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15 Sep 2021 10:32 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Changed title from "Flags divided in quarters" to "Flags divided in quarters?"

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Korvessa15 Sep 2021 6:30 p.m. PST

Anybody know when they started dividing flags by quarters?
Not referring to national flags, but rather personal banners a nobleman or other leader might use in battle in around 1150

This sort of thing:

15 Sep 2021 11:12 p.m. PST

Heraldry was only just beginning around 1150. Quartering would have come along a fair bit later, I would imagine…

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP16 Sep 2021 1:19 a.m. PST

There is a big difference between coats of arms (which is where the flags come from) divided into quarters and 'quartering'.

Quartering is one way of combining the arms of two (or more) persons into a single coat of arms and, while a few early examples exist, most date after 1300 and by 1500 have become commonplace in England. By 1700 they have got more than silly with dozens of arms being combined.

A coat divided into 4 parts is one of the basic heraldic divisions of the field and need not indicate any joining of existing arms. De Vere is an example of a quartered field.

advocate16 Sep 2021 6:02 a.m. PST

Which English King was it who quartered his coat of arms with that of France, to demonstrate his claim to the French throne?

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP16 Sep 2021 7:26 a.m. PST

Edward III in 1340

advocate16 Sep 2021 11:48 a.m. PST

Thanks, Gildas.

Griefbringer16 Sep 2021 12:30 p.m. PST

Quartering is one way of combining the arms of two (or more) persons into a single coat of arms and, while a few early examples exist, most date after 1300 and by 1500 have become commonplace in England. By 1700 they have got more than silly with dozens of arms being combined.

Personally, I think that the coat of arms of Charles the Bold (of Burgundy) back in the late 15th century was already getting a bit crowded, even though it does not contains less than ten elements. Then again, some amongst us crazy enough to paint on a 28 mm horse caparison:


GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP17 Sep 2021 1:34 a.m. PST

There are only 3 coats quartered on those arms plus one escutcheon. Complicated, but not compared to the ridiculous ones seen in the 17th century & even later.

Painting is really gorgeous though.

Swampster17 Sep 2021 2:46 a.m. PST

For 1150-ish, you'd really need gonfanons/gonfannons rather than banners. They are different to the church style gonfannons or gonfalons which hang vertically. Instead, they are generally long and thin, usually rectangular and often with tails which can be various in number and shape.

The Norman flags on the tapestry are pretty much this style and their use carries on until some time in the 13th century when banners begin to supplant them. Occasionally they are used to show arms, but 1150 is before heraldry really gets going. A lot of the 12th century ones actually look plainer than those on the tapestry: they seem to have intricate patterns but in very fine detail so the overall effect can be of a single colour.
Eboli's illustrations from the very late 12th century show some other designs, such as crosses. This work was produced once heraldry was becoming more established, and there are some early forms of banner as well but I wouldn't use them for 1150.

Even when heraldic banners come into use, as mentioned above complex quartering wasn't really in use. Seals from the period can show someone like Ottokar of Bohemia with the arms of various different realms in different places on his horse barding but his banner shows a single set e.g. the Bohemian lion or the Styrian panther. Early banners were long and thin and didn't easily cope with quartering. I think that there were times where two arms were shown but they were one above the other rather than in four quarters.

By the 14th century, banners were a bit wider and you start to see quartering in quarters e.g. the Duke of Brabant in the Manesse Codex.

Manuscript Miniatures is always good for this sort of thing. link uses the 'banner' tag which covers all sorts of flag.

Druzhina17 Sep 2021 2:50 a.m. PST

According to Ian Heath in Armies of Feudal Europe 1066-1300 the 1st to quarter 2 different arms was Ferdinand of Castile and Léon in 1230AD. These arms appear in the Cantigas de Santa Maria of Alfonso X c. 1284AD.

mirror site
Cantigas de Santa Maria of Alfonso X

Spanish Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers

Swampster17 Sep 2021 3:59 a.m. PST

That Cantigas picture could be one I was thinking of – note the shield has four quarters but the banner has Castille over Leon instead.

Dimidation and impalement of arms can also look good.
Alphonse of Poitiers had France dimidated and Castille as his arms. Once he became ruler of Toulouse by marriage, his banner had, from the top, Toulouse, France and Castille. Diificult to be be certain from the picture but Toulouse may have taken up the top half, even though the cross then ends up looking a bit long and thin.

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