Throughout history, heraldry has been used is a variety of ways to symbolize politics, social standing, and loyalties. Heraldry, as its name implies, started out as a purely military art, and originated, in its modern form, from the tournaments instituted by Emperor Henry the Fowler in 950 C.E. for the explicit purpose in keeping up military spirit of Knightly families during times of peace and to promote courage, dexterity, and honour amongst those families in martial exercises. Thus, Heraldry is the ancient tradition that encompasses the design, display, and study of Armorial Bearings (i.e. a Coat of Arms), as well as related disciplines, such as vexillology, together with the study of ceremony, rank, and pedigree. It concerns the design and creation of what is termed the heraldic achievement. The achievement, simply put, is the completed Coat of Arms by some type of Heraldic Artist and typically includes a shield, helmet, and crest, together with any accompanying devices, such as supporters, badges, heraldic banners, and mottoes.
Given its military origins, in the Principality of the Northern Forests all Dames and Knights, as well as all the Northern Nobility, are required to have a Coat of Arms either granted or confirmed by the Prince of Arms. There are no exceptions to this.
The emergence of heraldry occurred across western Europe almost simultaneously in the various countries. Originally, heraldic style was very similar from country to country. Over time, heraldic tradition diverged into four broad styles: German-Nordic, Gallo-British, Latin, and Eastern. In addition, it can be argued that newer national heraldic traditions, such as South African, Canadian heraldry, and yes, Northern Forests heraldry as well, has came into existence.
Principality of the Northern Forests Heraldry
In the Principality of the Northern Forests an individual, rather than a family, has a Coat of Arms. These rules of Heraldry are derived mainly from Heraldic traditions in England and Scandinavia, Northerner Heraldry also incorporates distinctly Northern symbols, especially native predators such as Mountain Lions, evergreen trees, flora and fauna and uniquely Northerner elements taken from medieval Scandinavian cultures. A unique system of cadency is used for women who inherit arms. No preference is given to male or female in inheriting arms and the College of Arms of the Northern Forests does not use ovals or lozenges for women instead of shields unless specifically requested by the Armiger. A woman can bear a full achievement of arms, i.e. shield and crest, and is not restricted to a lozenge without crest as is the case in Gallo-British heraldic traditions (although a woman can follow the English practice if she wishes). A woman is entitled to inherit paternal arms, even if she has brothers. This is in direct conflict with the Gallo-British tradition of heraldic sexism where a woman inherits paternal arms only if her father has died without leaving any sons or descendants of sons to inherit the arms.
Usage of Coats of Arms
Northern law of the Principality allows anyone who is not Nobility or Knights to assume and bear arms so long as no one else's rights are infringed in the process. However, even with assumed Coat of Arms they are required to be reviewed by the Prince of Arms to make sure they adhere to the rules of Heraldry of the Principality. Unlawfully displaying a Coat of Arms in the Principality is a criminal act.
Ermines in Northerner heraldry is a "fur", a type of tincture, consisting of a white background with a pattern of black shapes. It is associated with Winter and warmth. The ermine spot, the conventional heraldic representation of the tail has had a wide variety of shapes over the centuries; its most usual representation has three tufts at the end (bottom), converges to a point at the root (top), and is attached by three studs. When "ermine" is specified as the tincture of the field (or occasionally of a charge), the spots are part of the tincture itself, rather than a semé or pattern of charges. The Coat of Arms of the Duchy of Cupressus is a good example of Northerner Coat of Arms usage of Ermines. Ermines also look like little trees.
Any animal can be a heraldic beast. However, in Northerner heraldry the most common beasts used as supporters in the heraldic achievement are Reindeer, Mountain Lions, Grizzly Bears, Polar Bears, Arctic Wolves, and Northern Dall Sheep. Rarely, if ever, will common predatory beast from other parts of the world be used such as Lions, Tigers, and mythical beasts such as Dragons, Unicorns or Griffins.
In heraldry, cadency is any systematic way to distinguish arms displayed by descendants of the holder of a Coat of Arms when those family members have not been granted arms in their own right. Cadency is necessary in heraldic systems in which a given design may be owned by only one person at any time, generally the head of the senior line of a particular family. As an armiger's arms may be used 'by courtesy', either by children or spouses, while they are still living, some form of differencing may be required so as not to confuse them with the original undifferenced or "plain coat" arms. In the Principality of the Northern Forests a Coat of Arms may be inherited males or females and as such there are two separate systems of cadency marks for males and females. These differences are formed by adding to the arms small and inconspicuous marks called brisures, similar to charges but smaller. They are placed on the fess-point, or in-chief in the case of the label. Brisures are generally exempt from the rule of tincture. One of the best examples of usage from the medieval period is shown on the seven Beauchamp cadets in the stained-glass windows of St Mary's Church, Warwick.
Historically, it was recognised that there was a need to difference the arms of the head of the family from those of cadets. This need was recognised in Europe during the 14th century; various means to accomplish this were utilized. In the modern era, differencing arms is generally done in Continental Europe. In heraldry's early period, uniqueness of arms was obtained by a wide variety of ways, including:
- changing tincture
- adding a label or bordure
- adding, removing, or replacing an ordinary.
- varying the lines of partition of an ordinary
- the use of brisures or marks of difference
As specified in the Principality of the Northern Forests Civil Code Section 1.05.050, Principality of the Northern Forests cadency generally follows the English style. However, since in Northerner Heraldry a Coat of Arms must be unique regardless of the bearer's sex, the College of Arms of the Northern Forests developed a series of brisures for daughters unique to the Principality of the Northern Forests. Except for the first born recognized children of the Princess of the Principality, all Cadency marks are bore on the shield only and do not contain helms, crowns, supporters, mottos or coronets:
- for the first daughter, one Heart on a Lapel;
- for the second daughter, two Hearts on a Lapel;
- for the third daughter, three Hearts on a Lapel;
- for the first son, one fleur-de-lys on a Lapel;
- for the second son, two fleur-de-lys on a Lapel;
- for the third son, three fleur-de-lys on a Lapel;
There is no legal precedence for sons or daughters of the fourth degree or greater. With commoners the lapel for sons must be blue and the lapel for daughters must be yellow. The Nobility and Royalty use white lapels for sons and daughters.