easy to maneuver, and it provided just enough protection for close-combat skirmishes.

Despite its smaller size, the Target Shield still played an important role in heraldry. Many knights would display their coat of arms on the front of the shield, making it easy to recognize them on the field of battle.

The Target Shield was an essential piece of armor during the Middle Ages. Its unique design and functionality made it a popular choice for soldiers of all ranks, while its distinctive shape made it a common sight on the battlefield.

What Do the Symbols on the Shield Mean?

Symbols on a shield are a crucial part of heraldry. They are used to represent various things, including individual clans or families, territories, or organizations. Each symbol on a shield is unique and has its specific meaning. Understanding the meaning of these symbols is critical to interpreting and understanding the shield’s significance.

1. Colors: The colors on a shield are as important as the symbols themselves. The most commonly used colors are red, blue, green, black, and gold/silver. These colors, when combined with symbols, create a unique representation of a particular family, community, or organization.

2. Animals: Various animals are usually featured on shields, such as lions, eagles, bears, stags, etc. In heraldry, each animal represents specific qualities. For example, the lion is used to represent bravery, courage, and strength. The eagle symbolizes power, freedom, and a sharp vision.

3. Plants: Plants or flowers can also appear on heraldry shields, such as lilies, roses, and thistles. Each plant represents different qualities. For example, the lily is used to represent purity, while the rose symbolizes love and beauty.

4. Geometric Shapes: Geometric patterns are another commonly used symbol on shields. These include chevrons, stripes, and cross patterns. Each geometric figure has its significance and can represent various qualities.

5. Occupational Symbols: Occupational symbols, such as hammers, swords, and bows, are used to represent various professions. For example, the hammer is used to represent a blacksmith, while the sword symbolizes a knight.

6. Mythological Symbols: Mythological creatures such as dragons, centaurs, and mermaids are also commonly featured on heraldry shields. Each mythical being has its meaning and can represent various qualities.

The symbols on a shield are diverse and unique, and each has its particular significance. Combining these symbols with colors creates a unique representation of a specific family, community, or organization. It is essential to understand these symbols’ meaning to interpret and understand the shield’s significance fully.

Symbol Meaning
Lion Bravery, courage, and strength
Eagle Power, freedom, and a sharp vision
Lily Purity
Rose Love and beauty
Hammer Blacksmith
Sword Knight
Dragon Strength, power, and protection
Cross Symbol of faith and spirituality

1. Colors

Colors play a significant role in the symbolism of heraldry shields. Each color represents a specific meaning, and its usage is often intentional and chosen carefully. For instance, red represents bravery and strength, while blue signifies truth and loyalty. Green is associated with love, growth, and hope, while purple represents royalty, power, and wealth. Yellow or gold is often utilized to represent honor, justice, and generosity. On the other hand, black symbolizes wisdom and knowledge, while white or silver represents purity, peace, and sincerity. These colors were used by medieval knights to express their values and personalities, making them an essential aspect of heraldry shields.

2. Animals

Animals are one of the most commonly used symbols in heraldry shields. Each animal symbolizes a specific characteristic or trait that the bearer wants to showcase to the world. Here are some common animals found in heraldry shields and their meanings:

Animal Meaning
Lions Lions are a symbol of courage, strength, and royalty. They are a popular choice for heraldry shields.
Eagles Eagles are a symbol of strength, courage, and vision. They are often used to represent a person of noble character or high achievement.
Wolves Wolves are a symbol of loyalty, guardianship, and fierce protection. They are often used to represent a family’s protection of their home or territory.
Bears Bears are a symbol of strength, courage, and fierce protection. They are often used to represent a family’s protection of their home or territory.
Stags Stags are a symbol of power, strength, and the pursuit of knowledge. They are often used to represent a person who seeks to better themselves and the world around them.
Griffins Griffins are a symbol of courage, strength, and nobility. They are often used as a symbol of protection for a ruling dynasty or for the defense of a specific territory.

Other animals that are commonly used in heraldry shields include horses, dragons, fish, and birds. Each animal represents a different trait or characteristic that the bearer wants to showcase. Whether it’s strength, courage, loyalty, or achievement, animals are a powerful symbol that can convey a lot of meaning in a small space.

3. Plants

In heraldry, plants are often used as symbols on shields to represent certain qualities or associations. For example, the olive branch is a common symbol of peace, while the oak leaf represents strength and endurance. On the other hand, the ivy plant is often seen as a symbol of fidelity and friendship.

The use of plants on shields also extends to fruits, such as the pomegranate. This fruit is often depicted split open, revealing its many seeds, which can represent fertility and abundance. The vine is another plant commonly used in heraldry, often seen as a symbol of spiritual nourishment and growth.

