Elements of a coat of arms

The combination of some or all of these elements makes up what is known as an achievement of arms:

Shield

  • The basis of all coats of arms.
  • At their simplest, arms consist of a shield with a plain field on which appears a geometrical shape or object.
  • The items appearing on the shield are known as charges.

Crest

  • The crest was a later development arising from the love of pageantry.
  • Initially the crest consisted of charges painted onto a ridge on top of the helmet.
  • Later crests were three-dimensional objects, made from wickerwork, boiled leather or other materials.
  • It was rare for universities to have arms which included a crest, although it has become more common.

Motto

  • The motto was originally a war cry, but later mottoes often expressed some worthy sentiment.

Supporters

  • These are human or animal figures standing on either side of the shield and support it.
  • Possibly originated as "filler" work on the part of seal engravers, now generally restricted to the most senior grades of orders of chivalry, the peerage, and to corporate bodies.