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Display Your Family Name’s Family Crest In Your Home

Many years ago most surnames were granted their own coats of arms Coats of arms, aka family crests, were found first in the 13th Century in the United Kingdom. Examination of the Bayeux Tapestry reveals no trace of family crests, nor is there evidence that arms were used in the 12th century.However, in the 13th century, arms were found throughout Europe and the whole ‘science’ of heraldry – its rules and terms – had been established. During this time the Crusades undoubtedly helped spread the use of coats of arms.
Many reasons have been suggested for the origin of family crests. For example, some say arms appeared first on shields, whilst others put forward evidence that these were found first on banners or tabards. However, it is likely that once a design had been agreed upon, it was applied immediately on all personal items. Certainly the rules insist that arms should be capable of being displayed on a shield. The origin of the name though comes from a ‘surcoat’ a linen garment worn over the top of the suit of armor and reaching down to the waist. The term surcoat was adapted to coat of arms.
What purpose then did a coat of arms serve and why were they important? In battle the leaders were landowners who each had their own band of men drawn from their land. Most were illiterate and they had trouble identifying their leader once he was dressed in a protective suit of armor, particularly once the face guard was closed. To make the leader easily recognizable by his men, he displayed his family crest on his shield and on his surcoat.
In the early days coats of arms were used only by the ruling classes. The king had firm control over much of every day life including land sales which were sold by royal license, and the granting of Coats of arms, also known as family crests,. However, before long what we would now refer to as the middle classes started to display arms even though ‘heralds’ appointed by the court tried in vain to stamp out this practice.
In recent times heraldry has become popular with many families hanging shields and prints of the family name’s coat of arms on their walls, and using the arms on letterheads and in company logos. A few individuals would advise that you have no right to display your family name’s arms, but any copyright will have expired several centuries ago and, anyway, no harm is being done.

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