One plant that is particularly significant in heraldry is the rose. The rose can symbolize many different things depending on its color. For example, a red rose may represent love and passion, while a white rose can represent purity and innocence.

Different types of leaves may also hold specific meanings in heraldry. The laurel leaf is often associated with victory and achievement, while the oak leaf represents strength and endurance. The ivy leaf is often seen as a symbol of loyalty and friendship.

The use of plants in heraldry adds a layer of meaning and symbolism to shields. These symbols can represent different qualities or associations that the bearer of the shield may possess or aspire to. The variety of plants and their meanings in heraldry make for an interesting and complex subject to explore.

4. Geometric Shapes

When it comes to geometric shapes, heraldry shields often incorporate them as symbols to represent certain characteristics. The most common shapes include crosses, which can represent religious affiliation or a particular crusade. A chevron, or inverted “V” shape, can indicate a rank or degree. A bend, or diagonal line, may represent a military scarf or a symbol for defense or protection.

Another geometric symbol used in shields is the fess, which is a horizontal band or bar. This may symbolize strength and honor. A pall, which is a Y shaped symbol, can represent the church or an ecclesiastical domain. Some geometric shapes, like lozenges, which are shaped like diamonds, may represent one’s status as a widow or marital heritage.

The use of geometric symbols on heraldry shields also extends to geometric objects such as the anchor or crescent. The anchor may represent hope while the crescent may represent good luck, wealth or power. The orb, a symbol of sovereign power, and the scepter, a symbol of royal authority, are also geometric objects used as symbolic elements in heraldry.

The use of geometric shapes and objects on heraldry shields adds a level of complexity and depth to the meaning behind each symbol. Whether representing a crusade, rank, status or power, each shape and object carries a unique significance that contributes to the overall message conveyed by the heraldry shield.

5. Occupational Symbols

In heraldry, occupational symbols are used to represent a person’s profession or trade. These symbols often originated during medieval times when tradespeople would prominently display their occupation on their coat of arms as a way to identify themselves to others.

Some common occupational symbols used in heraldry include:

Symbol Occupation Represented
Anvil Blacksmith
Ship Sailor or Shipbuilder
Book Scholar or Writer
Wheel Potter or Miller
Plow Farmer
Hammer Carpenter or Mason

These symbols not only indicated a person’s occupation, but also their status in society. For example, a sword or spear represented a knight or soldier, while a horse represented a nobleman or someone of high social standing.

Today, occupational symbols can still be found in modern heraldry. They are often used in the design of business logos or on the coat of arms of professional societies and organizations.

Occupational symbols in heraldry serve as a reminder of the importance of one’s profession and the role it plays in their life and in society.

6. Mythological Symbols

Mythological symbols have played a significant role in heraldry shields throughout history. These symbols are often inspired by ancient legends and stories and are used to convey important messages and meanings.

One of the most popular mythological symbols used in heraldry is the Dragon. It is known for its strength and power, and it symbolizes protection and courage. In some traditions, the dragon is portrayed as an evil creature, representing the devil, while in others, it is seen as a benign creature, symbolizing the power of the king.

Another commonly used mythological symbol is the Phoenix. This mythical bird is known for its ability to rise from the ashes, which makes it a symbol of rebirth and renewal. The phoenix is often used in heraldry shields to represent the idea of being reborn after a time of great difficulty or struggle.

The Unicorn is another popular symbol used in heraldry, and it is widely associated with the idea of purity and grace. In some traditions, the unicorn is believed to be an untamable creature, and it symbolizes the idea of free spirit and individuality.

Another popular mythological symbol is the Gryphon, a creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle. It is often used to represent a combination of strength and intelligence, and it symbolizes the idea of balance and harmony in life.

Mythological symbols are an important part of heraldry shields, and they continue to be used today to convey important messages and meanings. Whether it’s the power of the dragon, the renewal of the phoenix, the purity of the unicorn or the balance of the gryphon, each of these symbols has its own unique story and significance. Understanding these symbols and their meanings is an essential part of learning about heraldry and its rich history.

Fascinating Facts About Heraldry Shields

1. Shields Were an Important Part of Medieval Warfare

In medieval times, military power was the foundation of society, and shields were essential to a warrior’s defense. It was often the difference between life and death on the battlefield. Shields were made of various materials such as wood, leather, and metal, and often bore the symbol of the knight or noble who carried it into battle.

2. Some Shields Were Specifically Designed for Jousting

Jousting was a popular sport in the Middle Ages, and knights would participate in tournaments as a way to demonstrate their skills and earn fame. Shields specifically designed for jousting were flatter and broader than regular shields, as they needed to provide maximum protection to the knight’s body during the game.

3. The Design of a Shield Could Indicate the Status of its Bearer

In heraldic tradition, the design of a shield could signify the social status and origin of the bearer. A knight from a powerful noble family would have a distinctive shield, and the symbols on it would be specific to that family. This allowed both allies and enemies to identify them in battle. The more elaborate the design, the higher the social status of the person carrying it.

4. Heraldry Shields are Still Used Today

Even in modern times, heraldry shields continue to be used to represent individuals, families, and organizations. In some countries, such as the United Kingdom and Japan, heraldry is still an important part of society and culture. The design of the shield can be used to symbolize social status, profession, family history, or just personal preference.

5. One of the Most Famous Heraldry Shields is the Three Lions of England

The Three Lions of England is a well-known heraldry shield that has been used as England’s national symbol for centuries. The three lions on the shield represent the three historical kingdoms of England: Wessex, Mercia, and Northumbria. The design of the three lions has evolved over the centuries, but it has remained an iconic symbol of English heritage and patriotism.

Heraldry shields have a fascinating history and continue to be an important part of our culture today. The different types of shields used in heraldry are not only functional but also symbolic, with unique meanings attached to each symbol and design. From medieval warfare to modern-day society, heraldry shields have endured as a timeless symbol of identity and heritage.

1. Shields Were an Important Part of Medieval Warfare

During medieval warfare, shields were an essential part of a soldier’s armor. They were used to protect the soldier from incoming attacks such as arrows, spears, and swords. The shields were made of various materials such as wood, metal, and leather and were designed to be as light as possible to allow the soldiers to carry them with ease. One of the most popular shields was the kite shield, which was named after its distinct shape. The kite shield was used to defend against arrows and was designed to protect the soldier’s entire body. Shields were not only used for defense, but they could also be used as a weapon. Soldiers would use their shield to push their opponents off-balance or to strike them with the rim of the shield. The use of shields during medieval warfare was crucial, and soldiers would spend a lot of time practicing their shield techniques to become more skilled in combat.

2. Some Shields Were Specifically Designed for Jousting

During the medieval period, jousting tournaments were a popular form of entertainment and a way for knights to display their combat skills. In order to participate in these tournaments, knights needed a specific type of shield that was designed for jousting.

Here are some unique features of shields that were specifically designed for jousting:

Feature Description
Shape Jousting shields were typically elongated and narrower than other shields, allowing for greater maneuverability during jousting matches.
Material Jousting shields were often made of lighter materials, such as thin wood or leather, to minimize the weight that the knight had to carry in the joust, while still providing adequate protection.
Decoration Jousting shields were often elaborately decorated to showcase the knight’s heraldry and personal style, but they also had to be streamlined and functional to avoid getting caught on the lance. Decoration was typically limited to the front of the shield, with the back left plain for practicality.

Jousting shields were an important part of the jousting tradition, but as jousting fell out of favor, so too did the specialized shields designed for the sport. Today, they are primarily used for reenactments and historical displays.

3. The Design of a Shield Could Indicate the Status of its Bearer

In medieval Europe, a person’s status and rank was heavily tied to their family lineage. One way that heraldry shields were used was to declare the social status of their bearers. The size, shape, and design of a shield could indicate whether the bearer was a member of the nobility or a commoner.

For example, knights and members of the nobility typically had shields with elaborate designs and intricate details. These designs often featured multiple colors and included animals, plants, and other symbols that represented their family’s history and accomplishments.

On the other hand, commoners often used simpler designs with fewer colors and less intricate details. They might use basic symbols like a single animal or geometric shape to represent their family.

The design of a shield could also indicate the rank within the nobility. A higher-ranking member would typically have more elaborate designs and may even include a crown or other regal symbols.

It was important for heraldic designs to be easily identifiable, so commoners could easily recognize and show respect to their social superiors. Additionally, the use of specific designs helped to prevent confusion on the battlefield, as soldiers could quickly identify each other based on the colors and symbols on their shields.

In essence, the design of a heraldry shield was a status symbol and a visual representation of a person’s heritage and accomplishments. It played an important role in medieval society and helped to maintain the social hierarchy and order.

4. Heraldry Shields are Still Used Today

It may come as a surprise to some, but heraldry shields are still in use today. While they’re no longer used in the same military context as in the Middle Ages, they still play an important role in British culture and in certain ceremonies.

For example, they are often seen in British government buildings, on official documents, and on the uniforms of certain military units. In fact, each branch of the British Armed Forces has its own heraldry shield.

Heraldry shields have also been adopted by various organizations and institutions, such as schools and sports teams, to represent their identity and values. Similarly, families and individuals may create their own heraldry shield to represent their personal history and achievements.

Another way heraldry shields are still used today is in the granting of coats of arms by heraldic authorities. These coats of arms often feature a heraldry shield as a central element and are awarded to individuals or organizations for their contributions to society.

While the use of heraldry shields has certainly evolved over time, they remain an important part of cultural and symbolic identity in various parts of the world.

5. One of the Most Famous Heraldry Shields is the Three Lions of England

The Three Lions of England is one of the most recognizable heraldry shields in the world. Also known as the Royal Arms of England, it features three lions passant guardant (walking with the right forepaw raised) on a bright red shield. The shield has been used by numerous English monarchs, including Richard the Lionheart, and is still used today as part of the coat of arms for the British monarch. Here are some fascinating facts about this iconic emblem:

– The Three Lions of England is believed to have been first used by King Richard the Lionheart during the 12th century. The lions were originally gold, but they were changed to silver (white) during the reign of King Edward III.

– The emblem holds great significance for the English people. It has been used to represent England in international sporting events since the late 19th century, and it is still a major symbol of English identity today.

– In addition to its use on the Royal Arms of England, the emblem has appeared on a wide variety of objects over the years, including coins, flags, banners, armor, and clothing.

– The three lions are sometimes referred to as “Lions Rampant,” which is a term used to describe a lion standing on its hind legs with its forelegs raised. However, in the Three Lions of England, the lions are actually passant guardant, which means they are walking with their right forepaws raised.

– The Royal Arms of England actually includes a total of five different shields (or parts) that represent different parts of the United Kingdom. The Three Lions of England is just one of these shields.

– The Three Lions of England has been used as inspiration for other logos and emblems over the years. For example, the logo for the English Premier League features a lion with its paw on a ball, which is clearly influenced by the Three Lions of England.

The Three Lions of England is a powerful symbol of English history and identity, and it continues to be used in a variety of ways today. Whether you’re a history buff or simply a fan of English culture, this iconic heraldry shield is definitely worth learning about!


In conclusion, learning about the different types of shields used in heraldry is a fascinating journey into the past. Each shield has a unique history and purpose, and the symbols on them can reveal much about the bearer’s identity and status. From the heater shield to the escutcheon shield, these shields were not only used for protection in battle but also as a symbol of honor and family lineage.

The symbols on heraldry shields also hold a significant meaning, with colors, animals, plants, geometric shapes, occupational symbols, and mythological symbols all conveying different messages. These symbols allowed for easy identification of allies and enemies on the battlefield while also acting as a symbol of the bearer’s values and beliefs.

It is fascinating to note that heraldry shields still hold great importance, with many countries and organizations continuing to utilize them in their coat of arms and logos. One of the most famous heraldry shields is the Three Lions of England, which has become synonymous with the country’s national identity.

In summary, learning about heraldry shields takes us on a journey through history and culture, offering unique insights into medieval warfare and the value placed on honor and family lineage. Studying the different types of shields and their symbols broadens our understanding of their significance and offers a new appreciation for the importance of these historical artifacts.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the oldest known shield?

The oldest known shield is the famous ancient Greek shield called an aspis.

Why are some shields shaped differently?

Shields were shaped differently based on their intended use- some were used for jousting while others were designed for foot combat.

What is the meaning behind the colors on a shield?

The colors on a shield, called heraldic tinctures, each have their own symbolic meaning. For example, red represents courage and strength.

What is the significance of the animals on a shield?

The animals on a shield, known as heraldic beasts, were symbolic of different virtues and characteristics. For example, a lion could represent bravery or a boar could represent ferocity.

What is an escutcheon shield?

An escutcheon shield is a shield that is not designed for use in combat, but rather for use in heraldry. It typically features a coat of arms or other symbolic designs.

How did shields evolve over time?

Shields evolved over time to become more specialized for different types of combat, and to be made from different materials such as metal or wood.

What is a buckler shield?

A buckler shield is a small, round shield that was used primarily in hand-to-hand combat. It was popular during the Middle Ages.

What is the significance of the three lions on England’s coat of arms?

The three lions on England’s coat of arms represent England’s monarchy and have been used since the 12th century.

What kind of plants are commonly found on heraldic shields?

Common plants found on heraldic shields include oak leaves, roses, and thistles. Each plant has its own symbolic meaning.

How do heraldic shields differ from regular shields?

Heraldic shields are not intended for use in combat, but rather for use in heraldry and to display a family’s coat of arms or other symbolic designs.


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